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Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, March 25, 2005

Man's Moral Will vs God's Nilly-Will

I am a compatibilist - that is to say, my position is that "free will" and "determinism" are both true because they co-exist in different respects. As you know, a contradiction exists when A and not-A are said to co-exist in the same time and in the same respect. It is that latter condition that does not obtain.

I think the debate is greatly muddled by religious assumptions. "Free will" has come to be associated with the contracausal will of the religionists, the "soul", supernatural monster in the head. That much is obvious nonsense : everything is material and causal.

What I propose, therefore, is the expression "moral will" instead of "free will". The reason why I chose this particular expression is because it is routinely used to talk about God's will, in a way parallel to what I wish to point out in man's will. For instance :
"God's moral will (God's moral commands which are revealed in the Bible)"
"This verse is saying that if you trust in God and follow His ways (God's moral will), He will make you successful."
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8449/wisdom.html

"By God's "moral will," we mean the moral commands revealed in the Bible which teach men how they ought to believe and live. The Bible is God's revelation in which He unfolds His moral will -- the principles by which we are to live our lives."
http://www.horizonsnet.org/sermons/tba21.html

"Moral Will -- this is God's will for human conduct, as expressed in the Bible."
http://www.biblebell.org/willofgod.html
For Christians, the moral will of God gives us our own sense of morality - which implies by extension our love of rationality and truth, and our purpose in his Divine Plan. Since it is in fact human will which is the only possible agent in determining and using all these things, it is only proper to give the name back where it belongs : to the human will.

It is more than values and purpose that the human will finds and uses, of course. It is all of knowledge. The human will, not God, is sovereign over itself.

Basically, man's will is "moral" because it is squarely within the realm of morality : it is a capacity for mental and physical acts. This also touches epistemology and knowledge : our use and love of rationality is moral. So is the Christian's hatred of rationality.

How does that relate to presuppositionalism, you might ask. Well, presuppositionalists assume that the human will is impotent in some way, and that the only possible source of knowledge is God. On his laughable blog (which I linked before), presuppositionalist Paul Manata gave some materialist quotes he finds "amusing", including this one :
"A revised and modernized materialism concludes from all this that human thought and feeling is the product of a series of unthinking and unfeeling processes originated in the big bang." (Richard C. Vitzthum, "Materialism: An Afiirmative History and Definition," Prometheus Books, 1995, pp.218-219,)
As a presuppositionalist, why he finds this quote "amusing" is no mystery. He thinks it's absurd to support human will while also supporting that it came from an unthinking and unfeeling process.

Ironically, this quote neatly shows the absurdity and contradiction in presuppositionalism itself : they want to have their cake (a subjective universe impregnated with feeling) and eat it too (an objective human will). Without uniform "unthinking and unfeeling processes" - without laws of nature - there could be no wil whatsoever. The human will evolved and functions as a very complex organic system : without objective and uniform laws, it could never have evolved, let alone function.

We should be highly grateful that the universe is "unthinking and unfeeling". A subjective universe - that is to say, a universe with God - would be wholly unknowable. Knowledge is based on induction, and subjectivity destroys its very possibility.

What about God's will ? More like God's Nilly-Will. Without any interior motivations (such as desires, needs or emotions) or exterior motivations (since it existed before anything else), God has no motivation whatsoever except chance. Ironically, it is the Christian who believes in chance ! This God of theirs is really a Nilly-Will God.

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23 Comments:

At 3/25/2005 5:13 PM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

"everything is material and causal"

Then you have no will, at all.
Bertrand Russell.

The idea that Everything is causal is non-material; neither is it materially observable. "You think you know fire causes heat, says Hume, but you do not know that, because causation is not something perceived. You can perceive that A is bigger than B or on top of B or always accompanied by B, but you cannot perceive that it causes B. 'Causation' is the expectation that what has always been conjoined in the past will always be conjoined in the future: but you cannot know that the future resembles the past because what does not yet exist cannot be perceived: you suppost it will, but that is a matter of habit." -from a very good introduction to Schopenhauer by R.J Hollingdale. If you want to adopt the views of philosophers that admit causation as something we can know, you have to admit also their distinction between mind and matter; the brain may be material, but the mind is not: the perceptions on which we largely base our knowledge of the world are not: matter itself is only known to us through the immaterial. The theories of modern science are not philosophy: if some of their theories work, then they are working theories. That doesn't mean science has earned the right to explain to us anything about the non-material: that isn't its domain: science is wholly limited to observation of the material-- and observation itself involves the immaterial.
However-- if everything is material and causal then it doesn't matter that you think differently than Paul Manata-- it is just a material process that was bound to happen in you in this exact way from the first collision of the first molecule. At least from Paul's point of view, he has a reason to contradict you.

 
At 3/25/2005 5:30 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Wrong. It is BECAUSE everything is causal that I have a will. I already made that much clear in the article.

"However-- if everything is material and causal then it doesn't matter that you think differently than Paul Manata-- it is just a material process that was bound to happen in you in this exact way from the first collision of the first molecule. At least from Paul's point of view, he has a reason to contradict you."

Your last sentence is a non sequitur. I have a reason to contradict Paul Manata : he's wrong. And determinism makes I can hold him morally responsible. YOU have no justification to contradict me.

 
At 3/25/2005 5:41 PM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

But you don't make it clear in the article, because it can't work. My last sentence does follow: from your point of view, that is, the point of view that everything is material, causal-- that you only think this way because it was caused by something else, and that your thought itself is only material, and has no more significance as a statement about the material than a desklamp-- from that point of view, there is no reason to contradict anyone else, except that we are bound to do so. It doesn't mean anything, though. It is just the noises we make. From Paul's point of view, in which the mind is non-material, in which thoughts do have significance, not only because they are not just the causes of some other process in nature but because they are themselves more than a process of nature, he does have a reason to contradict you.
I don't expect to convince you; but the statement was a sequiter.

 
At 3/25/2005 6:18 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Apparently you didn't read ALL my post, since I explained it clearly, and I quote :

"Ironically, this quote neatly shows the absurdity and contradiction in presuppositionalism itself : they want to have their cake (a subjective universe impregnated with feeling) and eat it too (an objective human will). Without uniform "unthinking and unfeeling processes" - without laws of nature - there could be no wil whatsoever. The human will evolved and functions as a very complex organic system : without objective and uniform laws, it could never have evolved, let alone function."

 
At 3/25/2005 9:38 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

HZ: “The idea that Everything is causal is non-material; neither is it materially observable.”

How would you prove this?

HZ: "You think you know fire causes heat, says Hume, but you do not know that, because causation is not something perceived.”

I don’t think that’s true at all. The cause of the heat is the fire. I can perceive fire if I’m in visual range of it.

HZ: “You can perceive that A is bigger than B or on top of B or always accompanied by B, but you cannot perceive that it causes B.”

I can’t? Says who? Hume? He’s wrong. We can perceive things in action. Perceiving things in action is perceiving causality.

HZ: “'Causation' is the expectation that what has always been conjoined in the past will always be conjoined in the future:”

That is certainly not my conception of causation. I understand causality to be the law of identity applied to action. That is, there is a necessary relationship between an entity and its actions. This is a basic recognition. Most take it for granted. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t act on it.

HZ: “but you cannot know that the future resembles the past because what does not yet exist cannot be perceived:”

I don’t have to know the future to know that if I put my hand in a flame, it will hurt. That’s not dependent on habit, for there was a first time when I touched a flame and it hurt then, too, even though I had not yet had any opportunity to develop any habits regarding the relationship between fire and pain.

HZ: “you suppost it will, but that is a matter of habit."

Nope. Not at all. Causality does not depend on my habits, and my suppositions about how reality works did not arise in a vacuum. Habits are not a primary - they don't come first.

HZ: “If you want to adopt the views of philosophers that admit causation as something we can know, you have to admit also their distinction between mind and matter;”

I’d like to see your argument for this.

HZ: “the brain may be material, but the mind is not:”

I’d like to see an argument for this, too. How do you prove that something is either “material” or “immaterial”? Why would it matter either way? (Sorry, no pun intended here.)

HZ: “the perceptions on which we largely base our knowledge of the world are not [material]”

Unless you expect your readers to take this on your say so, you might want to put an argument to this, too.

HZ: “matter itself is only known to us through the immaterial.”

What is this supposed to mean? Can you elucidate?

HZ: “The theories of modern science are not philosophy:”

Indeed, they are the application of reason to specific areas of study. To do this you need a rational philosophy. You won't find that in the primitive writings of the bible.

HZ: “science is wholly limited to observation of the material-- and observation itself involves the immaterial.”

Wait a minute! Science deals with the law of causality. My microwave, for instance, was made possible by advances in science, and was designed in keeping with the law of causality. Here you say that “science is wholly limited to observation of the material,” and yet above you said that “causation is not something perceived” and that “you cannot perceive that [A] causes B.” It seems you’ve completely contradicted yourself here. If you don’t think you have, you’ll need to make your position clearer.

 
At 3/25/2005 10:12 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Hey Bahnsen Burner. It's nice to see you on this blog too. Your contributions are appreciated.

 
At 3/25/2005 10:18 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I thought I wasn't going to comment on his post, but I have to comment on his saying "the mind is not material". By definition, the material is what is observable, therefore his statement is false by definition. HZ is not exactly an intellectual giant.

 
At 3/25/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Franc: "Hey Bahnsen Burner. It's nice to see you on this blog too. Your contributions are appreciated."

Thanks, Franc! Just doing my part to give 'em the goose!

 
At 3/25/2005 10:55 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Franc: "I have to comment on his saying "the mind is not material". By definition, the material is what is observable, therefore his statement is false by definition."

Well, for that matter, I didn't observe much of a mind at work in HZ's post. But I'm a patient and forgiving man (maybe more than I should be!).

 
At 3/26/2005 9:25 AM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

Actually, I am not a "he". No, you did not observe my mind working, because that is something you can't observe. The mind has always been distinguished from the brain: the brain being the part that can be observed, and the mind consisting of the world of perceptions, concepts, ideas, etc-- a world that is immaterial, and is not observable. It is brought to bear on the observable world: it "organizes" it; and without this organization, who knows what the material world would even look like to us? We only see it through this immaterial mind. Philosophers have always made this distinction. You can tell me that thousands of years of philosophers are wrong, but your say-so doesn't prove it. You say so because you are accepting the working theories of science as a philosophy; which is what modern science tells you to do. But by its very nature science is relegated to the observable world; and can say nothing about what it cannot observe.

Causation itself is NOT observable. That is one of those concepts (it is actually a category) that we apply to the material world, to organize it, but that cannot actually be observed. You observe the fire, you observe the heat. You do not observe causation itself. You apply the concept of causation, and organize the two phenomenon in this way in your mind. I am not arguing that we can actually know that things are caused. But science alone will never get us there. Science alone can only give us the working theory of causation. Revelation and philosophy tell us whether we can put any confidence in this mental concept-- this mental world-- that organizes the material world. Any by extension, revelation and philosophy tell us whether we can put any confidence in the material world-- because we only know through our perceptions, and our organizing concepts.
Jut because science calls something a law, doesn't mean it is a law. It may, indeed, be a "law"; but science can never account for it as anything else than a working theory; because science cannot observe apriori concepts or justify them.
Thanks for answering to my arguments Bahnsen Burner. On the other post I recommended a book by Owen Barfield, World's Apart, and I would highly recommend that here, too: I think you would enjoy it, and it would give you a better idea of what I am saying than I can say it, in a couple posts.
It's very odd for me to have so much computer time (we don't have online access); so I won't be able to continue the exchange. But I have enjoyed it. Thanks.

 
At 3/26/2005 9:47 AM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

I forgot to answer about matter. Matter is made of particles. Particles can be observed. Concepts are not made of particles. Causation, for instance, is not made of particles. Concepts cannot be observed. --Only the material (made of particles) phenomenon to which we apply them.

 
At 3/26/2005 10:36 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

HZ: “No, you did not observe my mind working, because that is something you can't observe.”

Indeed, I cannot observe what does not exist.

HZ: “We only see it through this immaterial mind.”

What do you mean by “immaterial”? I have no idea what you mean by this. To what does do you intend this term to refer? Many thinkers these days seem so fixated on determining whether something is "material" or "immaterial." Why would it matter either way? If something exists, it has identity. That's the important part. If something has identity, can we discover it? Some say we cannot unless we look inwards. But if the thing that exists exists outside us, how can we discover its identity by looking inwards? (These questions are somewhat rhetorical, but I think they're pertinent.)

HZ: “Philosophers have always made this distinction. You can tell me that thousands of years of philosophers are wrong, but your say-so doesn't prove it.”

It’s good that you’re getting this: a claim is not its own proof. So when someone says “Jesus rose” and points to the bible as “evidence,” he’s confusing a claim with the proof that is needed to support it.

HZ: “Causation itself is NOT observable.”

It is observable. And we see causation all the time (at least, those who have working eyes do). Causation is the action of an entity. When I see a person walking, I am seeing what causes him to move from one side of the street to the other: his walking. You’ve simply adopted a false view of causality is all.

HZ: “That is one of those concepts (it is actually a category)”

In your view, what is the difference between a concept and a category?

HZ: “that we apply to the material world, to organize it, but that cannot actually be observed.”

In my view, causality is a concept that I apply to the action of an entity. I can perceive entities when they are not moving, and I can perceive them when they are moving. When the entity I perceive is not moving, it’s not causing anything. When it moves, then it’s causing something. For instance, when a man begins walking across the street, he’s causing himself to move across it. This process can definitely be observed.

HZ: “You observe the fire, you observe the heat. You do not observe causation itself.”

The fire is the cause of the heat, HZ. Essentially your view of causality divorces effects from their causes. Many philosophers have made this mistake, and their philosophies lie in a trash heap since they’re worthless to man. If one tries to adopt your view, he won’t know if this yellow flashy thing he perceives will hurt him. So the next time he’s in a burning building, he’ll be surprised when the yellow flashing thing causes him pain (that is, if the smoke doesn’t choke him first).

HZ: “I am not arguing that we can actually know that things are caused.”

On your view, we couldn't know that that things are caused, since effect has been divorced from its causal agent. Using your conception of causality, I would pass my hand through a flame and feel pain, but I would be wrong to associate the pain with this action, since, according to your view, I’m wrong to say I can see the cause (and I can definitely observe my hand in action as I pass it over the flame). Indeed, we can see the cause: I see the fire, I can see my hand when it moves over the fire, and I can feel the pain when I touch my hand to it. The fire touching my hand is the cause of the pain (the effect). If I see fire on the TV and yet still feel pain in my hand, I know that the fire on the TV screen is not the cause; most likely it’s my carpal tunnel.

HZ: “But science alone will never get us there.”

I’m not sure what you mean by “science alone.” Has someone suggested that we abandon the philosophic underpinnings of science? What would be the outcome in our scientific investigations if we try to adopt your view of causality versus the one I am elucidating? Science doesn’t need just any philosophy, it needs good philosophy. Trying to do science without philosophy is like trying to walk without legs - you won't get very far.

HZ: “Science alone can only give us the working theory of causation.”

We need a basic, general understand of causality, even if only implicit, just to get out of bed in the morning. We need this long before we get to the science lab. That’s why we need philosophy (at least the basics) before we can do science.

HZ: “Revelation and philosophy tell us whether we can put any confidence in this mental concept-- this mental world-- that organizes the material world.”

Revelation tells me that if I wish hard enough, Mt. McKinley will be cast into the Arctic Ocean. Philosophy (good philosophy, that is) tells me why I would be wrong to accept revelation as truth.

HZ: “Thanks for answering to my arguments Bahnsen Burner.”

You’re welcome, HZ.

HZ: “On the other post I recommended a book by Owen Barfield, World's Apart, and I would highly recommend that here, too: I think you would enjoy it, and it would give you a better idea of what I am saying than I can say it, in a couple posts.”

I’ll keep it in mind, but I must say up front that I’m a little reluctant off the bat to read a book by a gentleman who’s surname begins with “barf.” I’m hoping that’s not indicative of the content of his writing.

 
At 3/26/2005 10:51 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

HZ: “I forgot to answer about matter. Matter is made of particles.”

Particles of what? Are the particles themselves made of matter? Is the matter of the particles also made of matter? Do we have an infinite regress here? How do you know that matter is made of particles?

HZ: “Particles can be observed.”

How do you know that what you’re observing are particles?

HZ: “Concepts are not made of particles.”

What are they made of then? Are they made of nothing?

HZ: “Causation, for instance, is not made of particles. Concepts cannot be observed. --Only the material (made of particles) phenomenon to which we apply them.”

How do you know this?

 
At 3/26/2005 5:30 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

"Particles can be observed. Concepts are not made of particles."

Wrong again, high school dropout. Concepts are made of particles.

 
At 3/26/2005 5:31 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

By the way, I heartily support everything that Bahnsen Burner said, and thus don't see the need to repeat it - or read HZ's disjointed and incoherent posts.

 
At 3/29/2005 5:19 PM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3/29/2005 5:21 PM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3/29/2005 9:04 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Oh will you stop being a pansy. I said you were stupid and incoherent. A person who dares to write something like this on an atheist blog :

"the brain may be material, but the mind is not: the perceptions on which we largely base our knowledge of the world are not: matter itself is only known to us through the immaterial."

deserves all the ridicule he can get. You do not understand english and you have no idea where you are.

 
At 3/30/2005 12:21 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

As regards to your latest comment (which for some reason is not showing up here), let's just say you have no idea what "objective" means either.

 
At 3/31/2005 8:35 AM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

Atheists have said that, Francois. Really smart ones. Schopenhauer, for one. Calling it stupid doesn't deal with the problems raised. I don't think you've even grappled with your own philosophers.

 
At 3/31/2005 8:41 AM, Blogger HZ declaimed...

Well I meant to delete one of my doubled posts and deleted both?

 
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