Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Free will as a consequence of the third type of causation

The interest of various scientists in the philosophical notion of free will, i.e. the ability of cognitive agents to make choices unconstrained by factors external to decision making, has consistently been growing lately. The philosophical implications of quantum mechanics as well as recent advances in psychology and health care, esp. concerning near death experiences of patients returned to active life, demand a definitive answer to the question of whether our free will is genuine at all.

On the one hand, we are sure that we are free in our decision making, to a certain extent. As a matter of course, being free absolutely is out of the question due to various constraints — physical, financial, etc. — that we are subject to which we cannot eliminate.

On the other hand, however, the so-called naturalistic scientism does away completely with a basic Christian idea of moral freedom and dignity of humans in our relationships with God and His creation, including ourselves.

So we have a dilemma. What should we believe: scientism or our own experience? The said contradiction is acknowledged by many scholars. However, its proposed resolutions vary substantially.

Evolutionism, faithful to its solipsistic nature, claims that free will is an illusion. Its train of reasoning is blatantly reductionistic: since life is believed to be caused by spontaneous and/or law-like factors only, the idea of freedom is nothing but a meme, a culturally accepted and maintained way of thinking, while freedom itself is an illusion, maya. My sentiments, emotions, thoughts, attitudes — love for my homeland, my family or fellow Christians, the aesthetic feeling as well as such manifestations of my spirit as prayer and inner peace — are but consequences of physico-chemical interactions in my body, just a little more complex than in inanimate nature. Therefore no freedom per se really exists. The same is true regarding the philosophical problem of the meaning in life: there is none, according to consistent evolutionists.

However, to many deeper thinkers who believe that there is an objective meaning in our life, the above simplistic reductionist interpretation of reality is unacceptable. Even so, some of us find it really hard to resolve the free will dilemma.

I believe that the solutions to the problems of free will and of the meaning in our existence are a logical consequence of the acceptance of the position whereby the universe is viewed as created externally out of nothing. So, something that did not exist before and was created, absolutely logically must have a meaning or purpose extraneous to it. By analogy, an artificial tool such as a hammer or a plane has a purpose external to it.

I could not decide for myself for a long time, whether or not our world was deterministic. I am, of course, familiar with the dispute on the subject between the founders of quantum mechanics, as well as with Einstein's special opinion that God cannot play dice with His own creation. Now I think that this dichotomy itself is wrong because apart from chance contingency and law-like necessity, there is choice contingent causation. Chance and necessity are objectively manifest in the world, but this is not it (fig.1).

Fig.1. Categories of Causation.

So to accept that this world is created on purpose is equivalent to accepting that the world is based on choice contingency extraneous to it, rather than on its immanent necessity and/or chance contingency. So our universe is neither deterministic nor non-deterministic but contingent upon the creative choice of God. And this, I think, is a positive solution to the problem of free will.

Apart from interplays of spontaneous and necessary causal factors, scenarios involving choice contingency of intelligent agents can be realised in our world. E.g. I can choose to distort or abandon a scientific experiment before completion, which will have an obviously adverse effect on its results (fig.2). Furthermore, choice contingent causation makes possible true creativity as opposed to chance and necessity which cannot give rise to genuine novelty, contrary to the claims of Evolutionism. Also, it is choice contingent causation that, in principle, allows for an a-posteriory detection of purposive intelligent agency.

Fig.2. —Well, I can't understand what caused such a sudden increase in the amplitude of oscillations here. —Oh, it's Johnson sledging the oscilloscope with his fist. Source: Anthology "Physicists Joking".

I view my inalienable freedom of choice not as a consequence of some laws of nature or chance, but as something essentially different, a third Aristotelian category of causation—volition or choice—which lies at the foundation of this world.

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