Free Will or Determinism – A Conundrum Mark Dubin February 14, 1994
Free Will – In a situation with more than one realistically possible choice of about equal likelihood, for example: “about face, via turning left” and “about face, via turning right” given that I chose one way, I could have chosen the other. Or, in the thought experiment of being able to repeat this act ten times, all else being equal, I will chose to turn via the left about as often as I chose to turn via the right.
James points out, “. . . either universe after the fact and once there would, to our means of observation and understanding appear just as rational as the other. There would be absolutely no criterion by which we might judge one necessary and the other matter of chance.” (James, Essays in Pragmatism, p. 45) Determinism – Everything that happens is caused by a preceding happening (or collection of happenings), and thus any future happening is totally dependent on past happenings, and is thus entirely predetermined.
An Antinomy – There appears to be little new that might be said about this approximately 2000 year-long debate. Indeed, I agree with Benson Mates who suggests that it is an antinomy, “a contradiction between principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable; a paradox” (American Heritage Dictionary) The best we can do is see how much we can know or understand as we dance around this center that cannot be reached. The Liar’s Paradox – “If a man says ‘I am lying,’ what he says is true if and only if it is false.” (Mates, Skeptical Essays, pp. 18-21) Attributed to Eubulides of Miletus, fourth century B.C. Approaches to resolution are not compelling. They include: “no meaningful sentence can be about itself . . . semantic closure is blocked” This relates to Godel’s theorems that “it is impossible to formulate a complete and consistent axiom system for arithmetic.” (Falletta, Paradoxicon, p. 81) “ordinary rules of logic do not hold . . . the logic of natural.
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