I’m a week away from finishing my first semester of university this year.
It’s been an adventure being back studying for a second time, especially whilst juggling full time work and training/competing.
A couple of my subjects were pretty dry and got tedious towards the end, however one of my electives has genuinely blown my mind.
It’s name is “Mind and World”
A first year philosophy subject which deals with what constitutes a person, mentally and physically and our roles as these mental and physical beings in the world.
I’ve never been so captivated by something.
After spending the first half of the semester attempting to determine what exactly we (human beings) are, the final essay is on free will and determinism, which ultimately asks us to take a standpoint on what we believe regarding the two.
The old KP would have read a bunch of articles, picked some smarter people’s points he liked and used that to frame the essay for the sake of getting it done, with little or no care for what his own standpoint was.
I envy that kid.
I’m so caught up in trying to figure out where I sit on the subject I’ve relished in every opportunity I get to bring it up and discuss it amongst mates (and also haven’t started writing the damn essay yet).
Whilst everyone has enjoyed engaging in the debate to some extent, the majority of them have wanted to move on from the topic of conversation pretty quickly, as, to quote one of the “who cares anyway, doesn’t effect my life either way.” (very deterministic of him).
But even if this particular philosophical conundrum seemingly has little to no impact on the world (which I don’t agree it doesn’t) being able to discuss it should.
I believe everyone should have to study philosophy at some point in their lives, if for no other reason than to open their minds to the validity of rationally sound thoughts and ideas that challenge their own. Being able to then pay careful attention to the logical soundness of your own thoughts and opinions when attempting to respond to such challenging ideas is a valuable lesson a lot of people could benefit from learning.
My social media feeds are awash with people weighing in on their standpoints of the current state of the world, from terrorism, religion, climate change to the latest diets and workout regimes. Sure everyone is entitled to an opinion, but what a wonderful world we would live in if those opinions were formed through the pursuit of genuine knowledge on those subjects being discussed and based in logic rather than emotional responses and ignorance…
But I digress.
Free will or determinism. Man. I really don’t know…
If I side with the libertarians (free will) I’m accepting that I am open to the idea of there being something / things that exist beyond scientific explanation. A metaphysical ‘freedom’, which stems from nothing more than a feeling of freedom, which I do undoubtedly feel. But to accept the irrefutable (that is to say that though it can’t be completely scientifically proven, it can’t be disproven from existing either) metaphysical existence of free will, means I must also accept that any other irrefutable metaphysical phenomena must also exist, such as God or spirits, psychic powers and the like, which I’m not sure I’m willing to open the door to just yet
But then if I side with the hard determinists and accept that all my thoughts and actions can be reduced to physical chemical reactions taking place within my body which I have no control over as they are caused by forces which predicate them and lay beyond my control (physical events, my biological make up, society’s values etc.) then what implications does that have on my moral responsibility and what I can expect from and hold those around me responsible for?
And how can I deny the overwhelming feeling that I do indeed have some authorship over the direction of my and accept this fairly bleak standpoint on existence?
Compatiblism (or soft determinism) offers an attempt at a middle ground and with it some potential hope for compromise (can’t we all just get along?)
Compatiblism is the idea that much of the world (both internal and external) is deterministic and beyond our control, but that we as agents in possession of a mind and consciousness (whatever that is… which is another can of worms entirely I’m trying to tackle) still have some control to make choices with free will, from the determined options available as a result of those elements beyond our control (biological make up, environment etc.).
We are free, but with boundaries…
HOWEVER, a hard determinist will argue that these choices are still products of those uncontrollable electrical impulses triggered by the universe rather than some beautiful mental substance of choice we feel so strongly, which makes us free.
So what’s the answer and how do I word it so I get an HD?!?!
Philosophy is ruining my life (in an awesome way) and I’m legitimately only scraping the surface with it… It terrifies me to think about what those fully immersed in this discipline get to grapple with in their studies, works and day to day living.
I’m so stoked I got to experience this tiny and frustrating few months of it.
I’m less stoked I just spent time writing this blog post instead of my 2000 word essay on the subject.