The Equanimist

Part III.B. Fleshing out the Case for Determined Will; (also, "You" are not the "you" you think you are.)

Posted in Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Public Policy, Untitled Work Number I by equanimist on June 17, 2009

B. Fleshing out the Case for Determined Will (also, “You” are not the “you” you think you are.)


The universe came into being. Very probably (it seems) there was a “big bang” at which time individuality first became possible. Expansion. Expansion. Expansion. Accretion. Collisions. &c. Many of us have seen “The Universe”. Some of us have even had a little science. Billions of years of evolution.

Either that or God created the world in seven days. It doesn’t matter how it happened per se – as long as we accept the following: For every action an equal and opposite reaction occurred in the past, and, it’s the same now. Thus, history looks to us a seamless web of causes and effects thereof.

As such, it cannot but be clear that a person (the phenotype, or the product of gene X environment interactions – i.e., not the literal translation of genetic material into a human creature but the imperfect translation of environmentally-modified genetic material into a real organism), a person is (like everything under the sun) the product of interactions.

That is, even when we assume a very proximal beginning, it is perfectly clear that genetic information, which codes the individual, must be beyond the control of same; that “random” protein production as a result of the environment of the womb is entirely beyond the control of a fetus; — that the plans upon which a human (or any other organism) is based, the oven in which it is baked and the product itself are beyond its purview.

But, then, neither can a mind choose what it will be taught (i.e., conditioned to understand – and the reactions attendant. Do not confuse what it will be taught with what it will know. I know many things I do not believe. You likewise. It is correct, here, to understand “what I have been taught” as “what I have been led to believe and do believe and act upon” – to interpret belief as rule – the very complicated rubric that guides decision-making.) The mind can only reason what it knows by what it believes. Yet an organism can neither choose its characteristics nor its upbringing.

Still, would you assert that it is in control of itself? When do Biology, Chemistry and Physics – a history of causes and effects thereof (entirely beyond the control of the individual that is shaped) – when does it all turn to rot? When does magic take over? How? And, wherewithal?

Some say, there is a soul and that the soul is neither earthly nor bound by earthly laws. Yet, even if there is a soul existing discreetly, it does not seem to effect that which is contrary to physical laws and would seem (like the capability of the body) subject to physical limitations. Even those of us who believe in miracles do not suppose that they happen at every waking moment! Do we?

It is as ignorant to say the mind can effect that which is not possible as it is to say that the body can – that when I flap my arms, I will fly! Though it seems the most natural thing in the world to assume that I am master of my own mind and body, I cannot be. (Ironically, however, “I” – body and mind – not sentience – am more or less efficacious master of everything I survey. That is, while I cannot be my own cause, I can be somebody else’s!)

A passenger – experiencing the perceptions to be afforded by a machine built and refined to a purpose – interacting with the universe, and, though the machine may effect changes in both itself and its surroundings by choice (i.e., deliberation, decision and action) the manner of action is necessarily beyond the capacity of the inhabitant (you or I – sentience) to control.

Reduced to a sentience that inhabits a biological machine (entirely the subject of, never master over, Physics and subject to exigencies at all times, how can I be either blame- or praise-worthy? Let us hold that thought.

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