Irritating modern philosophy
Modern philosophers are a strange lot. They're absolutely obsessed with language. As an end-user of multiple languages I don't understand what the fuss is about. They all suck when you haven't learned them. They're also obsessed with reductionism. If a horror movie murderer used his chainsaw like these philosophers use Occam's razor, the movie would end in 10 minutes with all the teenagers cut to pieces.
The most annoying thing about modern philosophy is the "problem" of free will. It is a fashion to take action and reaction into the extreme and say that we have no free will, that all we do is controlled by something. Such philosophers make experiments like measuring people's reaction. For example, reaction to stories that happened in this universe and which happened in an alternate universe, where all actions are pre-determined, so for example a murderer is always driven to murder by something else. The very idea of making such experiments shows a disturbing lack of understanding reality.
Obviously, there are no extremes in nature, no absolute black and white, no total free will nor total determinism.
We people are systems with our own forces, physical, emotional, mental. These are internal, we are born with them, they grow and develop with us and they belong to us, consciously or not. We are supposed to be raised to control these natural assets as best as we can. We are connected with the environment, but we are not homogenous with it. We are capable of going against the environment, obviously.
Then there are external forces of the environment.
We may divide all these influences on
- internal and external
- conscious and unconscious
- and for completeness, moral and immoral (moral here being constructive and/or cooperative and/or progressive, but this is not the point here)
We may have free will. All it needs is to have our internal conscious forces greater than the external and/or unconscious forces. As long as a choice comes from within us and is conscious, it is an act of free will. If it's imposed on us by external necessities or internal uncontrolled urges, it is not an act of free will. This means, that a person with free will (whom we all probably want to be) must be highly disciplined. Those not capable of disciplining themselves must be gradually taught to be so, while external measures (whether conscious or better not) help them to stay moral.
Surprisingly, this shows how important the consciousness (or awareness) is for free will and morality. Whatever the consciousness is, it is essential for all kinds of ethical questions, criminal responsibility and so on. And it varies in degrees and shades of grey. Awareness of a higher animal is different from a human awareness. I don't say we shouldn't lock up criminals that murder for a pathologic lack of awareness. We should, but for different reasons, like medical.
Philosophers tend to give the definition of free will some very silly and unrealistic conditions, like
- it must not be caused by anything
- it must not be possible to influence or break
- it must choose from random possibilities
- it must control or decide everything we ever do
- it must (not) originate from the genetics
Let's take the last one, used by Hamby, that all old timers on this forum probably know. Don't worry, I agree with him in almost everything, I just say he does it wrong. You'll find out why. His argument is based on equating the genetics with the brain and the brain with consciousness - and then excluding the brain from the cathegory of our internal assets, hence making it contrary to the idea of free will. Which is not just unrealistic, it's not practical. The brain does not have an awareness or free will of its own, but it makes many automatic decisions for our convenience. For example, it will close the eyelid extremely fast when something is just about to fly into our eye.
However, people can expand their awareness and even take over some functions that the brain performs automatically. Yogis can control their heartbeat rate or control muscles that we didn't even knew that can be controlled. I say awareness is a separate entity from the brain, because we did not evolve to be Yogis, concrete-breaking karate fighters or similar anomalous controllers of the body, they aren't our ancestors. Such functions do not need to be hard-wired in the brain or be present in the genetic code. They become necessary by complexity of the brain and by universality of the tasks that the neurons can perform. Evolution is blind. It evaluated that for best survival rate it is good to produce large, multifunctional brains with non-specialized neurons. Evidence of this may be found in great pruning of neurons soon after birth, or our appreciation of music. (which is basically a new unforeseen use for the speech-processing apparatus) The evolution gave us lots of hardware and to some degree it trusts the consciousness and culture to use it well and pass the genes forward.
Not only is the brain one of our internal assets, there is consciousness in it and it is a related entity (process), but distinct from the brain itself and relatively independent. It is essential for morals and ethics. Brains usually tell us what to do, but sometimes we tell brains what to do. The brains evolved in such a way to make this possible. We are not just computers, we are computers with dedicated hardware (like graphic or sound card etc) and non-specific hardware, like a CPU. The non-specific hardware makes free will possible and it may even get a degree of control over the dedicated hardware. We may even behave in such a way that defies all kinds of natural instincts, pleasure, pain, procreation, survival and so on. Such is the power of a non-specific computer.
I object against saying that genes control our behavior. Genes don't control us any more than workers decide what people are going to visit a generic building when it's finished. Most of genes don't do anything with our psychology, unless something is wrong. DNA is not a random access memory like the brain has and it does not process or spread information in the same way or any remotely similar information. Genes do not tell the neurons what connections to make, where and when. There are maybe hundreds of possible connections that a single neuron can make.
Is it in our nature to act against our nature? That's a nonsense, we can't act against our nature if everything we do is nature. Remember, there are no absolutes. There is a degree of nature, there is a degree of nurture and there is a degree self-nurture. And this ratio is never the same in any of us or during life. We did not evolve to act against our nature, we evolved to be able to act for or against our nature or in many degrees in between. We evolved as computers capable of re-programming themselves. This is not easy to understand but in the future it might become reality, thanks to the memristor processors. Genes or neurons decide in their dedicated tasks and they also give us the ability to gain ability to decide. And where that decision comes from, that depends on the factors of nature, nurture and self-nurture, but above all if these three factors earlier gave us moral or immoral programming. (see above for definition of moral)
The funniest thing is, the better brains and genes we have, the less important they become, the more important the programming, culture, awareness and intention become. We are becoming less and less gene survival machines and more flexible (self-)programmable machines. Isn't that awesome? Power to the people!
Maybe you think this is splitting hairs. Yes, it is. The problem is, with the reductionistic/mechanistic or whateverian worldview you can come to very moral philosophy and just as easily to a very immoral one. All this philosophy does not inherently give life a purpose, you'll make any conclusion that fits your mood or use whatever other information source to create a purpose of life. All in all, it does not help us to estabilish a very important future of science, a Purpose-o'logy, the science of researching and engineering people's purpose of life. I'm pretty sure some philosophers of the past came to a more depressive conclusion (failed to find a purpose), and committed suicide. Maybe you think they should get a Darwin's prize in a philosopher cathegory, but they only showed how dangerous it is to live without purpose and yet with enough intelligent awareness to be aware of this lack. A deadly combination indeed. Meanwhile many people suffer because they lack a purpose of life of their own or collective, whatever. They don't know who they are, where they come from and where are they going. Without a purpose of life, they resort to drugs, crime, routine work and shallow entertainment. And many other more resilient philosophers surprisingly owning academic degrees make silly thought or social experiments and postulate fictional universes where people are 100% deterministic. And these sophists piss me off. They're so useless. They're not doing their job. They don't know shit about Purpose-o'logy.
Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.