Hans (slimstickwhead) wrote in determinism,
Hans
slimstickwhead
determinism

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Robert Kane Plays with Words: a critique of an incompatibilist argument

Blah, blah, blah, says Robert Kane, in his paper on free will, REFLECTIONS ON FREE WILL, DETERMINISM AND INDETERMINISM. His nonsense is not too hard to see through.

First, his starting assumption is that there occurs in the human brain indeterministic physical events. Granted, quantum events are indeterministic. It is important to note, however, that humans do not control quantum events with their wills -- and if they did, this would open such arguements for originative free will to the objection that an infinite regress of responsibility, which is exactly which objection I raise against Kane's argument. He tries to evoke a feeling of mystery, or I have imagined it, to surround free will. His key component is human decision-making. Somehow, there are undetermined events in the human brain that humans are nonetheless responsible for. This is garbage, playing with words, and he explains why he thinks "undetermined" events are not necessarily "chance" events. But they are necessarily chance events. They have no cause, and so are not our responsibility as humans. One might say "God" determines these undetermined events, but that still keeps them outside our realm of responsibility.

Kane reaches very far to obtain indeterminacy from physical events. Granted, quantum laws can be interpreted to mean that momentum and position of microscale particles do not both have precise values at the same time. So one or the other would be undetermined if it has no precise value. But Kane wants indeterminacy from chaos, which I do not grant exists. He says that "usually" complex systems are deterministic, but he gives not example of an indeterministic one and I know of none. Chaos does not result in indeterminacy, only in unpredictability. So I object to his central assumption, which he later admits might be a longshot, and is open to empirical verification or disconfirmation. I expect there to be disconfirmation of his hopes for indeterminacy.

He uses the analogy of an author writing a character's actions in a work of literature. The characters future actions are not determined by his/her previous actions because of the necessity and arbitrariness of what the author might write. Our choices, he says, are like the choices of a fictional character, and we are the all-powerful authors. The romance of this analogy should signal that something is going to glossed over, which is exactly what happens here. The "author" is an invocation of a meta-self that is the self; there is recursion here: we are the character, created by the author, who is the character. So, our metaself is our self. A circle of causation is created. We, the author, are responsible for the actions of the character, who is responsible for the actions of the author. But which came first, the author or the character? Knowing that human babies are not self-conscious beings, it seems that the character came first.

The invocation of the metaself does not save Kane's free will argument. I object that the causal chain begins with the character, the human baby, and a baby is not responsible for anything he/she does. How does he/she become responsible, if the author, the metaself, has emerged from the character, the baby? We are not responsible for the character, and so we cannot become ultimately responsible for the author. The author is the character, neither is ultimately responsible.

Kane's argument ultimately fails because there seems to be no indeterminacy beyond quantum indeterminacy, for which no one is responsible, and because the metaself, the "author," is not ultimately responsible, which Kane was aiming at. Pessimism is still king, amen.

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