Jeremy Christian's Take on Free Will


(John Harshman) #57

Perhaps, but not in the way you had previously claimed, which was altering and bending their environments, which as I pointed out had been going on for thousands of years previously. Millions of years if you count beavers, termites, and such.

(Jeremy Christian) #58

The difference I’m trying to point out is the difference between indigenous cultures who live in harmony with nature just as all living things do, and the way we people of civilizations operate. That divergence in behavior started right where/when the stories of Genesis are set.

(Evan) #59

Did you read the user Miguel’s second post in the thread?

Sui generis is Latin for “of its own kind/category”

(John Harshman) #60

This idea of living “in harmony with nature” is itself a fallacy. Some systems are stable, others aren’t. The ones that aren’t change into something else. There is no divergence in behavior, just a divergence in technology and population density. And you have yet to make any connection between this and the idea of free will.

(John Harshman) #61

That’s right. But what does that mean in this context? All Miguel says is what free will is not, but what is that third thing, not causality and not quantum randomness, that it is? How do we know that third thing exists?

Which brings up another question. If another person didn’t have free will, how could you know? If you yourself didn’t have free will, how could you know? OK, two questions.


Willful choice is one of those things everyone knows they have through direct experience. Do you deny that you chose to reply to his post rather than remaining silent? Do you deny that your choice was an act that you undertook because you willed it? Why people deny things that are so blatantly obvious is an utter mystery to me. Apparently it’s not something restricted to the religious.

Not only should you know this from your own personal experience but you should likewise be able to pick it up from the way that people respond to you. They treat you as if you have free will. And you do the same when it comes to your interaction with them. You treat them as if they have free will.

Do better.

(John Harshman) #63

Now we get to the meat of it: what is free will? If you’re referring to compatibilist free will, well of course we all have that. But the real question is about libertarian free will, and I think that’s the context in which “willful choice” was introduced here. So what is “willful choice” given libertarian free will and how does it differ from choice in the absence of libertarian free will?

(Jon Garvey) #64

If one finds a contradiction, then the usual reason is the lack of an essential distinction. In this case most modern discussions seem to share most of the same problems, which I think come largely from the reduction of all causes to efficient causes.

The explanation of the will in randomness is, I agree, both incoherent and contrary to experience - the very last thing choice is about is succumbing to chance (except in rare instances when we can’t decide, and choose instead to toss a coin, whether literally or mentally.)

Neither does non-randomness, in the sense of physical cause and effect, allow choice, because it determines fixed outcomes, making choice illusory - contrary to experience, which tells us every moment that we have options.

Returning to Augustine, simply because he was the first Christian theologian to explore the will in depth, his term was arbitrario libero, which in Englsih appears to have connotations of “arbitrary” randomness, but in fact means “free deliberation.”

In other words, the mind considers all kinds of reasons from logical syllogisms to annoying toothache, and reaches a choice based on, but in experience not absolutely determined by, those factors.

In fact, choice would appear to be linked to ideas once commonplace but sidelined by “the mechanical philosophy” - in this case, a real human power to create final causes (ie purposes), and to determine the efficient means to achieve them. The final causation of the will does not operate in opposition to efficient causes, but it is not determined by them either - rather, in its own sphere, it is a different type of causation.

To an extent this is a spectrum not restrcited to humans, because Joshua’s dog, we hear, makes choices on a rather more limited range of final causes, arguably mostly built into his nature.

The human situation - and here is where I get where Jeremy is coming from - is that decisions can be made by us that widely diverge from given nature. Positively, one can pursue the unnatural, but useful, activities of dividing animals into categories or exploring free-will, joining a political party or becoming a hermit. Christians would argue that that is part of God’s gifting to rule the earth on his behalf.

Negatively, one can choose consciously to go against nature or reason. An origin for that perversity is given in Genesis 3, in the deception of a malevolent creature awakening in Eve the possibility of knowing God, yet disobeying him.

That leads to one of the major determinants of the deliberative will, which is the effect of previous free choices - what the old philosophers called “character”. The character we develop severely constrains the choices that, de eventu, we make - for good or ill. Listening to serpents has the worst effect of all - though to avoid facetiousness, the addictive choice in question was to learn to disobey God before learning how to obey.

That’s turned theological, but maybe that was almost inevitable as soon as I brought creativity and final causation into the matter.

(John Harshman) #65

Are you talking here about compatibilist free choice, in which our ability to choose is the result of physical, causal processes in our brains, or are you talking about libertarian free choice, which again I would consider incoherent. Nothing you say here seems to consider whether there is any causation outside of ordinary, efficient causation, and if there were what sort of thing it would be. Again, what is the third thing, not causal and not random? What is purpose? How is it both uncaused and nonrandom?

(Jeremy Christian) #66

Yes, there is. A large, fundamental change. And as I pointed out before through showing you a few examples of multiple highly populated farming settlements where these changes did not happen, the divergence is not related to population density. This is a common assumption which is what this quote is addressing specifically…

“the prevailing view is still that male dominance, along with private property and slavery, were all by products of the agrarian revolution, despite the evidence that, on the contrary, equality between the sexes - and among all people - was the general norm of the Neolithic.” - Riane Eisler, American Scholar, Cultural Historian

We’re still trying to find a better label for it, but I’ve pointed out the specific changes I’m talking about. The label “free will” may be causing some confusion, though that really is what it is.

From Gen3 - “Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Male dominant cultures began at this point. Across the board, up to this point, human settlements were egalitarian.

I also gave the example of how writing came about in Sumer due to the (new) need to keep accounting of what belonged to who.

“The Fall, then, refers to a change which occurred in the psyche of certain human groups around 6000 years ago. It was the point in history when these peoples developed a strong and sharp sense of ego. The Fall was, and is, the intensification of the humans sense of “I” or individuality.” - Steve Taylor

(John Harshman) #67

Would you agree that a region of “highly populated farming settlements” has a lower population density than a region of cities? I suspect your sources are all highly biased by some kind of agenda, as I also suspect you are.

(Jon Garvey) #68

Efficient causation is not “ordinary” - just efficient. The fact that there are those who don’t consider formal and final causation does not make them any less real.

(Jeremy Christian) #69

Actually, no. It’s good that you bring this up because it leads to a pertinent point. Population level or density is not what qualifies a settlement as a “city”. To be classed as a city it has to have class stratification. These farming cultures do not qualify as “cities”, not because of their population density, but because they were egalitarian.

The transition from egalitarian to class stratified is one of those fundamental changes.

This is why the Sumerian city of Eridu is classed as the first human city, because it’s the first densely populated human culture with class stratification. This is where it appears to have begun.

Agenda? These quotes are not from Christian sources, if that’s what you’re implying.

(John Harshman) #70

Doesn’t make them any more real or, more importantly, free from causation themselves, though. Can a final cause be itself lacking in a prior efficient cause? I don’t see final cause as an explanation of free will, because my answer to that question is “no”. Final cause is just a name we give to something that happens in our brains. But what makes that happen in our brains? And so we’re back to efficient causes, and back to causation, quantum randomness, and that unexplained third thing. What third thing?

(John Harshman) #71

Christians aren’t the only ones with agendas.

(Jeremy Christian) #72

Can you be more specific what exactly you’re accusing me of?

(John Harshman) #73

I’m accusing you of paying attention only to what you can fit into your narrative and ignoring or force-fitting what you can’t. Here, for example, is the first thing I found in a google search for “first city in the world”.

It contradicts you on many points, even that Eridu is older than Uruk. And also on your claim that there is a single definition of “city”, and that cities didn’t arise independently but only through contamination from Mesopotamia, and on many other points. Perhaps it’s my bias that leads me to credit this random google hit more than your sources, but it also agrees with everything I’ve read previously.

(Jeremy Christian) #74

So I understand, what is it you envision being my motivation? Looking good? Kudos perhaps? Or do you think I’m just a pathological liar?

Here, I did a google search too. Here’s one titled “Archaeological Criteria of Civilization”. It agrees with me so I’ll use it …

“This gives grounds to make a conclusion that, for the most part, a state origin has developed in parallel with a class formation.”

“The analysis of the correlation coefficient between all the features reveals the strong relation between the political integration (state), social stratification (classes), writing and records, population density, money and technical specialization. The highest correlation is observed between the hierarchy and stratification.” -

And here’s another search result …
“Eridu was long considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia and is still today argued to be the oldest city in the world.” -

I didn’t see that, but if it does then that source’s credibility is questionable. Eridu is the beginning of the Ubaid period, Uruk the beginning of the Uruk period, the period that came after the Ubaid. Eridu is phase 1, Uruk phase 2.

In fact, according to the Sumerians, who built both, they say Eridu was the first city. Won’t they be surprised to find out another city they also built was actually first?

Maybe look for a second opinion.

(Evan) #75

The third thing is libertarian free will. He’s saying if you view everything as a mechanism then that’s when you’ll start to have a problem.

Do you deny that your volition plays any role in your actions? Look at the Libet tests to see that your volition does indeed play a role. Essentially it’s evident from everyday experience.

I’ll have to think about your other two questions and get back to you a bit later.

(Jeremy Christian) #76

Which almost certainly includes possessing free will? I don’t see the logic.