Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm not feeling it...

Freedom of will is rooted in rationality. As St. Thomas says in De Veritate (24, 2, resp.), "Totius libertatis radix est in ratione constituta [the root of liberty, whole and entire, is constituted in reason]." We don't will to be hungry or to feel sad, but we can will to eat or watch a funny movie. Even when we "will ourselves" to feel happy, we do so as a condensed description of "taking concrete steps to enact a practical syllogism of means"--which are indeterminate--"to that rationally and/or ethically indeterminate end." (Viz., what do I mean by "being happy"? How should I go about achieving happiness? When should I start? How long should I persist in this or that means-direction? Etc.) Not all volitional feelings are rational and not all rational willing is emotional. This disjunction is why I think compatibilism is incoherent. Cf. my latest few posts on freedom, reason, and agency:




As for being forced or induced to "feel the will to move your foot," it's just a magnetic version of influence we know well enough in a social-linguistic form. I may will to go to a Gators game without much feeling in the decision. But a pre-game frenzy of fans on the street could induce in me the feeling of willing to go to the game. For that matter, I could initially will not to go but then be induced to feel the will to go. Doesn't mean I will go, though. Doesn't mean I won't go, either. That's the thing about indeterminism. Akrasia is a reality.

Feeling the will to do something is not the same thing as willing to do it for rational reasons. Willing to act according to reason is not necessarily an emotional process, though emotional processes typically incorporate rational deliberation. Obviously kinesthetic and aesthetic sensibility figures into all reasoning at some level, however attenuated, but in the end I am only accountable for acts of reason. The law recognizes how emotional inducement attenuates responsibility, too. I have specifically dealt with neural inducement here: i-kicked-you-he-agreed.html

As for the rejoinder that idealism might account for rationality in a deterministic world--since in idealism "all is thought"--I would say that idealism cuts no ice. For, as Berkeley showed, the world "functions" the same in idealism as in materialism, but without the mystery-mongering he saw in the reign of "matter itself." If all "matter" is thought, as on idealism, then I face the same spectre of irrationality for taking material phenomena at face value, since they would still function irrationally (e.g., it would be a "law of thought" that a coin is now heads and now tails). If rationality is mapped onto matter, albeit in an idealized form, then rationality is subject to the same randomness and aimlessness as we see in physicalism. Plus, on empirical grounds, the language (of thought) is crucially shaped by our embodied contingency. Hylomorphism admits this, that our rationality is molded but not constituted or determined by our engagement with the material world. Idealism is just a holographic form of physicalism.

As for the rejoinder that panpsychism might account for reasoning in a deterministic world--since if even the simplest matter "thinks" then obviously thought can flourish under physical determinism--I would allow for panpsychism as long as it is grounded in a solid doctrine of analogia entis. In a sense, relative to the infinite otherness of God, all things, even atoms, are "relational," "intentional," "personal" ... but only analogically so. God has a "mind" in as radically an inverse way as, say, fermions have "minds." Man as microcosm is balanced between both extremes, between relative sheer mindlessness and absolute supramindfulness, so to speak. Analogy, analogy, analogy.

I should add that, yes, I actually do believe in "determinism," in the sense that everything actual is actually determined. But that is just a kind of "determinism" which admits that what is, is; and it includes "background" indeterminism for the "getting to" of what is. This "actualist" determinism just resolves into the law of identity (what is, is; what is X, is X, etc.), which then gets on the ramp towards robust Thomism.

SOURCE mutatis mutandis: This thread at Dr. Feser's blog.

No comments: