Freewill and Fatalism
William Westmiller asks:
“I agree with your criticism of solipsism (we control the universe) and fatalism (the universe controls us) as irrational extremes. However, determinism seems to preclude human free will. If all of our actions are determined by prior states (micro or macro), do we have any ability to make choices?”
[William, once you read TSW you will understand the difference between classical determinism and univironmental determinism. I will restate it here because it a common question that I get. TSW was predicated on the idea that there is no freewill—all interactions in the universe are determined by what went on before. This is because, as a scientist, I regard the entire universe and everything in it to be natural. Determinists (and the best scientists) believe that there are material causes for all effects. That means also that any interpretation that leads to a freewill conclusion must involve a theoretical mistake. Even those indeterminists who believe their choices have no causes expect their choices to have effects.
Classical determinism was based on classical mechanics, with its belief in finite universal causality. This form of determinism was best illustrated by Laplace’s Demon, a super intelligent being who could predict the future by knowing the position and velocity of every particle in the universe. Classical determinism, classical mechanics and Laplace’s Demon were destroyed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which I interpret as the Third Assumption of Science, uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything). This is consupponible with the Second Assumption of Science, causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes) and the Eighth Assumption of Science, infinity (The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions). Infinity is what makes assumptions necessary and allows us to have “the feeling of freedom,” which indeterminists often mistake for an acausal freewill. The correct theoretical position, however, is not to follow this solipsistic tendency or its opposite, fatalism, but to adopt univironmental determinism (UD), the belief that what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the matter in motion within and without. Univironmental determinism is not only the correct philosophy, but it is at once the universal mechanism of evolution.
So do we have the ability to make choices? Of course. Can choices be made independently of the univironment? Of course not. Should we give up, as fatalists do, saying that “it is all predetermined anyway.” Of course not. Each of us changes the world, whether we realize it or not. Even fatalists and couch potatoes take up space. We can have “the feeling of freedom” while changing the world for better or worse. What UD adds, now that you know the secret, is the theoretical framework pointing the way toward the material conditions that need to be changed within and without.]