Kicking Determinism’s Ass

Determinism being represented, in this case, by Wario, who I think looks like Thomas Hobbes.

It’s possible to believe a thing to be absolutely true, and simultaneously live like it’s absolutely false. L’example: There are billions of human beings who profess that strange doctrine of the Incarnation, and who celebrate the Christmas Day when Truth, Goodness and Beauty became Man. But of those billons, how many treat Man as a new and glorified being in whom dwells divinity?

If I pass a woman on the street, and know beyond a shadow of doubt she is destined to become infinitely like God, chances are I would pass her with a certain reverence. I don’t.

But we’re aware of this suckage, aware enough that I’d like to write about something worse: Our striking ability to recognize something as absolutely and irrevocably false, and go on living as if it were true. Brushing past that woman on the street is failure to live up to Truth. It happens. Living as true what we know to be false, however, is cuddling, stroking and feeding a lie. (And since a lie is only the absence of truth — and in and of itself does not exist — we resemble insane people feeling up invisible strangers in an empty, padded cell. We revel in Pure Absence.)

For instance, we may know that it’s a lie that pornography can bring us any satisfaction. But we’ll live like it can. We may know that selfishness cannot produce happiness. But we’ll still hold on to our hard-earned cash.

Now in my case, the lie is Determinism.

David Hume, posing for a portrait he could not not have posed for.

It’s not my business here to provide a rousing disproof of this remarkably unarousing philosophy. For now it will do to point out that if “for everything that happens there are conditions which, given them, nothing else could happen,” then the bastards preaching this had better explain why Determinism has no bearing on human experience.

(To be clear: If I marry a girl — God help her — it is not my experience that I was determined to do so. In fact, I rather think I chose to do it. If I get up now and hop on one foot, I think the same, as I believe does every human being in his natural state. I understand that this human experience of Free Will would be brushed aside by any Determinist as an illusion and a rather idiotic part of my mental capacity, but this begs the question: Why on earth, then, do we trust our experience and mental capacities to accurately lead us to the belief that Determinism is true? If our brains are made up of nothing but the probabilistic movements of atoms, why do we trust them to lead us to a belief that our brains are made up of nothing more than the probabilistic movements of atoms? It’s philosophical suicide.) I don’t buy it.

And yet I do. (Hence the post.)

The ridiculous philosophy of Determinism becomes mighty sensible whenever I’m tempted to commit my predominant sin. Whatever this is for each of us — gossip, apathy, lust, lying — it can make us quite the Determinists, chubby cheeks and all. When the will is tempted, the intellect bows.

Thus while we may not excuse ourselves for a random outburst of anger, the moment we commit our favorite sin is the moment we start saying things like, “The conditions were against me. I’ve been stuck in this pattern for a long time.”

We can say no to an out-of-the-blue temptation to steal a car, but the moment we’re tempted to commit our every-single-freaking-time sin is the moment we give it an “Oh well, I do this all the time.”

It’s when we stop thinking about the individual act of sin, and instead begin thinking of an abstract pattern of sin. We stop thinking about the individual, malicious act of gossip that we will be held accountable for, and instead think of an abstract “All the Gossipping We Do” (as if God will call us to bear witness to The General Sin of Gossip in our lives, and not every. single. act). We move the sin from a situation in which we can act (gossip or don’t gossip) to a situation in which we can’t (you are a Gossiper.) We all but say: I couldn’t not do it. Conditions are against me, I’m stuck, I’m addicted, I can’t do otherwise. We become Determinists, taking that long fall from Grace.

Or I do, at least. (I apologize, the royal ‘we’ can be a bad habit.)

This is the coddling of a lie, and if our predominant sin is ever going to be conquered, if our addictions are ever going to be tried and burned on the stake, we’re going to have to first slaughter the lie that gives us this leeway. Now on a normal day, I’d tell everyone to pray more, and do your best, because I like finding problems, but I’m awful at finding solutions.

…for I’ve thought of a solution. I was listening to NPR’s New Dimensions (whenever I doubt that being Catholic is worth the hardship, I listen to whatever the New Age folk are doing) and a certain man was quoting a certain yoga teacher as saying, “Environment is always stronger than willpower,” like it was the wisest bit of brilliance to ever hit California.

And I thought…

Maybe your willpower is weaker than your environment. Maybe your actions are determined by the surrounding conditions. But not mine. I mean sure, I say they are every time I commit my predominant sin. But that’s a lie.

Thus the following morning found me hopping on one foot from my bed to the bathroom.

Why, you ask? Well, everything about my conditions told me not to. I was tired, I have awful balance, the bathroom is far away, and all of society was screaming against my action. (Had they known, at least.)

But I didn’t stop. I wanted to make an act of the will. I wanted to make an act utterly free from everything except my choice to do it (and my desire to shake Determinism, of course). As far as my own experience was concerned, I was hopping because I willed it, and there was nothing else to it. When I go to the bathroom I sat on the toilet and thought:

…because I made a tiny, ridiculous, immature act of the will. I reminded myself of my own humanity. I am a human being, and thus I can do what is disadvantageous to me, for no other reason than that I will it. Today, in a continuation of this project, I am starving myself. When I’ve reached the pinnacle of my hunger, I will place before me a rock and a sandwich. I will then proceed to suck on the rock.

Because screw you.

Then, when I am faced with the choice to sin or not to sin, I will remember these moments, flick off my Determinism, and make an act of the will. I’ll hop away from temptation. Because if I can choose to hop, just because, then I can choose not to sin, even if all the armies of Hell rage against me, all hip and with-it society eggs me on, and everything within my being wants to sin — just because. This is what it means to be human. We are endowed with the monstrous power to do what we want. And as it turns out, I want God.

So that’s my advice for today. If you find yourself in a sin you feel determined to commit, start making Ridiculous Acts of the Will. When people ask you why you soaked your dress shoes in gasoline and set them on fire, politely tell them “because I can,” and then proceed on your way to Sainthood.

  • musiciangirl591

    “The truth is the truth even if no one believes it and a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.”- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and also another quote that reminded me of you when i was looking that one up “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9202914 Violet Slowey

    Inspiring!

  • Paul O

    Self-determination is the new determinism!

  • Dan K

    Dude, the “pansy” graphic had me lol’ing all the way home.

  • Alex

    I am envisioning myself hopping on one foot while being tempted to sin… and I think it is going to be a lot of fun! THANKS!!!

    • Cal-J

      Well, you might argue it’s an improvement on carrying around our own little thornbushes.

  • Kristen Lueken

    ” When I’ve reached the pinnacle of my hunger, I will place before me a rock and a sandwich. I will then proceed to suck on the rock.”

    -Hey dude, if you’re not gonna eat that sandwich… (looks at plate hungrily)

  • Nancy Larrick

    Very good! I’ve never forgotten the conversation that Dr. Laura had on the radio with a man who claimed he couldn’t stop looking at porn on his computer. She asked him if he could stop if his boss or wife walked into the room, to which he replied that of course he could. It was an “aha” moment…

  • Ben

    Through discipline we prevail!

  • Jtraughb50

    I have to say, while I love your posts, you do make a few errors that make me cringe. The worst to date is your misuse of “begs the question”. Please only use this as a logical fallacy in which one uses the conclusion or part of the conclusion as one of the premises in an argument. Say instead that it forces the question, not begs it. Other than that, keep up the great work!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/UUT5M3TP3HROLC5ECQLTLOV3SM Lisa

      Yuck.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000909947326 Nick Corrado

      Please use the Latin name for that fallacy, petitio principii. That term is unambiguous, but “begging the question” has been so distorted by society because it is so similar to “raising the question” that using its original meaning only increases confusion.

  • Sean

    Everything you said, yes, yes, yes! But in context–that is, with God–because we frown on Pelagius.

  • http://jdueck.net/ Joel

    Nice try, very cute. When you can pick and choose the complete stack of desires that your actions all result from, try again :-)

  • http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/ Stuart @ eChurch Blog

    It was foreordained, predetermined and predestined that I should read this article….

  • tech_pilgrim

    I wonder if the cops would buy a “pattern of sin” argument if you were a cat bugler. “oh yes, I’m guilty of a pattern of theft”….”that’s great sir, but you’re being charged with 10 counts of 1st degree theft”

    would you only have to pay token restitution?

    • Cal-J

      You get three patterns. If you’re lucky.

      • Jones

        My dad knew a cat bugler in Vietnam – I saw one of the cat-leather cat bugles he used to make. Awful things – still have ears. I didn’t know they made it to the states…

        @tech_pilgrim, are you saying it’s illegal to use a cat bugle in the US, or is it just illegal to steal them?

        • musiciangirl591

          i believe he means burgler

  • Thomas Herge

    YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

  • http://backoftheworld.com/ Ryan

    As a former-Determinist/Calvinist-turned-Catholic-convert, all I have to say is: hells yes

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachelbostwick Rachel Bostwick

    I was not aware of the term, but I was raised a determinist. This was one of the major reasons why I converted. I love the way you explain things. Also the love of my life is a hardened determinist who believes that life and luck are Determined to hate him. I may spend the rest of my life regurgitating this article.

  • Roundcheese

    I laughed WAY too loud at the “pansy” pic at work. Props.

  • DrPCherry

    I think you must have a very grave misunderstanding of determinism.

    For one thing, from the moral perspective, determinism neither absolves an individual of past wrongs nor suggests that future wrongs are unavoidable. The pragmatic, utilitarian necessity of policing crimes and enforcing social morals allows even an atheist determinist to condemn past wrongs, however ‘unavoidable’ they were. Likewise, vastly limited knowledge – limited so much that the requisite level of knowledge is likely not even attainable – of the environmental factors going forward indicates that no event may be known to be unavoidable until it happens, and thus, efforts to prevent future wrongs are not futile.

    Like your hopping on one foot – I had to smile when I read that part of your post, because it’s so obvious! You even say yourself the crucial part: “(and my desire to shake Determinism, of course)”

    To the Determinist, the exercise clearly proves nothing, because there were factors that motivated you to do what you did. The act was not in spite of your environment or state at all – it was the direct result of them. To the determinist, your state of mind is not a magic box, independent of your environment. It functions as part of it, so when you consider all the factors that weigh for or against hopping on one foot, your desire to “shake determinism” is among them – and indeed, the Determinist would say, that factor won the day. But from that perspective, the act was still the result of the conditions, not one of an illusory “free will.”

    • Marc Barnes

      Dont think I’m claiming to have refuted determinism by my actions. Of course not. I’d refute determinism by determinism’s own self destroying philosophy. All I was doing is proving to myself my capacity for action outside of a pattern, which is a capacity I often forget.

      • http://www.facebook.com/steve.heidenreich Steve Heidenreich

        I don’t get how this is at all a real criticism of determinism. What do you mean by self-destroying philosophy?

        Just that part about our brains being subject to nature and nurture meaning they’re unreliable? Well Catholicism is simply based on our belief of a particular man’s Revelation. I don’t see either as particularly reliable mechanisms for knowledge.

        Do you have any actual posts on free will and determinism?

    • Joseph Belland

      “[F]rom the moral perspective, determinism neither absolves an individual of past wrongs….”

      But then justice becomes a joke. How can we hold a man morally accountable for an action he had no will over? If it really is just his environment compelling one and only one possible outcome, in what sense can anyone have any moral responsibility?

      Suppose, for instance, a man uses a gun to murder another man. Why do we put the man on trial and not the gun? If determinism is true, neither the man nor the gun chose to commit the murder. They were both acting purely mechanically, as functions of their environmental inputs.

      • DrPCherry

        I like that that question is phrased as a “How”, because that makes the answer so much simpler: the same way we do now. Our current justice system is not predicated on the necessity of free will. It’s nothing more than the enforcement of a series of expectations.

        Really, our justice system does nothing to hold people morally accountable, it holds them accountable in a very pragmatic sense. While we may talk about state of mind in reference to things like the ability of the retarded to understand their actions, or the presence of “actual malice” while committing a crime, these are discussions of either what our expectations really are [ie lower, for the mentally handicapped] or a description of the crime that happened [malicious intent or not].

        A criminal trial is not a philosophical posturing exercise. It focuses on facts. Expectations [dont shoot someone with a gun] and history [you did shoot someone, therefore you will be punished]

        The presence or absense of free will changes none of that.

        I assume the question about putting the gun on trial was hyperbole, but if you like, you may think of it simply as a measure of prudence. The Determinist view, after all, is the hieght of utilitarian thinking, so prescriptions are very pragmatic. We put the man on trial because it’s a more effective way of enforcing our expectations.

        The key to understanding determinism is to abstain from approaching it with hostility, trying to find out what sort of world it would like if it were true. The answer is: this one. The Determinist position is a way of looking at our current world, as it is. By necessity, that analysis cannot require that the world be different, or it would be manifestly untennable. But Determinism can account for our daily life as it is, in a consistent – albeit uncomfortable – way.

        • JAGreene86

          Expectations change…look at history.

          If our expectations change (and they have), then that means our justice system has changed as well, therefore, collapses any fundamental belief that there is such a thing as an impartial justice system. With that in mind, everyone should be a conformist, for anyone who does not conform to the “expectations” of society is at risk to being “punished”, just because of the fact that they’re going against “social norms”.

          If this is the case, then every Catholic Church, and those who associate themselves with the Catholic Church, should be punished by the extent of the law, because they do not adhere to the HHS Mandate. This overrides the freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech…because all of those freedoms opens the door to non-conformists, and, by your logic, all non-conformists should be punished because they violate the “social standard”.

          Justice should be determined by what is Universally Good and Universally Evil. This is the only place in which True Justice is…and the more a government drifts away from this True Justice, the more corrupt the government will become, and the more the country will suffer because of it.

          I am like you…I don’t imagine the “the world could be this”…but I see the world as what it is…and what it is, is a world trying harder and harder to ignore the idea of God so that we can try and convince our minds that we, as a human race, either don’t need God, or we are God.

          History, as you reference, will show that it doesn’t not end well when people have that mentality.

          • DrPCherry

            Most people ARE conformists, but only to the extent required by law. If you have never murdered someone, you are a conformist. If you have never stolen another’s property, you are a conformist.

            You may notice that these examples are both secular laws today as well as something Moses probably had a decent familiarity… :-P

            Yes, laws and social norms/expectations both change. True enough. But they vary only a little in the grand scheme of things, and many of the religious prescriptions [which, indicidentally, also change] from around the world happen to overlap with the secular laws of nations.

            So yes, a Determinist would say there is no Universal, Absolute Justice, and legality and morality are simply questions of time and place in history.

            But that doesn’t mean we should arrest Catholics or any of that other nonsense. Demanding conformity with laws and social mores is not the same as demanding COMPLETE conformity with every aspect of life.

            Again, Determinism is not a movement that is seeking to change the world, it is a way of looking at the world as it is. A Determinist would not want to jump up and start arresting the non-conformists; he would say that *thats whats happening now.*

            We penalize things like child pornography and pedophilia which, in other times and cultures were less objectionable, even acceptable. the Determinist views that not as “ancient Greece failed to act in favor of *JUSTICE* whereas modern America gets it right!” … but rather as “expectations have changed over time, and now we are arresting people for non-conformity to the current social morals.”

            It’s a descriptive difference, only.

          • JAGreene86

            Yeah…you didn’t quite understand my response…

            Why is there law? One could say to retain social order…but a very corrupt government could appear in very good order from the outside (hence why it took so long to discover the Concentration Camps in Germany during WWII).

            I say…that the only way a law keeps true order is by conforming that law to God’s Law.

            Forgive me fellow Christians for saying this, but let’s not look at the “God of the Bible” for a second…let’s just look at natural “cause and effect”. I think cause and effect, since it is so much a part of the world we live in now, should be looked at under a close microscope:

            We know that murder is wrong, because we see the pain that comes from it. Those whom loved the murdered victim have great pain at the sudden loss, and have great anger at the free will decision to murder the person. If this is avoidable, then by all means, it should be avoided.

            This doesn’t take a “genius” or a “lawyer” to figure that out. This is just simple cause and effect. Other cause and effect go more complicated (but I figure since life is pretty long, we might as well spend it trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t), but this is mainly the basis of law outside of a religious standpoint. The Forefathers of the States knew the consequences of not having the amendment of freedom to the People, therefore, they made laws to protect the People, to prevent avoidable pain that they went through in England.

            We have one of the youngest countries in the world, but yet we have one of the oldest government systems in place…for a reason. It’s not like they randomly said “let’s create this type of government, and see how it works”, no…they knew it would work, based on their experience and their view of “cause and effect”. They knew as long as the People are protected from the Government, that the country should do just fine. They have been proven right time and time again since. When that protection is disrupted (which is what’s going on now…speaking of “seeing the world as it is”), then chaos ensues.

            However, the law that we have as a government is close in line with the Law that God gave us…that is why it has worked for so long (with a few flaws). As I said, the further we digress from that, the worse the country will get (and we have digressed quite a bit).

            There are fundamental, philosophically sound, laws that every government should abide to…if not, cause and effect takes over, and we have nothing to blame but ourselves for what is to happen when we go against our desire for True Justice.

          • JAGreene86

            We’re not on the same page.

            To summarize (I know I talk a lot, I’ll do my best); laws work best when they’re in line with Ultimate Justice…because that is the way cause and effect work.

            We believe murder to be wrong, because we see the pain that it causes on the victim’s family and friends. We also believe that this pain is unnecessary. So, we determine, through the experience of others, that murder is wrong, because it brings up unnecessary pain.

            This is exactly what our founding fathers dealt with in England. They went through unnecessary religious persecution, and so when they founded their own country, they were determined to protect the People from the same fate. That is why they believed that the People should be given more power and more freedom. This is not because “let’s try it, see if it works”, but they knew it would work, because of what they experienced and “cause and effect”.

            You don’t need a Bible to tell you what is good and what isn’t good. Good philosophy can discover that. The Bible, if you want to look at it this way, is a confirmation of the philosophy of God.

            …and it points to the idea of True Justice. The more a government, or a person, drifts away from that, the more corrupt the person (or government) will become. This is simple cause and effect. It means nothing to acknowledge that “cause and effect”, but what we do with that knowledge means everything.

          • Guest

            I’m always amused when people declare that the United States is drifting away from ‘God’s Law’ or, as you put it, ‘True Justice.’ When was America’s golden age of prosperity and happiness because the Bible was the moral standard? If I learned my history correctly, and if my morality is not entirely off base, the evils of the founding fathers’ America were far worse than today’s. Slavery, the organized and sanctioned suppression and abuse – even genocide – of Native Americans, an absolute lack of women’s rights, inhumane working conditions, racism, and unequal voting rights come to mind as evils this country has, for the most part, overcome.
            As I remember my history, the United States has become a much more moral nation as time has passed. There are exceptions of course but the trend has – and I believe continues to be – in the correct direction.

          • JAGreene86

            I’m talking about the basic principle here…and it was because of those basic principles that people were allowed to “create” new and better laws over the years…however, I would even venture to say that it also opens up the door to new evil laws that the human perspective doesn’t quite catch right away.

            So you think abortion is a step in the right direction? You think the HHS Mandate is a step in the right direction? I want to have faith in the continual progression of this country, but recent history has no proof of that. We are only a handful of years behind Europe, which is in a near state of total economical collapse (look a Greece), but yet we walk around trying to act like there is no problem. We are killing thousands of children a day (which I think is worse than slavery and racism), but yet the government doesn’t bat an eye at it. Yes, I would agree, we have come a long way as a country…but I’m talking about now. I’m talking about the fact that the country is impeding on religious freedoms and allowing great invisible crimes and instead of uniting its citizens, it is dividing it. This is what I fear.

            (btw, I didn’t mean to made a double-post…I didn’t know if my first post registered, so I wrote another…sorry if it seemed like I was trying to hit a fly with a hammer).

          • Cal-J

            “As I remember my history, the United States has become a much more moral nation as time has passed.”

            You could argue that.

            You could also argue that we’ve traded one set of evils for another. I’m sure we could dig up a couple of pro-lifers around here who would argue that we’re responsible for tens of millions of innocents dead.

            The only person here speaking of any golden age of America here has been you. The point he was making could easily be that there was a foundation to the idea of morality at all, which contemporary philosophical thought has done its damnedest to abolish.

            Unless, of course, you have a foundation for morality (which I would love to hear).

          • David Casper

            If Determinism is, as you say, “a way of looking at the world as it is,” then it is an extremely irrational way of looking at the world.

            If Determinism is true, then everything now is simply the result of a bunch of atoms knocking together in a multi-billion-year game of pool. Which could all be well and good, except that Determinism does not have an answer for the Prime Mover – what started the first motion of the first atom that caused this whole universe to come into existence? – nor does it have an answer for the origin of that first atom that started the whole thing.

            Now, the fact that Determinism does not provide the answers to these questions does not in and of itself disprove Determinism, if it is merely a way of looking at the existing world rather than of explaining it. BUT there is a massive caveat here: the only logically possible reason for the existence and motion of that first atom must be that it was created and set in motion by something uncreated and unmoved by anything other than Itself. That is God – an uncreated entity with an active will (thereby allowing Him to move Himself without being acted upon by an outside force) and the capacity to create things other than Himself where none existed prior.

            God must exist because the existence and motion of all matter in the universe is predicated on the fact that He does. And if God exists, then Determinism cannot be true, for two reasons: 1) the entire universe must exist and move due to at least one initial unprompted act of will, which entirely negates the premise of Determinism that no act is unprompted, and 2) if God is real, then the only reason He would have created a universe at all, let alone populated it with beings, must of necessity be for the purpose of loving those beings. There is nothing that He could gain or lose by having us here, so He must have created us for our benefit rather than His own. This fact stands in rather inconvenient opposition to Determinism, which of necessity holds that there is no particular reason for the existence of anything or anyone (save the occurrence of the correct conditions) and that love (that is, “desiring what is good for another”) is merely a convincing illusion.

            QED. Determinism is false.

          • Josh

            DrPCherry: “It’s a descriptive difference, only.”

            …which is exactly why it doesn’t matter at all. There is no refuting your determinism because it doesn’t posit anything. I think this was the point of Marc’s post. World-explaining-concepts that don’t posit anything are just plain uninteresting in addition to probably being wrong. They’re like trying to prove to a solipsist that you exist independently: not worth the effort.

            (Please don’t think I’m accusing you of being uninteresting. I haven’t been predetermined to do so.)

        • James H, London

          “We put the man on trial because it’s a more effective way of enforcing our expectations.”

          This person is alarmingly insane.

          • http://www.facebook.com/masterzallow James Lee Wilson

            I love how you make such a bold statement, yet provide no evidence to support your claim.

        • Jared

          “. The Determinist position is a way of looking at our current world, as it is. By necessity, that analysis cannot require that the world be different, or it would be manifestly untennable.”

          It’s like a philosophy written by a really cynical historian then?

      • http://www.facebook.com/TreyRoady Trey Roady

        Even more important: we did not create our environment, God did. Therefore, if we sin it is not because of our own failings, but because God created us to fail. Our inability to accept our own will and the divine responsibilities that come with it lead us to blame God for our own weakness.

        • JAGreene86

          …which would lead us to conclude *that* idea of God is flawed, which means it’s not God…but that doesn’t mean there ISN’T a God.

          We cannot call “God” something if it is simply not “God”. I cannot say “murder is good” and be correct if murder is not good.

          If I were to say “Trey is a horrible human being…he thinks that God is out to get us” would I be right or wrong in that assumption? It doesn’t matter what *reality* is to me, because I have already created a “philosophical” argument to why you’re not a good person…but is that really a *good* think to do? But what if I were to say that “Trey has a good heart, I just genuinely believe that he is confused on what the definition of ‘God’ really is”? Would that me more of an accurate statement than the first?

          God, by the best philosophical definition, is as such: A perfect, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent being who is fully Goodness, Justice, Mercy, Truth, Beauty, and Love. Everything falls under any one of those categories. Anything that goes against those basic fundamental, philosophical attributes of God is not from God. The reason for our weakness is because we chose to be weak. We chose to believe that God wasn’t what He said He was. We chose to doubt those fundamental, philosophical principles of God and decided to fend for ourselves. This line of thinking is the most dangerous line of thinking, because to walk away from perfection’s calling is to, at best, lead a second-rate life.

          Free Will was created so we could love more freely…but it was also to show us the great risk involved and what really is at stake. If we have complete ignorance of evil, loving God almost means nothing to us, but the more evil we recognize, the more the love of God becomes that much more valuable to us, because we know what great evil awaits us if we don’t turn to God.

          Knowledge, in of itself, is not a sin. What we do with it, and how we interpret it, can be.

        • http://www.facebook.com/masterzallow James Lee Wilson

          Or a more logical assumption can come out of this: that there is no god, and your belief in him is flawed in it’s very essence.

          • http://www.facebook.com/masterzallow James Lee Wilson

            Okay, that came across quite rude. I apologize for that, but my argument remains the same.

    • Jared

      This is nothing more than a misunderstanding of contingency. Thoughts and acts are non-contingent, true…they depend on my existence, my brain being healthy, my knowledge, in some cases, my physical fitness, and, of course, any inspirations or desires. Non-contingent is not the same thing as non-free. Marc could have easily run to the bathroom…making a choice does not, in any way, imply that he had no choice.

      • Jared

        This is nothing more than a misunderstanding of contingency. Thoughts and acts are contingent, true…they depend on my existence, my brain being healthy, my knowledge, in some cases, my physical fitness, and, of course, any inspirations or desires. Contingent is not the same thing as non-free. Marc could have easily run to the bathroom…making a choice does not, in any way, imply that he had no choice.
        Fix’d

  • Bob

    Such a great post, had me quite literally LOL’ing several times. Please keep up the fantastic meme use.

    In all seriousness, though, this post was a God-send, and was exactly the thing I needed to hear after all the questions I posed in Adoration last night.

    BTW, how’d that rock taste?

  • Mithril1971

    It occurs to me this is the source of all those labels we love for ourselves, and though a dozen come to mind, I’ll just let us come up with our own. The labels excuse our behavior from not loving our neighbor to not loving ourselves. And at the risk of suggesting this is a growing epidemic, we forfeit personal responsibility into the hands of the culture, the government, my neuroses and diagnoses, and Anyone Else. Even, sometimes, God.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Y7KPPA7BYDQKL22UD65EGKLGHQ Elizabeth

    Love the illustrations! Are you trying to give Hyperbole and a Half a run for her money?

    • Qwertyupp

      I hope he does. Mr. Barnes, please continue doing your own illustrations. They are better than internet pictures, even ones with Wario.

  • John McNichol

    Heh. Still remember my ENGLISH prof at Portland state pushing Determinism…”Do you REALLY believe you have free will?”

    Me: “Well, if I turn my paper in late, you’re sure gonna grade me as if I had free will to turn it in on time….”

    Too many English classrooms become places where physics, biology and philosophy are discussed by the unqualified, IMHO. One more reason I liked Drs. Holme and Englert at FUS! :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

    I think I’m starting to see a pattern of you describing people lighting things on fire (cars, shoes) in your posts.

    But I’ll overlook it for the Brawl reference, for the win.

  • Goblin Lord

    “Why on earth, then, do we trust our experience and mental capacities to accurately lead us to the belief that Determinism is true? If our brains are made up of nothing but the probabilistic movements of atoms, why do we trust them to lead us to a belief that our brains are made up of nothing more than the probabilistic movements of atoms? It’s philosophical suicide.”
    Reducing human intellect to the “probabilistic movement of atoms” does not inherently prove it unreliable. For these atoms are ordered in a way to preserve a much larger collection of atoms, thus ensuring the future of other similar atomic structures. The fact that these molecular arrangements have survived for thousands of generations means that something about their functioning must be reliable.
    “But I didn’t stop. I wanted to make an act of the will. I wanted to make an act utterly free from everything except my choice to do it (and my desire to shake Determinism, of course). As far as my own experience was concerned, I was hopping because I willed it, and there was nothing else to it.”
    Your “desire to shake Determinism,” like others have pointed out, is a nontrivial factor in the series of events that ultimately produce your hopping action. Just like your desire to attain salvation is a nontrivial factor in “kicking determinism’s ass” when you refuse to sin. In fact, I wager that you can’t ever think of a time when you acted contrary to *all* desires, for the desire to act contrary to all desires is itself a desire. No action that you perform can ever prove determinism impossible. There will always be other variables besides your will that are affecting your actions, even if they’re as simple as belief in free will itself.
    And since an act of will can never exist in isolation, what good is it to appeal to one as evidence for free will? In fact, if the will were really “free” to act outside of all external causality, we might expect that our will would get us into some trouble. You might find yourself hopping on one foot in the middle of Mass with no prior indication that you were going to do so. I might suddenly decide to leap in front of a car despite having a perfectly good day. The theory of free will does not account for the fact that the will never exists as a singularity – so how can you confidently assert that it is free?

    • David Barr

      I don’t bother. I am not a philosopher, for all that I appreciate the importance of philosophical inquiry. I am a simple enough person that I find discussion of free will fairly pointless.

      Either I have free will, or I do not.

      Since it is my nature to experience existence as though I am a thinking, choosing thing, I find any attempt to view the world differently entirely self defeating, not from a “This is Truth” vantage (what is, is), but from a practical “How ought I act” position.

      It isn’t quite Pascal’s wager, but it is close. If free will is wrong, it is wrong, and we’re done here. If it is right, and we -choose- to act as though it is not, we have chosen nonetheless and get to live with the fruits of those choices.

      • DrPCherry

        It IS close to Pascal’s wager – you risk very little by choosing to model your behavior around the concepts of free will and accountability. If you believe in God an choose to act morally, your gamble that Determinism is a false description of reality is one where you really stand to lose nothing.

        You can, of course, logically conclude that one ought to act in the exact same manner – morally – from a Determinism view, it just takes a lot of pragmatism and utilitarian thinking.

        The whole divide between the two viewpoints is really nothing more than philosophical posturing, with one side claiming to explain things through Absolute Truth and the other entire uninterested in the concept altogether.

    • JAGreene86

      I see what you’re trying to say, but there are a few minor flaws: Randomness and Cause & Effect.

      If the theory of Determinism is true, then it should point to a “Creator” (or, one who has started the “chain reaction”). This is why:

      Determinism cannot be true if the universe “randomly” ordered itself into existence, for “random creation” has no “will” in which it was created. I cannot “will” myself into my own creation, thus, the universe, and all of existence, yields to this same principle.

      Secondly, in order for Determinism to be true, then as simple as “cause and effect”; there must be a “cause” in order for there to be an effect…but Determinism simply states the fact that everything is an “effect”…so…what’s the ultimate “cause”? What is the “cause” that started this chain-reaction of an infinite “effect”? Determinism has to believe that there is a “Universal Cause” in order to have all of this “effect” stemming from it.

      However, going further in this theory, we are to determine that “everything happens for a reason” (the cliche of Determinism). What reason is that though? Determinist cannot answer that question. This is where Christianity picks up where Determinism drops off: Everything happens because “God” wills it so.

      But then, the question asks “does God will us to sin?” The answer, by any knowledgable Christian, would answer with an emphatic “no”…but yet…how can that be so if God wills *everything* to happen? Thus, the obvious dilemma…but it’s not a dilemma:

      There are two paths in the forest. One goes left, the other goes right. It is nearly impossible to see which path leads where, but we always have an indication (thus, as Determinist would say, is the “cause” of our decision). You *choose* the path, but once you choose the path, the path is already traced out and you can’t change it, thus completes the theory of “Determinism”…but what Determinism fails to realize is that God has a will of His own…and He’s the reason WHY there are two paths in front of us. He knows which one He wants us to choose, but often times, we choose the opposite (hence sin). Really, the main root of sin stems from the belief that God is not God, and that God does NOT know what’s best for us and God is NOT perfect in every sense of the word. We sin, because we don’t trust the path He wants us to choose, but yet as Determinists would say “It doesn’t matter either way, for *everything* happens for a reason”, but then I would ask “for a good reason or for a bad reason?” And if they say “neither”, then we’d be diving into the realms of Relativism stating that there is no Universal Good or Evil (but then again, is there any point in believing a “Creator” if we are to believe that there is no such thing as Good and Evil?), for the whole idea of what is Good and Evil stems from the knowledge of a “Good, Omniscient, Creator” who is, in fact, looking out for the best of us at all times. The denial of that is to deny any and every philosophical argument that points to practical morality in the first place.

      Did I lose anyone? I apologize if I did…but I have to talk in the same circle that most Determinist and Relativists think in…except neither one completes the circle, or else they wouldn’t be Determinist or Relativists.

      Let’s get back to “good reason or bad”. When we make a decision, it is obvious that there is a reason why we do what we do (unless we do something out of complete randomness, which, according to Determinist, is not possible), but the ultimate reason why we make decisions is because we feel that is the *best* decision we can make with what we have and what we know (for does anyone admit to making the wrong decision the moment they make it? If so, I would check their sanity (or, would be another reason to disprove Determinism)). So, again, we go back to “we feel this is the *best* decision to make”, but, just because we believe it to be the *best* decision, doesn’t necessarily mean that it IS the best decision.

      Hence, we enter into the mind of God…for we know, simply, that we did not make 2+2=4 to be correct, but yet we “discovered” it to be correct. The best decision is predetermined, but our decision to choose the best decision is not…however, only God KNOWS which is the best decision before any decision is made…follow?

      Let’s go back to the paths in the forest. We start walking down one path, and it leads to a lake. We have no idea what the other path leads too…it could lead to the exit of the forest, or it could lead us right into the den of a wicked witch that is just waiting to turn us into a frog. Now, what if we had a map? And what if that map clearly showed us which path goes where? If we wanted to avoid the witch, we’d know to NOT take that path that leads to the witch…but what if there’s 10 paths? We know one leads to the witch, so we can eliminate that, but what about the 9 others? This is where it’s important for us to determine where we want to go…because lets say we want to go to the lake, but there’s only one path that goes to the lake…we will not be able to get to the lake any other way other than going down that one and only path…all other paths will take us somewhere, maybe somewhere good, maybe somewhere bad, but it’s not what we TRULY want, which is the lake.

      Ok, metaphor aside: Where is our ultimate destination? We want to be famous, get rich, and live merry…but…what happens when you die? Then you’re just 6-feet-under, just like everyone else. Ok…so maybe you have a legacy that people will remember you by…but how will you know? As far as existence, existence doesn’t exist anymore for you. Anything about existence is ignorance to you, since you no longer exist…at least not the “intellectual” side of you…so…what does it matter to us if we’re famous or live rich when we die?

      Which begs the question…what if there is an afterlife? Are we living for this life, or the next life? Do we go to college because we love college, or do we go because we want to have a better job? And don’t we get a job because we want to support our family? And don’t we have a family because we want to have love in our lives? Isn’t there *always* a reason why we do what we do? Not just for the present moment, but for the future moments that is to come? What are we working for?

      This is the final conclusion: Determinism only means anything when there’s morality involved, and morality only means anything of there is a Universal Good and Evil, and a Universal Good and Evil can only be truly determine by a Ultimate Creator who is perfect in every sense of the word. We cannot determine Good and Evil out of isolation, because we have been proven wrong (very, very often). Only the existence of a non-bias, faultless God-Creator can never be wrong about what is Good and what is Evil, therefore, His guidance is True in every circumstance, and going against that is an act against that fundamental ideology which cannot be justified through philosophy. There are certain degrees of that rebellion, just like how there are different paths in the forest.

      The good side to all of this is that as long as we’re in the forest, we have a chance to “re-trace” our steps and turn towards the path that is *best* for us (whether we know it to be the *best* for us at the time, but it is, whether we believe it or not). That is our Free Will. That is the beauty and the curse…we can always choose to follow God or not to follow God at ANY GIVEN MOMENT! The path is there…it’s just a matter of us “deciding” to walk down that path.

      A lot to say, please forgive me, but I struggle with the complications of the world. If people weren’t so determine to “make themselves God”, this wouldn’t be so complicated…it would be just as easy as “Trusting God with all our heart and leaning not on our own understanding.” But…alas…everything happens for a reason…and God is using this to help me better understand and glorify Him…because that’s what I *decide* to do (and that’s what He wants me to do too).

      • DrPCherry

        You have written so much, it’s difficult to respond to it all! I hope you will forgive me having to choose only samples of your writing to address, but hopefully I can hit the main points.

        One disconnect that I see right away is that you have laid at the feet of Determinism some explanations for the origin of the universe and creation and whatnot that I’m not sure can be attributed to it.

        If we use the summary from the original post as our working understanding of what determinism is, then it’s the idea that “for everything that happens there are conditions which, given them, nothing else could happen.”

        Such a claim is purely de-scriptive, and has no pre-scriptive element to it. It does not make ANY claim about the origin of things, nor do I think a Determinist would really care how the universe came to be. Determinism simply seeks to describe it the way it is.

        So, the Uncaused Cause and Moral Law Maker arguments [which I believe date all the way back to St. Augustine, no?] do not particularly clash with Determinism at all – they examine different phenominae.

        To put it another way, a Determinist may very well believe that there IS a creator God who simply created a universe in which no creature has free will. While it is unlikely that such a belief is actually held by any individual, in my estimation, it’s certainly possible because Determinism’s view of how the Universe IS does not require any particular explanation of how it was CREATED.

        • JAGreene86

          I thought we were about what is…not what “is possible”? Right? Isn’t that what you say Determinism is about?

          Then why do you explore the “possibility” of a Determinist to have a certain “ideal” about Creation? As far as the logic of Determinism, it would have to cover all of space-time, including the beginning. Also, instead of exploring how the Universe “could’ve been” created…a Determinist would try and figure out “how” it was created…because there’s only one way that it could’ve been created.

          Also, if the beginning of creation means nothing, then are we to say that the creation of a human being means nothing? Are we greater, lesser, or of equal value to the environment that surrounds us? I would think that the creation of the Universe would be a GREAT fascination to those who are determined to find “why life is the way it is”.

          And yes, that original “Uncause Cause and Moral Law Maker” argument was originally made by St. Augustine…but, not to sound pompous, but I developed (or discovered, I should say) that same argument well before I ever knew the arguments that St. Augustine had (not to say that I’m smarter than everyone else, but apparently, I was seeing the same thing that St. Augustine was seeing, just like how two people from different side of the country can see the same star in the sky).

          As I said earlier, many Determinists and Relativists do not complete their own philosophical circle. They stop when they feel like they’ve “solved” it…but I come along and say “ok, let’s apply this to everything” and realize that it doesn’t quite compute as well. Maybe I am oversimplifying, but my math teacher taught me to simplify complicated math problems, and then solve. I’m just trying to simplify these complicated philosophical arguments and then solve them. If I can honestly find no fault, I will agree…but if I find a fault that is critical to the philosophy itself (just like how people discredit the Bible and then determine Christianity to be flawed), I will not agree with the philosophy. That is as simple as I can put it.

          “To take out Goodness in life is to take out life completely…for if there is no such thing as Goodness, then it is a torturous life indeed, for that is all that is left.”

          “If Goodness does not exist…it is better for us to not exist as well.”

      • Goblin Lord

        “Determinism cannot be true if the universe ‘randomly’ ordered itself into existence, for ‘random creation’ has no ‘will’ in which it was created. I cannot ‘will’ myself into my own creation, thus, the universe, and all of existence, yields to this same principle.”

        I don’t think the universe “willing” itself into existence is an accurate description of the determinist claim. My understanding of the argument is that “will” is merely a result of the universe’s ordering. So the fact that “will” plays no role in the universe’s creation doesn’t impact the argument’s validity – maybe soundness, but *definitely* not validity.

        “Secondly, in order for Determinism to be true, then as simple as ’cause and effect’; there must be a ’cause’ in order for there to be an effect…but Determinism simply states the fact that everything is an ‘effect’…so…what’s the ultimate ’cause’? What is the ’cause’ that started this chain-reaction of an infinite ‘effect’? Determinism has to believe that there is a ‘Universal Cause’ in order to have all of this ‘effect’ stemming from it.”

        Determinists aren’t restricted in terms of “Universal Cause.” By that, I mean assuming the universe has a Creator doesn’t prove determinism wrong. The Christian worldview entails both God and free will, but the existence of *some being* worthy of the name God doesn’t *necessarily* mean free will exists. It is entirely possible to be a theistic determinist, however unpalatable that may be to most theists.

        “However, going further in this theory, we are to determine that ‘everything happens for a reason’ (the cliche of Determinism). What reason is that though? Determinist cannot answer that question. This is where Christianity picks up where Determinism drops off: Everything happens because ‘God’ wills it so.”

        I have to admit, I’ve never heard the saying “everything happens for a reason” attributed to determinism. My impression was that the “reason” in this quote refers to a final cause (or purpose), not the efficient cause that brought the event about. In other words, “reason” is a stand in for “purpose.” Most determinists don’t seek to attribute “purpose” to every event – they merely try to explain them as resulting entirely from other events. And as I mentioned earlier, a determinist can maintain that the “first cause” was or wasn’t divine in nature – the theory is compatible with both ideas.

        • JAGreene86

          This is my point with the first paragraph:

          In Determinism, as you say, the “will” is just merely the result of the universe’s ordering, correct? However, how can something be if there is no universe? How can the universe itself be created if there is no “influence” to create it? How can a domino fall down if there is nothing to make it fall down?

          And, what I was saying (but misinterpreted, obviously), is that I didn’t say that a “Divine Creator” automatically proves Determinism wrong…I’m actually saying the opposite: That Determinism, as a whole, actually points to a “Divine Creator”.

          Now, to dive into the realm of a “Divine Creator” (aka God), we would then have to look at all the fundamental philosophical principles of God…and the main ones are as follows: Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, fully Justice, Mercy, Truth, Beauty, and Love. By this, I would say that it is *impossible* to determine that there is a Deity that lacks any original Free Will, for that would not make Him Omnipotent nor give Him the capacity of fully and freely Loving, which means it is not God. Therefore, even though Determinism does point to a “Divine Creator”, Determinism itself cannot sustain the idea of a God who has Free Will, therefore, Determinism, by itself, is not complete. It is correct in saying that everything has a “cause”, but, as you say, it fails to say “why”. It can say “there is a God”, but it fails to identify God, which, in my honest opinion, is more important than just knowing that there is a “Divine Creator”.

          Also, taking Determinism to a practical point…if my dad died, and my sister doesn’t know about it yet…obviously its important to tell her what happened and I would explain how it happened (heart attack, car accident, a piano falling on him, etc), but after that, what comfort can I give her as a Determinist? I am no good for counsel, for comfort, for support…there comes a point in someone’s life when they have to realize that the facts are just simply not good enough…that “life” comes down to those crucial decisions on how they’re going to react.

          I am like you, I love to explain things (hence why my comments are so long), but I cannot begin to possibly explain why someone would decide to murder and rape a 11-year-old, or why people, who have no history of a mental illness, decide to pull out a gun and shoot people in broad daylight. On the flip side, I cannot possibly begin to explain the positive transformation I have seen in people’s lives.

          This is my theory: We are the cause, what happens is the effect. We are living in other people’s effects, based from other people’s decision. The house I live in is because someone decide to build it…and there are numerous reasons why (some are more practical than others), but nonetheless, I am living in a house because of the “cause” of someone else. I carry scars that both myself and others (people and/or outside objects) have created. The scars are the effect…the cause (someone punches me or I hurt myself or I stub my toe on a desk). But even so, I was faced with an effect, and in turn, voluntarily caused something else to go into effect, thus the chain reaction follows to this day.

          The reason why we want to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren comes from this very idea of cause and effect. If we knew we had no control over it, then why would it matter to us? If I know I’m just going to die one day, then what is preventing me from standing in front of a freight train? We know certain causes have good effects and certain causes have bad effects (as they say, “ends” and “means”). Determinism ignores the metaphysical side of philosophy, but only looks at the physical. I have a question to Determinists then…what makes us human? (and don’t say anything physical, because we are not just “physical” beings…any idiot can tell you that). What makes us who we are? What “determined” that we are to think and act like we do? Yes, society and mental aptitude plays a part, but how do you determine the heart of a person? How do you determine the “good nature” of someone? How do you explain love?

          Last week, I went on a mission trip…and whom I called a stranger Monday, left an everlasting impact on my life on Friday. How do Determinist explain that? In 5 days, I grew to love this person more than people I’ve known for years. This was not a romantic love of any sort, that I can guarantee you. This was just simply a love between two human beings that the world cannot explain…that I can also guarantee you. However, someone who already understands love, understands why. Those who don’t understand love…are left speechless.

          Love…my friends. Determinism cannot explain love (outside of “chemical reaction” nonsense)…nothing can explain love except the creator of Love itself (and, no, I’m not talking about cupid).

          Although there is a certain degree of Determinism that is true (or else why would people believe it if there wasn’t some nugget of Truth in it?), it is only a piece of the puzzle and cannot fully explain the puzzle itself. If I had to guestimate…I would say that Determinism explains about 25% of the full Truth (you divide into the two realms, Truth and Beauty, and divide Truth into “physicality principles and predestination” and inside predestination, somewhere, resides Determinism in a small amount…but not Determinism as a whole)…

          …and since it is my “free will” to believe that Determinism only makes up, at most, 25% of the world we live in, I “choose” not to fully follow it as a philosophical ideal (or, in Determinist language…the circumstances have lead me to have this idea that I have, thus, there is nothing you can do about, no matter how hard you try, because I have no other choice…and I hope you do understand that…don’t you?).

          • Goblin Lord

            “In Determinism, as you say, the ‘will’ is just merely the result of the universe’s ordering, correct? However, how can something be if there is no universe? How can the universe itself be created if there is no ‘influence’ to create it? How can a domino fall down if there is nothing to make it fall down?

            And, what I was saying (but misinterpreted, obviously), is that I didn’t say that a ‘Divine Creator’ automatically proves Determinism wrong…I’m actually saying the opposite: That Determinism, as a whole, actually points to a ‘Divine Creator’.”

            If you take as your premise that the only “influence” that could create a universe is divine in nature, then Determinism would point to a divine Creator. I have neither confirmed nor denied this idea. And for good reason, as I feel like it would spiral off into another discussion entirely. Which has already started to happen, but so it goes.

            “Now, to dive into the realm of a ‘Divine Creator’ (aka God), we would then have to look at all the fundamental philosophical principles of God…and the main ones are as follows: Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, fully Justice, Mercy, Truth, Beauty, and Love. By this, I would say that it is *impossible* to determine that there is a Deity that lacks any original Free Will, for that would not make Him Omnipotent nor give Him the capacity of fully and freely Loving, which means it is not God. Therefore, even though Determinism does point to a ‘Divine Creator’, Determinism itself cannot sustain the idea of a God who has Free Will, therefore, Determinism, by itself, is not complete.”

            If this is true, then making your earlier distinction? You take it as a given that God must entail all the principles you listed (I don’t, but this is for the sake of argument), so determinism really *isn’t* compatible with the idea of God. Also, it’s worth noting that I don’t think we mean the same thing by “Determinism” (more on that later).

            “Although there is a certain degree of Determinism that is true (or else why would people believe it if there wasn’t some nugget of Truth in it?), it is only a piece of the puzzle and cannot fully explain the puzzle itself. If I had to guestimate…I would say that Determinism explains about 25% of the full Truth (you divide into the two realms, Truth and Beauty, and divide Truth into ‘physicality principles and predestination’ and inside predestination, somewhere, resides Determinism in a small amount…but not Determinism as a whole)…”

            Except what you’re describing really isn’t “Determinism” anymore. Recall the definition given in the OP:
            “For everything that happens there are conditions which, given them, nothing else could happen.”
            *Everything* is the key word, here – not for some things with exceptions for Love and Truth and Beauty and All Other Flowery Things. I know you want to find some common ground here, but your worldview is entirely incompatible with this premise.

            “…and since it is my ‘free will’ to believe that Determinism only makes up, at most, 25% of the world we live in, I ‘choose’ not to fully follow it as a philosophical ideal (or, in Determinist language…the circumstances have lead me to have this idea that I have, thus, there is nothing you can do about, no matter how hard you try, because I have no other choice…and I hope you do understand that…don’t you?).”

            Your description is accurate – if Determinism is true, you’re either convinced by the evidence or you aren’t. However, exposure to new evidence could still serve as a causal factor to change someone’s view. Either way though, you’re right that you wouldn’t have any other option. The causal factors at work within my own brain, namely the realization that this discussion has changed very little, prompts me to cease posting and to wish you well.

          • JAGreene86

            You have made all of my points relevant in your rebuttles…and for that, I thank you (including the last paragraph…which was meant to be sarcastically true).

            Determinist and Relativist cannot philosophically “convince” someone else of their belief…which is why I think it is pointless for any Determinist and Relativist to voice their opinions in the first place (I have nothing against freedom of speech, but please tell me something I don’t already know and/or has some sort of significant meaning to my life & not just yours). Maybe that’s selfish of me to say that, but I’m pretty sure that there are a good majority of Determinist and Relativists who feel the same way about Christians…so it’s all fair in love and war.

            Even though I respond to you, this is a public forum, and I am aware that other people will read our argument. I am respectable enough for people to “look at all the evidence” and decide for themselves what to believe…that’s why I write.

            …but I’ll say this last thing…our beliefs don’t make anything True…Truth has always been…it’s just a matter of us believing Truth verses believing it to be true. I would rather believe Truth than believe something to be true…but that’s just me. I hope to find others who share in that same mentality…

  • Robert Cronin

    Thank You

  • Catherine

    This is so awesome! What a great way to look at penance – I see now why it’s recommended so much. If we practice mastering our passions, then we’ll be better able to avoid sin! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • http://bob-rice.com/ Bob Rice

    Could it be argued that determinism has been nullified by grace?

    • Cal-J

      Nullified? Nah. Turned into a flea, a harmless little flea, put in a box, then put in a second box, wrapped and mailed to God, who SMASHED IT WITH A HAMMA.

      To argue that determinism has been nullified is to argue that determinism exists outright. (Note: This is not to say that things won’t get worse without grace, as separation from being leads inexorably into nonbeing, but you knew that).

  • Paul423

    A few questions: How does concupisence figure in here? Does this imply that a human being can stop sinning entirely through will power? Just food for thought….

    On another note, I feel compelled/predetermined to note how much I freaking love this blog. Great stuff Marc!

  • Drmcf

    Marc,
    That has always been the point of ‘Fasting’. Try only eating one meal a day. Everyone you tell will be horrified. But fasting can transform you. There is nothing like the feeling of being in control of your urges and wants.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IXLZRHDFEO4GJTIE6VJJXJKX2U Mary Liz

    Of course when we are weakest, then we are made Strong in Christ. Sometimes denying temptation requires taking up a CROSS which we are weary of carrying. I have often struggle with repeat sin… I think it’s what St. Paul referred to as a THORN IN THE FLESH, and when I am tempted and fail it is usually due to pure laziness, or an unwillingness to surrender myself to God’s will. Instant gratification leading into instant guilt. I cannot rely on my own will power to over come, I must rely on God’s Grace to pull me through the temptation… and you know what? The more I rely on Christ, the easier to carry that Cross,via frequenting Reconciliation more & more, receiving Communion more frequently, and by making the Sign of the Cross in times of trouble. It really works! After all I am a lowly worm in my Sin, but in Christ I am reborn, and formed in God’s family as his CHILD and heir to his promise of Salvation. So Satan is even more determined to get me to trip up in my proud moments, in my own fantastic imagination I fall hard and harder into SIN, but through humility, self denial and PRAYER God is always there to get me through those repeat temptations. I’ve been very blessed to take up the Cross of Christ in answer to those attempts to appeal to my vanity, greed, sloth, gluttony… and yeah I fall and trip every once in a while, but the more I invite Christ in, the easier it gets to tell Satan to get away from me. Keep up the great work Marc, you are really getting people to reconsider their own struggles in faith and in reasoning with Sin.

  • Amelia

    A thought that I am not sure you disagree with at all, but I do find unclear: The Church does definitively teach that both free will and predestination are true. They both have the support of holy writ. Now, the determinism of the likes of Hume is not identifiable with this predestination, of course: It’s a materialism (another self-refuting philosophy) and a kind of negation of who man is. So I’m not sure whether you’d also argue against predestination.

    But as a cradle Catholic, I never knew that predestination is true; all that was ever talked about was free will, to the exclusion and even outright denial of predestination.

    Oh, and as for the apparent paradox of how it is possible that we are both fated and free, C.S. Lewis and Augustine have great insight, summarized for easy listening in the talk “Fated and Free” by Dr. Peter Kreeft. I can explain it, but 1) the medium of blog comments is most ill-suited to it and 2) why listen to me when you could listen to them?

  • James H

    Hee, hee!

    The point came to me really, really hard about 7 years ago. No matter how beaten down we are (and I was about as low as I could go), there is always the Choice – for good or for evil.

    Evil will hit us, hard, with whatever it can (and the more wrong we’ve done, the more things it can hit us with), to make us SUFFER, to MAKE us believe that there is no God, no Good, to MAKE us retaliate, to FORCE us to take its side. But, ol’ Scratch’s kingdom is never shaken so hard as when we look at the wreckage of our lives and say:

    ‘I adore You, O Christ, and I praise You; because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world!’

  • Regina Pelrine

    Dear Marc,
    You always say things that I need to hear, in words that don’t leave me looking like my dog (or that video of the pugs on Youtube [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uuqXXT7VYo]) when I ask her if she wants to go for a walk.
    Thanks, bud!

  • http://trcthoughtz.blogspot.com/ Jeff Stempel

    As always. Like a boss!

  • Abirchenough

    I used to be a calvanist, its mostly believable, it is just really painful. As Chesterton said, “it is cheap to have slaves, its even cheaper to be a slave.” I take the freedom, thank you.

  • Zaireunderorion

    I like this and agree, though I think some stuff seems set up, or maybe I just have visions of the future and then see it come to pass…

    Besides that, would you apply this to actual addictions? Addictions don’t usually start as addiction, but are built into one. You can certainly will against those actions early on but, given the chance, the sin will take on a life of its own. Still, it is true that we want to kind of peg any habitual sin down as being part of an addiction or something you cannot help. It is painful to even think about how you COULD have done differently. I say that regret is good and can serve as a reminder if you drink your shame fully (Lewis).

    In regards to determinism, it IS self-defeating, much like materialism is–by any other name, no? I fear I did something grammatically weird there…

    Anyway, something being pre-determined means it is truly unavoidable. The only thing that could stop it is some sort of power above it. In this same vein lies materialism which eliminates the self by reducing it to sub-atomic particles. If determinism/materialism are true then no one can ever say anyone is wrong, mostly because there is no one to do so. If it does happen, there is no way of saying that person was right and it can only be incidental.

    I’m done, now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/duskyb Jen Schafer

    Powerful stuff!! Thanks for your ministry today!

  • Dtmccameron

    I wonder if the notion of doing something disadvantageous to one’s self, and asserting one’s own human will, might have some parallels to mortification? Establishing a sort of dominance over the flesh and feelings and appetites.

  • Dave H

    Word.

  • Jeff

    Hahaha this made my day! Wow I laughed out loud at the crazy ideas but the message is a beautiful
    One, thanks Marc, thank you!

  • tony

    Wasn’t Adam the first when he said “the woman you put here with me… she made me do it!”
    I don’t think God likes the idea of Determinism. If only Adam would have accepted the truth that he blew it.

  • Joe Hercik

    This post is so full of WIN that I don’t even know where to begin. It really is one of the best things I’ve read in a while when it comes to pricking the conscious. I think a reference to this leading up to Lent 2013 would be most appropriate, since it’s a time of exercising our will and making choices against vice and for virtue. Last Lent taught me that the Passion and Death of our Lord was a choice for Him, every bloody step of the way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    This has been one of the most lol-some posts you have yet posted. (But instead of Hobbes, maybe find a Descartes parody. “I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God. -Blaise Pascal”

    At any rate the simplest thing to say is that the biggest philosophy is best, because an infinite philosophy is the best-est. Anything smaller is Madness, as Chesterton kindly points out. There is something rather too much one-sided in saying all acts are determined (which is to say, arbitrary – all evils meet at nothing, just like all goods meet at everything. Go back all the way and the only thing that is is an arbitrary beginning or a god without freedom or covenant).

    The orthodox position is the exact median and exact opposite of the two fallacies concerning will: that it is so chained that it does not exist, and that it is too free, and thus is everything (or nothing).

  • http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com/ Christie

    I think I’m going to make “Ridiculous Acts of Will” buttons. Who wants one?

  • http://thebucketlistsociety.com/ Erik D. Kennedy

    Taking cold showers is a bit like this. I started doing it for no reason at all, but found myself inexplicably joyful whenever I stepped out of the shower. I think it’s in part because I know that I did something difficult for no other reason than that I had the ability to.

    It’s like seeing a baby knock down a pile of blocks. They always have this stupid huge grin afterwards. Why? They affected their environment. We can do that. We’re humans. We’re awesome.

  • Gannon

    Hey Marc,

    Check out Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Grace” – there is some great stuff involving Thomist belief of premotion, intrinsic/extrinsic grace, and the efficacy of the will. For me, premotion is the cherry.

  • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

    While I don’t think this “kicks determinism’s ass” I do think this is a wonderful reflection on how we tend to rationalize our own sinfulness and cover it up by saying that “I was too weak to resist.”

    I believe that this manner of thinking has really bled into much of what we do: it makes social policy a mess, it is adopted by reductionists/evolutionists/philosophical determinists as a means of determining the truth. (sorry, a little vague, I know).

    I’m reading a great book by Leon Kass “Towards a More Natural Science” that deals with these issues, such as “we’re coming to a conception of human beings that we couldn’t be any other way.” He puts it more eloquently, of course! I’m hoping to write about it when I finish.

    Good article.

  • Tim

    Great post again! It reminds me of the words of Pascal when he says that prayer is God giving to man the dignity of causality.

  • QDefenestration

    No! Marc! That first picture has terrible implications! Wario is a much higher tier than Link in the current SSBB metagame!

  • Elveeman

    Very well written and thought provoking. Don’t confuse personal accountability with sin. Sin was taken care of at the cross of Jesus, ALL SIN for ALL PEOPLE! The blood of Jesus the man-God was shed for the sins of the world. John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming and said, “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 3:16 – 18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is NOT CONDEMNED, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in God’s one and only Son.” Then does that mean we can sin without consequences? The only sin with heavenly consequence is unbelief in Jesus. All other sins have some sort of earthly consequence, (moral, ethical, legal,etc). Murder -legal, stealing -legal, lust -moral and may ruin your marriage or relationship, etc. People struggle with accountability because they don’t want to be a sinner. Take accountability for your actions God doesn’t condemn you for them, so free will says you can do them but hold yourself accountable. 1Corinthians 6:12 Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.

  • Chase

    The main point is easily refuted. The idea of determinism is disconcerting to you so your mind thinks of random things it wouldn’t normally do for you to feel like you’re in control.

  • http://www.facebook.com/masterzallow James Lee Wilson

    You’re completely misunderstanding determinism. When you state that you “flick off determinism and make an act of the will.” The point is that the so called “act” you describe is strictly based on what chemical reactions you have in your brain. This isn’t controlled by you. You only made the so called “decision” based on your particular brain at that particular moment. You didn’t force your brain to have those chemicals so you can make a “decision.” Your brain told you what “decision” to make based on its chemical properties. If you were put in the same set of circumstances again and again, with the same knowledge you had before, you would make the same decision. That’s determinism, and you did absolutely nothing in your misguided rant to prove it wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/masterzallow James Lee Wilson

    Okay, that came off quite rude. I apologize for that, but my argument does remain the same.

  • Jsupinie

    “Dragonborn” totally started playing in my head after I finished reading.

  • James Moore

    Actually I was expecting a more solid attack on determinism. There are some huge flaws that make this a very emotional text, more sensitive to the people inside the moral and metaphysical matrix of the author. So:

    1) the definition of God is required, and it’s not present in the thought… God as a sense of absolutivity and perfection, but there can also be denial of God. What I mean is: Does god exist for you? What is It? Is God interventive? What are the limits that define your concept of God? Is is correct to assume God as limits? (see, this kind of question)

    2) what is determinism? What philosophical works are you quoting for your definition? Spinoza? Hume?

    3) Why do you never present a moderate version of what is generally understood as determinism (“it’s ALL probabilities and atoms”)… for example, saying that free will comes out of the different possibilities that appear to you, but if you knew everything around you and about you, you would know what option to take, that’s why as limited beings we are, we may be determined.

    PS: Don’t be offended by this, this is just my opinion. And by the way, this is the internet, so please don’t talk like everyone does the same spiritual life as you.
    Peace

  • CJ

    “Maybe your willpower is weaker than your environment. Maybe your actions are determined by the surrounding conditions. But not mine.”

    Really? I don’t think either you, me, or hippie Cali guy are immune to reality just because we don’t like it. Either it is or it isn’t. This really came off as an “I know you are but what am I” type argument.

    And, then, hopping around is somehow supposed to disprove determinism? Hoping is just as likely deterministic as any other supposed “choice.” Determinism isn’t proven by social acceptance. It’s quite likely that you hopped, specifically because you were tired, thought it was rebellious, thought it would prove something–all ideas that were caused by a series of previous events. It’s quite a bit more likely that you “chose” to hop because of previous influence than due to random assertion of will.

    I like the illustrations though. Even if you don’t really understand the concept you think you’re disproving, it was still a fun read.

  • IsHARI

    i know the depressing thought that every action I do, every thought I have, including this one, is just a probabilistic movement of atoms. but you know what? the quantum theory! that’s how God implemented possibility of free will in the universe. yay. :D

  • mike

    As an atheist(don’t ask how I managed to stumble across this site), I must say I found this article absolutely delightful and a thoroughly interesting read, though as others pointed out, it had nothing to do with the actual philosophical view of determinism.


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