September 13, 2007

Determinism (Part 3)


What difference does determinism make, how does it effect the way we perceive ourselves?

We start by trying to understand several factors that shape us as individuals. Psychology puts forth several, the most popular being the nature vs nurture debate. Both are deterministic scenarios, nature claiming that our genetics shapes our personality, motivations, outlook, and choices. Nurture claiming our environment (parents, climate, society, income, etc.) directs us. The response to both of these positions is one of individual will and decision to choose to squander or to make the most of one’s position in life.

Choice (whether we like it or not) is a big part of determinism on a human scale for it drives much of our current understanding of responsibility and motivation. If a murderer had no choice, if he killed because of a long string of prior events inevitably led to his crime, how can society hold him to justice for a crime that was in the works from the beginning of creation? An even bigger obstacle is apathy or fatalism in which determinism kills any motivation in an individual. Why do anything if your personal actions matter not?

On the other hand, if all of the power of the future lay in the choices of individuals, we arrive in a very chaotic world. When one man has the power to start a nuclear war with a choice, the future becomes a frightening and a very uncertain place. Also in this category lies the theory of multiple universes. It states that for every choice (whether it be an electrons divergent path or your decision to go buy a donut on your way to work) there is a different universe. Therefore every universe is determined, set in stone, but every choice gets made. This is the logic behind movies such as Back to the Future, which shift between universes through time. It is one of those fishy theories that can never be proved or disproved.

Choice, responsibility, and our own will seem minute details when studying the heavens but it is difficult to operate in our would at any other scale than the human one. Shifting from a universal perspective to a human perspective is important in understanding how we function. But just because we operate in the cause and effect, past present future time doesn't mean the larger functions of the universe don't effect how we are to live. Next, the ethics of determinsm through the lens of theology. God vs humanity! Look forward to it!


Joshua said...

Freud is the most important modern commentator on psychological determinism. The subconscious motivations as well as the conscious ego were determined by our biology, or what we used to call "hard wiring" and what we now call our "genes."

It is interesting still that no matter the form of determinism that occurs, people still want to insist upon moral uprightness and the culpability (of some form or another) of violators.

Jacob Haynes said...

Thanks for the save, I really meant to put Freud in there as well.