William J. Murray Shines
|August 18, 2011||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In this exchange with Elizabeth Liddle, William J. Murray gives one of the most succinct and insightful rebuttals of determinism I have ever seen:
Determinists are no more capable of framing a determinist argument without using libertarian assumptions and phrases than Darwinists are capable of framing discussions of biology and evolution without using design assumptions and phrases.
The determinist uses “we”, “I”, and “our”, and the acts of such agencies, as if they are libertarian commodities – first sufficient causes in and of themselves, ignoring the necessary causation of what produces the sensation of personhood and the sensation of choosing and the sensation of making contingent models.
The sensation of self, thought, act, concept, reflection, choice and meaning are all entirely self-referential to the same thing – sensations produced and experienced by the actual sufficient and necessary cause in the determinst’s world – the ongoing interactions of physical matter.
IOW, the monists view is entirely self-referential, and thus incoherent. X means X, or means Y, or means nothing if the aggregate physical interaction (API) results in it “believing” that is what it means. Incoherent arguments are soundly logical if the API (which is all logic is, logic being a mental construct, and thus the product of the API) says so. Up is down, right is left, and a barking dog makes more sense than Aristotle, if the API so dictates.
And thus, by the only arbiter of sound logic and good arguments, since my API says “you’re wrong”, then you are wrong by the only arbiter there is of such things, from the determinist perspective. I don’t even have to tender an argument, or logic, because logic and arguments are not “more valid” than any other expression of the API.
If all things are consumed by the API, and the API is all we have to evaluate the API by, then I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all the debate I need make here by the determinst standard.
Nobody with any self-respect and intellectual merit actually argues that way, which would be the necessary consequence of determinism. Except, of course, if determinism were true, then you couldn’t help arguing in a way that is based on your argument not actually being true (and being forced by API to not recognize the intellectual dishonesty inherent in your argument), any more than leaves can help rustling in the wind (and perhaps thinking they were making sound arguments, if the API so directed).
This is one of the reasons I don’t believe everyone has free will; they are actually leaves blown by the API wind, saying and believing whatever self-refuting nonsense their aggregate physical interactions dictate.
What is truly ironic is that Elizabeth argues for a model of reality where she couldn’t hope to know (other than as self-referential programming) if she was being intellectually dishonest or not (since she would just be programmed by physics to believe one way or another), so she cannot actually be “intellectually dishonest”, since there is no independent and sufficient “Elizabeth” in existence to moderate, check, supervene or arbit what the aggregate physical interaction knowns as “elizabeth” says and believes.
IOW, Elizabeth argues that we are arguing with a programmed computer simulation (a biological automaton) that is incapable of independent reflection and examination. The only thing the machine has to check its programming with is .. its programming.
Of course, if we were to accept Elizabeth’s assertion that we are all just programmed biological automatons forced to believe and say and do whatever the aggregate physical interaction commands, why bother arguing with anyone? Why bother debating? We have no means by which to independently arbit truth or reality.
According to the determinist perspective, are necessarily material solipsists, our sensations, interactions, beliefs, views and ideas all individually generated and inescabable, with no way of knowing or discering what – if anything – is true and real.
The API produces both the madman and the scientist, Gandhi and Hitler, kindness and cruelty with equal belief each is true and right; that makes them all true and right by the only arbiter of such thing – what physics actually produces.
Dr. Liddle reponds:
Have you actually read my argument? I’m saying that “I” is a great deal more than “a collection of materials and interactions” or can be, if we choose to do so. If set the boundaries of the self so close that the “I” – the agent we assign responsibility for our actions to – is a mere spectator on a surge of material interactions, then, sure, we have no moral responsibility, but, by the same token, we have defined ourselves almost out of existence.
Murray responds:Unless drawing larger boundaries and mentally taking responsiblity for more stuff factually transforms “materials in a deterministic process” into something else, calling it “a great deal more than a collection of materials in a deterministic process” is the very essence of equivocation, because under determinism that is all you can ever be, regardless of what you think, believe, or do.
Or, perhaps you are just saying we should lie to ourselves, like a rock saying “I’m a great deal more than just a rock!” when, in fact, it’s just a rock.
You’re sneaking in the stolen concept again. You having nothing other than “collections of materials in a deterministic universe” to work with or to end up with, regardless of what kind of mental gymnastics and equivocations you use to hide the facts of such an existence from yourself.