The meaning of life, beyond the false free will vs determinism dichotomy
Seeing | Philosophy | 2023-10-01
In mainstream culture there is a strong association between free will and the meaning of life in general, and between free will and moral responsibility in particular. It is this assumed connection that makes, for instance, Daniel Dennett argue that it is immoral to tell people they don’t have free will, as this may cause them to act unethically. A couple of weeks ago Bernardo Kastrup, the executive director of the Essentia Foundation, wrote an essay arguing that, under objective idealism, the whole convulsiveness around free will is a meaningless red herring. In his opinion, the free will vs determinism debate misses the point, because fundamentally there is no distinction between nature’s will and what nature is necessitated to do. In other words: what we assume to be free will is, on a universal level, exactly the same as determinism. In this video, Hans Busstra sits down with Bernardo Kastrup to discuss this line of reasoning, while also trying to make it personal: why do we want free will so badly on a psychological level? Why, as a culture, do we usually associate determinism with nihilism and meaninglessness? The conversation covers Laplace’s Demon, computational irreducibility, and works towards Kastrup’s main point: if you can accept that, on a personal level, you don’t have free will, you realize that you are being ‘played’ by a universe that—due to computational irreducibility—cannot ‘see’ where it’s going before it goes. Instead of suffering as an effect of ‘bad’ free will decisions by human agents, suffering becomes part of the inevitable evolution of the universe.
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