Tuesday, March 12, 2013

determinism as apologetics

If I'm talking to someone about ethics, it means that two or more systems are in contact, communicating, each to some extent open to the other's influence. Even lecturers frame their speeches for an audience, while hermits frame their speeches for a superego. Ethics is process long before it can get to anything we'd consider principles and when we do get there, those principles are never anything more than process. So as long as we're talking ethics, we're necessarily capable of change. In fact, we're necessarily changing.

When determinism shows up as an ethical argument, on the other hand, it uses an imagined past, which appears fixed and sterile to these visual brains of ours, to make the case, in a present in which we're as free as it's possible to be, in favor of (ironically, freely) chaining ourselves to a misguided understanding of temporality that has the effect of favoring repetition of the same. When a determinist, in such a case, says that the system is (relatively) closed, they're saying, in a free, evolving conversation, that they want it to be closed. But it isn't closed at all, clearly, because they're involved in an ethical argument when they say it.

An example. Obama couldn't help being what he is. He was raised this way and that with this DNA and he met these and those people and certain ideas mechanistically influenced his brain and so he couldn't possibly be anything other than he currently is, and therefore, while you can complain about the consequences of his actions, you can't complain about his intentions. A weaker, more common, version that comes up is that, as President, Obama is subject to systemic constraints that prevent from doing all the groovy things you silly dreamers want him to do. If he calls for cutting military spending in half, he'll get assassinated, impeached, or otherwise dethroned. It's a closed system. His hands are tied. Therefore, goes the argument, you should stop acting as if you, I, and Obama are each perfectly free systems open to other perfectly free systems right now. You should, says one free system to another about another, act on a theory of determinism that is falsified by this conversation. You should act as if the repetition of the same is a foregone conclusion. Determinism, in this context, is an argument that urges you to refrain from your dissent against the status quo because neither you nor I are free and implores you to freely accept this and change your course of action! This is not in fact a war between determinism and freedom but between attempted repetition and attempted change.

The status quo is a choice. Pretending that it's a closed system is a choice. Using determinism as an excuse to support a psychopath is a choice. Refusing to withdraw support is a choice. I'm talking to you right now, apologist, and there's a fair chance you're choosing to try to repair the damage I've done to your system, though I hope you're choosing differently. 

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