Monday, 16 December 2013

Aysmmetrical arguments - the rhetoric of evil and modernity (and the example of free will)

*

A false assertion of symmetry is a characteristic rhetorical device of secular modernity; it works by pretending that two sides of any argument or debate are 'symmetrical' alternatives - either implying one thing or another alternative thing.

Symmetry may be a reality in some discussions, such as when comparing Judaism and Christianity, or the Big Bang and Steady State theories from Physics.

But very often a disagreement is between a positive statement and its negation: and this situation is not symmetrical.

*

So, to consider Good and evil.

Evil is not an alternative positive program to that of Good, evil is (merely) the destruction of Good - evil is anti-Good. The two sides are not symmetrical. 

*

The political Left versus Right is not symmetrical; because the Left is not a political blueprint - in the West it is (merely) opposition to Christianity and traditional society.

(Of course the Left used to have various blueprints, however we now see that they were just tactical assault weapons, and were discarded before they came anywhere near any danger of being implemented. The Old Left defined itself as being in favour of the dictatorship of the Proletariat; but the modern Left ignores, loathes, and tries to destroy the people it used to call the Proletariat and claimed to love - we now see that the Left was lying. We now see the Left is and always truly was a moving target, a fluid and evolving spirit of opposition and destruction.) 

(Note: The Western political Left is here defined as including all the mainstream self-styled 'right-wing' political parties and groupings including conservative and libertarian. The only true political Right is the Religious Right (but not necessarily or usually Christian) - who are of course a very small and un-influential group in the West.)

*

And rejection of free will is is simply that: a rejection of free will - a negative doctrine.

A denial of free will cannot be refuted, because there is nothing to refute; the argument against free will is simply a set of challenges to the reality of free will - a set of various assertions that if X, or Y, or Z is a true and sufficient (complete) explanation of reality... then (logically) free will cannot exist.

The rejection of free will provides no alternative proposal of what IS reality, merely consisting of a set of attacks on free will.

And the potential number of attacks on free will is unbounded, and so the process of attacking free will need never end.

*

(Just as the number of criticisms of Christianity, or of existing society, is unbounded - so the Left can never - in this sense - be refuted: it has no fixed positive program that could be refuted: the Left is simply the process of subversion, destruction, inversion - of whatever is, using an unbounded range of 'justifications' - injustice, inequality, inefficiency, retribution, compassion, imperfection...)

*

There will always be grounds for criticizing anything - and due to limits of human understanding and expression intelligence and attention, this applies to Truth as much as to error- since any actually-existing expression of Truth will be deficient or insecure if placed under a microscope.

Free will is (obviously) True; but any actually expression of it is deficient and criticizable - if it is a short description it will be partial and hard to contextualize, but if the description is long, it will contain insecure logical links and be prone to human inattention and defective memory.

Always, descriptions are constrained (on both sides) by human limitations.

*

But the fact that something - anything - can be criticized for incompleteness, ambiguity, imprecision, possibly wrong assumptions and the rest of it, is trivial. 

Such criticism is trivial (or worse) in science (where it is indeed a typical strategy of anti-science - micro-methodological rigour pretending at truth-seeking but unilaterally applied to reject something you don't want to believe).

And micro-criticism of defective statements is also trivial - it is fake profundity, dishonest rhetoric: it is dangerously unserious - in theology, metaphysics and philosophy.

*

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus." 

- from James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson was expressing impatience, and indeed anger, at the dangerous, seductive unseriousness of this kind of conversation. 

Johnson's was a proper response to arguments against the reality of free will. 

*

6 comments:

  1. And rejection of free will is is simply that: a rejection of free will - a negative doctrine.

    A denial of free will cannot be refuted, because there is nothing to refute; the argument against free will is simply a set of challenges to the reality of free will - a set of various assertions that if X, or Y, or Z is a true and sufficient (complete) explanation of reality... then (logically) free will cannot exist.

    The rejection of free will provides no alternative proposal of what IS reality, merely consisting of a set of attacks on free will.

    And the potential number of attacks on free will is unbounded, and so the process of attacking free will need never end.
    - Bruce Charlton

    I think we can probably agree that for free will to be true there is a necessity that "self" exists in some fashion which is in itself, (i.e. It has an aspect that is independent and separate from the physical and which fundamentally IS.) The problem is that even if such a Class, (to speak in object-oriented terms), IS such that phenomena in general and the individual self in particular manifest as projections in an instantiated universe; it is still not - even intellectually - possible to parse out a self that is existent in itself from the general or base Class that manifests as the universe. (I have no objections to calling that base Class "God" and will adopt that convention for the remainder of this discussion, but it invites anthropomorphic error if we are not extremely careful.)

    Even so, if God is the self-existing and essential from which all else is derived, created, or projected/instantiated; then the individual self cannot be in itself, but must be wholly dependent. There is no in itself say for that which alone is in itself; and that is God. To say otherwise is to say that there is something that is uncreated, as God is, and which has no dependence upon God or anything else for its being, but exists eternally in itself as God does, and that each person has that in itself quality because without it there can be no self - in itself - to freely will anything.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @NF - Your problem is your assumptions: your assumptions dictate everything that follows. You are saying, in effect - let us assume that everything is determined - then discovering - Ta Da! - that there is no space for free will. But there is not necessity to have those assumptions. I do not share those assumptions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't see how a human society could exist or function if free will was truly denied and society was ran as if it did not exist. Fully accepted, it can only lead to inhuman tyranny or dissolution.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've spent a lot of time (probably too much!) puzzling over Nietzsche's declaration that "unfree will is mythology. In reality is only strong will and weak will" from "Beyond Good and Evil". Some meaning lurks in there, some guidance. Maybe the advice to be derived from it is "don't spend so much time on mad German philologists"!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It just struck me that nihilists are adults trapped in a two-year-old-like negative phase. They do not know, nor they want to learn, that the question is not "To be or not to be," it is rather "To be more or to be less."

    ReplyDelete
  6. i think that only the Great Judge of all knows the exact point or boundary lines in each individual where the meat-computer ends and the true self and free-will begin.

    ReplyDelete