Historical Introduction to Philosophy/Determinism and the Problem of Free-Will/Content to be Synthesized
The most compelling argument I've ever found in favour of us NOT having Free Will relies on the definition we give to Truth. If we take 'Truth' to mean that if a thing is true, it is so for now and always, that is a 'mathematical truth' e.g. 2 and 2 equals 4 today , tomorrow and presumably beyond the rundown of the Universe itself just as it was 'true' even before the Big Bang. Or 'contingent truth' such as 'it is raining' is true if and only if at the moment I utter those words rain has stopped play at Wimbledon for example.
Let's decide that 'true' shall mean the first kind (2 plus 2 equals 4) Then a man who has fear of dying by drowning may spend a lot of money for the best swimming coach in the world to give him lessons or he may decide to live in a place far from the sea, never travel by ship etc. etc.and take all other precautions imaginable and they will all be irrelevant and he will waste his money on swimming lessons because it is ALREADY true that he will die by drowning or he will not die by drowning.(Of course he doesn't know which) If he is to die by drowning then no amount of precautions will save him from it. If he is not to die by drowning then his efforts are superfluous.(He gets hit by a truck for example),and he's wasted a lot of money on swimming lessons. This sounds as though it could come from the Rubiyat of Omar Khiyahm - ('It is written") and you can't get more fatalist than that.Instinctively, emotionally we want to reject it, to deny it but I have not yet found the LOGICAL argument that defeats it.John Ruddy Username:Ruddyjohndeniro 12:55, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
One successful demolition of a fatalist argument/example can be given though it is case-specific (as to causes of deat)h and does nor have the Present Past and Future scope necessary to the Truth as expressed (2 and 2 equal 4) above; The fatalist example goes like this: (I forget from which Greek, the preSocratics I think) A traveller in a foreign land gets very thirsty. He knows there is a well in the next valley off the road. He deviates from the path, goes to the well. There he is surprised by a bunch of brigands, robbed of his goods and killed. The fatalist reduces the cause of this man's death to the fact that he got thirsty. Because IF he hadn't been thirsty he wouldn't have gone to the well. IF he hadn't gone to the well he would have escaped the robbers IF he had escaped etc etc. I suggest this man died not because he was thirsty but because he received a fatal wound/blow to the head what have you. The fatalist replies " Sure but where did and how did he get the wound? At the well! And why was he at the well? Because he was thirsty!!"deniro 12:55, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
It is easier to repeat this outline (IF he had, or If he hadn't..) and my refutation of it in a modern setting and one precise event to avoid the vagueness of 'beaten to death'. A pair of newlyweds are saving for a house of their own. The wife sees a coat(say)she can't resist. She buys it although its very expensive. The husband when he find out is furious. He drives to the Pub. Drinks too much. During his drive home under the influence he crashes the car, snaps his neck in the impact and dies instantly. For the fatalist this man died because his wife bought an expensive coat. I say he died because he snapped the spinal chord in his neck between the third and fourth vertebrae. The Fatalist comes back "Sure he broke his neck in the accident. But why did he have this accident? He was drunk driving. Sure but why was he drink driving. He was drunk. He drank too much . He was angry. And why was he angry? Because his wife bought an expensive coat.!!
However, consider this (and this is the limit of my refutation: it can only apply to the past action) People get drunk and don't die. People get angry and don't die. People have profligate spouses and don't die. People have road smashes and don't die.But NOBODY, in any circumstance or emotional state, drunk or sober, pleased or angry, in a car or on foot SNAPS THEIR SPINAL CHORD BETWEEN THE THIRD AND FOURTH VERTEBRAE AND LIVES.Medical science gives only that as "cause of death". Other causes can only be contingent because not necessary (not in the pure math sense of 2+2=4 'necessity') but'not necessary'in that any number of other crcumstances may have intervened. She could have lied about the coat and said it was a present. Or promised to take it back the next day.He could have taken it as a joke. Or demand she work overtime to pay for it; the list is endless. We can imagine all sorts of different out-comes till the moment the car hit the tree and the shock jerked back his neck and snapped it. Or the distinction between contingent outcome and necessary outcome can be shortened and demonstrated by these two sentences, like so:- Seeing his anger, she could have decided to take the coat back to the store, for example. (A contingent possibility) But once the spinal chord in his neck snapped there was no question that he 'could have ' decided to go on living. This can be a useful (small) tool in resisting fullblown Fatalism. More embarrasingly it could be used to throw a smallish spanner in the works of the Determinists, just to embarrass the prevailing Orthodoxy. All in good fun.