THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #29–Beyond The Mechanistic Worldview IV: Solving The Free Will Problem.

By Robert Hanna

“FUTUREWORLD,” by A. Lee/Unsplash


It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text–including the BIBLIOGRAPHY–of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.

This twenty-ninth installment contains sub-section


If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)

Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)




0. Introduction: Science, The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse, and The Uniscience

0.0 How Uncritical and Unreformed Science Is Literally Killing The Modern World

0.1 My Aim In This Book

0.2 The Uniscience and Pascal’s Dictum

Chapter 1. Natural Piety: A Kantian Critique of Science

1.0 Kantian Heavy-Duty Enlightenment and The Uniscience

1.1 Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid

1.2 Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science

1.3 From Kant’s Anti-Mechanism to Kantian Anti-Mechanism

1.4 In Defense of Natural Piety

1.5 Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism

1.6 How to Ground Natural Science on Sensibility

1.7 Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism

1.8 Sensible Science 2: Natural Science Without Materialism/Physicalism

1.9 Sensible Science 3: Natural Science Without Scientism

1.10 Frankenscience, the Future of Humanity, and the Future of Science

Chapter 2. This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Wrestling with Modernity: 1900–1940

2.1.1 Six Sociocultural or Sociopolitical Developments

2.1.2 Two Philosophical Developments: Classical Analytic Philosophy and First Wave Organicism

2.1.3 Architectural and Artistic Trends

2.2 The Historical Black Hole, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Mechanistic Worldview: 1940–1980

2.2.1 Formal and Natural Science After 1945, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Rise of The Mechanistic Worldview

2.2 The Emergence of Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy

2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences

2.2.4 Modernism and Countercurrents in the Arts and Design

2.3 The Philosophical Great Divide, Post-Modernist Cultural Nihilism, and Other Apocalyptic Developments: 1980–2022

2.3.1 The Rise of Po-Mo Philosophy

2.3.2 Po-Mo Architecture: Unconstrained Hybridity

2.3.3 Other Apocalyptic Developments: Crises in Physics and Big Science, and The One-Two Punch

2.4 From The Mechanistic Worldview to Neo-Organicism

2.4.0 Against The Mechanistic Worldview

2.4.1 Seven Arguments Against The Mechanistic Worldview Logical and Mathematical Arguments Physical and Metaphysical Arguments Mentalistic and Agential Arguments

2.4.2 Beyond The Mechanistic Worldview: The Neo-Organicist Worldview The Neo-Organist Thesis 1: Solving The Mind-Body Problem Dynamic Systems Theory and The Dynamic World Picture The Neo-Organicist Thesis 2: Solving The Free Will Problem

Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers

Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics

Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity

00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World


Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism

Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion

Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory

Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos


*** The Neo-Organicist Thesis 2: Solving The Free Will Problem

Is human free agency really possible in the cosmos as correctly described by physics, chemistry, biology, and cognitive neuroscience — and if so, how is that really possible? Or more briefly put, given the truth of the natural and cognitive sciences, are you really a free agent–and if so, how? Yes!; and given what I’ve argued so far in this section, from a neo-organicist point of view, here’s how.

By free agency, I mean the conjunction of free will and practical agency, which in turn means (i) that you can choose and do what you want to, or refrain from so choosing or doing, without being in any way compelled or prevented by irresistible inner or outer forces (i.e., free will), and (ii) that you can self-consciously choose and do what you want to, for reasons, and with deep moral or non-moral responsibility (i.e., practical agency). And by deep moral or non-moral responsibility for X, I mean (i) that X is something you chose or did yourself, whose objective moral value flows from and directly attaches to your freely willed choice or action, and (ii) that deep moral responsibility requires free will — if you were not able to choose or do X, without being in any way compelled or prevented by irresistible inner or outer forces, then you could not be deeply morally or non-morally responsible for X. An example of choice and action with deep moral responsibility would be your deciding, right now, either to join, or to quit, The Democratic Socialists of America. And an example of choice and action with deep non-moral responsibility would be creating a work of art.

The thesis of natural determinism says that everything that happens now and in the future is strictly fixed by the laws of nature together with all the actual facts about the past. And the thesis of natural indeterminism says that at least some things and perhaps all things that happen are not strictly fixed by the laws of nature together with all the actual facts about the past, but also happen more or less randomly, according to mathematical laws of probability. Most contemporary philosophers and scientists, and many non-philosophers too, hold that you are not really free, because they also believe that the truth of modern science entails the second of the three jointly constitutive sub-theses of the mechanistic worldview, universal natural mechanism. As we’ll remember, universal natural mechanism says (i) that everything in the cosmos either just is or is a sub-part of natural or physical processes that are either deterministic, indeterministic, or some mixture of both (say, macroscopically deterministic but microscopically indeterministic at the quantum level), and (ii) that all the causal and quantitative characteristics of those happenings are not only (ii.a) strictly fixed by the general causal laws of nature and/or the mathematical laws of probability, especially those laws governing the conservation of quantities of matter or energy, together with all the settled facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang Singularity, but also (ii.b) calculable from those laws and facts on a real-world Turing machine, i.e. a digital computer. If universal natural mechanism is true, then you’re not really free, because, instead, no matter what you may believe about your own freedom, you’re really only a deterministic or indeterministic natural automaton/natural machine, ultimately caused by The Big Bang Singularity.

I’ll now briefly present a theory of free agency called natural libertarianism (see also Hanna, 2018b[i]) that’s neither contrary to contemporary natural science nor committed to natural mechanism — indeed, it is not only smoothly consistent with but also presupposes The Dynamic World Picture and the neo-organicist thesis — and, correspondingly, I’ll also briefly present a new proof for the real possibility of human free agency, by explaining and proving its actual existence.

Natural libertarianism flows from two simple but earth-shattering ideas proposed by Kant in the 18th century, and also from one slightly less simple but still earth-shattering idea proposed by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine and his co-researchers (Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977; Prigogine and Stengers, 1984; Prigogine, 1997), that’s fully in accordance with the essential embodiment theory of the mind-body relation, or EET, The Dynamic World Picture, and the neo-organicist thesis, as I’ve been spelling these out in this section. First, action that is perfectly in conformity with a law, is not necessarily entailed or otherwise necessitated by that law (Kant’s earth-shattering idea #1). Second, real freedom presupposes, in rational human animals, the natural processes specifically characteristic of living organisms; but living organisms are not natural automata, whether deterministic or indeterministic, because they are self-organizing and purposive; hence real freedom is grounded in biological anti-mechanism (Kant’s earth-shattering idea #2). And third, the correct physics is a non-deterministic (and also non-indeterministic, but for simplicity’s sake in this sub-sub-section I’ll highlight the non-determinism) interpretation of non-equilibrium thermodynamics (Prigogine’s earth-shattering idea).

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to Prigogine’s earth-shattering idea by using the acronym “NDI-NET.” And let us suppose, for the purposes of argument, that NDI-NET, as worked out, for example, by Prigogine in The End of Certainty, is true, and that all the general causal laws of nature and/or mathematical laws of probability, as formulated by modern science — with the exception of The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, requiring that in the spontaneous evolution of a physical system, entropy never decreases (hence requiring that entropy is always either increasing, or else constant in an equilibrium, time-reversible state, in every physical system), which isn’t universally true if non-equilibrium thermodynamics is universally true — are also true, under the NDI-NET interpretation. From these suppositions, taken together with Kant’s two ideas, not only does it not follow that universal natural mechanism is true and that we are really natural automata, it also follows that universal natural mechanism isn’t true — i.e., it’s false — and that we all really aren’t natural automata/natural machines.

To see this, suppose that everything we choose and do is at least consistent with those general causal natural laws and/or mathematical laws of probability (with the exception of The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which of course isn’t universally true if NDI-NET is universally true), and that therefore we never violate any of them. And in particular, suppose that we never bring any new matter or energy into the natural world, hence we never violate any of the general causal natural laws and/or mathematical laws of probability governing the conservation of quantities of matter or energy. Nevertheless, it does not follow that whatever we choose and do is entailed or otherwise necessitated by those laws. This is because, as Kant pointed out, mere conformity of action with laws is not the same as entailment or necessitation by laws.

Indeed, for any general causal law of nature and/or mathematical law of probability whatsoever, no matter how specific it is, together with all the settled natural facts about the past, nevertheless, there is always some physical open texture that is not entailed or necessitated by that law, although it remains perfectly in conformity with the laws. More precisely, in the wake of The Big Bang Singularity, there is always and everywhere some physical open texture that, at various stages of far-from-equilibrium, temporally-unidirectional, complex, negentropic, self-organizing thermodynamic activity, as studied in NDI-NET, creates targets for ultra-specific, context-sensitive natural activity, for example: (i) the roiling surface-structures of boiling water, (ii) the Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical reaction, plus light excitation, (iii) the unfolding of weather systems, (iv) the development of viruses, (v) organismic activity including the purposive lives of simple organisms, plants, and animals, (vi) the desires, feelings, passions, perceptions, and thoughts of conscious animals, and above all, (vii) really free choice and action by conscious animals, including rational human animals. I’ll call these thermodynamic targets live options, and this physical open texture natural open space. Given some live options in natural open space, then, even though you never violate any general causal laws of nature and/or mathematical laws of probability and never bring any new matter or energy into the natural world, it remains really possible for you, in context, to choose and do some things you want to, in purposive, creative, and morally-empowered ways, by spontaneously locally re-organizing and re-structuring the total quantity of matter or energy that’s always already available then and there. For example, imagine Nietzsche writing The Birth of Tragedy Out of The Spirit of Music. Needless to say, that amazing book had never been produced before in the actual history of the all-inclusive natural or physical universe. Correspondingly, I’ll call this sort of activity, natural creativity.

Now, inspired by Nietzsche’s example, I am now going to do a little spontaneous Dionysian dance by flapping my arms and legs, bobbing my head, and hopping up and down a bit (but also being very careful not to spill my coffee, or knock over my laptop computer): I will call this The Freedom Dance. The Freedom Dance, as an act of natural creativity, is just like an artistic genius who creates an original work of art by spontaneously locally re-organizing and re-structuring whatever already-existing materials are given to them: in that sense, it’s just like Nietzsche creating The Birth of Tragedy. As naturally creative animals, we’re all small-scale natural artistic geniuses, little singularities and little bangs, who purposively bring new energy-structures into the world, and thereby actualize potential energy. As we’ve seen, The Big Bang Singularity has done many things. But it did not, on its own, write The Birth of Tragedy, nor did it do The Freedom Dance. On the contrary, Nietzsche wrote The Birth of Tragedy, and I did The Freedom Dance, with actual free agency in both cases. Therefore, neither Nietzsche, I, nor anyone else, is a natural automaton or natural machine; instead we are all naturally creative animals fully capable of free agency.

Notice that I’m not saying that it’s impossible to design and build a natural automaton/natural machine that, when it’s turned on, makes various motions that might fool someone, or even many people, into believing that it was I or you doing The Freedom Dance. It’s logically, really, naturally, and perhaps even technologically possible that there is such a machine. On the contrary, what I’m saying is that, necessarily, the deceptive naturally mechanical motions of such a natural mechanism could not be The Freedom Dance, since that and only that was actually freely performed by me, or for that matter by you, and not by any natural automaton/natural machine designed and built to resemble us in various ways.

So, self-evidently, natural libertarianism is true, given my original assumptions.



Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 11 July 2022

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Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.