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October 15, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Answer

2012 has been a year of heady intellectual exploration. We have scythed our way through conundrums galore, treating centuries of philosophical discussion with the irreverence they so richly deserve. But we are yet to confront one basic issue. This is the portentously titled ‘Problem of Free Will’. In a foreboding fashion, it threatens notions of responsibility we cherish dearly. We have 200 words to solve it. Let’s go. What is the problem? Basically the challenge comes from the supposed truth of determinism, which is the thesis that all events in the universe are fully caused by the states which precede them. This means that barring the occasional quantum swerve, there is nothing that happens which isn’t entirely predictable in principle. This extends even to our own choices, which are traceable to our beliefs and desires, which are caused by society and genetics and a host of other conditions we have no control over. But if we don’t have ultimate control of our decisions, then in what sense are we free?

This shit is deep. To resist the troubling conclusion, philosophers take one of two tacks. Either they deny that human consciousness is subject to the same kinds of causal laws that everything else is, positing some sort of crucial spark of freedom deep within us. Or they deny that free will really requires total independence from the naturalistic order, and that we can make do with less responsibility than that. Either option requires a substantial leap of faith to get fully behind. But even the most hard- headed determinist wouldn’t just sit around and wait for things to happen to them. Maybe the problem only arises due to a misplaced obsession with conceptual clarity and critical analyis, a solution which generalises to all of my previous columns. Answer? Disregard philosophy. Acquire currency. Raptor out.

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