Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

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Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Keep_Relentless on November 26th, 2019, 2:14 am 

Do you believe in fate?

Do our choices create our destiny, or are they dictated by our destiny?

Are our choices predetermined by nature?
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby davidm on November 26th, 2019, 9:38 am 

You question is insufficiently fleshed out, IMO. There is a difference between fatalism (the idle argument), determinism, pre-determinism, and super-determinism. As to “choice,” are you talking about free will? If so, what kind? Libertarian? Compatiblist? Neo-Humean?
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 26th, 2019, 11:02 am 


No. Fate is not a well-enough defined entity to 'believe in' - such as an ideal or a deity.
It's just a simplistic description of predetermination. The concept has been around long enough to be personified in Greek mythology, but the mechanism of its operation has never been fully explained. Neuroscience is close to explaining it now - which, I suppose, is why the question comes up so frequently now. Or maybe it's one of those cyclical human preoccupations that come around every thirty years.

Do our choices create our destiny, or are they dictated by our destiny?

There's a circular question! What does 'create destiny' mean? Destiny is just another word for fate or predetermination: if it exists, our whole life is written in stone and doesn't need 'creating'. Our choices would be part of that ready-made script.

Are our choices predetermined by nature?

If they're predetermined, our individual natures are only a small part of what-all has gone into the determination. The chain of causation would include every event back to the big bang.

In short: probably, but since we haven't read the scrip before we come on stage, we feel as if we were making decisions and being held accountable for them.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby TheVat on November 26th, 2019, 12:11 pm 

viewtopic.php?nomobile=1&f=55&t=34725

One of our threads on the topic.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby davidm on November 26th, 2019, 12:31 pm 

Fatalism is the thesis that the future is “fated” to be, and therefore it is idle (the ancient Greek “idle argument”) to try to do anything about the future.

Example: if you are sick, it is fated that you should either die, or recover. Therefore, it is idle (futile) to consult a doctor, since whether you consult a doctor or not, the outcome — death or recovery — cannot be altered or avoided.

The determinist rejects this. Determinism, broadly, is the thesis that the laws of physics, in conjunction with antecedent events, entail all future events, including human actions. But the determinist would disagree with the fatalist by saying that by consulting a doctor, you might well avoid death and bring about recovery. So it is not futile to consult a doctor. However, your decision whether to consult a doctor is determined, says the determinist.

Logical determinism, or logical fatalism — the terms are often interchanged — is that all future contingent propositions already, today, have truth values (are either true or false — principle of bivalence).

The prime example is Aristotle’s sea battle argument. Suppose that today, it is already true that tomorrow, there will be a sea battle. In that case, nothing anyone can do, can prevent a sea battle. The sea battle must happen of necessity, regardless of what anyone says or does. Thus we have no free will, on this account.

To forestall this conclusion, Aristotle and others have argued that future contingent propositions do not already have truth values, but are indeterminate until the event in question happens, or fails to happen.

The argument to logical fatalism/determinism is, however, logically incorrect. It commits the modal fallacy — confusing necessary with contingent truth. It also gets the flow of truth-making backward, supposing that a true proposition, today, of an event that happens in the future, somehow makes that event happen. To see how fallacious this is, forget about future events, and consider merely present ones. Consider the proposition: “The sun is rising right now.” Does this proposition make the sun rise, or is the proposition true because the sun is rising? The answer seems obvious.

The idea that truth values reside in propositions that describe the world is the Tarskian, or correspondence theory, of truth. If it is true today that a sea battle will happen tomorrow, it is not necessary that a sea battle will happen — that is the modal fallacy, and a confusion, as described above in the case of the sun rising, with prescription vs. description. (Propositions, in correspondence theory, are never prescriptive, but always descriptive.)

All that is necessary, in the case of the sea battle, is that the truth value of the prior proposition, and the future event that the proposition describes, must match. Hence, it can never be the case that it is true today that a sea battle will happen tomorrow, but a sea battle does not happen; and it can never be the case that it is true today that a sea battle will NOT happen tomorrow, but that a sea battle does happen. Whether the sea battle happens or not is entirely contingent, and hence neither fated nor pre-determined. Thus logical determinism/fatalism cannot impugn human free will, whether that free will is held to be libertarian, compatibilist, or neo-Humean.

As to determinism precluding free will, the compatibilist maintains that determinism is necessary for free will — if determinism were not true, then one could never predict the outcomes of one’s actions, and in such a chaotic universe, sentient creatures almost surely would not exist. The compatibilist does not deny that our desires are determined — as Schopenhauer said, we can do as we will, but we cannot will what we will. The compatbilist maintains that our will is free just so far as we can freely choose to act (or not act) on our determined desires. Example: if we do not eat, we get hungry. This hunger is outside our control. But we are free to eat, or not to eat, as we choose. Most people choose to eat when they are hungry, but some do not. Some diet, some fast for religious or other reasons, some go on hunger strikes for political or other reasons. Those are free choices, coupled with determined desires. (Kant maintained that compatibilist free will was a “wretched subterfuge,” but that is a separate, complex discussion.)

Libertarian free will, also known as contra-causal free will, maintains that we could have done other, than what we actually did, even given identical antecedent events. The compatibilist disagrees, saying that given identical antecedent events, we’d do the same thing; but given even slightly different antecedent events, we’d do something different. This, too, is a whole separate discussion, and quite complex.

The neo-Humean challenges the entire deterministic thesis: the idea that the laws of physics, in conjunction with antecedent events, entail all future outcomes, including human actions. The neo-Humean holds that this definition commits the same prescriptive/descriptive error as described about, according to correspondence theory. Briefly, the neo-Humean rejects the idea that the laws of physics govern the universe — that said laws prescribe what happens. Rather, such “laws” are not laws at all, but descriptions of what does happen. Fleshing this out to its logical conclusion, the alleged incompatibility between determinism and free will collapses. Again, this is a separate, rather complex discussion.

Another issue is that many people, wrongly, assume that in order have free will, we must be able to change the future. But I cannot change the future, any more than I can change the past — or the present, for that matter. Once one sees that changing the past, present, or future, is not a prerequisite of free will, the whole argument against free will is dissolved. Example: when I do something in the present, NOW, I do not “change” the present — I make the present be, what in fact it is. To change the present (or the past or future) would require that I both do, and not do, some particular thing, at the same time. This would be a violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction, and instantiating a logical contradiction can never be a pre-requisite of free will or of anything else.

ETA: see Vat's link.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 26th, 2019, 2:57 pm 

Keep_Relentless » November 26th, 2019, 7:14 am wrote:
Are our choices predetermined by nature?


Define nature. Birds and bees don't define your choices, neither do the mountains or the seas. But they may influence them.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Keep_Relentless on November 27th, 2019, 7:56 am 

I'm intrigued by fatalism. If I feel the urge to close my eyes while driving, and I paralyze myself and others, am I supposed to just accept that it was meant to be? It reminds me of Jesus' third temptation by the devil to throw himself off a building and be saved, to which he replied "Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test."
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 27th, 2019, 11:13 am 

Keep_Relentless » November 27th, 2019, 6:56 am wrote:I'm intrigued by fatalism. If I feel the urge to close my eyes while driving, and I paralyze myself and others, am I supposed to just accept that it was meant to be?

If you feel the urge to close your eyes while driving, you will either give in to the urge or resist it, pull over for a snooze, open the window, recite the Walrus and the Carpenter... Whatever you do it's what you have to do because of everything you've ever experienced up to that moment. Whatever happens will happen because of all the bazillion preceding events from the formation of the universe to the third glass of wine you had at dinner. Whatever the consequences, you will either accept that it was meant to be, or rant and rail against fate or wail and rend your garments in remorse or try to rationalize away your culpability or start a charity to commemorate your victims. Your reaction is also predetermined by all those foregoing events.
Whatever you are impelled/compelled to do is what you will do. Whatever comes next in the chain-mail of causation will happen.
The crux of the matter is not that events are predetermined, but that we are not pre-informed. You don't know what you will decide until the decision has been made. You don't know what the outcome will be until it happens. You don't know how you will feel about it until you're feeling it. You don't know.
And neither does God - though many people find that notion comforting, for some reason. There is no big book or wall on which everything is written; nobody gets to skip ahead and peek at the ending; nobody can flip back a few pages and fix a spelling mistake. It's just a lot - really, a quite considerable number - of atoms colliding at random... until they stop.
It's nothing to do with Jesus: he was as helpless in the dark as you are.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 27th, 2019, 3:11 pm 

...

There's quite a good story about this.

A thief with a long rap sheet is up before the judge and he's asked to explain himself.

'Well, your honour, it was like this. I was passing this house and I spotted an open window. I told myself I mustn't be tempted but I felt the power of the universe welling inside me so I just had to go in and take what I could.'

'So it wasn't your fault then' asked the judge, 'is that it?'.

'Oh, definitely not, your honour' said the thief, 'it wasn't me, it was the forces beyond my control that made me do it'.

'Ah, well, in that case I sentence you to six years hard labour'.

'Oh, no!' cried the thief. 'Okay, your honour, I apologise, it was me. I did it, and I'm really sorry'.

'Six months' said the judge.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Keep_Relentless on November 27th, 2019, 10:57 pm 

charon » November 28th, 2019, 5:11 am wrote:...

There's quite a good story about this.

A thief with a long rap sheet is up before the judge and he's asked to explain himself.

'Well, your honour, it was like this. I was passing this house and I spotted an open window. I told myself I mustn't be tempted but I felt the power of the universe welling inside me so I just had to go in and take what I could.'

'So it wasn't your fault then' asked the judge, 'is that it?'.

'Oh, definitely not, your honour' said the thief, 'it wasn't me, it was the forces beyond my control that made me do it'.

'Ah, well, in that case I sentence you to six years hard labour'.

'Oh, no!' cried the thief. 'Okay, your honour, I apologise, it was me. I did it, and I'm really sorry'.

'Six months' said the judge.


So we take responsibility in order that things will work out better for us?
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 28th, 2019, 9:11 am 

No, that wasn't the point of the story at all. It's simply to point out the difference between taking responsibility for our choices or trying to blame them on God, nature, fate, the stars, providence, society, or whatever else one can think of.

If you're only willing to accept responsibility because it gets you a lighter sentence then you're not actually accepting responsibility, right?

I contributed here because I noticed that the three options in your original post didn't include taking one's own responsibility!

Of course there are also mitigating factors in life. Not everything is necessarily solidly one's own fault. A schizophrenic person, for example, is not wholly responsible for their actions. Neither are young children. Neither is someone under threat or great pressure. It's generally a mixture and best taken on a case-by-case basis.

Apart from outside or non-personal influences, are our choices determined by our nature? Of course, naturally. I may prefer blue to pink or classical music to rock. That all depends on the person; we're not all the same.

The criminal may blame his way of life on his environment or childhood. That can be reasonable depending on circumstances but he can't do it completely. There have been many who have experienced the same things and risen above it because they had the character to do it. So it depends.

It's never either/or, it's a mixture.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 28th, 2019, 9:56 am 

Keep_Relentless » November 27th, 2019, 12:56 pm wrote:I'm intrigued by fatalism. If I feel the urge to close my eyes while driving, and I paralyze myself and others, am I supposed to just accept that it was meant to be? It reminds me of Jesus' third temptation by the devil to throw himself off a building and be saved, to which he replied "Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test."


I think we better leave Jesus, or anybody else, out of this! We don't know.

In the scenario you present you say you 'feel the urge to close your eyes'. Most unfortunate for everybody concerned, obviously. But you did close them, for various reasons, and it happened.

I suppose one could tell oneself it was meant to be. After all, it's not as though one said 'I will now close my eyes and paralyse myself and others'. Only a very strange person would do that. Mind you, suicide bombers definitely decide to set off a bomb and kill themselves and others. It's knowing, conscious and deliberate.

On the other hand, it may be that they are gullible, disaffected people who do it because they think there's a reward in it for them after death. As I said, there are always a myriad of factors in these things.

It may well be that life is playing out the way it's supposed to and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. On the other hand, no one who has committed a crime has walked out of a court because none of us can help anything we do. It doesn't work that way.

So the same argument applies, one's own responsibility plus mitigating factors. That's life, it's the way it is.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2019, 10:49 am 

charon » November 28th, 2019, 8:11 am wrote:I contributed here because I noticed that the three options in your original post didn't include taking one's own responsibility!

The short version of that response, then, would be "No."
No discussion of fate or predetermination can take that option into account, since personal responsibility - indeed, even the option of taking responsibility - is predicated on an absolute belief in free will - the exact opposite of determinism or fatalism.
Mitigation, partial responsibility, mixture, etc. are factors only if there is some degree of autonomous volition - if there is a range of choices available. If everything is determined by the chain of causation, there is zero free will and all of those considerations are off the table.

We experience ourselves as conscious, active agents - within a circumscribed range of efficacy. We experience life as a series of limited options, more or less constrained choices, more or less curtailed ability to act on our decisions. And we judge others according to our subjective experience in the light of some unreachable ideal of ethical behaviour.

This kind of both/and imagination gives rise to an omnipotent, omniscient god who waits for his creatures to act freely before judging them. We can imagine such a circumstance because of our highly compartmentalized brain. We can hold two or more mutually contradictory beliefs at any given time.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 28th, 2019, 1:00 pm 

Serpent » November 28th, 2019, 3:49 pm wrote:
charon » November 28th, 2019, 8:11 am wrote:I contributed here because I noticed that the three options in your original post didn't include taking one's own responsibility!

The short version of that response, then, would be "No."
No discussion of fate or predetermination can take that option into account, since personal responsibility - indeed, even the option of taking responsibility - is predicated on an absolute belief in free will - the exact opposite of determinism or fatalism.
Mitigation, partial responsibility, mixture, etc. are factors only if there is some degree of autonomous volition - if there is a range of choices available. If everything is determined by the chain of causation, there is zero free will and all of those considerations are off the table.


I won't answer that because it's no one's daily experience. Unless you're a psychopath without conscience. And they're medically ill.

Next time you do something rotten and get called out on it just deliver that lot of blah and see how far it gets you. Good luck!
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2019, 1:35 pm 

I won't answer that because it's no one's daily experience.

I didn't say anyone experiences predetermination. I explained the concept and then went on to say that we experience life as if we had choices and the power of autonomous action. At the same time, however, we also experience limits to the scope of our options, as well as limits to our ability and freedom to act.
Since we recognize causation as it operates in the physical world and see chains of events as each affects the next, we speculate the same principle may operate in the realm of human activity.

You have answered
Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

No. You believe in autonomous human agency.
Your rejection of determinism doesn't change the concept - indeed, doesn't change anything at all.

Next time you do something rotten and get called out on it just deliver that lot of blah and see how far it gets you. Good luck!

Que sera, sera.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 28th, 2019, 7:07 pm 

Serpent » November 28th, 2019, 6:35 pm wrote:
I won't answer that because it's no one's daily experience.

I didn't say anyone experiences predetermination. I explained the concept and then went on to say that we experience life as if we had choices and the power of autonomous action. At the same time, however, we also experience limits to the scope of our options, as well as limits to our ability and freedom to act.


Absolutely, agreed. But it's more than that, which is a point.

Probably no one experiences predetermination (and I'm sceptical about that too because you hear people say 'If that hadn't happened, this wouldn't have happened'). But it's more than experiencing life as if we had choices and the power of autonomous action simply because we're held responsible for what we do. If, as you say, we don't really have any say in it then being made to pay, or benefit from, actions we can't help making seems a bit unfair.

Don't jump on the word unfair. It also means unlikely, illogical, not quite reality, unjust, and so on. If life is anything it is scrupulously fair. There's order in the universe, and not by chance.

Since we recognize causation as it operates in the physical world and see chains of events as each affects the next, we speculate the same principle may operate in the realm of human activity


It may, but it makes no difference to our lives, does it? It's like speculating if everything's a simulation, and all that. It makes no difference. We're still here and things are as they are.

You believe in autonomous human agency.


Ah, I didn't say that. I said there are multiple factors that determine action. One may think one is the centre of everything but it's plainly not so.

Que sera, sera.


Not an answer, Serpent :-)
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2019, 8:42 pm 

charon » November 28th, 2019, 6:07 pm wrote: Probably no one experiences predetermination

Of course not. Knowledge of facts isn't subjective experience. Fate doesn't fit into the lifetime of a single organism - the chain of events encompasses the life of the universe. The part of the web of causation with which a human has direct contact is a smaller fraction, by many magnitudes, than the fraction of Earth that is touched by a human foot, and we cannot begin to experience the earth as a sphere.

(and I'm sceptical about that too because you hear people say 'If that hadn't happened, this wouldn't have happened').

Pointing out a cause-and-effect relationship between events is nothing like experiencing the web of causation. But because we do see such relationships - in fact, rely on those relationships for the world to function - we can speculate that all events are connected in a web of cause-and-effect relationships, and thus, all events are determined by all the events that went before. Much the same way that we used speculate about the curvature of the earth, from observing how distant objects come into view from the top down.

But it's more than experiencing life as if we had choices and the power of autonomous action simply because we're held responsible for what we do.

Conversely, we judge and are judged as if we were responsible, simply because we experience life in this way. It's perfectly circular.

If, as you say, we don't really have any say in it then being made to pay, or benefit from, actions we can't help making seems a bit unfair.

We can't help the judging, either. Nor the feeling of responsibility. Nor the illusion of agency.
Fairness doesn't come into determinism. Nothing is fair or unfair, good or bad, right or wrong in the universe. Those are concepts we have invented - and can't help inventing - and can't helping feeling strongly about.
Don't jump on the word unfair. It also means unlikely, illogical, not quite reality, unjust, and so on.

That is certainly how it feels from inside a sac of organic matter arranged into neurons and receptors.

If life is anything it is scrupulously fair.

Not the turkeys'. Not the refugee children's. Not any of the life I've seen.

There's order in the universe, and not by chance.

Oh, we're back to the gods? That's no answer, either; it just kicks the rock a little way down the rabbit-hole.

It may, but it makes no difference to our lives, does it? It's like speculating if everything's a simulation, and all that. It makes no difference. We're still here and things are as they are.

Obviously. Game-pieces don't know they're in a game and molecules don't know they're in a compound; they carry out their functions as if they had agency.
We speculate about all kinds of things, because that's how our brain is organized.

[You believe in autonomous human agency.]
Ah, I didn't say that. I said there are multiple factors that determine action. One may think one is the centre of everything but it's plainly not so.

Why hedge now? There is determinism or free will. Whatever circumstance contributes to the agent's actions, what he's judged on is the free will component.

[Que sera, sera.]

Not an answer, Serpent :-)

To what question? It sums up the determinist position: What will be, will be.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 28th, 2019, 10:13 pm 

Let's not get carried away. The premise here is simple. Either everything which happens is determined or it's not.

If we say everything is already determined then none of us are responsible for what we do. Which means you, I, and every criminal can't be blamed for what they do because they couldn't help it.

But, for some odd reason, they can be, and are. There may be mitigating factors but nevertheless the ground rule is we're held responsible for our actions.

So then where is determinism? Of course, you could say that it is also determined that there should be courts, judgements, sentences, and so on. And it is also determined that there should be miscarriages of justice, mistakes, etc.

And so on and on till we're right back exactly where we are now. In other words there's nothing we can ever do because anything we do is already determined.

So what's the point of the discussion?

(Don't forget, any answer you give is already determined!)
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2019, 11:54 pm 

charon » November 28th, 2019, 9:13 pm wrote:Let's not get carried away. The premise here is simple. Either everything which happens is determined or it's not.

Right.
If we say everything is already determined then none of us are responsible for what we do. Which means you, I, and every criminal can't be blamed for what they do because they couldn't help it.

Sure. Not just you and me and the criminals (with whom you seem disproportionately preoccupied) but also the judges, the executioners, bad presidents and good ones, popes and violin virtuosi, midwives and coppersmiths, tinkers, tailors, soldiers and spies.
Blame and praise are irrelevant to predestination.

But, for some odd reason, they can be, and are.

That's part of what we do, because we can't help doing it. The molecules do not know they are in a compound, so they act as if they had volition, autonomy, the freedom to sin and the power to judge.
There may be mitigating factors

That is also irrelevant to predetermination.
but nevertheless the ground rule is we're held responsible for our actions.

Only by other molecules who also don't know they're in the compound.
Knowing would make no difference whatever to how they feel, how they interact, how they operate.

So then where is determinism?

In the universe. Not in our subjective experience.
You are standing on the prairie, yelling "We walk on flat ground. Where is the round world?"
It just is. You don't have to let it bother you.

Of course, you could say that it is also determined that there should be courts, judgements, sentences, and so on. And it is also determined that there should be miscarriages of justice, mistakes, etc.

Of course. The whole kaboodle.

In other words there's nothing we can ever do because anything we do is already determined.

Ay-yup.

So what's the point of the discussion?

Who promised you a point?

Don't forget, any answer you give is already determined!)

Yes, I've been aware of that.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby charon on November 29th, 2019, 12:27 am 

Right, I've got it now, your position is that everything is determined. It might not feel like it but it is.

In that case I must agree with you because it's an unassailable position. Any argument I might bring forward is determined.

So I guess that's that :-)
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 29th, 2019, 2:10 am 

It's not my position. I didn't invent it and don't particularly like it. It's out there, it may well be true but it's unprovable... and doesn't effing matter, since we cannot behave as if we had no agency. Literally. Try making no decisions - none at all, not even about tiny little things, like lifting a hand or turning your head - for ten minutes.
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Keep_Relentless on November 29th, 2019, 5:41 am 

What are the subjective implications of believing, with absolute conviction, that everything is determined? Might you be more inclined to give in to fleeting urges? Might you be more spontaneous and free? Might you avoid responsibility more often? Or might you be more courageous, believing everything will work out the best it can?
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Re: Are Our Choices Predetermined By Our Nature?

Postby Serpent on November 29th, 2019, 10:50 am 

Keep_Relentless » November 29th, 2019, 4:41 am wrote:What are the subjective implications of believing, with absolute conviction, that everything is determined? Might you be more inclined to give in to fleeting urges? Might you be more spontaneous and free? Might you avoid responsibility more often? Or might you be more courageous, believing everything will work out the best it can?

That depends on whether it's true. If it is, then believing or disbelieving makes no difference. If it isn't, then believing or not believing is an expression of your character, just as all your other choices are. What you describe can - and often is - brought about by alcohol.
The net consequences of any belief system are exactly zero.
Good people behave well whether they're Buddhists, atheists or Mormons. Some of them attribute their good actions to their faith and carry out good works under the flag of their church; some attribute their good impulses to conscience or compassion and carry out their good works under the flag of the Amnesty international or the SPCA.
Bad people behave badly, whether they attribute their evil to the demands of a god or an ideology or an illness or simple ambition.
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