Saturday, May 21, 2016

free will: illusion of Truth

In the late 1970s early 1980s when I was traveling and away from home 75 to 80 percent of the time, driving a lot but also an enormous amount of flying here and there, I liked having reading material with me, and two favorite carry alongs were The Atlantic magazine and The New Yorker. New Yorker was usually available free in the magazine rack in the front of the airliner cabin, and though I had favorite contributors, buying it every week could get pricey. Atlantic I had no choice but to buy, and in the late seventies and early eighties was upset if missed a James Fallows article, this morning I don’t remember why, it has been that long ago. 

Because of that history enjoying The Atlantic, recently -- some months ago -- I came upon and subscribed to a free online daily The Atlantic: THE EDGE, “A daily roundup of ideas and events in American politics.” In The Edge I find interesting stuff. 

Yesterday, reading at my Bay window on a rainy afternoon while waiting for TJCC to arrive from Tallahassee, I came across an Atlantic article on free will. Now, as well as philosophical, psychological, psychiatric, social, ethics and other disciplines, free will is a religious and theological concept, so I read. 

The heading reads, “There’s No Such Thing As Free Will, But we’re better off believing in it anyway.” An interesting notion that a similar case could be made for other things, including religious and theological matters wherein for example Friedrich Schleiermacher wrote that certain presumably absolute tenets of the faith are beyond human knowing but orthodox so say it regardless, to wit, Nicene Creed and its assertions against Arianism. But back to free will, a good article by Stephen Cave, some of whose other writings I’ve enjoyed. Yet disturbing, and so I recommend not reading it; in fact, let whoever reads it be anathema. Couple of quotations nevertheless:  

“… there is ... agreement in the scientific community that the firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams. …”

“Smilansky says he realizes that there is something drastic, even terrible, about this idea—but if the choice is between the true and the good, then for the sake of society, the true must go.”

Second quotation flies in the face of my oft-quoted proverb from the lentel over the library door at one of my theological seminaries: Seek The Truth, Come Whence It May, Cost What It Will. But Hey! suppose, as the article alludes, knowledge of Truth may put society and even civilization itself at risk: should Truth be suppressed, or sought anyway? Should Truth be outed and civilization's house of cards be allowed to tumble? Or should such questing be censored and knowledge of Truth be restricted to the Intellectual Elite, the general population indoctrinated for the public good, Free Will made a mandatory article of faith? Care to nominate the Elite? In the history of human arrogance, it's been done before, and still and always.

What is Truth? Remember? Just because you believe it, that don't make it so --

Romans 7:15 makes sense after all. An acceptable new legal defense: the devil made me do it. 

There's nothing new in all this, but it surfaced with me Friday.

Seaboard Valparaiso 525 LOA x 90. Arriving from Kingston with general cargo, next port, Houston.


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