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No More Agency Than a Tube of Toothpaste
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I thought this Gene Healy entry on materialism and free will was interesting.

I'm not a philosopher, but I've never understood how materialism--that is, the theory that matter is all there is --can be reconciled with free will. If we're all a just a collection of atomic particles being knocked around the billiard table of the universe, then what I end up doing just depends on how the billiard balls knock into each other (probably too Newtonian a metaphor). I don't choose to do anything. I am just a subset of the gajillions of particles careening around the cosmic pool table, with no more real choice or agency than a tube of toothpaste.

I would consider myself a materialist, though probably hypocritically I've avoided really dealing head-on with the ramifications (i.e., the non-existence of free will) that these views logically entail.

Healy goes on to say that belief in strict material determinism "seems to me about as loopy as believing that the Virgin Mary sometimes appears on the sides of water towers in Mexico."

Which really is a silly thing to say, since there's quite a bit of logical support for a materialistic view of the world, while the appearances of Virgins on water towers, like sightings of Bigfoot, clearly have no substantive basis in fact.

I don't know what there is besides matter, or how God plays into this (or even how an omniscient, omnipotent God can be reconciled with free will) but if materialism requires me to deny what I know to be true--if it argues that argument, in the sense of actually having a choice about what to believe, is impossible--then pshaw.

And here Healy says he knows materialism to be completely false and the notion of free will to be true. How? Our everyday notions and sensibilities many times mislead us, sometimes grossly. Saying you feel something to be true just doesn't cut the mustard. I'm sure that people 800 years ago just knew the earth was flat.

Also, rejecting an ideology on the basis of not liking the consequences is fallacious. There are lots of things that are true that we might wish were otherwise. But they're still true, and denying them only means living in delusion.

So do I think we have free will? Actually, quite a bit of my fiction deals with the subject. I've written a couple of stories and an entire novel on the topic. If I had to give an answer, I'd say no, we don't. But as I mentioned earlier, I haven't really confronted the issue head on, and I certainly don't behave most of the time as if I don't have free will.

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