Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fighter meets boxer ...

... which usually means ( as I think it does in this instance) boxer wins. Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson debate: "Is Christianity Good for the World?"

Wilson touches upon a point that I have myself been ruminating on a bit lately: If there is only causation, there is no motivation. What one does is merely the outcome of the chain of causation that you happen to be - and that is all that you are. So Richard Dawkins preaches atheism because he is helpless to do otherwise, being forced to do so by the chain of causation that he is. And I argue against his position because I am helpless to do otherwise, and for the same reason. Everything that happens - and you must include people in the category of eveything - is simply a consequence of whatever happened previously. The Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust because they were caused to. The opponents of slavery opposed it, not because it was wrong, but because they were caused to. Slavery and the Holocaust can't be thought of as wrong because nothing can be. Things just happen. You just happen. And so do I. I think this is a perfectly logical way of looking at things if you accept the premise of pure, impersonal causation. I have my doubts, however, as to whether anyone can or does honestly live in accordance with it.


  1. Anonymous12:56 PM

    In this strictly linear view of reality, we have everything happening as a result of what preceded it. So if we go back to the beginning, as it were, we have something preceded by nothing. So we are in a state of absolute nothingness. Now using our famed rationality & the equally famed cause & effect, I deduce that absolutely nothing can result from absolute nothingness. And yet we do apparently exist in what could be described as a living contradiction to this implementation of causality. There seems to be missing link in this causal chain somewhere.

  2. Anonymous1:08 PM

    Though I lost the initial thought that struck me, which is to accept causality as real. Therefore we have something being the logical effect of nothing. Time as the logical effect of the non-existence of time, etc. Or to put it alternatively, nothing being the cause, & something being the effect. Non-existence of time being the cause, & time being the effect.

  3. Actually, Andrew, I believe Thomas Aquinas would applaud your logic. Of course, it is only a fortuitous outcome of your chain of causation. So would his applause be.

  4. Anonymous7:15 AM

    And along that chain, Frank, I've been compelled to make the general conclusion regarding the mysterious essence of Causation which is that Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum and the non-existence of something causes its own existence. And so Nature abhorring its own absence was the motive force for its own appearance.

  5. So we accept as a premise is that nature is self-caused. Which means that it just is, actually. If there is only causation, the inference still must be that one thing just follows another in a chain of causation. As I said, it's perfectly logical. But it excludes motivation - which is merely a misaaprehension of causation. If eveything is caused, there is no meaning to anything. Whatever happens, just happens. Try living that way. Try actually accepting that whatever you write in response to this is simply what you, given your chain of causation, cannot help but write.

  6. Anonymous12:00 PM

    What I hoped I've kind of done, is to show how using causation's own reasoning, Reality falis to get out of the non-existent starting blocks. Nothing causes nothing. Once the ball of Reality is rolling, however, then we can perhaps accept causation as a viable hypothesis in the material realm but it would seem utterly arbitrary to claim this for the realm of consciousness. It's simply a random assertion with about as much validity as the inversion of cause & effect, being effect & cause. That is, the desired effect causing the preceding cause, which actually as a theory of evolution seems to make more sense than cause & effect. For example, the desire for profound states of consciousness whereby Nature comes to know herself, causes the means by which this is fulfilled. This though strikes me as relatively simple territory compared to the "free-thinking and free-willing" individual. The infinities of knowledge required to know what is actually going on in this realm would seem to defy all possibility of proof.

  7. Anonymous1:37 PM

    Just to add I'd agree that it'd be both absurd and insane to try and make causation a philosophy by which to make sense of & dictate how to live. In what sense could one do anything with this intellectual filter/idea.

  8. It seems like philosophy and belief are the big rubber bladders we use on each other because there are not sticks handy.

    Note that I had misspelled "on" in the previous sentence as "one". Even though I was caused to do it, I was caused to feel guilty about it and correct it anyway.