Is determinism the truth of reality? For starters, what is the idea of determinism and what are its counters? Determinism is the philosophical belief that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Causal determinism in physics is known as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states.
Now, there are two main counter philosophies: indeterminism, and predeterminism. In science, most specifically quantum theory in physics, indeterminism is the belief that no event is certain and the entire outcome of anything is probabilistic. Predeterminism to determinism is like Christianity to Catholicism. It’s the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions. It implies that there is a conscious reason behind every event and a story to tell. Determinism tells no such story, other than: events happen because the previous thing happened.
When talking about determinism we have to start with the human aspect. Humans are us. Humans are smart. We develop our minds over time and grow in autonomy. This shift, from complete dependency as babies and children to general independence within society as adults, is the reason most of us think we have freewill. As youngin’s we have almost no control. Then we go through a ‘mine’ phase. Slowly we develop friendships, like with our cousins, fellow neighbourhood kids and classmates. It teaches us that there are others just like us and we should consider that in our actions, but we maintain holding on to our confused idea of control. It doesn’t help that most religions teach this too. To give the example of Christianity, they teach BOTH that we have free will so it is on us if we sin or not, but then completely contradict that idea by saying everything that happens both big and small are all a part of God’s plan. If every action you take, both big and small, are preordained through God’s plan, then you don’t have freewill. You’re actions are prepared and carried out as part of HIS will, not yours.
In the realm of science, freewill is proposed to exist in the multiverse theory. To extrapolate, if we are to choose left or right, two timelines branch out. We exist in the one where we chose, say, left and an alternate version of us exists in the other universe where we chose right. The issue with this idea is, how and what would constitute this branching process to happen in the universe? Are human minds so powerful that we rip portals in the fabric of spacetime, creating two universes to house the alternate choice? Isn’t it easier to propose that there is no alternate universe where you chose right instead of left? Because how did you chose something different? Let’s take a step back from where you chose left. What precursors lead your mind to make that decision? You might say nothing, that no influence affected that decision and you just thought about either or, and came to the decision of left through your freewill. People think they have way more control over themselves than they actually do. We are influenced by how other people treat us, both strangers and loved ones. We are influenced by childhood nostalgia and traumas. We are influenced by self reflection, and responsibilities. We are influenced by our diet, the last time we were sexually active, and literally every other factor. Were you stressed when you made this decision, or calm? Were you aware of the importance of the decision, or was it inconsequential? These factors will lead your mind to making the decision you make. If it is said as, not that our minds cause this branching phenomenon, but every interaction both human related and not human related have equal and opposite reactions in the infinite multiverse, then to that I say Occam’s razor. I understand quantum physics is trippy as hell, and when attempting to observe interactions we notice how particles can be in two places at once until we look at them (superposition). But what are the chances that reality in this regard is ‘boring’ and it just seems that way, and the particles are actually always only in one position?
A natural disaster like a flood is something that, in theory, we could predict days, months, or even years beforehand according to causality. All we would need is an entity like a computer to calculate every atom on Earth and beyond that would influence the weather. Today, we as a species have created a golfer robot that can calculate distance and wind to make a perfect hole in one, every time. What does this golfer robot tell us about how the universe works? It tells us that we live in a deterministic universe. That every action has a reaction, and that in theory we can predict these future actions because of the fact that they are determined through previous actions. Predeterminism or destiny is like the romanticized version of this. The only thing that makes reality a little colder than the idea of destiny is that, what is destined has no promised growing element to it. Imagine villagers who live under a volcano and one day it suddenly erupts. The villagers are destined to die, both adults and children. There is no sense to be made of it. It was just an awful event. Meaning comes from us because, to our core, we are social and pattern seeking. So we’ll say things like, ‘that terrible thing happened to those villagers to teach US not to live under volcanoes.’ And that’s fine, but it’s important not to be confused about the matter of fact.
The world isn’t cruel because of natural disasters. It isn’t cold because of evolution leading to predator and prey species. It just is. Racists, rapists, and murderers will always exist due to mismanaged human nature, but does that make what these people do non-committible offences? Of course not. It’s still actions against humanity. People who use that as an argument to the absurdity of determinism are as confused as those obsessed with control. The principle factor of punishing people has nothing to do with whether or not they were in complete control of their actions, it has to do with whether or not they committed the action. Our systems of punishment just need to be updated to accommodate the fact that people are crazy AND need to be jailed.
Is it more important to be deluded and happy, or aware and sad? I say it really shouldn’t be up to those two things. Sugar coating is fine in moments of emotional distress, but we as a species should overall have the same understanding of what the real world is and find a way to be okay with it. Santa is not real, but it still feels good to think we are being rewarded by our good deeds. Events happen with no teaching behind it, but we can still find silver linings without having to say ‘it happened as a part of God’s plan.’ Happiness and good will exist with or without a world view of us being in control or us being coddled by cosmic parents. Like I said earlier, to our core we are social. That’s where morality comes from. That’s where true happiness is found, in relationship with those around us.
Being kind and finding peace are not exclusive to predeterminism (kindness) or indeterminism (freewill/peace). We can understand what happens was always going to happen, without a story to it, and still be good people at the end of the day. It’s not paradoxical to understand freewill is an illusion AND understand your choices still matter. Being self aware of determinism ought not give you supposed free rein to act like a fool, but I mean, act however you want. Your reaction to these ideas was always going to be what it was, without cosmic good or bad intentions behind it. How to live a life with meaning ought to come from your own PERSONAL idea of your life and your place in others’ lives. Even if it’s not real, it still comes from collected, agreed upon perceived places of control. The concept of karma is interesting in this regard because it’s like karma does exist to a fault within society. If you’re a dingus, people will catch on and treat you bad in return. Karma, bitch. But that doesn’t extend to nature, meaning it’s not a fundamental law of reality.
When it comes down to me concluding this thought piece, think whatever you want about reality because the only ACTUAL important thing is that we all treat each other good. Even if you are confused about reality, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone, you’re doing a-okay. Security, harmony, and peace are the truly important things in life. It’s only once you have those, can these aspects of philosophy become something worth diving into. If you guys don’t know about the motivational psychological theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it goes as such:
As always, thank you guys so much for being here! I love y’as, and I will see y’all next time.