Reading for Thursday, June 25
Well, here we go – Tolstoy delves even further into free will. Sadly, having left this since last week, it’s now even harder to pick up the thread, but I’ll do my best.
Basically, he’s talking about how we have this dual tension between seeing that the world is run by immutable laws (assuming that you’ve bought everything he’s said so far) and thus we have no real free will. However, we perceive we have free will . . .
…depending on how much we know about our relation to the external world, time and causes.
1. External World – so if someone grows up in external circumstances (such as you grow up in a rough neighbourhood with drug addict parents), then we’d say you have little free will if you became a criminal. If, however, you grew up in the good part of town – then we’d say you exercised free will in deciding to be a drug pusher.
2. Time – If you committed a crime a long time ago, we can kind of see the events that led to it. If you did it 5 minutes ago, it’d seem completely out of the blue.
3. Causes – if we understand all the events that led to something, we don’t attribute it to free will. If we do, then we are less likely to say someone had a choice about something.
Does all this make sense? What he’s really saying is that, in his view of the world, while it might seem like we have free will at any particular point, or it might look like someone else did, the more we understand about their environment, the more distance from the events, and the more we understand the causes behind things, the more we can explain everything away as being inevitable.