Re: [ox-en] Determinism.
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2002 19:39:41 +0100
Hi Sandor and list!
A bit older, but I'd like to throw a penny in. I'm citing fully so the
context is available.
3 weeks (22 days) ago Cardenas, Sandor wrote:
Stefan, you stated: "Humans are formed by the society they live in."
This gives rise to the "Freedom vs. Determinism" question which I
found myself wrestling with a few years back.
Yes this question is a typical one. Today I quickly have some doubts
how valid or useful these questions are. Particularly I doubt that the
world is on one pole.
By allowing that morals are the result of enculturation and not of a
more absolute nature it seems you are leaning towards determinism.
Well, in my original post I spoke of "mainly". I.e. there may be other
factors. Indeed I think modern science has not yet discovered
everything possible - and perhaps will never do. So there may be
things in the world like re-incarnation or such which may be factors.
The genes - to pick a closer and less esoteric example - for sure are
a factor because they determine some chemical processes in my body
which in turn definitely have consequences on my mind. But this is
determinism of another kind I guess.
However, I think the strongest influences actually come from society /
culture, the environment people are growing up in and living in. For
instance which means you have available to solve problems does highly
depend on what you learned. If you only learned to use violence than
you will use it. Indeed I think the cultural influences over-form
("überformen") the genetic and other factors.
one is taught morals than the assumption that most if not all of your
reasoning has been taught to you is a small step. At this point one must
question if indeed any thoughts or decisions are our own or the product of
environment - and hence one is in deterministic territory. I myself used to
be strongly on this side of the fence as I felt it obvious that most of a
person's logic could be traced back to previous experience and one could
reasonably predict any future choices.
This presumes in addition that there is a way to predict. Chaos theory
helps us out here because there are processes which are not
predictable. Indeed I think this is valid for human lives. Often you
can more or less predict a human's life over long phases. But then -
namely when there is a crisis - you are at a bifurcation point
("Bifurkationspunkt") after which you can't predict anything.
While this was a logical succession
of though I felt it was lacking something and came to the following
If free-will is an illusion and along with it, self - as determinism
would have one believe - then I must realize that my life is meaningless and
I am nothing more than a complex portion of a larger machine. I don't like
that. In fact, I hate that.
Yes, this is typical for (post-Enlightenment?) thinking. Mankind
didn't like it, that someone said, that the earth is not the middle of
the universe - and then not even the sun. Sometimes I try to
understand where the horror does come from but I have not been very
If I am to believe that I am capable of
authentic original thought than I am forced to dismiss this position. This
is bolstered by the realization that if indeed I am helpless in my choices,
my opinion on this matter has little weight - whereas if I am a creative
individual, I will be limiting my thought process to continue to remain in
the deterministic frame. This simple, completely unsubstantiated, and mostly
emotional conclusion may not be the best, or most correct logic - but I feel
it is, for now, the most productive position :)
I worry, I don't unnderstand what you're saying here :-( .
I would also support my logic with an even less rational conclusion
- I know that some things are wrong. While much of morals may indeed be our
culture, I would put forth that each of us knows to our core that certain
things are wrong. Killing a person would be the most obvious example. While
it is clearly in any culture's interest to maintain a murder free populace
(I purposely limit this to the populace of the enculturating society and do
not address maintaining the health of other cultures as that is not relevant
to a society's own morals), I think there is a knowledge within each
individual that goes beyond this. This is all based completely on
self-examination and as such is easily debated, but I think for the most
part just about anyone will tell you that murder is wrong. Of course a death
may have many mitigating circumstances but as I do not wish to ramble any
more than I already have - I'll leave it at this.
Hmm... In fact animals have a killing repression ("Tötungshemmung") at
least regarding their own species. I guess this is something evolution
enforces because a species without this killing repression would
wither away quickly. So in a way the cultural law prohibiting murder
may be seen as a transformation from the evolutionary law.
Now - how this relates to the topic of this discussion (you thought
it would never come :)...
If indeed people have free-will than much of the labor division that
I've seen talked about here seems to be ignoring the simple fact that some
people will want to do X with their time whether or not this is in society's
Yes. We call this self-unfolding. The amazing thing in Free Software
is, that regardless of personal choice it *is* in the best interest of
society. There seems to be some invisible wing (from the penguin ;-) )
involved in here. We discussed that on the German list lately.
They will also want to have a better version of X than their
neighbor. I completely believe that the majority of this thinking is a
direct result of current culture and it's very deliberate cultivation of
these thoughts - but is that it completely, or are these desires intertwined
with the human condition at a more basic level?
The latter X IMHO has little to do with self-unfolding but is a result
of a competitive world. In capitalism status is shown in this way and
because having / showing one's individual status in a society is a
very basic important thing for humans, this is the result. I guess if
there are ways to have / show status in other forms people will at
least partly stop wanting X being better as that of the neighbor.
If the answer is no (as I certainly hope it is) than I think there
is a huge amount of thought that needs to go into transitioning the current
value system into one that is more in-line with the one required for a
utopian vision of society. It seems to me that until this hurdle is overcome
we engage in only conjecture with little hope for instigating actual change.
Well, things *are* already changing. In Free Software you can have
status without material wealth. If the culture we can recognize there
is spreading - and I think it is because it's better for people - the
hurdle gets lower and lower.
If the answer is yes than truly humans can not engage in such a free
structure as they are incapable of flourishing within such an environment.
Sure. But this is definitely not the case. History shows that there
are many ways to fulfill the needs of mankind. Capitalism has given
its own answers but there have been other answers and there will be
would also add that within such a system I would think that only one person
(or a group) of above average intelligence or charisma would have the
ability to subvert the original intentions to their own. Without becoming
tangential I'd offer that clearly people are easily misled. What types of
balances could counteract this type of insurgence without infringing on the
Perhaps this has been discussed on the german list?
Anyway we have a number of things here on the list which have never
been touched on the German list. I like that widening :-) .
This communication and any files transmitted with it
contain information which is confidential
Nope. It's published in the web archive ;-) .
Mit Freien Grüßen