Friday, March 09, 2007

Ted Honderich Says: "You are not free!"

As a result of the latest "security risk," my Norton System has been affected. I am trying to resolve the problem. If more than two days pass without a change in my profile image or a new post, it means that I am unable to use my computer.

May 15, 2007 at 9: 34 A.M. there were 362 intrusion attempts against my computer. It is touching to be so popular.

March 9, 2007 at 4:13 P.M. The process of altering or defacing these texts is constant, so are my efforts to make the same corrections as many times as necessary.

The following intruder/connection was blocked March 11, 2007 at 11: 45:08 A.M. http://citi.bridgetrack.com.edgesuite.net/ (62.154.181.137); http: (80); 926 bytes sent; 49264 bytes received; 1:28.907 elapsed time. The following numerical signatures of intruders into my computer (some probably affiliated with New Jersey's corrupt legal system) have been identified: 2/28, 60.216.233.254; 2/26, 124.128.101.172; 2/20, 71.7.132.3; 2/19, 204.16.209.135. March 14, 2007 at 12: 51 P.M. I am blocking http://ad.doubleclick.net/N3671.msn/B2154893.592=728x90;ord=1881754198

March 15, 2007 at 10:00 A.M. "Critique" obstructed. Blocking: http://altfarm.mediaplex.com/ad/js/7454-43775-20 and http://view.atdmt.com/dmm/iview/msnnkson0010000069dmm/direct.01


Freedom of Expression? Ethics? Not if New Jersey can do something about it.

Ted Honderich, How Free Are You? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Ted Honderich, Philosopher: A Kind of Life (London: Routledge, 2001).
Ted Honderich, ed., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

The Complete Matrix: "The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, The Making of the Matrix -- Interviews With Philosophers" (DVD-Package, AOL/Time-Warner, 2000-2003), Wachowski Bros., Directors & Screenwriters. $75 new, $45 second hand in the Village. "Whoa ..."


Who is Ted Honderich?

Ted Honderich is the Bertrand Russell of our day, a philosophical revolutionary storming the Bastille, tossing the first brick at the Winter Palace, protesting before the Pentagon. These all seem like good things to do. They also seem like a lot of fun. I agree with most of Ted's political views, not all. Honderich is off on an anti-American rant at the moment that defies rational comprehension. However, he is on the side of the angels when it comes to a number of important issues: Honderich is tireless in opposing torture and defending victims of human rights violations everywhere.

I join him in many of his humanitarian and human rights efforts, including his protests against U.S. actions in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Honderich is also concerned about economic justice issues and the plight of billions of persons in Third World countries -- also many at home -- whose lives become more desperate every year thanks to the indifference of most of us in the wealthiest societies. Many persons, including many religious persons, are active in the struggle against these horrible realities. All of us can help.

Professor Honderich has argued that his brand of determinism puts in doubt "all life-hopes, personal feelings, knowledge, moral responsibility, the rightness of actions, and the moral standing of persons." Oxford Companion, pp. 194-195. So why care about others or social justice, Professor Honderich? There will be no praise or discredit due to us for our actions since, according to you, we have no choice about what we do anyway, because our actions are fully determined. Human freedom is an illusion. No satisfactory answer is "forthcoming" from Professor Honderich. Perhaps Honderich's silence is determined.

Even more worrisome are statements by Honderich concerning the appropriateness of violence. Violence comes down to a "means and ends" kind of "rational" choice, Honderich claims, or a "judgment between alternatives." Of Liberty and Necessity, English Works, 4, p. 275. By way of comparison, see Malcolm X's speeches and the famous debate at the Oxford Union, when Malcolm defended the right of "resistance against violence with violence." Dr. King's response on this issue should also be studied. These African-American thinkers are rarely part of a philosophy curriculum in American universities. I wonder why that is? Racism? Maybe?

I am puzzled by the alleged reality of this "choice" to be violent. If everything is determined and we are not free, then how can violence or anything else be a "choice"? There is indeed a choice when it comes to violence. Violence must be rejected, except in self-defense and in extreme cases -- since the only appropriate response to evil is the rejection of its methods, especially violence. Adoption of some "means" -- like torture -- changes the moral quality of our "ends." In fact, use of such means changes us. One of the philosophers I follow on this issue is Dr. King. We have been guided in our thoughts by a distinguished thinker dating from the first century A.D., whose comments on these matters are highly recommended.

I welcome Professor Honderich's concern about Palestinian rights, even as I have been alarmed by reports of Honderich's anti-semitism. I have not seen examples of anti-semitism in his writings. I cannot say -- because I have not read everything that he has written -- whether he has made anti-semitic statements. What I have read is not anti-semitic, not racist, not even (the most dreaded charge) "misogynistic." To the best of my knowledge, Honderich does not use the word "chic."

Anyone who denies that the Holocaust occurred is either a fool or evil. I have not seen anything written by Honderich to suggest that he believes such an absurd and loathsome thing. I do not believe that he is either a fool or evil. With all due respect to the good professor, however, I am willing to be persuaded on this issue. So far, I think of Honderich as a talented (if misguided and mistaken) philosopher.

Yes, I am aware of Honderich's notorious memoir. I purchased that book because it was said to contain a "philosophical method of seduction" that is "fool proof." I am the one "fool" that it has not "proofed," so I cannot comment on Honderich's famous skills as a seducer. I believe that "Antonio" cologne is very helpful in seduction efforts, also bathing and combing one's hair. Otherwise, I have no advice to offer young men on this issue. Honderich says, in a Rousseau-like confessional moment:

"The pleasure of seeing happy couples has to do with seeing something larger in both the contemplative side of my inner life and the part that issues in action. That is love or affection for a woman, together with desire and its satisfaction. I have been a man of many women, if that uncertain description is taken to mean a man who has been for a longish time with each of many women, a succession of them. Here my life has been more than middle-sized. [No Freudian observations please, ladies!] I have been a libertine too, if one of those goes on being free from convention, and does not go in for much concealment of his freedom. Not often a womanizer, if one of those is deceitfully unfaithful in his relations."

Philosopher, pp. 27-28.

Notice Honderich's conclusion after decades as a "coxman," as it were:

"There was a time when I could say, and did, that I wanted only to go to bed with a woman whose company I would want in the end, in dying. I guess I say it still. I am a little tired of the long quest, a little worn out, but I have not abandoned that best of hopes."

Philosopher, p. 29.

I endorse this sentiment. I share it. I may even be more tired than Honderich as I continue in my quest. Ted and I get on our horses, take up our lances, riding with Sancho into the distance in search of a princess threatened by a dragon. Come to think of it, philosophy may be the princess and scientism is the dragon. Actually, I was thinking more of Carmen Electra as the princess. (See "Metaphor is Mystery.")

I say all of this as someone whose philosophical opinions and positions are distant from or opposed to much of what Honderich defends. Honderich is not David Stove. He is not the cartoon character I often see and read about in the press. A good question to ask is why he has been demonized in the media? I suspect that many journalists do not understand what Honderich is saying. One traditional role for philosophers is to "get into trouble" so that the rest of us will not have to do so, by thinking and saying things that need to be thought and said. Honderich does exactly that.

I will avoid political controversies in this essay by focusing on a narrow technical aspect of his defense of a very particular form of determinism. My comments will respond to a single chapter entitled "Neuroscience and Quantum Theory" in his book How Free Are You? Professor Honderich is easily placed within a main branch of Western thought: Humean skepticism, analytical clarity, fondness for Marxism is tempered by an appreciation of history. He knows about Stalin and the Gulags. Despite the popular hysteria, Honderich (unlike Mr. Cheney) is not an advocate of totalitarianism in America.

Honderich is a great writer, especially for a philosopher. He was a journalist early in his life and could make his living today by writing novels. Some of his philosophical adversaries no doubt claim that novels are what he writes. Honderich's philosophy is a science-based, sophisticated kind of empiricism, which is respectful of the implications of Darwinism, careful, precise, cautious, elegant and often witty. I hate him for that.

I am not persuaded by his arguments on the determinism issue, but he's really good at philosophical fencing. It must be said, however, that there are weird blind spots in his work. The entry on "Continental Thought" in the Oxford Companion is not only inaccurate, but misleading. Otherwise, the book is generally the best single-volume reference work in philosophy. I cannot discuss my objections to that entry in a paragraph or two. I hope to examine it at greater length in a separate essay.

I am convinced by Honderich's arguments on any number of matters. I also take pleasure in reading his prose even when his goal is to destroy a philosophical position I happen to hold. I am encouraging you to read Honderich's books because you will learn from and enjoy them. I have selected one chapter from this recent book where Honderich is at his best, offering the soundest contemporary defense of determinism, which I believe is false. No obscure German thinkers will be required here, so you can chill.

Neuroscience, Quantum Theory, and Freedom.

I first state the free will versus determinism "issue" or problem; then I turn to Honderich's neurological and quantum theory arguments, focusing on difficulties with his position. I conclude with my opinions and suggestions for further reading. I will now make use of Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, mostly to annoy Honderich or any fans of the Oxford Companion who believe that Honderich invented the concept of a philosophical dictionary:

"Determinism is the doctrine that every event has a cause. The usual explanation of this is that for every event there is some antecedent state, related in such a way that it would break a law of nature for this antecedent state to exist yet the event not to happen. This is a purely metaphysical claim, and carries no implications for whether we can in principle predict the event ... "

Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 102-103.

If determinism is accurate, then none of us are free. Traditionally, God's omniscience posed a challenge for proponents of free will. More recently, biological determinism, either as neurology or genetic predetermination ("my genes are so selfish!") or some form of Darwinist reductivism ("you have been naturally selected!") are said to make freedom an illusion. Marxist ("history made me do it!") and Freudian ("I'm just horny all the time!") forms of determinism have had their moment in the sun and are now regarded, mostly, as spent forces. Finally, Flip Wilson's old mantra is always available: "The Devil made me do it!"

I regard all of these views as interesting products of human creative freedom, which are simply wrong. They may also be viewed as what Sartre would describe as "bad faith," attempts to escape an uncomfortable and burdensome freedom.

Setting aside the God issue, since I have discussed the theological conundrum elsewhere. I am among those who say that, if there is a God, then it seems clear that subjectivity and freedom issue from that God -- or that freedom itself is a kind of "instantiation of divinity" -- in which we share. Your freedom and capacity to love is where you will find (because they are) God.

At this point, I turn to the biological question of whether we are determined by our genes and neurochemistry. Honderich says that we are determined. I contend that we are free, within constraints. We must choose ourselves every day, within the constraints against which we struggle. Next I turn to Honderich's response to the challenge from physics that quantum theory disproves determinism, since uncertainty and indeterminateness are at the very heart of nature. This is another way of suggesting that the universe contains -- and is -- a gigantic invitation to "choose" itself, kind of like all of us. This leads one to wonder Who might have extended this "invitation"? Guess. Take your time. ("Immanuel Kant and the Narrative of Freedom.")

"The problem," Neo says to the Architect of the Matrix, "is choice." He wasn't kidding.

A. Neurological Determinism.

Honderich is cagey on the mind/body question. Sometimes he sounds like a dual aspect theorist; at other times, he comes close to the Churchlands' "mind/brain identity theory," which he rightly derides and rejects. Honderich makes use of a few slippery terms: "Our mental lives are bound up with these most important elements of our brains and central nervous systems." (p. 65.)

What does "bound up with" mean? Honderich is referring to neurons. Elsewhere, he says: "A general truth about these building blocks of the brain and nervous system is that their operation is indubitably taken to be causal." (p. 66.)

Let us be "dubitable." What does "causal" mean in this context? What is it that is said to be "causal" and of which "effects" exactly? If neurons produce minds, then are they the same things as minds? Or are neurons essential elements for the creation and existence of minds, but not the same things as minds? A material cause (neurons) can produce only a material effect (cerebral events). However, a mind is nonmaterial yet "linked" to a material brain. Thoughts and wishes are not necessarily material "effects." Where is that link between brain and mind? Neurons? They are also material? So how can neurons "produce" nonmaterial entities, like minds? Besides, material brains and other items in the empirical world are not so material after all. ("John Searle and David Chalmers on Consciousness.")

There is no material "string" from the brain to an immaterial mind. There cannot be such a thing. If reductivism in the form of mind/brain identity theory is rejected, as it should be, then we are left with a mystery. That mystery is human being-in-the-world as duality or paradox, as a kind of freedom. Perhaps consciousness is part of the complexity resulting from billions of neural interactions "emerging" in some (as yet) not fully understood process. In discussing the "mind/body" connection, Honderich speaks of "psychoneural intimacy" (p. 67.), which suggests that mind and brain are in bed together. What will people say?

Determinism postulates a universe of causes and effects from which no escape is possible. This relies on a seventeenth century understanding of causality and matter, however modified and disguised with trendy terms and "fudge words." This understanding is, at best, applicable only to the empirical world. No amount of improvement in our understanding of brain chemistry will change this truth. You will not find the mind "in" the brain. You will not find a desire for the pleasant company of Carmen Electra in a neuron -- not even in another crucial part of the male anatomy -- and yet, without a body, there is no entity capable of "desiring," not to mention capable of doing other fun things with, or to, Carmen Electra. ("Stephen Hawking's Free Will is Determined.")

Descriptions of neural functions are distinct from the reality of mental experiences. Minds are certainly made possible by those functions "somehow." At several points in his discussion, Professor Honderich uses the word "story" (p. 76.) to refer to the rival theories of determinism and free will. A clue to resolving the enigma of free will may be found in this word that ushers into the debate a tradition of hermeneutic reflection. A story unifies concepts of events occurring empirically and the meaning of such events, which is always determined freely, in a moral or aesthetic and spiritual sense. (See "S.L. Hurley on Belief, Reasons and Actions.")

More on this issue must await my discussion of quantum objections to determinism. For now, we may observe that descriptions of facts or events in the brain -- material causes and effects -- may be different from mental experiences of meaning which must be determined by interpretation. What does the "story" told by science "amount to"? An external scientific description of a man who is observed to touch a woman's face, gently, for a moment or two, will be quite different from a novelist's description of the inner truth -- or meaning -- of that precious moment for both persons who experience it. In a physical world that is less solid than we once thought it was fact and value, description and evaluation, collapse into what we might call the "freedom" to make world(s). Interpretation? What happened between two people may include an inquiry about an event and the request for the meaning of an action that is that event. ("Atonement.")

Suppose a couple must be parted because German troops will be entering their city momentarily, so that this gesture of a man's gentle touch of a woman's face may signal an unspoken and loving, or regretful "until we meet again." Now suppose that the two persons have found one another, after a long journey through Siberia and will never be parted again -- so that the gesture becomes one of joyful reconnection. Biologically, the physical event is the same. Thematically, in terms of voluntariness and meaning, the "event" is different in each instance because it has become a different "action" in every case.

What exactly "happened" between those two people on each occasion? Can this "truth" be seen under a microscope? I doubt it. But then, what exactly happened in the story of "Hamlet"? Is one kind of description more true than another? We need both accounts, scientific descriptions and interpretive claims, to understand the event and persons involved in this interaction. Much will depend on the purpose for which we seek a description. The scientific description will narrate the "facts"; the novelist, artist, cleric or (heaven help us) "therapist" will tell us what the facts mean. Before examining objections to determinism raised by physicists, there are serious objections of a philosophical sort available for use against any form of determinism.

Picture a huge jigsaw puzzle the size of Texas. The pieces that make up this puzzle are in the millions. These pieces are mixed-up, jumbled together, then handed out to different people. Millions of persons attempt to reconstruct this puzzle. The puzzle is the empirical reality we inhabit. Scientists are persons with pieces of this puzzle who are trying to put them together. Philosophers and artists are persons who step back and tell us what is the image that is emerging from the partially reconstructed puzzle. Often, these interpreters will disagree about that image. Only one new "error"? Come on New Jersey. Geez.

Think of the incident I have mentioned: A man approaches a woman and slowly, gently, touches her face. She closes her eyes, momentarily, and presses her cheek on his hand. How many ways are there for actors to "interpret" or "enact" this wordless scene? How many ways can actors and directors or writers invite your interpretations of this scene? In how many ways will an audience interpret this event? Multiplicity. Synchronicity. Freedom. Define each of these words in this context of interpretation. Now what is the relevance of this exercise for judicial reasoning? Will it ever be possible to predict or determine "criminal guilt"? I do not think so. However, this is not to conclude that truth is unachievable or unknowable. ("Richard A. Posner on Voluntary Actions and Criminal Conduct.")

Compare Lon L. Fuller, Legal Fictions (California: Stanford University Press, 1967), pp. 49-93 ("What motives give rise to legal fictions?") with Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (New York: Random House, 2004), pp. 226-229 ("How had I missed that point about the unredeemability of the present when I had read it so many times before?")

I will examine objections to determinism by two philosophers at this initial stage, before moving on to the more devastating objections based on quantum theory. In light of the foregoing discussion, it is impossible to evaluate Honderich's assertion that: "Neuroscience proves psychoneural intimacy. That is mental events have what we can call 'neural intimates,' and the other way on. Mental events somehow go together necessarily with their associated neural events, and the other way on." (p. 69.)

What is an "intimate" connection between neuron and mind? Are we "dual entities"? Isn't this connection between different levels of being what proves our freedom, disproving determinism? A number of philosophers have suggested this response. First, Roger Scruton writes:

"... we make a distinction between a bodily movement and an action: between my arm's rising and my raising my arm. What is the difference? Kant has an answer. The one is a natural process, understood through the causes that produce it. The other is an expression of the rational being, to be understood in terms of his reasons for action. [Intentionality.] Likewise, we make a distinction between causes and reasons. The first explain the movement in terms of natural laws (e.g., 'my arm went up because the synapses fired'), the second give an account of the action, in terms which may also justify it. ('I raised my arm in order to warn him, and this I had to do because ...')"

Modern Philosophy, p. 235.

Second, Mary Midgley slays the dragon of determinism, rescuing "coxman" Honderich -- who becomes (much to his surprise) the "prince" in his "story," if not the dragon:

"The words MIND and BODY do not name two separate kinds of stuff, nor two forms of a single stuff. The word MIND is there to indicate something quite different -- namely, ourselves as subjects, beings who MIND about things. The two words name points of view -- the inner and the outer. And these are [dual] aspects of the whole person, who is the unit mainly to be considered. "

Science and Poetry, pp. 10-11.

Ms. Midgley is a phenomenologist-existentialist, who has written about the philosophy of myth and the theory of interpretation. I believe that her work is much more cogent and powerful than the writings of Professor Honderich that I have read on this issue. Professor Scruton is a Kantian and Aristotelean philosopher with phenomenological "leanings," who is also a contributor to the most important tradition in British philosophy -- a tradition of clarity, accessiblity, linguistic self-awareness. I think of Sruton as a Christian philosopher. Like Ms. Midgley, Scruton is often read by students of Continental philosophy.

All three of these philosophers can be read by any American law school graduate. All three trace their intellectual lineage to Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Reid, Mill, Bradley and Wittgenstein, also to Kant, Hegel, Marx (Honderich). I think Michael Frayn may be placed in this company, if we add William James, Peirce, Russell and the later Wittgenstein. I am looking forward to reading and writing about The Human Touch. (I am half way through Frayn's book, pausing to read Chandler and Hellman between chapters, and a biography of Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin -- who is Frayn's wife -- so that the Frayns are competing for my attention.)

If neurological accounts fail to establish either that minds are really only brains or that causal determination -- applicable in the empirical realm to cerebral functions -- fully accounts for mental activities, then is it necessary even to consider the "quantum objection" to determinism? I think so.

If quantum strageness is accurate, then it appears that radical uncertainty or a kind of freedom and chaos -- or indeterminateness -- describes the universe at its most fundamental level. More fascinating is the possibility that this ambiguity at the center of creation not only invites, but requires an "interpreter" to finish the work of creation, just as a work of art demands a recipient to be complete. This suggestion seems compatible with modern theories of the "irrational" creative energy in human nature, from the Romantics to Freud. There is something both attractive and dangerous about the idea that human behavior is and must be ultimately unpredictable and uncontrollable. Freedom carries the risk of evil.

The fantasy of laboratory fascists that mastering brain chemistry will somehow allow for preventive action to halt future criminal conduct is much more frightening than the conduct to be prevented. Obvious sources on this issue are Orwell's and Huxley's dystopias. Brain chemistry in isolation from social settings to which persons -- even neurochemically -- "react" will be worthless as a predictor of human conduct.

Quantum mechnics also lends support to modified scientific accounts of persons emphasizing the elements of adaptibility and variability of responses by organisms to environments. All of which may be leading us back to the idea of narrative and interpretation. In what follows, I will allude to the scientific literature and also to philosophers Robert Nozick and Mary Warnock, in addition to Mary Midgley and Roger Scruton, whose works I have already quoted. (See also my book, Paul Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Freedom (North Carolina: Lulu, 2004) and http://lulu.com/JuanG )

B. Quantum Theory.

What is quantum mechanics or theory? For our philosophical purposes, a useful and brief definition may be formulated. I will make use of Anthony Flew's Dictionary of Philosophy, so as to further annoy Professor Honderich and admirers of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, which I would otherwise prefer. This suggests that I am somewhat "unpredictable":

"A system of mechanics used to explain the behavior of atoms, molecules, and elementary particles. In 1901 Planck suggested that energy must be radiated in discrete units or quanta. In 1913 Niels Bohr applied this theory to the structure of the atom: later his 'solar system' model of the atom was superseded by the formal equations of Heisenberg and Schrodinger. These yield the required predictions of the frequency and amplitude of radiation emitted by the atom. But one consequence the 'uncertainty principle,' discovered by Heisenberg in 1927, is that the variables usually interpreted as specifying the position and the momentum of subatomic particles cannot both take definite values simultaneously. This places severe limits on the degree to which these particles or wave packets can be interpreted as ordinary spacio-temporal objects. [Or events?] The problem thus becomes a locus of dispute betwen realist and formalist philosophies of science. In addition the conception of fundamental particles as more like disembodied waves than particles challenges a simple material view of the world."

Dictionary of Philosophy, at p. 297.

Richard Feynman pointed out that "quantum weirdness" is really weird. We discover at the most fundamental levels of reality, a radical uncertainty and unpredictability. Electrons are observed, sometimes, to appear in one "place" then instantly at another -- by some accounts in several places simultaneously. Even more bizarre, it appears that an "observer distortion or effect" produces an alteration in what is seen and in what "is" on the basis of an observer's mere presence in viewing the "events" -- reality and observer are somehow mutually altering and "contructing" one another at all times. Man and woman touch and change one another forever.

If you recall my hypothetical concerning the big jigsaw puzzle. Imagine that the image is constantly changing depending on which piece is added, but also on the "point of view" of the observer. We know that the jigsaw puzzle depicts something very beautiful that somehow makes sense, but what that beautiful image is seems bewilderingly difficult to grasp from any single perspective because "seeing the puzzle" seems to require all of the pieces to be in place and all points of view on the image to be taken into account at the same "time."

In the quantum world, God not only exists but he resembles Groucho Marx. Think again about the concept of a story. Suppose that your story is co-written by you and at least one other intelligence, call it love or the universe if you like, and that you are incomplete without uniting with others in a larger narrative. What if instead of a big puzzle, we think of an epic movie that lasts for billions of years? What is the meaning of that movie? What if every one of us has a part in that epic film?

We inhabit a malleable, plasticity; we live in a protean universe or narrative that is liquid-like, even as we must develop elastic personalities for the various roles that we inhabit in fast-changing societies. Suddenly insights drawn from idealism, phenomenology, existentialist and structuralist -- as well as poststructuralist -- literary theory are highly suggestive in coming to terms with this scientific dilemma and experience. Subjects and objects are involved in an elaborate waltz, where one leads the other for a while, then the partners exchange roles -- kind of like men and women in relationships. (See "The 'Galatea Scenario' and the Mind/Body Problem.")

Determinism's boat is sunk, it seems. Professor Honderich says: "Not so fast!" Honderich offers two initial arguments: 1) The unpredictability part of this "story" is only one interpretation of the quantum effect; and 2) besides, all of this only applies to the tiniest levels of reality, much below the size of neurons. Neither of these contentions are persuasive as defenses of universal causal determinism.

The "Copenhagen interpretation" is the dominant view of the quantum mystery, which argues against determinate predictable outcomes or any kind of empirical certainty concerning matter. There are still absolutes and truth -- i.e., the speed of light. The point here is about the nature of matter. Furthermore, whatever interpretation of quantum mechanics one favors, it appears that both the universe and persons are much more complex than any rigid notion of material causal determination will allow, that is, below the level of large material bodies since persons and environments are always in relation to one another.

Our predictable patterns of behavior (on a Newtonian scale) are still applicable to large entities, of course, but only as "tendencies towards probable arrangements of particles." The table I see before me that "seems" so solid is only a grouping of particles that is "seemingly" highly stable. In principle, the particles might rearrange themselves on a "hidden variable" theory (Bohm, Peat) at some future time, to say nothing of the "movement" which we fail to detect of alteration and decay of all matter in reaction to the environment in which matter is placed. The table, you, my dog, my left shoe, even Carmen Electra -- are all in a state of transition and decay. Downer, man. I will need to discuss this with my analyst. Honderich protests:

"But if it is said, on the other hand, that micro-indeterminism does produce chance events in the ordinary world, what about the evidence for that? Why have we not noticed one of these chance events? Why has a spoon not levitated before now, when the random lurches of little events within it all happened to combine in the right way?" (p. 75.)

Hey, Ted: "There is no spoon." There is change and weirdness taking place all the time and not detectible by us. All kinds of rays and star dust fall on the Earth every day, for example, only we don't "feel" it. So we take no notice of these particles, nor do we notice the stars and celestial bodies, on the assumption that these strange entities will be there in the morning behaving as they usually do. There is no guarantee that this will be so. No, that doesn't mean that there is no truth. This is a claim about what we can know with certainty.

The effects of these particles "falling on us" are unknown -- as are the ways in which the swirling particle soup that somehow produces everything we see materially, with comforting predictability, seems to unfold as though organized by an "observing intelligence," often for our convenience. Isn't that nice? Isn't it awesome the way everything just fits together so perfectly? Ain't that something? I think so.

Some scientists observe this intricate dance and see no purpose. Others see immense beauty and regularity, elegance and "symmetries" in the emerging "complexities" of the universe (Laughlin, Greene, Behe), whose predictabilities and certainties may indeed exist. They just happen to be beyond human knowledge at this point. We'll keep trying to figure it all out. Perhaps those complexities are not beyond all intelligence or knowledge, only human knowledge, so that there is indeed an observer or "hidden variable" that is what holds everything together in orderly patterns. This suggestion cannot be established by means of an experiment. But then, neither can we establish the truth or falsehood of determinism -- or of most important matters -- through experimentation. Honderich acknowledges "existing" entities that are not causal "effects":

"... things that are not effects, [and therefore have no material cause from which behavior may be predicted,] observer-dependent facts, subjective ideas, ideal concepts, contents of our consciousness of reality, propositions, probabilities, features of a calculation, mathematical objects, waves in abstract mathematical space, theoretical entities without empirical reality, abstract constructs of the imagination [Sherlock Holmes? Batman? Crimes?] objects such that statements about them are neither true nor false ..." (p. 73.)

This is an excellent description of what phenomenologists may wish to call the Lebenswelt. Any statement to which truth or falsehood may not be attributed is always subject to time-determination: increased knowledge or "revelations" of features may allow, eventually, for knowledge of the truth or fasehood of such statements. There is still truth "out there." We just don't know it yet. Explaining this point to Internet commentators is more difficult than you may imagine.

By the same token, our choices may exist within an infinite causal chain stretching back to the origins of the universe, so that our choices were made before we were born, for reasons that we may never know. In this model, such choices were already made by us. However, because we do not know why we made them, our choices are still free. Thanks are due for this insight to the Oracle in the "Matrix" -- and to Robert Nozick:

"We too, in looking back at our past actions, will see which reasons swayed us and will view (accepting) those considerations as having caused us to act as we did. Had we done the other act, though, acting on the opposing considerations, we (along with the others) would have described those considerations as causing us to do that other act. Whichever act we do, the (different) background considerations exist which can be raised to causal status. Which considerations will be so raised depends upon which act we do. Does the act merely show which of the considerations was the weightier cause, or [does] the decision [knowledge of why we chose] make one of them weightier?"

Philosophical Explanations, p. 294. (See "Sliding Doors.")

Richard Swinburne defends God's omniscience on similar grounds as compatible with free will:

"A being may be perfectly free and know everything -- except which free choices he will make and what will result from the choices he will make." ("You've already made that choice, you just haven't understood it yet.")

The Coherence of Theism, p. 175.

Knowing why we act (internally) explains the causality of our actions (externally). Socrates, Hegel, Freud -- all figured this much out. This brings me to an important point made by Honderich about the brain, to "interactionism" and the role of ultimate knowledge issues in free will versus determinism discussions; to the need for interpretive rationality and hermeneutics in our theoretical models of the universe; also to the newly emerging "connectionism and social connectionism" positions in this controversy. I think the term "aggregationism" is far more hideous than "social connectionism." William Lyons, "Connectionism," in Modern Philosophy of Mind (London: Everyman, 1995), pp. lxii-lxiii.

Connectionism is a term that began in the philosophy of mind that has been borrowed by political and social theorists. Connectionism, like all of us, is now in a state of transition. To get at the ideas underneath the label, see the final volume of Roberto Mangabeira Unger's Politics.

Quantum mechanics presents us with a double-edged philosophical problem: an "epistemological" difficulty concerning what we can know and an "ontological" conundrum concerning what "is." Finally, there is a "Third Man" -- an unspecified principle -- in this scenario. Peter Martin, a choreographer was discussing the interpretation of a ballet that he had created when a viewer spoke of the sad relationship he detected between the dancers. Mr. Martin -- echoing Mr. Balanchine -- responded: "If you see the relationship, then it is there."

As I have suggested, it may well be that a unified field theory (or "Deus" principle) holds all of this puzzling information together, "somehow," requiring freedom or choice as a form of self-revelation by the universe or coming to know ourselves through seeing ourselves in all that is. If we see the relationship, then it is there. The mirror outside of us (universe) becomes a doorway to what is inside of us (consciousness), the opposite is also true. The pattern that we "are" sees patterns "in" nature -- because this is the pattern that contains us. David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality (London: Penguin, 1997), p. 263 ("Objectively, there is no present.") A crucial insight has been waiting for us all this time:

"It is now commonly said that no part of the brain works alone," Honderich writes and fails to appreciate that he has just set off the philosophical equivalent of a nuclear bomb. "None of this takes away from the general fact of localization. It does not by itself provide evidence of psychoneural intimacy quite as strong as the generalization about all neurons being causal does for the proposition about the causation of mental and neural events. But certainly it does make us lean in the direction of psychoneural intimacy." (p. 67.)

Not only does no part of the brain work alone, Ted, but no brain works apart from the rest of the organism housing it. What is more, the other bodily organs also depend on an environment that sustains life -- including a shared psychic and moral as well as aesthetic and spiritual space "connecting" us to other organisms, made up (like us) of matter, matter found in the farthest stars and all other objects and entities in the universe interacting and "moving" together with us, at different velocities, through space and time, defined by and defining those relationships and interactions, improvising, creating and created. "A dance," to borrow Anthony Powell's title, "to the music of time." (Think of the theological writings of Gustavo Gutierrez and jurisprudence of Roberto Mangabeira Unger.)

"Nothing can move from one moment to another. To exist at all at a particular moment means to exist there forever. [Eternally.] Our consciousness exists at all our waking moments. [Furthermore, consciousness exists in relation with all other consciousnesses, everywhere and everywhen.]"

The Fabric of Reality, at p. 263.

The idea of what we call "movement in time" takes us back to that "multiplicity" that we are. What would one call the totality of eternal moments and selves? A cookie if you get it right?

This enormous symphony or ballet in its totality -- or Absolute -- is where we live. It may be captured in a single word, if we try hard enough. Can you guess what that word might be? The first person who guesses correctly gets a cookie and ice cream. Mary Warnock will provide my conclusion and (as far as I am concerned) the final nail in the coffin of determinism, by drawing on biology and not physics this "time." Yes, I am laughing:

"A human being (or any other animal or plant) certainly inherits genes, and the future of that animal or plant is in part determined by the genes it inherits. But even in the case of plants, and still more of animals, the difference between one individual and another will also, in part, be determined by the environment in which the living organism grows. In the case of humans, as we have seen, the embryonic development of each is different, the arrangement of cells in the brain unpredictable. And since the environment of each human, the input through the senses is different, [though all are mutually dependent,] so the development of each individual is unique. Our genetic inheritance, that is to say, may provide a framework, which limits the directions within which we shall develop. But such limitations are not like tram-lines. The brain itself changes over time, and so does its reaction to its peculiar environment. Since no two people, even no two identical twins, are exactly alike in the manner in which their brains develop and react, we have no reason to suppose that, even with the most extensive and exact knowledge of the genome of each, we would be able to predict what they would do, or what they would make of their environment. And we can no more predict the changing features of their environment than we could predict what would move the individual goldfinches in our flock to flutter this way or that way."

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Ethics, p. 101.

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