…is the root of all evil, as the otherwise quite astute Z Man demonstrates as he fails to see the epistemological corner his penchant for biological determinism paints him into.
Part of what drives the persistence of bad ideas is they seem to address a need among modern people to believe in free will. As the human sciences build the case that we are the product of our genetic coding, the need to believe we can overcome that by force of will becomes stronger.
The once-formidable atheist crowd has reduced itself to a laughingstock due in no small part to incoherent credal statements like the above. They stumble right out of the gate by playing the same dishonest word games with free will that Lefties play with marriage and choice.
In fact, the entire free will debate springs from a semantic error. Almost everyone on both sides, even “reactionary” biological determininsts, a priori accept the Modernist conceptions of will and freedom. They never contend with free will as it was understood for centuries by the greatest foundational thinkers of the West.
By will, the determinists mean a mental faculty independent of the intellect. By free, they mean wholly unrestricted. At this point it should be clear they’re attacking a straw man, but I’ll explain further for the benefit of those who attended public schools.
Pre-Moderns understood the will as inextricably bound to the intellect. One might even describe the will as a state of the intellect; specifically, the intellect lacking perfect knowledge. The will is the intellect’s drive to acquire the true knowledge it needs to operate. Just as the appetite moves the body toward the material goods it needs for nourishment, the will moves the mind toward intellectual goods. The will is the intellect’s appetite–no more, no less.
Another key idea that gets lost in the shuffle is that knowledge implies truth. The idea of “knowing” an untruth is inherently absurd. That’s why people who claim to “know” the Earth is flat are justly considered risible. The takeaway is that when the intellect has grasped some piece of true knowledge, the will can’t dissent. It becomes determined in regard to that particular item of knowledge.
“But I can change my mind!” I hear the fedora-tippers whine. “What if I clearly see four lights, but a torturer coerces me into believing there are five?”
- The objection begs the question by assuming the Modernist concept of free will and preemptively dismissing the Classical conception, viz. the will as an intellective appetite that seeks truth.
- This objection actually reinforces the Anti-Modern’s point. If you’ve been coerced, you’re saying there are five lights against your will.
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