Love of Theory…

Shrek Pepe Style

…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?”

  1. 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.
  2. This objection actually reinforces the Anti-Modern’s point. If you’ve been coerced, you’re saying there are five lights against your will.
Of course one can change one’s mind on a subject. By definition, that only happens when the will is undetermined, and only truth can determine the will. When you discard an idea you’d previously held, it’s because you’ve received new information refuting the old idea as untrue. If you still entertain doubts, I invite you to state one untruth you willingly hold as true in the comments.
To recap, the will is an intellectual appetite that moves the mind toward knowledge it lacks until it learns the truth of the matter. At that point, the will is determined and cannot dissent. Thus, the Classical meaning of free will is undetermined will; not the utterly sovereign capacity to think and do whatever I want. The latter interpretation is a pure Modernist conceit.
By starting from the Modernist misconception of perfect free will, the biological determinists not only fail to refute the Classical understanding of limited free will, they never even manage to address it.
“But what about all the scientific studies that prove our actions are genetically predetermined?” asks the guy who fucking loves science. To which I answer: You mean actions like running scientific studies?
Statistician William M. Briggs coined the phrase “Love of theory is the root of all evil.” He and his readers came up with another useful term: scidolatry. A prime example is the unprincipled exception material determinists grant to scientists who conduct studies that would otherwise rule out scientists’ ability to conduct accurate studies. Unless scientists are superbeings who, unlike the human meat puppet masses, somehow do possess a non-material intellective faculty for seeking truth, their decisions to run experiments, and the way they run those experiments, are wholly controlled by the blind dictates of their genes. Without undetermined will, there’s no guarantee the empirical sciences produce results that correspond to reality at all.
“But that’s why they’re empirical sciences. We can tell with our senses that the results conform to reality.”
Not without an undetermined faculty that moves the intellect toward true sensory data, we can’t.
That’s the intractable problem the material determinists will never be able to get around: You can’t deny free will without doing away with the intellect. The only way you can legitimately claim that human will is completely predetermined is if you also claim that everybody knows everything.
Proving once again that material determinism is silly and irrelevant.

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