The Uncaused Event• An uncaused event is impossible to accept, if youthink about it.• It’s like asking a mechanic why your car didn’t startthis morning, and her saying: “There’s no reason.Everything is working the same, it’s just not startingnow.” – We’d presume she’d missed something.• An uncaused event = no reason, no explanation, nomechanism, no WHY or HOW.• Even a miracle has a why and a how.• Bear this in mind as we talk about the rest....
MechanicsEverything in the physical universe obeys the lawsof physicsThe universe, then, works like clockwork
Laplace’s DemonIf you could know the state, location and direction of every atomin the universe+The laws of physics (mechanics, chemistry etc.)=You could trace everything back to the big bang/map everythinguntil the end of time
Laplace’s DemonIf you could know the state, location and direction of every atomin the universe+The laws of physics (mechanics, chemistry etc.)=You could trace everything back to the big bang/map everythinguntil the end of timeThe universe is pre-programmed, set on its path by it’s starting conditions,playing itself out – no room for variation or “free choice” – life is not evena road, it’s railtrack!
Damage or surgery to the brain can alter yourpersonalityViolent criminals used to undergo frontallobotomies to make them less aggressive.Cats are neutered for similar reasons(hormones)!Phineas Gage > had an accident at work thatshot an iron rod through his skull, severelydamaging his frontal lobes. Apparently hard-working, responsible and popular before theaccident, he became childish, aggressive,impulsive and hard to control after. Hispersonality changed so much his friends saidhe was “no longer Gage”.This Richard Hammond guy recovered fully fromhis crash on Top Gear – but now likes celery.
MemoryMemory is certainly affected by brain damage, and is a huge part of ouridentity and personality.People who have severe amnesia often develop different characteristics totheir previous personalitiesAlzheimers is physical disease that eats away at the brain, and in advancedstages often appears to destroy the existing personalities of the people itaffects.
Genetics, Development andNeuroanatomyThe way your brain is structured can apparently determine if you areschizophrenic, dyslexic, autistic etc. and maybe whether you are an artisticperson or an athletic person or a scientifically minded person - possibly,even, if you are straight or gay!
DrugsDrugs chemically alter the brainand it’s processes and canhave profound effects on yourmood, experience andpersonality – whether it is astreatment for a mood/mentaldisorder or illegalnarcotics/mind-alteringhallucinogens…
• Maybe you don’t buy this idea that consciousness simply = the compositionof brain and body (I don’t – there are massive problems with it) - But evenoutside of the biology, cause and effect is at work...• Our lifestyle, beliefs, opinions, choices and responses aredetermined by:• The situations we find ourselves in, our time and place inhistory, our previous experiences, what we have learnt,habit, our upbringing, our society and culture, ourinteractions with others – the influences on our behaviourare innumerable – all we really do is respond, whether
Ways Out? #1: Chaos Theory• The “butterfly effect”• Chaos Theory does not get us out ofdeterminism – it is all about cause andeffect!• It says that some systems (like theweather) are unpredictable becausethey so complex ie. they have so manyfactors that you could never accountfor them all – and the smallest factor(like a butterfly) could, via cause andeffect, snowball to have a massiveeffect.• Important – these systems areunpredictable in practice, but not intheory – it’s all about the knock-oneffects of tiny causes.
Ways Out? #2: Mind is not part of themechanical universe• This has a long history, especially inReligious/Spiritual thinking, butultimately does not get us out ofdeterminism• Because, even if it is the case, the mindstill has to cause what the body does,and the respond to things happening inthe world – it is still in a causal systemwith the material world, so even if it’snot “physical”, the logic of cause andeffect still applies.• We just want to be the cause ofeverything, and never the effect – like a“prime mover” – but that means wewould never have a reason orexplanation for our actions!
Ways Out? #3: Randomness• Determinism says there is no such thing as true Randomness – eg. Tossinga coin.• A random event = an UNCAUSED event (no explanation, no mechanism)• There appears to be no way of proving an event was actually random –always presume you just haven’t found the mechanism• Randomness does not help Free Will anyway – we have no more controlover random events than strictly determined ones.
Quantum Mechanics• However – in the sub-atomic world, scientists have had to accept thatsome particles apparently act in a random way• Some particles just don’t act in the way they should according to standardmechanics/the laws of cause and effect – they act paradoxically• However, the way they act is still predictable – because they always act inthat paradoxical way – so we can make new laws for how certain particlesact, thought strictly NO-ONE can explain the mechanism behind it. Wejust have to accept that that’s the way it is.
Hume: Constant Conjunctions• Way back in the 18thCentury, Hume pointedout that that’s how it is with ALL cause andeffect.• We only accept that this thing causes thatthing, because that’s the way it has alwayshappened.• Like quantum mechanics, we just accept that“thing 1” responds like this when we do“thing 2” to it, because of habit – constantconjunctions of cause and effect. There is nological reason why it couldn’t act differentlynext time, except that it’d break all the“constant conjunctions” of cause and effectthat we’re used to. This is (kind of) whathappened when we came to study thequantum world.
• If we split the world into “cause” and “effect”there is always a gap that cannot be bridgedbetween the two.• In reality we cannot divide things neatly into“cause” and an “effect”, because everything isconstantly happening in a continuous chain –there are no beginnings and ends – everythingis ONE THING.
Conclusion• “Cause and effect” is our concept of howthings work. We can’t make sense of theworld without it, yet it’s a flawed idea.• “Free Will” is even more fuzzy and hard to pindown as a concept.• If there is a problem reconciling the two, it’sdown to how we concieve of these things –which shows just how inadequate our grasp of“how things ultimately are” is.