The Worst Tyranny


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Most forms of tyranny affect the way you live, what religious service you attend, what you do with your body, the kind of speech you have, and even affect factors in your environment so as to control as much of your life as possible; but the one thing they cannot even begin to touch is the inner life and freedom of your mind. Your thoughts are your own, and therein lies the seeds of revolt. However, determinism is the worst form of tyanny, for it denies the mind freedom. You have no choice in what you think and therefore no possibility of revolt. All is a prison, and the determinist is the worst of all prisoners; for he is the one most aware of his imprisonment and walks about with the unhappy duty of being the prison psychologist showing others the bars in their cell.

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12 thoughts on “The Worst Tyranny

  1. Your thoughts are your own, but consider the word ‘your’. You are as free to choose to go right as left at fork in the road but you will choose one because you cannot chose both. You turn… and only then can we appreciate that the choice you made only appeared to be ‘free’. If you could have chosen differently, then why didn’t you? In other words, given exactly the same situation in time and you and I exchanged every molecule in our bodies so that I was you, would I have chosen differently? Given the identical situation again, would you? There is no evidence the answer is yes and much evidence for no. This is the basis of determinism.

      1. There’s a growing body of evidence that the brain chooses long before we bring our appearance of will on the supposed choice. You can read about Dr Sharot’s UCL study, for example, with a quick Google, as well it’s verifications through the Wellcome Trust and British Academy follow-up studies. There’s a good article in Nature that explains about our ability to accurately predict choice based on compelling evidence that our brains have selected up to ten seconds prior to our decision. Wikipedia has a longish entry about neuroscience and free will that will lead you to all kinds of other research, but the pattern of discovery is all one way: we appear to have a will – and most of us strongly intuit that we do because we think we make choices – but the neuroscience seems to show that this belief is an illusion. Researcher John-Dylan Haynes sums it up nicely by asking, “How can I call a will ‘mine’ if I don’t even know when it occurred and what it has decided to do?”

    1. Tildeb said, “You are as free to choose to go right as left at fork in the road but you will choose one because you cannot choose both. You turn… and only then can we appreciate that the choice you made only appeared to be ‘free’. If you could have chosen differently, then why didn’t you? In other words, given exactly the same situation in time and you and I exchanged every molecule in our bodies so that I was you, would I have chosen differently? Given the identical situation again, would you? There is no evidence the answer is yes and much evidence for no. This is the basis of determinism.”

      You are as free to think that people should provide evidence for their claims as you are free to think some claims don’t need evidence but you will choose one because you cannot choose both. You think… and only then can we appreciate that the choice you made only appeared to be ‘free’.

      You are as free to think determinism is true as you are free to think determinism is false but you will choose one because you cannot choose both. You think… and only then can we appreciate that the choice you made only appeared to be ‘free’.

      Determinism brings the truthfulness of all your thoughts into question for you could not have thought otherwise. You had no choice to think that determinism is true or that people should provide evidence for their claims. Science has nothing to do with it. All you can say is, “What I think is due to factors outside of my control that I don’t understand.” So much for science. All scientific conclusions and theories and even scientific facts that people think are true are only thought to be true because they were predetermined to think so by factors they don’t understand. You and everybody else could not have thought otherwise. Whatever you think is true, it would be impossible for you to have thought it false. Whatever you think is false, it would be impossible for you to have thought it true.

      1. Forgive me for feeling like this is “bait” but I’ll take it. I use something to draw with and usually write it on a piece of paper. I don’t know if a perfectly straight line exists in this world, but we all try to make one as best we can.

      2. Right; like most of us, you utilize a straight edge. Of course, there are degrees of straightness but I’m trying to show that it is not unreasonable to use a straight edge to produce a straight line. But a very serious question to ask yourself is, How do you know what is straight? The notion of ‘straight’ (the principle) has various expressions of approximations in reality (the practice) that we utilize, and we utilize these approximations because they work.

        The same is true for how we come at understanding numbers, for example. We don’t need the principle in reality (an ‘objective’ 7, let’s say) to successfully use relative comparisons of quantity (greater than six but fewer than eight) in practice to produce remarkable degrees of accuracy in calculations borne out in predictive value of comparative quantities. Numbers work in reality.

        I point these examples out to try to show how useful it is to utilize relative tools – both materialistic (a relatively straight edge) as well as theoretical (a relatively useful comparison like differences in quantity) – to help us function in reality when reality arbitrates what works. The method of science, for example, has an excellent track record relative to any other epistemological approach to figuring out what works in reality. To claim we can’t use this method without first infusing it with a religious kind of faith is equivalent to saying we can’t use a straight edge without first infusing a religious kind of faith into believing some edge is straight while (conveniently) ignoring our respect for reality’s role in establishing what is straight through reliable -even if relative – usefulness.

        When we speak about determinism, we are talking about the role of our biological and neurochemical apparatuses in action… an action of making choices that precedes any meaningful notion of some other ‘will’ or some other mechanism brought to bear. You have taken this to mean we are helpless in the face of this reality. This approach misses the point: the process of making choices is not governed by some other agency than our biology and neurochemical apparatuses and we are quite capable of refining both to great effect in reality. And we can do this because we are able – even as young children – to run imaginative scenarios and test them in reality (called ‘play’). Our biology responds to this new information and builds new neural pathways to facilitate what works and specialize parts of the brain to function at ever greater levels of efficiencies. We come biologically prepared to codify reality into symbolic form and infuse it with meaning, only to then apply this increase in information back into reality and await results for verification. You do this automatically when utilizing something in reality as simple as a straight line for making a straight line. And that’s why we – as a species – are able to create a history of history, a philosophy of philosophy, a science of science, and so forth; we can do it because we have learned by interacting with our environment that it is useful to substitute what we call third person perspectives to better understand reality (for example, I know that you know that I know your name is Dan). This is an incredibly complex emergent property of our biology and neurochemistry that works so well that we continue to refine our brain over a lifetime of specialization. The brain you have today is far more specialized than it was a decade ago and the choices you make today are in large part determined by the intervening experiences that have helped to shape what you think of as your ‘will’ today. And this process continues. Just because you do not have some second but mysterious invisible agency guiding your choices does not mean you are simply and intellectual buoy on the tides of your life; you are very much an active participant able to alter your brain based not on this supposed agency but by interacting with reality in ways your biology finds both enriching and practical.

  2. I am not sure our thoughts are our own. If you followed the origin of a thought, you might find it came from someone else. For instance, how many times have I had an opinion only to realize that it was my mother’s voice/opinion I was repeating? Our thoughts do not necessarily make us who we are, but perhaps what we do with those thoughts is more significant. We can choose to accept or reject those thoughts based on other information we have received. I do not believe we are locked into a certain set of behaviors or thoughts.

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