The Mental is Physical!

I’ve been thinking a bit on some of the issues modern science raises in regards to free will. One issue, a big one, can be described as follows: Science, particularly neuroscience, has shown that all of our mental processes – thoughts, emotions, decisions, the willing of actions – have physical correlates in the brain. So, if I think about my dog, or my job, or my upcoming date with Scarlett Johansson, electricity shoots down nerve pathways in my brain and chemicals leap across brain synapses. Without these activities happening at a molecular level, I would have no mental life. Therefore, the mental is physical.

However, as Isaac Newton showed, the physical world operates according to set laws. Various forces in the physical world (gravity, magnetism etc.) act upon objects, be they mountains or atoms. There is no random chance in the physical world because it is subservient to these aforementioned, immutable laws. As a result, any activity in the universe is preordained, part of an infinitely complex game of billiards kicked off at the dawn of time.

However, if our mental lives are the result of physical activities then our mental lives – our thoughts and decisions – are also dictated by Newton’s observed laws. And if the activities of our brain are simply a part of the great billiard game in the universe then they are also preordained and as a result we have no free will.

Of course, Quantum Physics disputes the Newtonian Universe and does postulate the existence of randomness in the universe. Maybe that randomness allows for free will on the part of man? Maybe, but it seems more likely to me that seemingly random actions in the Quantum Physics realm are merely caused by non-random events we simply can’t see or understand with our meager science tools.

What then are the ramifications of an ordered universe with no free will? Let’s say you came home and found me boning your sister. You would become enraged and would attempt to assault me as I leapt, pants-less, across your living room. I would say, “Dude, I understand you’re pissed because I’m boning your sister but you have to understand that the decision was not mine to make. It was ordained eons ago when the universe was born and steaming hot projections of matter were sent shooting outward into a space that had not existed just moments before. As the second hand of the cosmic clock first ticked it was inevitable I would eventually bone your sister.”

You would doubtless become calm realizing the irrefutable logic of my argument.

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