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Mary Barney

on 13 October 2017

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If freedom is consistent with necessity, what sorts of things are we no longer responsible for?
How would you reply to someone who claims that he cannot be held responsible for his actions due to causal determinism?
What sorts of things are there?
There is a necessary and sufficient physical explanation for all of my apparent "decisions" (i.e., neurons firing in my brain). To posit an additional non-physical cause, such as "free-will," for my "choices" would be to needlessly over complicate those simple events.
"Necessary and Sufficient Physical Explanations"
If we can find a sufficient physical explanation for any particular event, then that event is necessarily explained by that "physical cause." Positing another, non-physical cause would needlessly over-complicate a simple problem.
Modern Scientists talk about waves of sound and light & the "smell" of food appears to emanate from the physical nature of the food.
1. Hobbes takes an Atomistic view of the universe. He claims all that exists in the universe are atoms in motion.
"The Consciousness Objection"
If I am essentially a "thing that thinks," what we mean by that seems to be that "I am aware of the physical processes happening in my body." I know that it is me who is thinking, feeling, desiring, hoping, fearing, etc. The desires and aversions, the thinking and the feeling, may all have physical explanations, but the consciousness does not. If consciousness is not explainable by physical means alone, then we must have some non-material explanation for it!
The Materialist Response:
The Difficult Problems of Metaphysics:
Atoms & motion

Hobbes argues that "Vital" motion is clearly determined, and he does not intend to make an argument to defend that position.
Animal motion, or "endeavors" are not so clearly determined; however, Hobbes offers a strong defense of this position.
1. Can anything at all be said to exist?
2. If there are "things," can they
be said to have "properties," (color, shape, etc.) do those properties also exist?
2. There are two types of motion: "Vital" and "Animal."
3. Is there more than one "type"
of thing (substances)?
4. Do events exist? (Anniversary? Christmas?)
5. Do relations between things exist? (Cause? Friendship?)
6. Do "possible objects" exist, and if so, how?
Some Possible Answers:

1. Materialism (Hobbes &Hume)
2. Idealism (Russell, Berkeley)
3. Psycho-physical Dualism (Plato*, Descartes)
In "Leviathan" (1651)
Thomas Hobbes
A Materialist view of the
Universe, and the consequences of accepting that view in Political and Ethical concerns.
Hobbes Presents:
Materialist Claims:
1. There is only evidence of one sort of substance.
2. The only substance that exists is material substance.
3. Physical substances are subject to the laws of physics.
3. Vital motion is biological in nature, and happens without our conscious involvement.
4. "Animal" motion is the sort we refer to as "voluntary," and appears to have conscious determination; that is, it appears that we choose "animal" motions because we want to do them.
Hobbes' Argument:
1. We either desire or feel aversion to something.
2. We desire things which have physical traits that are pleasing to us, or which we have experienced in the past, and which serve to bring us physical pleasure.
3. We feel aversion toward things which have physical traits that are displeasing to us, or which we we have experienced in the past and which caused us discomfort, pain, misery or some other complaint.
4. The atoms which make up those things we feel desire or aversion toward, move into our sense receptors (waves, or some other form), and result in desire or aversion based on the facts about: scent, feel, look, sound, etc.
Hunger, thirst, listening, and the sensation of touch are all connected to physical mechanisms in the body, and our sense receptors (eyes, ears, nose, etc.) are connected physically to our brains.
1. "Liberty, or Freedom, signifieth (properly), the absence of opposition; (by opposition, I mean external impediments of motion;) and may be applied no less to irrational, and inanimate creatures, than to rational."
2. "A Freeman, is he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do what he has a will to do."
3. "Fear and liberty are consistent...all actions which men do in Commonwealths, for fear of the law, are actions, which the doers had the liberty to omit."
4. "Liberty and necessity are consistent;...the actions which men voluntarily do; which (because they proceed from their will) proceed from liberty; and yet because every act of mans will, and ever desire and inclination proceedeth from some cause, and that from another cause, which causes in a continual chain (whose first link is the hand of GOD the first of all causes) proceed from necessity."
*Plato is an Epistemological Idealist, and a substance dualist.
Question for reflection
Should we punish wrongdoers for actions beyond their control?
Q: How might a materialist respond to the "Consciousness Objection?"
If you aren't sure, consider:
Is there something "wrong with" the consciousness objection (think fallacies? With what physical evidence might a materialist respond?
Full transcript