Monday, November 28, 2011

Determinism Explained

I believe in absolute determinism.
I have my justifications - the world is composed of cause and effect and free will is an illusion created by our decision-making experience. I could lay out the entire proof but no one who believes in free will would be convinced. They never are, and there is a large sum of gratitude waiting for the first person who can tell me why. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that it has something to do with the mechanistic conception of the human mind I picked up in my high school Psychology class.
But the proof is not why I believe it. The proof is rarely why anyone believes anything. We believe things because of what they mean not rationally, but emotionally.
So here is my emotional justification for determinism.
I think those who believe in free will should be able to understand it. If it is still incomprehensible why someone would believe that there is not a special human faculty apart from causation capable of making a “free” choice, please let me know.

Years ago, before I knew why, I felt determinism to be true. Yet what I felt was not the truth of the idea, but the power. For in determinism all things are decided. All history is written - my life, all lives. And it is useless to speak of responsibility or guilt or right or wrong. There is what happened and why it happened and it could not have happened any other way.
This mantra I repeat daily because determinism was my way out of the all-consuming guilt from which I could not free myself. Luther found grace by faith, but I never understood forgiveness. Calvin found predestination, which is close but still requires a trustworthy god.
Guilt from what you may ask, I am not a murder or a rapist. But I read and I believe that he who hates his brother has murdered him in his heart. I have not done these things, but I am as bad as those that have.
But only if there is free will. If there is not, I am just the product of my causes; if those causes have made me violent or lustful I am not lesser for it. I could not have been any different. I am not imperfect if perfection was never an option.
Determinism was my escape from the despair every (ex)Protestant fights against, the despair of knowing there is nothing you can do to justify yourself.
Under the gentle tyranny of determinism I no longer have to care about the world or what goes on in it. These things had to happen and there is no use in tearing myself apart over them.
This is no idle hyperbole. I believe in determinism so that I do not tear myself apart over the imperfection of the world.

This is why I believe, ardently and completely, in determinism.
So each night when I face my failure and my weakness and am consumed by self-hatred I can calm myself and remind myself that however things went, it is the only way they could have gone and under those circumstances there was nothing I could have done differently.
Then instead of throwing myself off of an overpass or falling on my knife I can go to bed and hope that tomorrow things will be determined differently. So far they haven’t but you never know.

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