Monday, June 18, 2007

Beyond a reasonable doubt.

It irks me at times when someone asks me why on earth I did ‘it’. Somehow, that question seems to belong in a lapsed lawyer’s lexicon. Or, maybe, in a Pandora’s box overseen by a proto- philosopher. When I look back at most of my past actions, I detect a total lack of sense or logic. I’m astonished at how random life happens to be. ‘Rational behaviour’ used to be once upon a time an obligatory assumption in Classical Economics. Rational self-interest, I’m afraid, has been a behavioural trait totally alien to my way of living and working. It has been so even before I came to know the pejorative view of it taken by such luminaries as Thorstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes and Herbert Simon. Then there’s Albert Einstein declaring his credo in a 1932 speech to the German League for Human Rights: “I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper." All this probably drives me towards a modern compatibilistic view such as Daniel Dennet’s. His argument goes as follows. “... if one excludes God, an infinitely powerful demon, and other such possibilities, then because of chaos and quantum randomness, the future is ill-defined for all finite beings. The only well-defined things are ‘expectations’. The ability to do ‘otherwise’ only makes sense when dealing with these expectations, and not with some unknown and unknowable future. Since individuals have the ability to act differently from what anyone expects, free will can exist." Personal experience precludes the inclusion of ‘free will’ in my schema, though. There's nothing beyond a reasonable doubt, so far.

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