Friday, July 24, 2015

Truth, Freedom, and Determinism

"Tell a lie, speak it loudly, repeat it often, and the majority of people will believe it." ~ Adolf Hitler

Sinister as this quote appears, deliberate lying is part of propaganda and advertisement all around. And, while people recognize much of it as false (for instance, an ad that shows women swarming on a man using a particular body spray), it is held that somehow the elevated picture one paints will have a psychologically deterministic noetic effect. But, are truth and determinism compatible? That is a vital question the answer to which will decide two things:
1. Whether humans have epistemic freedom; that is the choice to know.
2. Whether knowledge entails moral responsibility.

While some sort of psychological determinism exists, as evident from experiments in group conformity, Milgram's authority experiments, and Piaget's experiments on cognitive ability with children, the determinism of psychology argues in support of uniformity of experience and not diversities of truth. That is to say, that the psychological experiments may be repeated to bring forth the same results each time, to verify the theory; however, if someone says that each human is wired separately to believe in contradictory things as true (for instance, one's conviction of pantheism versus another's conviction of Trinitarianism; or one's conviction of determinism versus another's conviction of non-determinism), then we face a different kind of problem.

To say, for instance, that one is wired to see one thing as truth and another is wired to see its contradictory position as truth is to make a statement that denies the existence of freedom in matters of truth; this means that the person making the statement has no epistemic freedom; but, if he doesn't have epistemic freedom, then he is either the one who is deceived or is not, though both believe that the other is the deceived one; how will, then, he know whether he is the one who is deceived or the other is the one who is deceived in reality? This disqualifies him from making any statement regarding truth; for in order for one to make a statement regarding truth, one must posit freedom as an essential attribute of truth. Therefore, the one who asserts that people are not wired to believe contradictory things, but choose to believe have the upper hand. This latter position makes the volitional epistemic event also a moral one.

Secondly, to say that one is wired to see one thing as truth and another is wired to see its contradictory position as truth, if this means the jettisoning of truth as absolute category, would plurify and relativize truth; however, if truth is relative, one cannot make a universal or absolute statement of truth, like "one is wired to see one thing as truth and another is wired to see its contradictory position as truth." This position is self-contradictory and self-defeating. Again, the asserter of freedom gains the upper hand.

Thirdly, to say that one is wired to see one thing as truth and another is wired to see the same as truth as well, but wired to willfully reject the truth, is to imply, firstly, that freedom is subjective and ultimately illusory; secondly, that knowledge is passive; thirdly, that knowledge is subject to causality and, therefore, is necessarily driven (in other words, it is impossible for anyone to have wrong opinions); however, this contradicts experience, for if freedom were illusory then responsibility would be illusory as well, if knowledge were passive, then all minds would see things equally unless fashioned dissimilarly, if knowledge is necessarily driven then people can't have false opinions, but experience proves the contradictory (even determinists believe that people have false opinions); therefore, the wired-theory is false.

Therefore, it is evident that for truth to be absolute, freedom must be a necessary property of it; and, since humans have freedom of will, they have epistemic and moral responsibility towards truth.

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