Determinism is a useless concept where I am concerned

This post [richardwkc 19 Aug 2016] can be found in the comment section under the article “Once again with free will: a question for readers.”

Sure, what we are and how we behave or think is the result of our genetic make-up and/or the environment; and I think no rational person would be peevish enough to carp over that.

Last Monday at breakfast I drank tea instead of coffee, after engaging in a few seconds of deliberation as to which beverage would be a better choice. On Sunday morning it was also tea; an instant decision, then, without thinking or deliberation. Yesterday, I wore a short-sleeved checked shirt, after looking briefly at the shirts available in my wardrobe; the shirt I am wearing now is a striped-shirt; it was selected because it caught my attention; maybe because of its color of blue and green.

While determinism has no way of predicting accurately in advance what I was going to wear or drink, it holds that I had no choice, with regard to any of the activities mentioned above. Thus there was no way it could have been anything other than tea; and despite the broad range of shirts available in my wardrobe, it could not have been anything other than the short-sleeved checked shirt worn yesterday, or the blue and green striped-shirt being worn today.

Hard determinists are of course not shy in admitting that determinism is not about making a prediction in advance, even on a simple 50/50 basis; determinism is simply saying, after the fact, that what happened could not have happened otherwise. I know of some people who have assumed determinism as a useless or non-salutary concept, with no practical, beneficial impact on their lives, and I found myself agreeing with them.

Each of us is unique in some ways, thus we may not respond in equal terms or measure to the same environment to which we are all exposed, thus the same outcome may not arise despite the same environmental input. So, in a classroom of, say, 40 students taking an examination and being offered a list of ten questions but being required to answer only five, there is a chance no two students would be making exactly the same selection. But what does determinism say about the “choices” being exercised by each student? Student1 answered questions 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9; student1 had no choice; no other selection could have been possible for him/her. Student2 answered questions 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8; likewise this student could not have answered otherwise, despite the options available.

Hard determinists might as well keep their mouths shut. Is there anything valuable in stating “it could not been otherwise, for each of these students”?

All living organisms derive their input from the environment; no quibble here with determinism.

Can a human being, for instance, think – independently or without any external stimulus from the environment? We are not separate from our brain, but our brain is not a self-functioning organ, it requires a consistent supply of blood and can function only when other organs in the body are also functioning. What we see or hear or smell or touch can be said to be the sensory inputs acting on our brain [or mind]; but a person, arguably, can still think even though he/she may be blind, deaf, anosmatic etc. Hence, to hard determinists, the question is: Can a person think, without an inflow of external input via our sense organs? If the answer is Yes, then what, exactly, determine[s] the thinking?

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