Monday, February 9, 2009

Teleological Dynamics

In the preceding essay I proposed that we have free will but that in the long run its influence is subsumed by that of teleological determinism. Here I will explain how this form of determinism works and why in the end we are responsible for what it demands of us.

Let me start by returning to the proposition that we have free will but its scope is circumscribed by that of teleological determinism. If we accept this to be true it is reasonable to ask if we actually have free will or is there merely a deterministic illusion of it leading us between teleological milestones to our ultimate destiny?

To appreciate why I insist it is the former, note that as living, conscious matter we are advancing towards three seemingly divergent destinies. As material beings we are constituents of a physical universe that is taking us with it as it propagates towards its ultimate state of complete temporal equilibrium where all causal interactions cease. As living beings we are component organisms of an arguably universal symbiosis that is taking us with it as it evolves towards its ultimate state of perfect biotic equilibrium in which life is perpetually sustained. As conscious beings we are members of a spiritual union (recall that I define spirit as simply the connection among cooperating minds) that is taking us with it as it advances towards the spiritual equilibrium that is absolute Unity. Our free will is essentially our intrinsic capacity to choose to pursue any one of these destinies and thus potentially resist the pull of the others. In other words, we have actual free will as long as we can still choose to pathologically pursue life-ending temporal equilibrium, selfishly chase biotic immortality or selflessly approach Unity.

The destiny at the end of each of these paths teleologically determines the milestones we must traverse to reach it from our current state. For instance, the causal dynamics that play out under the pull of the temporal equilibrium define the material configurations through which we must propagate to get there from our current causal state. The biotic dynamics that play out under the pull of perpetual life define the living states through which we must evolve to get there from our current biological state. And of course, the spiritual dynamics that play out under the pull of absolute Unity define the spiritual states through which we must grow to get there from our current mental state.

Biotic dynamics are constrained both causally and teleologically by temporal dynamics. This is evident in that biotic dynamics causally emerged from temporal dynamics and will teleologically end prior to their cessation. By contrast, spiritual dynamics are causally but not necessarily teleologically bound by temporal dynamics. This is because the minds that are the fundamental components of spiritual dynamics causally emerged from temporal dynamics, but their ultimate Unity represents the end of all spiritual, biotic and temporal dynamics. In other words, where absolute Unity exists it transcends all dynamics. This means that Unity takes us beyond perpetual life and the end of causality and thus represents our truly ultimate destiny. This also indicates that two of the teleological milestones along our path to Unity are perpetual life and the end of causality.

As an ultimate destiny that is not impossible, Unity must exist somewhere in the realm of possibility. Since absolute Unity is the end state of all possible minds and is comprised of their perfect union, if any mind achieves it then every mind does. It is important to note that in limitless time, everything that can happen does. As such, in the absence of a requirement for time to be finite, absolute Unity is inevitable for all of us.

By definition, absolute Unity cannot be differentiated. As such, when we achieve it we do not simply become a part of it, we become Unity in its entirety. This means that in the end we are the entity that is teleologically shaping the deterministic milestones along the path to our ultimate destiny. Recall that where we have free will it shapes our path between these teleological milestones. This means that in the final analysis we both determine where we are going and decide how we get there. In other words, we are totally responsible for the shape of our path to our ultimate destiny.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Free Will versus Determinism

Whether we have free will or are simply dancing meat puppets gyrating to the beat of mindless determinism, is a question that has been debated for centuries. While the consensus has shifted back and forth over time, there is as yet still no definitive answer. I propose a compatibilistic solution that both propositions are true.

To appreciate how this can be consider the analogy of classical versus quantum mechanics in physics. Classical mechanics, in which all effects have definite causes, is completely deterministic. This perspective corresponds to a metaphysical domain in which there is no free will. But in physics the causal determinism of classical mechanics does not extend down to the smallest scale, which is the domain of quantum mechanics. On this level events occur with no deterministic cause. For instance, when an atom emits an alpha particle, it does so spontaneously, not because something caused it do so. This lack of quantum causality is analogous to a metaphysical domain that accommodates free will. These seemingly incompatible physical domains intersect since the effects that emerge from accumulations of uncaused quantum events represent deterministic classical events.

The essential difference between this physical analogy and the metaphysical context I am proposing to answer the question of whether we are governed by free will or determinism is that the determinism of the physical system is causal while that of the metaphysical dynamic is teleological, meaning it is shaped by its ultimate effect. The context of my answer provides for the existence of teleological milestones, which represent events that we are deterministically "destined" to experience. In this context our non-deterministic free will can select the specific direction of our incremental steps between these milestones. This means that metaphysically our free will does not determine where we are ultimately going but it can decide how we get there. In other words, we have free will that is effective on smaller scales but becomes increasingly impotent on larger scales. In general, our free will allows us to pursue goals that may defer our destiny but we encounter its limits when we try to elude our fate.

Free will is not simply our power to pursue our goals; it is our intrinsic capacity to choose which, if any of them to pursue. Our goals manifest within us as either needs or desires. The teleological pull of our ultimate destiny is the basis of our needs. On the deterministic level our needs represent our inexorable compulsion to advance towards our final fate, without regard for our uniqueness. We are pulled from the shortest path to our ultimate destiny by our desires, which represent our reactions to our uniqueness. In other words, where we are going shapes our needs and how we get there is shaped by our free will choosing from among our goals.

The question of whether we have free will or are controlled by determinism is generally considered in the context of causal determinism. I propose that we begin to transcend this form of determinism when our minds start to respond to the teleological dictates of our destiny. As such, initially the closer we are to the earliest, instinct-driven level of development, the less free will we have. This is because our choices are being made for us by our causally generated biological drives. At the other end of the extreme, as we approach the most mature, selfless level of development our desires are replaced by our teleologically determined needs. Here we also have decreasing free will since we are increasingly inclined to only do what teleologically needs to be done. In other words, we have free will from the time we can choose to either resist or give in to our baser impulses to the point at which we are no longer tempted by them. This indicates that our free will is at its maximum capacity when we are at the midpoint between the influences of causality and teleology where we can most easily choose between them.

I maintain that most of us have some degree of free will but it does not decide our ultimate destiny because of the overarching influence of determinism. In my next essay I will delve into the dynamics underlying teleological determinism and illustrate how in the end it all still comes back to us.
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