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Philosophy of Determinism

For centuries, there has been a hugely important philosophical debate going on, and in the minds of many it is still unresolved today. It is the debate of determinism versus free will. As an introduction, let’s define those terms so you know what I’m talking about.

Free Will = The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; The ability  to have freely chosen differently than you did at any moment, regardless of your beliefs.

Determinism = The idea that for every event there first existed conditions which could have caused no other event; The future can only unfold the one way it is going to go due to everything that plays a role in how it goes that way.

On one side, we have those arguing that universe operates via cause and effect. This means that for every event that takes place, there was a string of prior events which caused that event to take place, and made it inevitable. The reason people believe the world is governed by cause and effect is that when observing the unfolding of activity around us, we have learnt there are certain relationships between events. For example, it’s quite clear that if I stick my hand on a hot metal plate, I will get a burn. And so the whole of scientific enquiry was born out of trying to understanding these relationships better, which is to understand why and how something takes place. We try to find the reason or explanation for how something came into existence, because we acknowledge there is always a process of cause and effect which led to it’s creation.

So, why is there a debate? Why do people disagree with this view? Well, the thing is, if nothing can happen without something having caused it, then every thing that will ever happen in the future is already determined and set in motion. And this idea is completely incompatitable with the very popular and beloved concept of “free will”. The only reason to doubt that cause and effect reigns supreme lies with this notion that humans have free choice.  And thankfully, this concept is oh so testable. But in this article, I want to argue a case for determinism in a completely different way, without even resorting to the standard cause and effect argument. I want to answer this question: Is it possible for life to unfold any other way than it is going to?

As I said, we don’t even need to consider the concept of causality to answer this – it is a completely different topic altogether. Let’s instead consider the word possible. When we say something is possible, what do we mean? Well, for something to be possible, really means that we believe it could or can occur in reality. If it’s possible to catch a fish it means hey,  we think people can/could do that in reality. So then, the question “is it possible for life to unfold any other way than it’s going to?” really means “can the events in reality unfold in a way that is different to the way the events in reality unfold?”  Wow, what a confusing contradiction! I think that has answered the question! But let’s continue:

Did the past unfold differently to the way that the past did unfold?

Is the present unfolding differently to the way the present is unfolding?

Can the future unfold differently to the way the future will unfold?

Well to say things like “this event could be different right now” or “that past event could have been different” or “that event in the future could go differently to how it’s going to (it’s not fixed)” is quite ridiculous if you ask me. You are really stating that something is possible, not realising that the only way to measure whether something is possible or not is to see whether it occurs in reality or not. If an event does not occur at a given time, it was obviously never a possibility for that event to occur at that time. The concept of uncertainty and chance only exists within our own minds. Because we do not know what will happen next, it feels like anything could happen. But in reality, the only things that can happen are the things that do end up happening. To say that the events could have gone differently than they did is really saying that you believe your own imagination is a better measure of what is possible than reality itself is. It’s like saying you know more about reality than the universe itself does! Where does this line of thinking lead? Well, let’s say you come across another person, and they say to you in no joking manner “I am a dragon, and you are stealing my dragon eggs. I must burn you with my fiery breath!” Then they proceed to blow on you. What would you think? Well you would most likely think they are a bit crazy, since you know the things they are saying are not possible. How do you know they are not possible? Because the event of being burnt by fiery dragon breath did not occur in reality at that time (or anytime obviously). But if you were to instead adopt the line of thinking where reality does not determine what represents a possibility, you would have no choice but to admit that the dragon man could indeed be correct, because you would be measuring a possibility only by your imagination. Of course we can imagine and predict what the possibilities are for the future, but we won’t know for sure until it arrives!! When we are dealing with the subject of possibilities we are really dealing with the subject of “probability”. We are assessing the likelihood or “chances” something has of actually occurring in reality. But once something has actually occurred in reality, such measures are useless because it is a fact that the event always had a 100% chance of coming about.

It is the same with saying any event could have been different to how it was at a given time. If it could have unfolded differently, why the hell didn’t it? If there is a large range of possible options that the future may take, why does only one set of outcomes only ever come into existence at a given time? Let’s do another example. Say you have two young brothers at home, playing video games. The younger brother says the older  “I think I’m gonna win this time!!!”. The older says “nope not possible”. So both brothers are making predictions about a certain point in time, in the future, when the game they are playing has finished. They both think they have a good idea about what is possible at that moment. But, when the time comes, and the game finishes, only one of the brothers will be correct. So, let’s say the game finishes and the younger brother wins. He was correct, and he now has a definitive answer on what could, and could not, occur in that moment in time!! This is why predictions are called predictions and not facts, because they must pass the test of reality first!

So, to answer the question, no it is not possible for life to unfold any other way than it going to! We live in a completely deterministic world, and this is such an awesome thing! We live in a world where everything that happens was meant to happen!


Can We Miss Out? Is death an example of missing out?

The If you are good, you will get foundation philosophy which society lives by teaches us that unless we can prove our worth, we will miss out on our requirements for development and survival. This is really just another way of saying we will DIE.  Missing out equals death to the subconcious mind, because most people believe death is a case of missing out. In society, we are often taught that death is inherently bad, and always to be feared. Of course, death is a very real thing, and one of the only guarantees in life. But is death really an example of missing out? Is it actually possible to miss out on your requirements for development and survival?

Well let’s start with survival. Your requirements for survival include everything your physical body needs in order stay alive long enough to receive the development (life experiences) you were meant to* receive. Everyone who is alive is obviously receiving these requirements or they would not be alive. Everyone who is dead has already received these requirements. They now either no longer exist and so there is no-one there who can be missing out, or you could say that the components they are made of have moved on and are performing work elsewhere, and so they live on in a sense. If you believe in some form of afterlife, this is still not a case of missing out. The only view of afterlife which includes missing out is the idea of being eternally punished in hell, and this is obviously an incorrect concept which has evolved out the notion of free will and the if you are good, you will get philosophy.  So no one ever misses out on their requirements for survival and existence. But what about development? Well that all depends on which model you are using to measure the success and progress of your life. If you believe that development is measured by the accomplishment of desired outcomes, then you will most definitely have many times when it feels like you are missing out on what you need. On the other hand, if you understand that development is correctly measured by the gaining of wisdom – an accurate account of reality, and that every experience you ever go through facilitates this development, then you will understand that no, it is impossible for anyone to ever miss out on the requirements for their development or survival! This certainly does not mean you will ever live up to the superhuman feat of never getting lost amonst incorrect thoughts and experiencing the fear these thoughts cause. It happens to everyone – to be human means to be in a process of growth.

But of course, people most definitely die. So if death is not a case of missing out on our needs for survival and development, what on earth is it? Well, it is simple. Death is change. Nothing more. Death is simply a process of change. And this process of change is how the world works, so to call it “bad” is not very wise. They say the earth and ourselves were born from the ashes of dead stars. I think this is a good metaphor to explain that death and birth are just two sides of the same coin.

Of course it is completely human and to be expected that the death of a loved one would bring on some form of grief. And of course since every person is performing a valuable role, it makes sense to try and preserve life. But in order to help someone who is suffering after the death of a loved one,  I think Byron Katie has the best advice: Thank the person for dying right on time.

*By “meant to” I mean that a person’s life unfolds the only way that it can given everything involved in the process which causes it to go that way.  They receive the only life span possible.

The Demands Of Life

Life. It can be hard sometimes. It can be demanding. People are always expecting things of you. Expecting you to do things and make particular decisions. Sometimes it can feel like it’s just all too much – you can’t seem to cope with it all or come up with answers on what decisions to make.

But a little clarity in what life is actually demanding of you can go a long way to helping you to feel better about your day. You see, life never demands anything of you that you will not accomplish. Life is governed by action and reaction, and as such whatever it demands of you, it will cause you to do. Whatever you end up doing, or whatever decision you end up making, that WILL be the decision you were always going to make due to all the causal factors involved in your decision making process. And so there is no reason to ever think you are not living up to the demands of life.

Of course, few people understand that in society, and so your mind will often end up thinking it really can make a decision that life did not demand or govern via cause and effect. Your mind will often get confused and think it is completely in control of itself, completely separate from the causal chain. It will often imagine itself not as a biological and spiritual process unfolding through time, but as a static personality, a being with a distinct and unchanging set of characteristics. This special entity known as “you” is thought to have a supernatural power over the universe in order to choose it’s own thoughts, choose it’s own actions and choose it’s own destiny: Your mind often thinks it sits at the helm of it’s own existence.

So what can we do to give it a reality check? Because that’s what is needed in order to feel ok about being subjected to all that life offers up. Well we can try to understand that our mind is like a computer, constantly ticking away, processing information, working at problems. We can imagine all the neurons in the brain like a circuit board, and every time a thought pops up in the mind it’s like electricity is flowing down a specific part of that circuit. A computer is never in control of it’s own actions – it has to be programmed, just like all humans are programmed by genetic and environmental factors.

So next time you feel stressed think about that picture of the mind at work, and you might find you take your responses less personally. When someone asks a difficult question, instead of thinking “oh god what am I going to choose say?”, you might simply wonder “Hmm I wonder what it will come up with to say, that’ll be interesting”. When someone expects something of you that you are not able to fulfil, instead of thinking “Oh I should’ve been able to do that, I’m a terrible person”, you might think “I wonder why my mind didn’t prioritise that, that’s interesting”. When you are confronted with a difficult decision, instead of getting stressed over “which should I pick?”, you can ask your mind “I wonder what it will pick”. Because it WILL pick something automatically at every second to be the focus of your attention. And where your attention goes, and what decision you end up making is really ultimately  NOT UP TO YOU. The concept of “personal responsibility” is not a lesson in wisdom. But, you will find that those who are up to the level of development where they understand this, are also those who tend to behave in a way you might consider “responsible”. Meaning they will not be the ones out there trying to hurt or belittle other people, because they understand the people they meet are acting the the only way they can given their current belief system, and they also understand they were always meant to be running into such people, and they are incredibly valuable.

So then, understand you are governed! Take peace in the fact that everything you do is precisely the thing that life demanded you to do! Thoughts do not pop into your head because you picked them, they pop into your head because life demanded you think them! Take them as instructions and go about your day with peace of mind!

Society’s Foundation Philosophy: IF YOU ARE GOOD, YOU WILL GET! Pt. 1

When investigating the cause of psychological stress in society, we are trying to find which beliefs are behind it, not which life events. We are trying to find what beliefs all people with psychological stress (and mental illness) have in common with each other.

If you look into this, you find that society has a foundation philosophy which is so ingrained that most people are unaware they live by it.  It can be called the “If you are good, you will get philosophy. What does it mean? It means “If you do what we want you to do, we will give you what you need to grow and survive”. Our mind is subjected to this philosophy everyday.

For example:

  • At home: “If you’re good, you’ll get a treat”;
  • At school/university:  “If you’re good, you’ll get a pass or a prize”;
  • At work: “If you’re good, you’ll get a promotion”;
  • In relationships: “If you’re good, you’ll win their affection”
  • In religion: “If you’re good, you’ll go to heaven”.

This philosophy might not sound too scary at first, but what does it really mean to the subconscious mind? Well, it means that YOU CAN MISS OUT on your needs. In order to not miss out, you must first gain the approval/love of whoever or whatever is supposed to give you your requirements for development. To gain approval, you must prove you are a worthwhile investment (valuable) by displaying that you have something to offer. To have something to offer, you must get out there and achieve something with your life, and make it unfold in a way which is seen to offer value. This is the chain of thought which is set up by the “If you are good, you will get” foundation philosophy:

Summary of Relating to Life program. -3

So it really means that you have to live up to a particular standard in order to prove you are worthy of continuing to develop and survive. When the chain of thought is reversed, we can see what causes people to be so scared. It is a FEAR OF MISSING OUT:

Summary of Relating to Life program. -2

It is this fear of missing out which is causing people to be so stressed out, because to the subconscious, missing out equals death! No wonder so many people are running around feeling that they must live up to certain expectations! A person’s mind affected by high levels of stress is subconsciously wired to believe that certain outcomes MUST be brought into existence before they can feel they have done well, and can consider their life to be a success. This criteria for how people believe their life must unfold can be thought of as their “achievement box”. As people grow up, due to the many influences upon them, people become convinced about what represents a successful life. Whatever criteria that entails, it will be place in their achievement box, and they will believe the success and value of their life is connected to creating that existence. Subconsciously, they will believe death is connected to failing to create it.Summary of Relating to Life program. -4

Here’s a few examples of what people can place in their achievement box:

“As long as I get married, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I’m a good parent, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I’m a sports star, I’ve done well”.

“As long as I can travel the world, I’ve done done well.”

“As long as I have a successful career, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I reach my full potential, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I can keep everyone happy, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I can devote my life to helping others, I’ve done well.”

“As long as I make it to heaven, I’ve done well.”

What do you think you have in your achievement box?

Commonality and Individuality

It seems today that people are often in search of self-understanding, an understanding of  “who they are”. In my veiw, what is generally meant by the question “who are you?” is this: What is it that defines the difference between you and other people? What do you have that no one else has? What makes you unique?

In other words, they are really in search of an understanding of their individuality.  In fact, society today is obsessed with the concept of individuality. Emphasis is always placed on being “original” and not copying other people. People are taught they have to put their own unique stamp on the world, and being overly influenced by other people is often frowned upon. It is interesting to note that none of the ideas I talk about on this blog are original – they all come from being influenced by other people. Does that make them less valid?

On top of this, we have many people claiming that even reality itself must be different for each individual. They say things like “create your own reality” and “find your own truths”. When noticing that different people can assess the same event via different beliefs, some people take this to mean reality does not exist at all! Many counsellors will also maintain that they will treat you as an individual rather than looking at what you have in common with others, and that you really must find your own unique answers to your problems as their are no common answers which might apply.

So then, if a person wishes to try and live by all these philosophies and really find their individuality, where would they begin such a search? Well the answer is that in order to find that which sets you apart from everyone else, you must first study what everyone has in common. How the hell can you claim to know what makes you different from others if you don’t even check to find out what other people have? What you think represents who you are” might well be something other people also share.

It is only through an understanding of commonality that individuality can be recognised. So instead of embarking on an impossible search to find “who you are”, it might make more sense to instead search for “what do people have in common?” This might sound a bit vague. So let’s look at it in a few different contexts.

First let’s say we have a therapist who is trying to help people with their mental heath. The therapist is currently focusing on what is unique among his patients, and treats them all as a case not related to the others. But unbeknown to him, there are specific beliefs which each person with the same psychological issues have in common with each other, and all these patients would require the same treatment to recover from those issues. In order to discover this, the therapist would need to start comparing his patients and looking for common factors.

Another example is the subject of “life purpose”.  Whenever I hear someone talking about finding their purpose in life, they almost always assume that purpose is different for everyone. Instead of looking for the common purpose of life, they instead get lost trying to fabricate their own unique purpose. Often this “purpose” is actually more a set of “goals”.

In reference to the idea that reality is different for everyone, you could try lining up thousands of people up in front of a truck, and ask them what they see. The fact they they would likely all come back with the word “truck” or an equivalent, indicates that there is something between all their individual experiences that they share in common – that is the experience of seeing a truck. This common shared experience is that of reality and there is only one!  If everyone created their own reality communication between people would be impossible – there would be no common ground to start from.

Lastly, we can look to the human body for an example of commonality and individuality. If you look at every human body you will find a lot of commonality – most people have the same organs and their body largely operates in the same way. This was discovered from years of comparing people’s physiology – looking for commonality in how the system works. How silly would it be to ask “oh my lungs allow me to breathe, but what do yours do?”.  Hmmm. But of course after such commonality is noted, you can then identify certain people who’s physiology might have difference. One persons lungs may have an infection, or cancer. So there may be some people who say “well my lungs aren’t working too well!”.

So, every person has both things which are common to all and things which are more unique. But ignoring the commonality in favour of individuality, as society often does, cannot be the best way to unravel truth.

Who’s to say what beliefs are correct or not?

Ever noticed how many quotes by famous, so called “successful”  people you see floating around on the internet? It’s quite interesting to ponder the reasons why it is seen  as important to include the name of the person who said the quote. Generally they are quotes by people who are renowned for something – obviously people think including the quote will add weight to whatever point they are trying to make. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with quoting someone, but the question I want to answer in this post is “do we need to know who said something to determine if it is correct or not?

For an example, let’s use Einstein. You won’t have to look far before you find someone quoting something Einstein said. It’s almost as though people think that “well if Einstein said it – it has to be true!”. But there are other people out there who think a bit differently.  Instead of giving emphasis to Einsteins name, these people give emphasis to what was actually said, and whether the statements make sense or not. Granted – Einstein was a smart man, but no scientist would believe something was true simply because he said it. Would it still ring true if a stranger on the street said it? Someone with no reputation? What about a five-year old child?  That is the real test.

History is littered with examples of people believing so strongly in things simply because the guru or hero they like and follow has stated such things to be fact. Many religions have involved prophets who’s words cannot be questioned. And of course we have many experts in different areas giving us their opinions, and we often validate their “appeal from authority”. The problem is, the person who said something does not have any relevance when trying to determine if their words are accurate or not. If a five year old child came up with an equation which disproved Einstein’s words, science would be forced to accept it, as the only thing which really needs to be considered is the reasoning on WHY something is claimed to be true. And following that, the reasoning on why that ‘why’ is correct, and so on.

Here’s a quote from Carl Sagan:

One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.[2]

The question is, did including Carl Sagan’s name really add any weight to my argument? Surely the reasoning behind the argument is much more important.

There will always be some situations where we are forced to take other people’s words for things, often due to not having the time or resources to understand the topic yourself. If I was boarding a plane I certainly would want to make sure the pilot was an expert, and would place my life in his/her hands. And, I am not saying we should be disregarding what people who have clearly spent a great deal of time learning about a particular subject have to say. It is obviously not possible for one person to hold the sum of all human knowledge. I am simply saying that it will be their explanation of such a topic which will define their view as being accurate, not their claim to be an expert on the topic. 

Because when it comes to philosophy, and the big picture of life and what it’s all about (we can define this subset of knowledge as “wisdom”), being an “expert” really holds no weight. If you attend a course on philosophy, all they will tell you is who said what, when and where. Wouldn’t it be more important to ask which philosophies are more accurate? I have seen countless people of renown all get it completely wrong when it comes to explaining an accurate account of reality. This may seem like a bold statement, but it is one which can and will be fully explained on this blog. And you don’t even need to know my name!

Who’s to say what beliefs are correct?  It does not matter. The beliefs themselves and the layers of reasoning they are constructed of will tell you all you need to know.