I remember a kid back in secondary school saying to me that if everything was
determined - as seemed inevitable to him from his understanding of physics -
then you might as well give up and despair, since that was inevitable anyway!
I tried to explain that this was a confusion of levels between the absolute and
the relative, the same point that Bruno is making. From an absolute
perspective, we may be completely determined (or partially random, it makes no
difference essentially), from *inside* that system, our best way of acting is
*as if* free will/responsibility etc were real. Obviously, if I act as if
determinism was not a cause for despair, my life is going to look a lot better
than if I did, and seeing as the absolute determinism of things does not tell
me which way to decide the issue, I'm forced to use my relative local wisdom to
decide on the former.
John Clarke seems to be saying that the law is an ass, not because of
human-level failures of reasoning/justice etc, but because the criminal was
predestined to act the way s/he did, or behaved randomly, and in either case no
reponsibility can be assigned. But the mistake here is the same as the one made
by my high school friend. The absolute perspective has nothing useful to say
about the local/relative one. If we were to follow this philosophy, the courage
of heroes such as Nelson Mandela would be no cause for Nobel Peace Prizes, and
the acts of villains such as Anders Breivik no cause for censure, because such
of their inevitability in the absolute scheme of things.
The problem is that *not* censuring or *not* awarding prizes are also
evaluative acts, about which determinism and the absolute perspective have
nothing to say. And I believe that no-one, not even JC himself, can escape the
human perspective. When he loads derision and sarcasm on other contributors'
arguments, he is acting as if they had a choice in what they believed. There
can be no fools in the abolute perpective, as there can be no criminals.
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups
"Everything List" group.
To view this discussion on the web visit
To post to this group, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at