Monday, 11 February 2013

"Because there is no God, then I'm not responsible... right?"


Something I think I perceive widely throughout society, and used to feel myself when an atheist - and still it comes-back at times, is that:

1. Because there is no God (who knows everything), then

2. Life is a matter of impressions, hype and spin - there is nothing deeper than the impression I make on others: and upon myself. Therefore

3. If I do anything bad, then it is not really bad if other people don't know about it, and

4. If I don't know about it then I cannot be blamed for it.


So, it apparently follows that... anything I can't remember, I can't be blamed for; anything that happened without planning I can't be blamed for; anything I do on the basis of intense 'overwhelming' emotion I can't be blamed for; anything I do unthinkingly simply because other people are doing it I can't be blamed for; anything I do that was encouraged by my upbringing, I can't be blamed for - and the same applies to anything I do in reaction against my upbringing; anything I do on the basis of those more powerful, famous, prestigious, better informed, cleverer... I can't be blamed for. And so on.


At the end of this line is a particularly nasty kind of faux-humility that denies the ability to choose; as the justification for making short-term, selfish, irrational choices.


There is no subject which generates more confusion than that of 'free will' - this ought to warn us that the whole discourse is wrongly framed.

The reality of free will, or agency, is not a matter of empirical knowledge, experience, not susceptible to scientific investigation...

That we can and do choose is simply an assumption which we must make in order to make sense.

Everything we say and do is based on this assumption - it cannot coherently be denied - nor can agency be limited in its scope. By trying to set limits to our own responsibility we simply end up talking evil nonsense. 


Once the subject of free will has been raised, often by a call to take responsibility; we find that we must (even tho' we know not how) be responsible for all our choices - starting with whether we live or die. Everything we think or do must involve agency.

But this insight immediately generates a sense of vast and intolerable weight of sin, due to the multiplicity of wicked choices we have made and will continue to make; an insight from which we are desperate to flee.

And modernity, with its inbuilt denial of the reality of God, flees into nonsense, paradox, distraction: obliteration of the insight.


To be coherent, to avoid nihilism - which is the (incoherent) denial of the reality of reality; we must therefore build our world-view around the reality of agency - free will must sit at its heart.

Responsibility is all or nothing; therefore it must be all.

Only if this is understood can we understand the nature of life, including the problem of pain and evil - that we live in a universe in which free will is primary, that this world is a place for free will, that the nature of humans is as entities with free will, that the vital course of history (and the future) - the meaning of life - is a product of free will.


We need to understand that the only coherent way to frame the problem of responsibility is directed towards an awareness of life as a field for the operation of free will.

The core, essential, real history of things (whether we know the details, or not) is the consequence of agencies. 


1 comment:

George Goerlich said...

Another excellent explanation for the fundamental necessity of a Christian philosophical framework. The reality of sin and the functional requirement of forgiveness.

Heaven and Hell too are dismissed as fantasy, but are essential and inexplicable reality expressed through a metaphor in the same framework: Do our decisions, real responsibilities, orient us towards or away from God?