Sunday, May 11, 2008


My dad was a philosophy major in college. When I was a kid, we used to have lengthy discussions about free will versus determinism. For a long time I considered myself an existentialist…I surmised that we are condemned to be free, that we are each individually responsible for every detail of the unfolding of our lives. But as I got older, more and more seemed inherently out of my control. I began to sense that free will and determinism must be operating simultaneously, but my father insisted that you can’t have intermittent free will…it’s either all clockwork or all chaos, but not a little of each.

Then I learned about quantum physics, and about how the particles of everything around us are ultimately made up of mostly empty space held together by mysterious forces…forces that do not abide by the physical laws that govern large things. For all intents and purposes, quantum physics and classical physics cannot coexist…and yet they do. In fact, physicists are working around the clock to come up with a “grand unification theory”, a way to reconcile them.

To me, the free will/determinism dilemma is identical: determinism = classical physics, things abiding by predictable laws, and free will = renegade waves and particles appearing in two places at once, having non-local relationships, and otherwise working behind the scenes to make our reality appear to be made of something solid.

For me, “CHOOSE DETERMINISM” is a sort of grand unification theory for philosophy. Maybe we can have a little of both. Maybe we have no choice…

The "philosoprop" I have developed to demonstrate these principles is a pair of dice that have three dots embossed on all sides. The roller has the sensation of free will, but the number will always come up on two 3's. There's also an accompanying small propaganda-style booklet/questionnaire entitled "Are You a DETERMINIST? YOU DECIDE!"

Please contact me for details if you'd like a set (booklet + 2 dice) of your own.

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