causality and will

Lyle Burkhead (
Mon, 03 Feb 1997 02:46:31 -0500 (EST)

As long as macroscopic events are the result of atomic motions,
it doesn't matter whether atomic motions are deterministic or not.
(a) Suppose they are: each atom follows a path prescribed for it by a
differential equation, and the result of all such motions is the world
we experience.
(b) Suppose they are not: atoms (sometimes) move discontinuously
and unpredictably, and the result of all such motions is the world
we experience.
It amounts to the same thing either way. Our lives are the result of
atomic motions of some kind, whether those motions are continuous
or not.

In other words, introducing randomness doesn't really change the
situation. Atoms still do whatever they do, independently of us.
They lead, we follow. The only way to avoid this conclusion is
to go to the root of the problem, and get rid of the assumption that
the macroscopic world is the "result" of atomic motions.

Atomic events are not separate from or prior to large-scale events.

When I do something, the whole ensemble of atoms which constitute
my body (and other atoms in the air, etc) move accordingly. Their
movements are not separate from my action; their movements are
the embodiment of my action. They don't lead me; I lead them.
Causality operates from the top down, not from the bottom up.
This does not contradict the fact that each atom follows a path
prescribed by the laws of physics. The atoms do what they have to do,
given the forces acting on them. It's just that the forces which act
on the atoms are part of a large-scale pattern.

This also applies to animals, and even to machines. Your car doesn't
travel down the road because all of its atoms happen to be moving in
that direction! It's the other way around: the car moves, and the atoms
move with it.

Once you get that straightened out, the "problem" disappears.