An Apologia for Penrose

An Apologia for Roger Penrose & Company – Per Contra the “Positivists” and “Idealists”

  1. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730804576317072124312488.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
  2. http://trinitybook.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/penroses-cycles-of-time/
  3. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/29/penrose-cycles-of-time/

I found this piece vis-a-vis Penrose and the issue of “time” to be quite thought provoking.  Penrose’s work, Kauffman’s, et al, usually is. … But what can I say? … I like it a lot; but it ends up creating more puzzles than it solves I think.  There may be no way around it.  Every time, this sort of thing is brought up, it ends up either vaulting us over into New Age type ideas or else it’s played down in such a way by the dominant voices of the scientific, and greater intellectual communities, that any original merit it had to begin with gets completely lost. …

That’s no way to get-on intellectually or progress in the market of ideas.

To tell you the truth, I’ve almost had it with this sort of Reductionist-Transcendentalist dialectic between Big Science (more at “empiricism” and “instrumentalism
than any real science, and more at the “conventionalist” worldview of individuals who posit a so-called normal or ordinary material world over the one that’s actually been shown by science to exist) and {Science} Mysticism.  This back-and-forth between these two camps isn’t productive, academically or communicatively.

But there may be no means of navigating through it.

The ‘positivists’ here won’t give an inch, even refusing attempts by the chaos theorists to work out a system of bridging the two domains and the ‘idealists’ keep pressing on the notion that all this new science readily confirms their original theses about the world … ‘See we told you there was a World-Soul!’  ‘See we told you matter was living and intelligent’ (in the distinctly anthropic or human sense of being ‘conscious)!

There you have it.  Deadlock! … and Deadlock again!  But as I’ve said, I don’t think this tangle can stand for long … not if we expect to have any real intellectual progress in Science and Letters.

Here’s my own challenge to many of the ‘positivist’ science types out there and to their fans.  Put forward a better alternative to Stuart Kauffman’s, Penrose’s, et al, considerations on these epistemological matters, or cease-and-desist preaching to people about ‘how the world actually is,’ how people suggesting alternatives are ‘living in a dreamworld’, etc.  If you have a better, more satisfying answer or alternative to these old intellectual questions than Erwin Laszlo, Kauffman, Penrose, [or others who raise them], then please bring them up!  Otherwise, quit haranguing those-who-do over the supposedly far-fetched-nature-of or non-reality-of their ideas.  The point is: “reality” isn’t actually that normal, ordinary world you think you’re perceiving right in front of your nose; there’s something a bit more to it than that, nor is it actually that which is most easily grasped through simple mensuration.   The methods of science can take us in the right direction, and lead us to the heart of “the real world.”  I’ll grant that. … But, it’s a mistake to think that the world, we believe we perceive around us, IS that “reality” or that the world we’ve produced through modern technology is that “reality” either.  It may be rooted in it, yes; but it can’t be equated with it ontologically.  For a better consideration of these metaphysical-epistemological issues, I recommend the following article by Eduard Prugovecki of the University of Toronto.  His article here on philosophy and science is a much needed corrective to current paradigms re: empiricism and scientism.  It can be found at
http://individual.utoronto.ca/prugovecki/EpistemicPerspectives.html.

As for the ‘idealists’, try this out for size.  Instead of trying to co-opt cutting-edge science and its research into mysticism or religious-style metaphysics, try working on this thought experiment.

You have this world of science and nature around you.  It has certain laws and principles that govern it.  Yet if the chaos and complexity theorists are correct, there’s a way of bridging this domain with what was traditionally looked at in classic philosophy.  Rather than trying to disprove or, more, to co-opt science as you’ve been attempting to do (ala quantum mysticism/new age), try working towards the models of CDSR (Complex Dynamic Systems Research) from the vantage point of your metaphysics.  The goal is simple.  What best bridges the gulf between your systems of thought and science, in a specific, empirical and conceptual way?  Once you’ve identified this in terms of  “X” number of examples – showing a clear, concise connection between the two domains AND one that is intrinsically consistent between the two areas, minding the distinct “rules” of each –then, you’re left with a set of questions:  (1)  Why, in a world of metaphysics and physics, are the laws of science preserved, instead of being overshadowed by higher-order principles?  (2)  what sets of parameters would have to exist in order to preserve the integrity of each domain (i.e., the world of “science” and your metaphysical system) while keeping intact the laws of nature/science as we know them? … If the ‘idealists’ could
honestly address that query vis-a-vis their current projects, I’d be much more open-minded about their ventures into science mysticism than I am.  As it is, I find it about as useful as I do the volleys of the ‘positivists.’

Proceeding from that, I think the work of Roger Penrose, Kauffman, & Co. carry us forward when it comes to discussions like these.  They give us a better way of navigating
through this kind of ontological-epistemological terrain than we would have in lieu of their models.  Without that, it’s too easy to get lost in the bog of ‘positivism’ and ‘idealism.’

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A Critique of Freedom, Free Will, and Soul

Analytics of History:  A Critique of
Freedom, Free Will, and Soul

  1. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/28/assumptions-of-freedom-are-reflected-in-the-data-of-world-history/
  2. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/28/the-onset-of-human-nature/

FREEDOM, FREE WILL, & SOUL – They’re not completely bad as concepts, but their utility as analytical terms is up for debate.  The dilemma is, this value-based language is precarious; it’s like a metaphysical trap-door.  You never know when it’s going to spring open and pull you into the realm of transcendentalism.  It can be good as an instrument of the humanities; a tool of self-reflection and a gauge of human expression and experience.  But every time we use it to critically study either history or nature, we’re pulled into the world of spiritualism once again & the province of religionism.

My recommendation for preventing this → Get straight on what’s occurring at the level of higher-order natural phenomena and noumenal principles.  If VALUE-related, then how is it differentiated from the transcendent, the spiritual, and
otherwise supernatural? … If not, then what’s occurring at this
level
that we’re identifying it with such concepts? … That’s
the question!

Vis-a-vis the Eonic Effect, I have to say I preferred the old terminology better.  “Free Action Scripts” is a lot less tenuous a unit of systems-modeling than concepts like “Freedom” and Free Will.”  They carry too much ideological baggage with them to be helpful to us in modeling history and analyzing human events over historical time.  As for anything like “vitalism” or “dialectic” here actually assisting us in
dealing with these issues; they can’t … because heretofore, they’ve
never been able to show us why ‘for the rest-of-the-natural-world-down-here’ one group of operating principles exist, while supposedly for the ‘higher’ level, a much-more soulfully-based one is said to hold sway.

If, in fact VALUE and PHILOS-SOPHIA, is the real name of the game in nature and the universe, then  why is the rest of reality and its laws apparently laden in material, logos-centric, non-idealist terms?  This leads me to believe that, rather than VALUE having any intrinsic, metaphysic or ontological significance of itself, it is rather human psychology’s way of coping with aspects of our world that (up- to-this-point) have been imperceptible to us except on anthropomorphic and “meaning”-based terms of consideration.

In other words, VALUE would be a projection of the human psyche onto the world.  In such case, “Freedom” and “Free Will” aren’t real analytics of history and natural-sequences of time, but instead self-reflecting human terms whereby we’d be understanding ourselves through history and the natural structures of historical procession.  Furthermore, to arrive at a real analytic of history itself, we’d have to
determine the true qualitative nature of such principles, rather than just our moralistic approximations of them via the traditional language of value-oriented concepts.

That may be a tall order to do.  But I remain confident it’s possible …

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Critiquing Lewis/Lewis on Evolution and Design

Critiquing Lewis:  Reconsidering his Literary Thought, in Light of the Work of J.R.R. Tolkien … Toward a new Literary Foundation of the Evolution Question and Design Considerations

  1. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/c-s-lewis-on-evolution-and-intelligent-design/
  2. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF12-10Peterson.pdf

05.19.11 – C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design

So C.S. Lewis has become a new masthead for the consideration of Intelligent Design?  Interesting!  Lewis was a good literary thinker and his ideas were good too.   However, be aware Lewis’ ideas, while certainly passable for as far as they went, weren’t always as good for getting at the roots of critical principles as they might have been.  Lewis’ notions of the world and human experience, in some sense, were often far too dependent on concepts of literary allegory and direct, simplified religious expression (i.e., “mere christianity”) to drive at the heart of human issues via the media of his writing.   In fact, this penchant for presenting simplistic religious explanations of life at the expense of dealing with finer theological/religious understandings of the world was often a problem with Lewis … who, while he was certainly a popular religiously-based thinker in his day, often could go no further than that as he had become “everyman’s theologian” (to apply the designation of Lewis’ friend and colleague Professor J.R.R. Tolkien).

Therefore, if we’re expecting Lewis in this instance to be able to handle the subtleties and nuances of evolutionary change and the fabric of reality (i.e., through a consideration of ‘design’), please understand the framework of his major thought here might not be solid enough in-and-of-itself to do it alone.

In that case, I’d recommend supplementing Lewis’ notions with the further thought and ideas of Tolkien, who was also an outstanding literary thinker and writer in his own right.  Tolkien understood there was much more to the telling and the expression of stories (especially fantasy stories or Faerie) than the mere recounting of ‘fables’ in order to give the reader a message or teach some particular lesson. Tolkien’s work on “mythopoeia” and ‘epic mythology’ emphasized the fact that stories tell themselves and relay their own message regardless of the intent of the storyteller to express this truth or that through them.  Furthermore, “myth” was not just a secondary device in the conveying of literary truth, but a unique vehicle for it or means to that end.  Therefore, rather than just being an accessory to storytelling, myth-making was truly another tier to that expression of truth through story. It allowed the writer to show – and the reader to see – the inner truth of a literary narrative and the inner reality of the world in its many layers of meaning, subtleties of form, and nuances of apperception.  Hence, works like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Silmarilion can reveal a more in-depth view of the world (via this delving into the spirit of epic “myth”) than would other stories that do not (be such Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, which is albeit a series for children, or Perelandra) …

Again, this is not so much to belittle Lewis or his ideas, as to suggest that in order to get the full literary benefit of what he has to say through them, they should be considered alongside the works of Tolkien and/or other fictional writers and literary scholars of his time.  That is, they should be dealt with in tandem with GK Chesterton’s ideas, Belloc’s, Sayers’, and so forth, in the full rounding-out of Lewis’ literary framework.

Only then, will such ideas be sufficient for dealing with discussions of “design” & “evolutionary change.”

**********

For more information on Tolkien’s relationship with Lewis, his own ideas, etc., please see the following websites/commentaries on the Internet:

  1. http://atheism.about.com/od/cslewisnarnia/a/jrrtolkein.htm
  2. http://www.thestonetable.com/articles/220%2C1.html
  3. http://maryvictrix.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/did-tolkien-object-to-narnia-on-doctrinal-grounds/
  4. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-171579958.html
  5. http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkiens-sources.html
  6. http://www.tolkien-online.com/on-fairy-stories.html
  7. http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-and-mythology.html
  8. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/cslewis/downing_theology.htm
  9. http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_return_essay.htm
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Foundations of History

Structures in the Foundation of History

  1. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/civilization-and-evolution/
  2. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/civiliztion-and-teleology/
  3. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/rise-of-the-neolithic/

These three pieces from Darwiniana.com require some attention. They all illustrate issues, it appears to me, that need to be dealt with in order to better traverse the terrain of “History” as a subject.

(1) So “civilizational” evolution is the same as that which produced human beings to begin with? … An interesting notion, but it begs the question, then, what’s meant by the world “EVOLUTION?” Is it a trans-historical dynamic of the natural world playing itself out in deep time? Or, it is more accurately applied to the development of distinct systems in historical sequences? That’s the question that needs to be asked …The word is somewhat shady since the commonly accepted, funded, definition necessarily ties it in with genetics and biological descent … Therefore, what we could use here are three new terms in a revised epistemology of evolutionary change –>  A) For the dynamic of biological change, B) for the development of generalized systems in lieu of the “E”-word, and for, C) trans-historical, trans-systemic change over areas of space and time. … That’s what would help to have here to avoid these confusions.  (Any suggestions?) …

(2) “Evolution” and “Teleology”: Fine idea, but let’s define the playing field. Is this ‘TELEOLOGY’ more related to human affairs, natural process, or some element of ‘consciousness’ <or what have you> necessarily producing or eliciting ‘sapience’ and self-‘motion’ or ‘direction’ out of natural systems? … See the problem here? It all seems to be pointing to an ‘artificer‘ or manner of ‘artifice’ where the deus-ex-machina of living organisms and then humankind are pulled (or drawn) ‘out of the works’, as if by the hand of design or a designer. That the dilemma here, because it makes it look like some sort of GAIA/god/ or collective consciousness-function in nature is doing it … That’s bound to draw skepticism … If there is going to be TELELOGY here, what’s it entail and what its’ functional’ makeup? Or, in lieu of calling our macro-dynamic “teleology”, what’s it to be named or designated as? That would go a long way in clarifying this issue over teleo-‘mechanism’ in historical evolution.

(3) “Rise of Civilization” question: religion, physical factors, and the causality issue. … Traditional historiography posited contributing factors like agriculture, citification, et al, led to the rise of civilizations. Now the claim’s being advanced that religious impulse in the Neolithic period in fact gave rise to Civilization. There is a resonance in such an idea I would agree, and I would more than endorse a macro-historic interpretation where Civilization “jumps” as it were with the synchronization of religion and many of these other factors. However, in order to get clear on what it is that happened and in fact what “civilization” here is in the first place, I think it’s important to understand the manifold meaning of the term. Two biggies about this: ‘civilization’, as ‘complex-societal-structure’ & a ‘system of meaning’, (aka a ‘culture’) isn’t really an entity in itself; it’s more like a network between human communities. That couldn’t have come about without an integrating web of interlocking linkages over trade and communications routes (ala Andre Gunder Frank’s 5,000 Year Old World System)(though actually I’d be more willing to call it an 8,000 Year Old Worldwide World System to tie it in with the integration that was already taking place in the final millennia of the Neolithic). In any case, “Civilization” as such can be seen to emerge with the first pulling-together of this Afro-Eurasian World System. For more information on this, readers here are encouraged to reference the writings of world system historian and historical sociologist/economist Andre Gunder Frank at http://www.rrojasdatabank.info/agfrank/.

With that said, I believe we have a better view into this issue of the “Rise of Civilization” than without these considerations in play.  The point is, if “History” seems to be shadowy, you try to illuminate it.

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The Devolution of Culture

Darwin and the Devolution of Culture:  Reviewing Michael Graziano’s “The Darwinian Evolution of Religion”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-graziano/the-darwinian-evolution-of-religion_b_846635.html

[E]radicating religion is not possible. It is a fallacy that ignores the specs of the human machine. We are not rational entities. Religion, like all culture, grows on the social machinery in our brains. To function socially, we must understand each other’s minds; therefore we are built to mirror each other’s mind states; therefore beliefs and customs spread by imitation from person to person; therefore … religion … therefore all of human culture. If religion is profoundly irrational, so is the rest of human culture. Culture is by nature [complex] … People being who we are, masters of inconsistency, we are able to be irrational and at the same time intellectually aware of it. We can study the human mind from a scientific point of view and come to a logical understanding of its intrinsically bizarre illogic. To me, that contradiction is one of the most marvelous properties that we humans possess.

Michael Graziano, The Darwinian Evolution of Religion

*****

This is an interesting piece by Michael Graziano. Particularly interesting in light of all the other wonderful goings-on at the Huffington Post Religion section. See http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/16/repost-and-update-common-ground/.

Oh how the wheel turns with one pulley going up into metaphysical wonderland, while the second pulley tugs religion and culture down into the machine or mechanistic metaphors of life! … I suppose it’s to be expected. Still, it makes my point for me about our needing a better way of dealing with this issue and these ideas.

Machine” and “machinery” are odd words. True, their framing is most likely metaphorical, and ultimately in that sense, we can look to philosophers like Kant to have fleshed out the wider meaning of the term in order to avoid utilitarian confusion over the concept; but still “machinery” has too many ideological skeletons in its closet.

Honestly, I like “dynamics” better. And, I’m a little bit concerned over this celebration of the irrational coming from a point-of-view to advance or push the humanly rational. Yes, actually the “contradiction” is what’s being celebrated here, but in a way that’s actually glorying-in and almost glorifying what’s supposedly baser or less lofty in human experience.

This should give us pause. What’s to become of us? To become more like computerized machines or robots in life by embracing scientism and mechanistic principles of life? Or, by reaching for the sky and the clouds (ala traditional culture and religion), to become more brute-like and modern shadows of our earlier Prehistoric ancestors? … Neither alternative is suitable!

It’s time for a new ‘dynamical’ understanding of culture and expression; one that’s less prone to mechanistic analysis and yet can both equally highlight the best of human rationality and human culture, critiquing such in as rationally a way possible, and developing it in as humanistic and artistically a way a possible.

That’s what needs to be done. If it isn’t done, we can expect this “Darwinian evolution of religion” to devolve into more ideological foolishness amongst the followers of religionism and the champions of instrumentalist reductionism. … There’s no need for this. There’s a better way!

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Space, Time, and Levels of Material Reality

 

Space, Time, and the Levels of Material Reality

http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/18/space-time-and-all-that/

********

05.18.11Space, time and all thatPosted in General at 1:54 pm by nemo

A certain strangeness, beyond space and time

There are many intimations that ‘our reality’ is more than just space and time, and our harangue of Hawking today, and before, springs from the dogmatism of physicists here, admittedly frustrated by the stance of Christian thinking which muddles everything.

But the question of evolution itself confounds all simple forms of explanation here, as the eonic data makes clear.

********

John Landon’s piece here from Darwiniana.com forces us to think about the boundaries of our world, its materiality, nature, and so on … It’s a hard issue to get into because the ontology and epistemology on it gets so sketchy. What are we to make of a world “beyond space and time?” You can see why empirically-minded scientists oftentimes don’t want to touch the issue & the metaphysics types get all giddy about it; why not? … It seems to prove their points about other-worldly phenomena, the supernatural, and mysticism. But, overall, this doesn’t need to be the case. Science, as a field, shouldn’t be cringing from this material; it should be probing it ever more intensely for critical information and empiric principles.

Here are some places to start. (1) Think back to String Theory. If space and time as we know it is layered on yet another field of “Space-Time”, then we can expect an iteration-up from what we know as the driving rules of our universe’s operations. That may not help us much, considering our universe’s laws were supposed to have derived from the Big Bang itself and its production of space and time as we understand them; yet if we understand there to be at least some semblance of continuity between the domains and levels of reality, we can expect at least some similarities between the state of our present cosmos and what it relates into if there are “spaces” or “domains” beyond that of our own universe.

The odd thing is, our own world/cosmos is weird enough on its own without reference to mysticism or metaphysics. It is certainly empirically-oriented. Without that, scientists wouldn’t have made the strides they have in their areas of study, be they in physics, chemistry, or biology. And, yet the very nature of that world challenges our very conception of normal reality on a daily basis, pushing the boundaries of the fundamentalist Aristotelian, Euclidean, and Newtonian paradigm of what constitutes an ordinary world farther and farther away from us. Science removed us from the world of phantasms just long enough for us to get wowed again by what it is we’re heading into, and briefly disoriented by the upset created for us when it took our ghosts and gods away, letting us think the world of the “regular” around us was the norm. We find it isn’t …

Leading us to Point (2) I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. It really seems Quantum Dynamics is on the verge of re-discovering the principles of the philosophical epistemologists. Look to Kant, or further back in fact to Aristotle’s actual work, to Plato, and others … the world they outlined, which itself was postulated per contra the world of myth, strangely resembles the glass through which science now is peering into the larger universe by. “Matter” and “Form” (as they were originally construed as principles), “Atomism”, “Prime Matter”, “Flux”; these terms all point to a domain just slightly beyond our reach in the material, physical world. And, still, it is natural phenomena. … Nothing supernatural about it.

How do you possibly study something like that scientifically or empirically? … The answer I think is through extrapolation and modeling. Which of these areas appears most like something we’re used to in the material world? … You use that as an example, hypothesize about it for the higher domain, and then test your hypothesis against both the conditions of the primary phenomenon you’re drawing from and the supposed conditions that would have to be present in a higher-order set, in order for the higher phenomenon to work. Needless to say, computer simulations and models would end up having to be a large part of such scientific study. … There probably are ways of getting at these processes in lieu of computer modeling, but until such methods are more effectively developed and enhanced, working with simulations is a good start.

Anyway, these are ways in which to deal with this kind of material. Working from that base, we have a way of probing through higher-order processes in the evolution of complex systems and the dynamism of nature.

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Understanding “Choice”

 

Literary Critique: Determinacy and Freedom – Understanding the Consequences of “Choice”

Sometimes it helps to consider historical concepts through literary media … books, film, or music.

Consider, for instance, the ideas of “freedom/free will” (aka “choice”) and the notion of ‘determinism” (ala the concepts of historical inevitability, fate, etc.).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzmvAZgeIM0

I bring these issues up in reference to a Youtube video concerning the Matrix Trilogy and its themes. In a piece discussing the character of the “Oracle” from the Matrix story, the Matrix Apologist refers to her as being “clairvoyant” or “able to see into the future.” His argument is that her perspective on “choice and understanding” is geared from her being able to see the future as already happened, that is, from choices already made; therefore the main character of the story, “Neo”, the “One” doesn’t need to understand what choice he needs to make in order to do what he needs to do in the story, but to “understand” in retrospect “why” he’s made his choice.

This is not so much an instance of seeing into the future as it is discerning the natural outcomes of Neo’s psyche, behavior, and tendencies as a character. The “Oracle” – and by extension – the “Architect” (who created the Matrix to begin with) are uniquely sensitive to the human mind and the minds of those humans hooked up into the “Machine Mainframe and connected into the virtual world of the Matrix itself. As fundamental programs of the Matrix, they both are attuned to those people who are “plugged-in” and see into the naturally organic functions of these individuals’ minds as well as into their basic motivations, responses, and proclivities as persons. So this is not so much sitting on the outside looking in, but within the context of the Matrix itself, seeing into the minds of those who are “plugged-into” the Matrix, in such fashion that they know what the human inhabitants of the Matrix are largely going to do, because they witness it simultaneously as both happening and chosen to made happen. In other words, to them, the human conception of time has no meaning, though to the people within the Matrix, time seems to operate in normal fashion as it might in the real world.

In any event, the “Oracle” and “Architect” aren’t foreseeing future events, as much as they are discerning the actions of said humans connected-in; the “Oracle” by an intuition of human experience, the “Architect” by way of a mathematical determination of human behavior, mental processing, and functions. … And, that’s why the Oracle isn’t actually “clairvoyant.” She’s just seeing into choices people are making as they are making them within confines of the Matrix.

Why mention this in connection with “determinism” and “free will?” Mainly, because this analogy can help us to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the two principles in real life. Yes, there is a degree of “determinacy” in the world. Our makeup (physically, neuro-biologically, psychologically, et al) leads us to certain actions. Those actions lead us to particular ends. And, those ends carry us invariably toward what we do in life and the outcomes of heading down such paths). And, yet there is “choice”; junctures as it were where we’re open to go down Road #1 or Road#2, open Door “A” or Door “B”, and thus as a result, shape our eventual destinies. How is this “free” or a function of “freedom” if the selected choice is already certain? Because, the “choice” was already made by virtue of our habits and motivations in selecting “B” over “A”; we are “free” because of our capability to select and decide-upon a certain course of action. “Freedom” here isn’t the ability to do anything openly, but the open ability to select our options with respect to certain courses of activity. Hence, in hindsight, even as we freely chose our actions to do this or not to do that, we can see a determination of motion.

Again, it’s not about ‘making a choice’; it’s about [internally] ‘understanding the choices we’ve already made’ or ‘determined within ourselves to do.’ I hope this helps shed light on these concepts. If you’d like to see more of these critiques, where I explore real world issues through literary themes, please let me know. I’d be happy to oblige.

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