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I’m currently sitting at my desk reading the latest issue of Philosophy Now, specifically the article, “Free Will Is Still Alive!” A few thoughts occurred to me that I have yet to see addressed in the debate (though they may have been in more technical writings).

  1. The assumption of the independence of events: How far a cause can be separated from an effect is difficult to say. Perhaps it can only be measured at the most minute level capable to science currently – either a substance at the subatomic scale or the thinnest slice of a second.
  2. The assumption that a state of cause or effect persists: When exactly does an effect cease to be an effect? That may sound dumb, but hear me out. At what point during an event does the cause turn into effect? Can it be labeled? Is it simply the same as the hypothetical “now” of the present moment?
  3. The confusion of levels of existence between events: Related to the above point, when does the subatomic parts of a microchip become information? Once individual parts are gathered into a composite, there is a new level of existence regardless of what is going on underneath.
  4. Agency is difficult enough to define. Think about how you define “agency” and then move on to the next point if you agree it has “something to do with something’s ability to do something.” And then think about how poor that idea is….
  5. Do agents really make decisions so precisely to give credence to the hypothetical problems philosophers devise? When I make a decision, I usually am not aware of what I am deciding unless I act automatically. And when I do try to make a decision, I have a difficult time (like picking out what to watch on Netflix… Sheesh….)

Just wanted to throw these out there. I used to think about the issue of causality only within a religious context, but it goes far beyond that. It is an epistemological and metaphysical (ontological?) issue that continues to allude us. And I can’t escape the feeling that language gets in the way of an answer.