For instance, it was one thing for a circumscribed group of intellectuals to discuss atheism, as had happened up to now, quite another to arrange for its popular diffusion and propaganda via a publishing campaign like that attempted without great success by adherents of the Radical Enlightenment. It was one thing for the different Christian denominations and the great revealed religions to be split by bloody and incomprehensible theological controversies. It was another matter entirely to posit point blank the idea of establishing a new universal and natural religion common to all the peoples in the world, a religion that was rational—devoid of dogmas, churches, hierarchies, and priests—and that would take hold first among the élites and then among the rest of the population. This implied the existence of a God who was very far away and frankly uninterested in human events, and whose sole function was that of granting the ultimate guarantee for man’s freedom and responsibility and none whatsoever for the authority of any Church. [xii]
Tag: free will
Another mental attribute that is somehow associated with consciousness is free will. Free will is also notoriously difficult to understand in the classical world-picture. The difficulty of reconciling free will with physics is often attributed to determinism, but it is not determinism that is at fault. It is … classical spacetime. In spacetime, something happens to me at each particular moment in my future. Even if what will happen is unpredictable, it is already there, on the appropriate cross-section of spacetime. It makes no sense to speak of my ‘changing’ what is on that cross-section. Spacetime does not change, therefore one cannot, within spacetime physics, conceive of causes, effects, the openness of the future or free will.
Thus, replacing deterministic laws of motion by indeterministic (random) ones would do nothing to solve the problem of free will, so long as the laws remained classical. Freedom has nothing to do with randomness. We value our free will as the ability to express, in our actions, who we as individuals are. Who would value being random? What we think of as our free actions are not those that are random or undetermined but those that are largely determined by who we are, and what we think, and what is at issue. (Although they are largely determined, they may be highly unpredictable in practice for reasons of complexity.)