Atheistic view of the human person


#1

Hi all,

I wish for healthy criticism of my argument below and see if it holds true. These are just my own ideas, influenced I guess a bit by Thomistic thought. Please fill free to add your 2c or $100 worth.

If one holds the tenet that a human being is entirely comprised of nothing else but matter, then it holds that matter must be the source to every characteristic found in the human person. This means that all faculties including cognition, thought, reason and will must be brought about by an internal interplay of matter alone. All actions and faculties of a person are brought about by a cause-effect, and if one were to follow each cause/effect to its origin we will arrive at a first-cause or first-mover for every act. Being that our bodies are finite, then it holds that the cause/effect series itself must also be finite. Therefore a first-cause must exist and in order to maintain the atheistic proposition as true, this first mover must exist within the human body. Now taking “will” as our object of interest, I dare ask, where does the ability to choose come from? The source must be matter, but how can atoms bring forth choice? Matter can by no self-intervention dictate the outcome of its state as it is subordinate to the law of nature and has no capacity to free itself from the laws of physics. Hence we have to ascertain that choice is but a randomness of enough complexity as to make us incapable to detect its many variables that have set it forth into existence. And that rather than our wills instigating the act of choice, our consciousness merely becomes aware of the act without its immediate consent and that it then falsely holds the notion that it was the cause to the “choosing”, while all along it is merely our materialistic composition that hold what our actions are to be. I cannot see any other explanation within the realm of atheistic thought than that put forward.
Many questions arise from this; one in particular is accountability of our acts. How can judgement befall on us if we are pre-destined in our actions when faced to specific situations and stimuli? Therefore, one can see that self-governance of the will cannot exist under this proposition; rather will is but a subordinate faculty receptive fully to a pre-determined outcome determined by the materialistic composition of the human person and the external environment that influence it.

Cheers and God bless

Alex


#2

Three thoughts come to mind at first:

  1. Break it up into paragraphs so that it is more readable.

  2. You say:

Being that our bodies are finite, then it holds that the cause/effect series itself must also be finite.

I’m not sure I complete understand what you’re saying here. If you’re saying that the cause-effect series within a particular individual is finite, then we know this to be true from the observation that people have a beginning (i.e. they are the result of conception). If you mean that the series is the entire universe, then this may be known to be true through observation, but it doesn’t follow from your premise that “our bodies are finite.”

Therefore a first-cause must exist and in order to maintain the atheistic proposition as true, this first mover must exist within the human body

Seems to be a non sequitur, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying here.

  1. You say

Matter can by no self-intervention dictate the outcome of its state as it is subordinate to the law of nature and has no capacity to free itself from the laws of physics. Hence we have to ascertain that choice is but a randomness of enough complexity as to make us incapable to detect its many variables that have set it forth into existence.

You’re mention of the laws of physics brings to mind quantum mechanics. Current theories in quantum mechanics tells us that the universe isn’t deterministic (despite Einstein’s objection that God doesn’t play dice). From Heisenberg’s principle, we know that we can’t predict the exact position and velocity of a particle, we can only know probabilities. The Uncertainty principle and its implications is one of the hardest concepts in physics to understand (I certainly don’t claim to fully understand it), but I believe that it has implications with respect to your argument.

All in all, you have an interesting argument. Certainly food for thought.


#3

The human body is made up of matter and energy. Nerve impulses and muscular contrations are electro-chemical processes.


#4

Thanks first of all for replying to my post…what I am trying to say is theat every human act can be traced back to a first cause … e.g moving my arm might(or might not) have as a first cause a section in my brain … i.e. something within the limitations of my body had to initiate it to move.

Seems to be a non sequitur, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying here.

In order to hold the position as true, every cause of every human act has to be initiated by my physical makeup alone. I cannot introduce any other factor (eg a soul) to be the initial cause or some other non-physical/natural phenomenom.

Current theories in quantum mechanics tells us that the universe isn’t deterministic

I have read some articles regarding quantum physics … to be honest didn’t put too much tought to it… but I guess the best conclusion we can gather from this if I implement it to my argument is that quantum physics allows for perfect randomness to exist. This however does not mean matter can choose to be xyz rather it randomly happens to be xyz due to probability 123…what do you think?

Thanks again for responding … I really enjoyed your feedback

Alex


#5

Perhaps I should have explained myself better … when I talk about matter … I use it in a broad sense to include all that the natural sciences put forward to explain the makeup of the human body … after all if one looks into an atom at the end its just energy too…but thanks for pointing it out


#6

If I understand what your “arguement” is saying is that we don’t really have free will, we are matter following a complex course dictated by a set of conditions.

I agree.

I suspect that we don’t have free will, we are just playing out whatever was set in motion eons ago, and that the sense of choice is an illusion.

I’m not sure, but it is what I suspect.


#7

Your argument seems to be:

  1. If there is nothing more than the material which guides are decisions, Determinism is true.
  2. Under Determinism, free will cannot exist.
  3. We have free will.

Conclusion: There is something more than the material which guides our decisions.

Problem with 1: The atheist will, without a doubt, bring up quantum physics here to challenge causal Determinism (even though, in my opinion, this does not contribute to metaphysical Libertarianism – it contributes more toward the pessimistic incompatibilist point of view).

Problem with 2: See David Hume’s Deterministic Compatibilism.

Problem with 3: This begs a question many atheists are not ready to assume resolved.


#8

Just out of curiosity, how does the atheistic view of the human person define the difference between a living body and a dead body (since all the same matter present in the live body is still present seconds later in the dead body)? What changed or left the body that made it dead instead of alive?

Nita


#9

The complex chemical functions that kept it chugging along have been interuppted to a point that they can no longer be jump started to resume their previous functions.

That is dead, when the cycle is irreparably interrupted.

If you look at complex organisms as “colonies of simple organisms” rather than a single entity…then death is pronounced when the colony has lost key players that kept the rest functioning. There may be living cells for quite some time, but the vital systems have shut down and the living cells cannot support themselves.


#10

I think your conclusions are correct. Essentially, if God doesn’t exist, then free will does not exist because the laws of physics determine everything in the universe. As was pointed out, this argument isn’t exactly fool proof because it is possible that quantum mechanical process are important in the brain. Quantum mechanics is random, not determinate in nature, so if quantum mechanics are important in cognition, then our actions are determined largely by chance, and not by a predetermined series of causes and effects. Either way, free will still doesn’t exist.

I would probably reword this paragraph:

And that rather than our wills instigating the act of choice, our consciousness merely becomes aware of the act without its immediate consent and that it then falsely holds the notion that it was the cause to the “choosing”, while all along it is merely our materialistic composition that hold what our actions are to be.

I myself wouldn’t argue this particular point, I would change it slightly. Essentially you say that the the causes and effects that create decision are seen as “choosing” to our consciousness. I would think of it more as consciousness itself being a direct result of this predetermined cause and effect, and what we perceive as “choice” is really just a side effect of the whole process. It’s possible that I’m being to picky though. I’m also not sure how to properly describe my thoughts on this matter - it’s rather tricky to word properly :slight_smile:

It’s interesting to note that there is really one important consequence of such a world: morality doesn’t exist. There can’t be any such thing as good and evil when all actions are the results of naturalistic laws. On a more philosophical note, there can’t be good or evil unless there is something “greater” that provides a standard to compare against. Even more importantly, in such a predetermined atheistic world, people are really nothing more than biological computers. Murder in such a place is really no more evil than turning off your laptop. You can’t really convince people of that fact though, especially when they hold to such a world view.


#11

In the absence of pure determinism or indeterminism (supposing that it could be nonsense), would there be any possible way to empirically prove free will at all?

(or could it be simply that the materialistic hard-wiring of our brains is forcing us to reject the notions of determinism and indeterminism)

Also, if determinism and materialism are interrelated, could it be possible to disprove determinism by simply establishing materialism as false, or…, is it only possible to take free will and the existence of a higher force/intelligence (God?) as a matter of faith?

:hmmm: :hmmm: :hmmm:


#12

Hi all,

Yep pretty much spot on.
I will have a look for David Hume’s Deterministic Compatibilism as you have suggested.

[quote=cmancone]It’s interesting to note that there is really one important consequence of such a world: morality doesn’t exist.
[/quote]

This is the thing that I find interesting. Is it possible for a barrister/lawyer to argue their client (e.g. a murderer) out of jail by prompting this view point that no choice was involved as humans are incapable of such an act. Could the judicial system really be able to allow to open this pandora box???

The other option seems just as impossible and that is that governments would need to somehow introduce out of necessity to keep moral order a type of “human soul” into the equation in order to be able to keep personal accountability in play.

Laurence of PA,

You puzzle my little brain …:confused:

Final note: it will take me a while to reply to your comments as I can only go into the site after work hours (sometimes during break) and being that I am on the other side of the world it means it is going to be hard to keep a steady momentum going. But please keep putting your thoughts into this thread.

Cheers

Alex


#13

This is the thing that I find interesting. Is it possible for a barrister/lawyer to argue their client (e.g. a murderer) out of jail by prompting this view point that no choice was involved as humans are incapable of such an act. Could the judicial system really be able to allow to open this pandora box???

No, that’s never going to happen. Law never makes any attempts to justify itself. Law is a declaration only. The law is you can’t murder. No attempt is made to explain why murder is bad, or whether or not a person has “choice” in the first place. For the most part, law just isn’t that philosophical. I doubt the judicial system will ever try to open that box.


#14

We’re all just bio-chemical constructs. A bag of chemicals that, if sufficiently damaged, ceases function.

Atheistic evolution is trying to prove this right now.

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Corruptible man attempts to understand himself while, at the same time, erasing his identity. By that reasoning, no one actually exists.

The God of creation, the great “I Am,” is alive at this moment and informs you of all things. Is the truth of men greater than the truth of God? That’s what’s being sold here.

Do not be deceived. There is a person, that is God, who created each of us and loves us. There is a person in the form of the devil who tempts man continually and seeks to be worshipped and to fulfill what he told Eve in the garden: “ye shall be as gods.” So men strive over the centuries and to what end?

Men say, “Man invents himself.” God says, “I made each of you.”

God bless,
Ed


#15

Currently lawyers can argue that though their client committed a crime their mental state at that time was distorted and prevented them from any other form of action etc and the like…this generally results at least in lighter sentencing or going to a mental institution instead.

Could a lawyer argue in similar lines by introducing the idea that their client was incapable of choice to get a lower sentence? Do judges stop any lawyer from even attempting to take this venue … or is this possibility open, just no one has used it?


#16

just keeping it alive…keeping it alive


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