Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Free-will and Spinoza
On one of those very rare occasions that I could bloghop around, I chanced upon one of auee's posts Bag a wife,literally which narrates a report that women in Krygyztan are being kidnapped by strangers to be their bride. I was thinking that this is just like the cartoon character of a man from the stoneage holding a club on one hand while dragging a woman by the hair to show the world his prize catch. Sure, we outsiders think that this is barbaric. And yet, can we really say that? Do we have the right to judge? As we all know, a culture's ways have been developed over time and is the accepted norm in such a society. Besides, what makes us sure that we don't have something similar?
Then, I read that the Sassy lawyer has her own take on the issue. The entry reiterated my premise that this is culture bound and that we don't have the right to judge. As a matter of fact, she goes on deeper to say that this happens to us also citing rape as an example. I will not go into the details anymore as you can read it from the source here. What I am interested, though, is that she has related the phenomenon to free-will. Free-will is the exercise of control over one's decisions and actions. This concept has been with the Christians for a very long time. In Christian dogma, everyone is given free-will in the belief that God has no control over our actions and that we shall be judged according to our choices in life. Hence, man has complete dominion of his/her own being. If said subject chooses good, then paradise awaits him/her in the after life as a reward. If the choice was to live in sin, then the consequence is eternal damnation.
This talk on free-will reminded me of Spinoza. Spinoza has been excommunicated not only by the Jews to which he belonged but even by his family for his radical ideas. One of these ideas is his counter stand to Descartes' dualism - "that reality consisted of two completely separate substances - thought and extension." To Spinoza, there is only one substance ergo, God is nature and nature is God.
Free-will does not exist to Spinoza. Man is governed by nature, which to him is equivalent to God and vice-versa. Although God does not govern our lives like a puppeteer, His control over our actions is exercised by limiting them by outside forces. As an example, we can decide to wiggle our toes, make circles with it but we can never ask it to detach itself from us and make it jump on its own for this is not within the nature of a foot or our toes. Likewise, an apple tree may choose to bear the sweetest fruit but only if the conditions are right, viz., proper sunlight, water, etc. and moreso, it will never bear pears or mangoes. It is in the same manner that "we can be hindered in our development and our personal growth by political conditions."
This is very interesting in that I can relate our fate as a people amid the turbulence of economic and political upheavals. How can we ascertain whether or not we are making the right choices, right being objectively correct, when most of our people are living in dire straits? Where is free-will when the choices are down to the lesser evil?