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A fellow Tippling Philosopher with whom I am having a long and protracted debate on free will sent me a poem he wrote on where we were at a bout a month ago on free will. He styles himself as a linguist and humanities man, quite explicitly, and this was true to form. I thought it would be amusing to put my riposte in poetic form!

It started with my syllogism against free will:

(1) Every human choice or action is an event.

(2) Every event has its explanatory cause.

(3) Therefore, every human choice or action has its explanatory cause.

Building upon (3), we have our second syllogism:

(3) Every human choice or action has its explanatory cause.

(4) To have explanatory cause is not to be free.

(5) Therefore, human choice or action is not free.v

Here is Guy’s poetic attack:

2) Every event has its explanatory cause

By whose decree?

Do chains only come in circles like the golden chain on your wrist?

The chains that bear anchors aren’t circles.

They have a beginning and an end.

They terminate in lonely vacancy,

Where the final link finds it dignity.

They protrude into the freedom of the air,

Colluding with the others.

To which I replied:

2) Every event has its explanatory cause

A reality Guy, indeed, ignores

By whose decree? He says to me

Why, by observation, common sense and rationality

You see, without causality, science and its method are impotent,

And we must question any scientist’s noble intent

To seek the answers as to why things happen (you know, things adhering to laws)

When really Guy is claiming there could be a reasonless ‘just because’!

 

Do chains only come in circles like the golden chain on your wrist? He asks.

Munchausen’s Trilemma sets to answer this, that’s it’s task:

It claims things are only grounded in assertion, circle or an infinite regress

But brute assertion makes, of free will, such a mess.

The chains that bear anchors aren’t circle, he opines

Without realising that his anchors, if they were accepted (they’re not) as fine

Would only give him brute arbitrary a-rationality

Which is to free will like the moon is to nationality.

 

They have a beginning and an end, he continues

They terminate in lonely vacancy, Ok, so the sinews

Of my furrowed brow continually flex,

I mean, come on, this ain’t so complex!

 

Where the final link finds it dignity, by which he claims

That his anchors magically contain

Rationality, and reasonable grounding

When, as you can see, only brute a-rational floundering

Bases his freely willed decisions, and that’s even if

I allow him that brute fact beginning, that abrupt and uncaused cliff

Which starts his causal chain in motion, 

But has itself appeared out of a causal vacuum ocean.

 

They protrude into the freedom of the air,

Colluding with the other, he declares

As if his ruminations make any sense of grounding 

Freely will decisions in reason (for fear of sounding

Like a stuck record, I confess).

Anyway, he’s got his work cut out if he seeks to impress.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...