Wednesday, May 06, 2009

World, Mind, Freedom

Comment on “Review: Providence Lost by Genevieve Lloyd” by Erik J. Wielenberg

I find the conception of an “order that does not depend on the will of any orderer” to be incoherent. This does not entail that there must be a personal (transcendent) orderer, a conception which is in turn riddled with insuperable difficulties, but it suggests that intelligence (mind) is an original dimension of reality. That is why I see the current evolutionist-creationist controversy as wrong-headed on both sides. The evolutionists equate their position with outright materialism and the creationists commit themselves to transcendent theism. In my view both these positions fail to give us an intelligible reality. Although I say that only an ultimately intelligent reality is intelligible, yet, at variance with other idealists, I do not consider this position to be demonstrable. But it gives me a vision of reality that is intrinsically coherent, within which I find room for values and for a meaningful life.

This position agrees with Spinoza except on the question of demonstrability. Spinoza, accepting without reserve Cartesian rationalism with its implication of stringent determinism left no room for free will. It is true that Spinoza’s conception of freedom as autonomy is superbly noble. But if we see determinism as an empirical hypothesis that works well in general and serves all our scientific purposes but does not rule out creative origination, we can have a broader conception of freedom – a freedom which is to be distinguished radically from choice. Freedom as creativity, I maintain, is a reality that we know immediately in the creativity of thought and the creativity of art – a reality that must be seen as more indubitable than all the empirical laws of natural science. This creative freedom of our inner reality Spinoza had to sacrifice because he needlessly accepted the shackles of Cartesian determinism. Kant moved in the right direction – but did not go the whole way – when he relegated causality to the phenomenal world and seated freedom in our inner subjective reality.


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