Thursday, March 10, 2016

606: Fate and Free Will in Ancient Greece

It is interesting to see, that the more rationality becomes the dominant way to understand the world and our lives, the smaller the room becomes for belief.

You could look at it like this. The more we explain what we do and what happens in rational analysis, the more we are able to see alternatives, that is, use free will to choose our actions.

It is amazing to see, that mankind has been so well aware of this aspect of life. The Greek were the fist to investigate this.

Is free will the ability to act by random choices? It is obvious that we have to answer “No”, for we are not free in that way. There always are limitations.

So, the real debate about free will is more a debate on reconciliation of our free will with  some kind of determinism.

In Homer’ s poem (about 800 BCE) the Iliad  human beings initiate the Trojan war. 

The poem represents the men fighting on both sides as caught up in and enslaved by it. It is they who wage the war, but they become what the war makes of them.

As the scores to settle mount each side is further and further anchored in their determination to prevail, to avenge, to destroy. 

That is how they are locked in an endless cycle of reaction and counter-reaction, each side bent on destroying the other, whatever it takes to do so, that is at whatever cost to themselves.

This is a powerful picture of human subjection, of the slavery of individuals to a cycle of reactions that are natural but mindless, but caused by a  process they initiated themselves.

More than 2500 years ago homo sapiens was already wondering about his life and final destiny. 

The more they abandoned believes and relied  on their own rationality, the more difficult became the answer.

The point is, that the stronger religious believes are, the stronger the idea becomes that it is lall in god’s hand, in other words completely determined.

In that respect Sophocles (about 496 - 406 BCE) presents us with an even more puzzling situation regarding free will.

In his tragedy King Oedipus , the tragic hero’ s fate is sealed even before his birth. Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother.

His parents who know it through Apollo’ s oracle try their best to escape it and so does Oedipus when he comes to know of it, but in vain.

Just think about  it…the complex situation Sophocles  confronts us with.

The philosophical interest for us is that the fate prophesied for Oedipus is realized through his own actions so that he bears an individual responsibility for it.

All that Apollo’ s oracle says is that he will end up  by killing his father and marrying his mother. Nothing is said about what he will do to end up there. 

If his actions were determined in any detail, his fate would by-pass his individual responsibility

and Oedipus would turn into some sort of puppet instead of the tragic figure fit for Sophocles’  play.

But Oedipus feels responsible and blinds himself and leaves the city as a banned person.

Just think of it, that the human mind, thousands of years ago already showed us the complexity of free will problem.

Thank you..the floor is yours…

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995

Free Will, Ilham Dilham, 1999
On Free will, J.J.C.Smart, Mind 1961
Of Liberty and Necessity, James A. Harris, 2005
Free Will, A very short Introduction, Thomas Pink, 2003

The discussion

[13:21] CB Axel: Oedipus should have asked the oracle how killing his father, etc was going to happen. °͜°
[13:21] CB Axel: Not that he could have necessarily done anything about it.
[13:22] herman Bergson: the point is CB....
[13:22] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): he had the free will to go away
[13:22] herman Bergson: th eidea of Sophocles....
[13:22] herman Bergson: The end station is st by the prophecy...
[13:22] herman Bergson: and whatever you can not escape it
[13:23] herman Bergson: free will?...determinism? :-)
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we always end up with more questions than answers all the time
[13:23] herman Bergson: really brilliant htinking...
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm
[13:23] herman Bergson: I am so sorry Gemma :-)))))
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): no wonder we never graduate
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:24] herman Bergson: sorry dear, but you are past graduation now :-)
[13:24] CB Axel: I see it as the end isn't set by the prophecy. It was already set and the oracle just saw what was set. In the end, it didn't matter to Oedipus. He was screwed from the get go. °͜°
[13:24] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): the prophecy said we never will Gemma
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right
[13:24] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): CB
[13:24] CB Axel: As we all are, I guess.
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehehehe
[13:25] Kimmy Jannings (kim1987.wirefly): I know the feeling Gemma 
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yep
[13:25] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Great one Herman! Enjoyed it very much... I will turn, have a great one all
[13:25] herman Bergson: when you graduate is means that you seem to have learnt something....
[13:25] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): turn in
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok chantal
[13:25] herman Bergson: I dont want that to happen here :-)
[13:25] CB Axel: Good night, Chantal. Sleep well.
[13:25] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): truste Chantal
[13:25] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Waves at all see you tomorrow CB
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): night CHantal
[13:25] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Truste lieverd
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:25] Kimmy Jannings (kim1987.wirefly): nite 
[13:25] herman Bergson: Bye Chantal :-)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Her mother doesnt allow here to stay up that late, you know :-)
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:26] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol
[13:26] CB Axel: I think it's her kid that doesn't allow it.
[13:27] herman Bergson: ssstttt...>CB.....
[13:27] CB Axel: Darn kids. They take away any free will you might have been born with.
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:27] CB Axel: I'll get this conversation back to free will if it kills me!
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes they took your free will indeed, CB :-)
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): is a prophecy always right? even we don't believe in a prophecy?
[13:28] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i doubt it
[13:28] herman Bergson: In Oedipous case it didnt matter....
[13:28] herman Bergson: but the basic idea is that lif eis heading toward some point....whatever you cannot escape it
[13:29] herman Bergson: Fate was still a strong feeling in Greek thinking then
[13:30] herman Bergson: Most interesting to see how it moves to th eindividual as the center of things with Plato
[13:30] herman Bergson: There our individualism is born, I think
[13:30] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): oki
[13:31] herman Bergson: Plato and Aristotle...
[13:31] CB Axel: Way back then.
[13:31] CB Axel: So how did God get that taken away?
[13:31] herman Bergson: I'l tell you about that next lecture on Thursday...and will miss Gemma then :-(
[13:31] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): oh well
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well CB....
[13:32] herman Bergson: those Greek regarded their gods actually as pretty human....
[13:33] herman Bergson: there is a parallel....
[13:33] herman Bergson: there was a a philosophical moveming inIndia....
[13:33] herman Bergson: started 600BCE...
[13:34] herman Bergson: It was a materialist philsoophy...
[13:34] herman Bergson: only reason counted...nothing supernatural and so on...
[13:34] herman Bergson: it just disappeared...
[13:35] herman Bergson: what was left was religion...hinduism..buddhism...
[13:35] herman Bergson: this almost happened to the Greek too...due to Christianity...
[13:36] herman Bergson: but here with for instance Thomas Aquino absorbed Aristole...
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and yet it was almost teh same philosophy
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): a god who is human
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and god
[13:36] herman Bergson: and befor that Augustine incorporated Plato in his ideas
[13:37] herman Bergson: which god do you mean Gemma?
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): jesus
[13:37] CB Axel: Jesus
[13:37] CB Axel: God incarnate.
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): who is the son of god who took humanity yes
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): so it is the same idea as the greeks
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and the Indians
[13:38] herman Bergson: I see....
[13:38] herman Bergson: well...I don't htink so :-))
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): well they did
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): exccpt he was only one not many
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): as the greek believed
[13:39] herman Bergson: those Greek humanlike gods were really human....they raped, stole, cheated and so on amoong eachother....can't say that of Jesus :-)
[13:39] CB Axel: nah. He just made water into wine.
[13:39] CB Axel: A much better use of his time, imo.
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): well he lived as a person and who really knows what happened in many years of his life
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): he may have gone to India they say
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): it is possible
[13:40] herman Bergson: I don'tthink that his being human was a philosophically interesting issue :-)
[13:40] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): perhaps
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): AQuinas did
[13:41] herman Bergson: I read a book that he sailed to france with his wife Maria magdelena, Gemma :-)
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehehe
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): there aer many stories about him
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: really...
[13:41] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well...
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i am just equating the many philosophical beliefs that were so shared in the far past
[13:42] herman Bergson: at least I hope you are aware of the fact that already the Greeks were wondering about what free will might mean in a human life :-)
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): but not considered so
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and we still are wondering
[13:43] herman Bergson: they hadnt the insights we have now..
[13:44] herman Bergson: but yet...I think Plato and Aristotle still ahve apoint today
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): is it neseccary to have a free will for humans to survive ?
[13:44] Guestboook van tipjar stand: Gemma Cleanslate donated L$50. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:44] CB Axel: Not if it's pre-determined that we won't survive.
[13:44] herman Bergson: look at your parrot Beertje?!
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): he has a free will, to bite me:)
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hahah
[13:45] herman Bergson: lol
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:45] CB Axel: lol
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but he doesn't
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): OUUUUCH! DAMN PARROT
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and they love to
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako) whispers: he bit me!
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): lol
[13:45] Kimmy Jannings (kim1987.wirefly): lol 
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): im not food
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i will bite back..he knows that
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Believe me, Beertje has an RL parrot that does not bite ^_^
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes:)
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): well trained
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats better, since i like parrots
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they are quite funny esp when you teach them bad words and similar
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): heheheh
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol
[13:47] herman Bergson: Welllet's first finish this discussion, before we all start talkin glike parrots :-)
[13:47] Kimmy Jannings (kim1987.wirefly): my friends did that 
[13:47] herman Bergson: SO thank you all again for your parrotation :-)
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :))
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:47] herman Bergson: Class dismmised.....
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehehe
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:48] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): nice again!
[13:48] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): have a good vacation
[13:48] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:48] herman Bergson: But feel free to discuss parrots
[13:48] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): :)
[13:48] Guestboook van tipjar stand: CB Axel donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): it's just a grumpy old parrot:)
[13:48] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:48] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:48] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:48] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): they live long
[13:48] CB Axel: I'll see you (most of you) on Thursday.
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): he is 86 years old
[13:48] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[13:49] herman Bergson: He may survive you Beertje...:-)
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bye for now
[13:49] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu
[13:49] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): wow..hope not
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!

[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...

No comments:

Post a Comment