Much about who we are is determined by the lottery of our birth. We inherit genes we didn't ask for, and are faced with a world we played no part in creating. In short, we are shaped by forces over which we have no control. Raoul Martinez examines the radical implications this has for our personal and political freedom. He challenges the way we think about responsibility, blame, punishment, and, ultimately identity, compelling us to question the forces — religious, cultural, economic and political — that have shaped us.He previously wrote this book:
‘If our choices are produced by a brain we didn’t choose, I don’t think it makes sense to say we are truly responsible for our actions,” says Raoul Martinez, pausing to sip from his glass of stout. I eye him over my cappuccino. If I spilled his pint now, would I deserve punishment for this action, in the form of a punch on the nose from the 33-year-old author of this season’s must-have text for thinking radicals? Apparently not. “If that is true,” resumes Martinez, “then the moment we blame or say certain actions deserve punishment seems to be incoherent.”He appears to be some sort of neo-nazi who has carefully tempered his conclusions to be palatable to the Crtl-Left.
This may seem the stuff of a million undergraduate philosophy essays on the free will versus determinism puzzle. ...
What makes his arguments unusual is that they lead to some chastening conclusions. Here are a few: prisons need to be emptied of all but those who pose a threat to society. Elections must be exposed as a shabby trick on a deluded populace, a lie of democratic choice in a system controlled by money. The media must be revealed as what it is – a corporate capitalist machine to mass-produce stupidity (with the happy exception of this article). The planet needs to be conceptually reconfigured as something other than a resource to be despoiled to keep us in lifestyles that don’t make us happy or fulfilled. The pursuit of economic growth, profit and consumption must be shown up as a damaging value system that, as he puts it, “drives us to chase things that don’t matter and disconnect from things that do”.
If he is right, then it is a waste of time to try to persuade or reform other peoples and cultures. If you want to raise your nation into something better, then you have to exile or exterminate the undesirables.
Democracy is a big sham. Votes are manipulated, and predicted by demographics. Ultimately you need some sort of ethnic cleansing to maintain democracy, or else the barbarians will take over.
Economic growth is another false god. We already have enough riches to make everyone happy, at least in the USA. Chasing profits disconnects us from the corrupting influences of forces outside our control.
He seems to believe that some people can achieve freedom, while most people are effectively slaves. We should stop pretending that the slaves have any agency in their behavior, and start treating them likes the slaves that they are.
I am not saying I agree with him. He states some strange opinions about what is good and bad. He overstates genetic determinism. But if he says he has no free will, maybe we should believe him.
Here is a leftist-atheist-evolutionist who denies free will:
I have no confidence in free will, even though, like all people, I feel as if I have agency. But if I think about it for a millisecond, I know that I could not do otherwise than what I do—nor can anybody else. Has that made me fatalistic, subject to a deteriorating mind? I don’t think so! ...It is hard to see how democracy can work if most people do not have free will. It is also hard to see the libertarian ideal of a consensual society can exist, if people do not have the freedom to make the choices that they appear to have.
I don’t deny for a minute that all of us feel that we make real choices, and could have made different choices. But feeling that and believing that it’s true are different matters. We can still feel that we have agency, but at the same time realize that we don’t—and society will survive. It’s members will be like me, and though you may say that’s not such a good thing, I contend that a nation of determinists is not a nation doomed.