Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, June 12, 2017

Week one comment 3 June 12, 2017 - Don

Week one comment 3 June 12, 2017
                Do you believe in predeterminism?  William James delivered a lecture before the Harvard Natural History Society, entitled “Great Men and their Environment.” In it he relates a story about a friend who slips and falls on some ice when he steps out of his house and fractures his skull. The friend had dined with him several months before. Was the dinner a part of sequence of events that led to the slip? “I might, if I chose, contend with perfect logical propriety that the slip on the ice was no real accident. ‘There are no accidents,’ I might say, ‘for science. The whole history of the world converged to produce that slip. If anything had been left out, the slip would not have occurred just there and then. To say it would is to deny the relations of cause and effect throughout the universe.”

                James uses this example to discuss the parallels between Spencer’s “social evolution,” and Darwin’s “zoological evolution.” Do you believe that there is a reason for everything and that all events in the past converge on the present? Last night the Predators lost game 6 in the Stanley Cup finals. The winning goal was scored by a player who was drafted last year by the Predators, but then released. If the Predators had kept him, they might have finished the third period scoreless and the game would have gone into overtime? Where the Predators predetermined to lose?


  1. If there are no accidents like slipping and falling on ice,I think maybe not every aspect of that night led up to this that might be saying that God willed it. Maybe if the guy was a little more careful and paying attention he would not have slipped? or Do you believe that it was a cosmic event that would happen no matter what sequence of events that their night went?

  2. Hi Don,
    The subject of predeterminism is intriguing. I suppose it could be argued in much the same manner as the squirrel dilemma. You asked the question, but you never said if you believe in predeterminism.
    I wonder if James ever considered the idea that if predeterminism is true, there would be no such thing as chance. And since chance is nothing more than a mathematical probability, calculating one’s odds of winning the lottery would be a vain effort. If predeterminism is the actual state of things…then everything “is what it is” and nothing can change it.

  3. Don, it could be argued that the series is still tied 2-2-2. The Preds, the Pens and the Refs all still have a shot at the cup! But I digress...I believe in balance and thus I believe that we have a predetermined chance of living our lives to the fullest.

  4. Just to be clear: James detested determinism. In a way, his entire philosophy is an attempted vindication of our right to believe in and ACT upon the presumption of free will, hence taking that "chance of living our lives to the fullest."

    But this isn't an Either/Or, there are degrees of determination and freedom. Between the poles of chance and necessity, we live our lives with more-or-less freedom, responsibility, initiative...