But if you think about it at all, then the first cause cannot be material, or we couldn't think about it at all. Rather, thought itself would simply be a more or less distant prolongation of matter, and matter doesn't think.
First of all, must there be a first cause, or can causes just keep going on back or down forever? If they did go on forever, this would be analogous to objects being suspended in mid-air -- like a chain extending from a lamp but connected to nothing above.
In fact, that is how Stanley Jaki puts it: "the reality of one's free will bring[s] one face to face with that realm of metaphysical reality which hangs in mid-air unless suspended from that Ultimate Reality best called God, the Creator."
In short, man's mysterious ability to initiate a causal series (as discussed yesterday) is not like the lamp that dangles from nothing, but rather, hangs from the Creator. To extend the metaphor, the converse view would be analogous to expecting a chain to stand up on its own, with the lamp at the top. Sure, anything can happen, but which explanation is more likely, barring magic?
"Free will is experienced personally and in that sense is subjectivity itself." Think about that one, for what is subjectivity but a space between instinct and expression, impulse and act, desire and fulfillment? In the material world there is no such delay: kick a can down the road, and it doesn't hesitate a moment before deciding which way to go. Rather, there is no space between cause and effect.
Which means that man must in a sense dwell between cause and effect. Which brings us right back 'round to economics, because if man weren't capable of delaying gratification, there could be no economics. All of economics takes place in that universe of alternative uses, and a deterministic universe has no alternatives. As a wise man once said in another context, no alternative, no problem.
Make no mistake, there are tenured people in high places -- or high people in tenured places -- who believe this rot. The average physicist, for example, will say that free will is an illusion. Why? Because the intellectual paradigm he chooses to live in doesn't permit it. Trying to squeeze free will into physics utterly overturns the paradigm: it is the ultimate black swan that disproves the whole enterprise, at least in terms of being an all-encompassing metaphysic.
Therefore, it is better to deny free will than to lose the precious paradigm. Which says something very interesting about human beings. It reminds me of Harry Harlowe's attachment studies, in which the baby monkeys prefer the cloth mommy with no food to the wire mommy with a milk bottle. In short, they prefer attachment to food. They will take just enough nourishment to survive before scurrying back to the cloth mother.
Oops. We're unexpectedly getting deep down into attachment theory, which is one of the keys to the human kingdom.
Let's go back to the human space in which we live. Presumably, in our intra-uterine life this space must be attenuated, in that the umbilical cord assures that needs are met before we can even be aware of them -- barring extraordinary circumstances such as starvation in the mother (or some other exigencies that we won't go into).
But what is so dodgy about the extra-uterine state is this sudden awareness of "need." However, we can't even say need, because this is just a word, and babies don't have words. It's not even a "state of mind," because it goes deeper than that. Rather, it is a new state of being, and it seems that human beings never completely reconcile themselves to this state -- or perhaps we're in the evolutionary process of coming to terms with it, or I would be out of business.
As the recently late James Grotstein put it, "From one point of view one can consider all psychopathology as due to the failure, to one degree or another, of proper attachment and bonding."
It sounds simple enough, but it's much more complicated than mere physics, for which reason it is perhaps understandable that the physicist might want to seek emotional refuge in his cloth-monkey mythematical abstractions. Strokes & folks.
As Grotstein characterizes them,
"These developmental sequences are determined by a fantastic, almost surrealistically complex choreography that integrates postnatal anatomic and neurochemical development so that they unfold in an intricately coordinated series of contacts with the maternal-social environment -- all in an orchestration of specifically timed phases of availability to a holding environment of appropriate, mediating caregiver functions that at first sooth, validate, and confirm, then stimulate, challenge, and encourage, the sequential interventions that appear to be absolutely necessary for neural development -- and, as a consequence, the roots of the infant's emotional development -- to occur."
First of all, I dare anyone to diagram that sentence.
"Put another way," writes the Germanically prolix Dr. G., "it is the prefrontal cortex generally -- and the right hemispheric orbito-frontal cortex specifically -- that is most responsible for the establishment and mediation -- and even development of the humanness of the infant!"
Well, why didn't you say so!
I read somewhere that there is a website called "explain it to a five year old." Others through history have implied that if you cannot do so, then you really don't understand your subject.
What is really going on here is that we are born into a world in which our minds -- our being -- are not contained. You could say that we are in a space, but that the space is unbounded and therefore anxiety-provoking in the extreme.
Perhaps you've just never noticed it because you enjoyed good-enough parenting. It is one of those things that will only be noticed if Something Went Wrong at the outset -- and even then, it will require personal insight.
I'll give a random example of someone who never managed to contain herself, with devastating consequences, the immortal Dusty Springfield. I haven't read the biography, but just from samples and reader reviews it is obvious that she suffered from a Borderline Personality Disorder, which is one of the most serious attachment disorders out there. Sexual identity confusion, self-loathing, grandiosity, poor impulse control, self-medicating (i.e., attempted emotional containment via drugs), she had it all.
And now I'm suddenly out of time. I don't know if we got anywhere, but there it is.