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a portrait of determinism by relaxeder a portrait of determinism by relaxeder
mostly graphite, a bit of needle and thread, and i just typed out the little zeros and ones part


thank you to :iconbluetigressstock: for the stock photo i used as reference for the head of the girl.
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The debate on free will vs. determinism is an old one – going back millennia and still being argued today. Many of you may already know all about it, but just in case you don’t – determinism (sometimes associated with notions such as fate or providence) is the philosophical belief that every event or action is the inevitable result of preceding events and actions. It’s pretty intuitive for people to think in terms of simple cause and effect, yet – it’s also pretty intuitive for people to assume they have free will. It’s my opinion, though… that something’s gotta give (at least in terms of how we regard human choices and their significance). My purpose in creating this piece isn’t to merely present the debate as an intellectual puzzle or to even argue on behalf of the, admittedly, problematic position of free will – my intention is to expose determinism as the bleak, demoralizing, degrading, and dehumanizing philosophy I believe it to be.

There are 3 general positions on the issue… the determinists for determinism, the libertarians (nothing to do with the political party) for free will, and the compatiblists – who, somehow, believe that free will and determinism can be true at the same time.

Determinists believe that all events (including our decisions) are fixed in an interlocked chain of causation that leaves no room for free will – at all. The universe functions like a giant mechanism and humans (being no exception) operate according to its dictates. A star explodes, a dog farts, a raindrop falls, a couple makes love, one person sacrifices their life for another, or somebody drowns a baby in a bathtub – it’s all pretty much the same… fixed events that never could have been any other way. Are we only mere cogs caught in the vast machine? Am I only a product of my biological, psychological, sociological, cultural, and historic circumstances? Certainly these things have a profound influence, but do they absolutely determine every single motive, thought, emotion, and action of mine? I don’t pretend to know, but I sincerely hope not. It’s not the philosophy that I ascribe to, but it is an understandable and legitimate view to take. If one is to take this view, however, it’s my opinion that it should be taken in its entirety. It often seems that determinists surgically remove free will from their worldview while everything else about their worldview remains suspiciously intact… thus ignoring or, at least, grossly underestimating the significance of free will. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that determinism is true… what would that imply? Free will (be it an illusion or a reality) is the axis from which many human values stem. There is no legitimate basis for moral responsibility within a theory that denies free will, for example. How can a person be held morally responsible for their actions if they weren’t free to do otherwise? Likewise – identity, creativity, love and friendship, the concept of an open future, individuality, dignity, and personal achievement would all be significantly undermined if determinism were to replace free will as a fundamental and accepted feature of reality. My contention that our most dearly held values would crumble into ashes under a deterministic worldview isn’t intended as a refutation of determinism… all I’m doing here is pointing out the disconcerting baggage that the theory carries with it.

Personally – I am a libertarian. Like I said before: it’s a problematic position to take… yet - it’s the only position that offers any worthwhile hope, dignity, and value. Robert Kane (a philosopher and libertarian) gives a definition of free will that I am in complete agreement with: “the power of agents to be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes”… something completely other than either rigid determinism or arbitrary randomness. It’s my opinion that for free will to be real in any meaningful sense it must meet these two conditions: 1. we must be ultimately responsible for (at least some of) our choices. 2. there must be real (not illusory) alternative possibilities present to us. I don’t deny that a whole host of variables (genetics, environment, and so on) play into what I do, think, and feel – I just don’t believe that’s the whole story.

As for the compatibilists – I think it’s a weak and confused position on the matter… a feeble attempt at trying to have the best of both worlds. If you read the compatibilists arguments carefully you’ll find that compatibilism is really only determinism concealed by word games… all compatibilists do is redefine free will so that it’s no longer at odds with determinism. The very definition of determinism excludes the idea of free will. To quote William James: “The issue that will be seen is a particularly sharp one which no eulogistic terminology can smear over or wipe out. The truth must be on one side or the other, and it’s lying with one side makes the other false.”

If you’ve gotten this far – I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Believe it or not – I actually tried to make it concise.

- a related work if you're interested: relaxeder.deviantart.com/art/t…
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Daily Deviation

Given 2009-01-25
"... an excellent piece conceptually, with beautifully precise execution in graphite. Note the domino effect, in which the dominoes in the upper left corner flip the switch for the machine that in turn flips the first domino". a portrait of determinism by *relaxeder. I once pointed out to him :"i keep finding stuff that catches my eye (on people's favorites), i follow them down and keep winding up in your gallery!". It's true. See for yourselves. ( Suggested by Sya and Featured by stigmatattoo )
:iconcoletre2:
coletre2 Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  New member
Thanks for the beautiful piece of art and thoughtful discussion of an important topic. I happened across this as I was writing a paper on free will. 

Here's my two cents - I think free will is indeed a thing, although, as you rightly point out, there are a lot of things that exist in our lives over which we exert little to no control. I am with you in the libertarian camp if something indeed must give. That said, is it so inconceivable to exist in a world in which some things are determined, but others (particularly with respect to beings with consciousness) are free? I would suggest that the constraints within which we make our choices may to some extent be determined, but this does not impede our ability to make choices within those constraints. The more we understand about just about any topic, the trend in thinking tends to progress from binary to continuous. Instead of "it must be this or that" it becomes, "both this and that exist on two points on a spectrum." I think this is where we will find ourselves on topics like free will. 
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:iconart-of-eric-wayne:
Art-of-Eric-Wayne Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
I was writing a piece about "Consciousness, Free Will & Art" for my blog, and while doing some research about the connection between determinism and postmodernism one of the first links that popped up in Google was to your "Portrait of Determinism". This surprised me a bit because I already know your art from DA, and I've featured several of your pieces in my group and have "favorited" a lot of your work.

As it happens, I fully agree with your expressed opinion. I also used your image, credited you, and linked to this page, within my article.

You might find my essay somewhat interesting, if you aren't completely burnt out on the topic. I argue, among other things, that causation applies to matter and not to immaterial consciousness. If you're interested, the post is here: artofericwayne.com/2014/06/13/…
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:iconprophet-malum:
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Writer
What if free will is like Quantum Theory?
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2013   Traditional Artist
Could be.
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:iconprophet-malum:
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer
And also, there's the Fried will Problem,

Which is when a person's Choices begin to accrue such a Number of Consequential Responsibilities - So that their free will becomes a form of Self-created Predeterminism.
Binding them to the Law they themselves put forth.

Thus frying their will.
Submerging it in unctual, or oillike, Work and/or pleasure.
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
See what you mean, but even in the instances where we'd be subject to the consequences of previous choices...we'd still be ultimately responsible. It's not my contention that free will exists in a vacuum. Of course we're subject to a whole host of influences (even ourselves)... the point, though, is that we aren't always mere conduits, but occasionally active participants. Your idea seems to be that the cumulative effect of our choices, somehow, hinders freedom... to me, though, it simply emphasizes how potent our choices really are.
Reply
:iconprophet-malum:
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer
Epicurus trumps German Minds even in Hell -
But worse is He therein and well
It should be so
For such a soul should only woe
of the Knowledge perforce He know.

For The One has all in measure
Pain Ultimate and vacous Pleasure
Man's short life He should Treasure
For of all He Knows has He No Breadth sure.

That is my full and total Opinion of this matter.
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
Have to forgive my lack of sophistication, but the cryptic poem above doesn't do much in the way of clarifying your opinion for me. Better minds than mine might pick up on it right away, but I'm afraid only the most direct and explicit explanations make any sense to me regarding the, already, slippery subject of free will.
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:iconprophet-malum:
Prophet-malum Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013  Student Writer
Yoda-yoga-yasototh:

Well, Its basically this,
A person who believes they have free will does.
A person who don't, doesn't.

Ipso facto, determinists are people who've exercised the Ultimate form of free will - will-denial.

Whereas The Volitionist merely goes along with their predetermined default choice of Being, Quote, ''Free''.

The Only two things determined here are that Humans are so subjective that, as far as we know, What you believe automatically becomes True - By magic - and that People are Determined not to not choose.

As Nietzsche, The Only Ever Honest Philosopher, said, ''You can escape free choice - but you can't escape the Necessity To Choose SOMETHING.''

Otherwise, Things go along just as they were...
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013   Traditional Artist
o.k.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:icondeloeste33:
deloeste33 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you, Matthew. You're very kind.

I'm intrigued by this: " a bit of needle and thread"? What is this means?
Did you sew the piece of paper? Where?

I'm observing all over the drawing and you were able to create very convincing relief and solidity effects. I can't see if something is not drawn.
Nevertheless, I can actually see that your work, despite the hyperrealism, does not reject the graphic nature of the practice of drawing, just the opposite.
I find this paradox very enjoyable.
Reply
:icondeloeste33:
deloeste33 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
As English is not my native language, it's hard for me to express all the profound ideas that your work generates.

However, I find your piece of art very inspiring and thoughtfully designed, whatever may be the relationship between the making of art and underlying intention, and I congratulate you for that very reason.

I promise to find the time to explore the rest of your work, and eventually delve into some thoughts about them.

Kudos!
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013   Traditional Artist
Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comment! You seem to have a firm grasp of the English language to me... I wouldn't have known it wasn't your native language if you hadn't made mention of it.
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:iconodyssey8:
Odyssey8 Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Interesting concept, beautifully executed.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2013   Traditional Artist
Thank you.
Reply
:iconscipio85:
Scipio85 Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013
I love it!
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013   Traditional Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconjuanbaltazar:
juanbaltazar Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
i've got a question for you: when talking about this, how do you explain it to someone simply and persuasively?
Reply
:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013   Traditional Artist
i just use the drawing. if the drawing seems to correspond to reality and strikes your fancy... you're probably a determinist. if not... keep looking.
Reply
:iconjuanbaltazar:
juanbaltazar Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
i've been a determinist since i was 16. it's hard to explain it to other people though.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013   Traditional Artist
You've come to the wrong place if you're hoping for a sympathetic ear... I'm a libertarian.
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:iconjuanbaltazar:
juanbaltazar Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
yeah...
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:iconchocoxmoes:
CHOCOxMOES Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2012
one word: WOW!
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2012   Traditional Artist
Thank you very much!
Reply
:iconsumgie1:
sumgie1 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012
Interesting. I think the debate between determinists, libertarians and compatiblists may exist only because of misunderstandings... :)
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012   Traditional Artist
The compatibilists like to think that the disagreement between libertarians and determinists can be reduced to misunderstandings, but the libertarians and determinists are in genuine disagreement with one another.
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:iconhahrahk:
Hahrahk Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I faved it, but I had no choice in the matter :P. The drawing captures the concept perfectly.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012   Traditional Artist
Haha... thank you very much :)
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:icondmasque13:
dmasque13 Featured By Owner May 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent!
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner May 14, 2012   Traditional Artist
thank you!
Reply
:icondmasque13:
dmasque13 Featured By Owner May 14, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome!
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:iconslinkygrrl:
slinkygrrl Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012  Hobbyist
Geez! I LOVE your crazy dreams and drawing style! And like to read your philosophy accompanying this.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2012   Traditional Artist
Thank you very much.
Reply
:iconkynd:
kynd Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2012
friggin radicAL
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2012   Traditional Artist
Thank you... you're very kind ;)
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:iconthefulkrum:
TheFulkrum Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011
HAVE BEEN FEATURED IN A NEWS ARTICLE:

[link]

:)
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011   Traditional Artist
and... thanks again :D
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:iconsevenofeleven:
sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
If it can be calculated, then you can predict the future in a deterministic world.

Well done.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011   Traditional Artist
true. well... theoretically. there'd be just too many variables to take into account, though.

thank you.
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:iconsevenofeleven:
sevenofeleven Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
Maybe but the cool thing about math is how it can take data and in the right hands it can be reduced to a formula.

The problem with seeing the world as a clockwork is that, its very possible to believe that everything can be understood and you can do everything. Now you are moving into Frankenstein territory and its just a matter of time before a monster is made and things go south.

In a lot of sci fi movies with monsters, the scientist goes beyond what is right because they think they know what happens and things go south because of lack of knowledge (missing some variable) and then their personal flaws make the problem worse.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2011   Traditional Artist
Have to be some pretty comprehensive formulas.

I completely agree… reducing everything (especially human beings) to a clockwork is a breeding ground for arrogance, dehumanization, exploitation, and folly. The Eugenics used in the first half of the twentieth century was pretty Frankensteinish.
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:iconliberum69:
Liberum69 Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2011
That's not what he/she meant. It's the nigh impossibility of taking every variable into account that causes problems, not the "reduction" to clockwork.

The idea was better described in The Minority Report, really. Man, I love Philip K. Dick.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011   Traditional Artist
I don't think I misinterpreted what he said... if I did, though, (and he happened to care) then he could set me straight. You... what are you doing here? I don't need you shoving in on every conversation I have.

Just so you know it wasn't your ideas that led me to discontinue our last conversation... it was your attitude. That know-it-all attitude of yours is off-putting and gives no indication that you're willing listen. Vigorous debate can be fun (in a sort of exhausting way), but you just seem petty and disagreeable.
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:iconliberum69:
Liberum69 Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011
I think you might.

I could very well accuse you of the exact same thing. The fact that I read and responded to your replies quite thoroughly, however, should be enough indication of my willingness to listen (and the fact that I had to repeat myself so much is a damn good indication of your own). The only reason you think of me as you do is because you thought your arguments had some merit while I disagreed (more and more as it went along) because it seemed like you were relying on trying to convince me by expressing the emotional views my perspective SHOULD have, a tactic I find to be deplorable. I'm not disagreeable simply because I disagreed with your entire perspective on the subject, especially considering the manner in which you tried to convince me of it.

Petty? This is a debate on the internet. You're just as petty as I am for participating with such bullheadedness, and even worse if you can't see that, yourself.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011   Traditional Artist
You just go ahead and tell yourself whatever stories you like. I don't care.

Let me make this really clear for you... GO AWAY.
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(1 Reply)
:iconmxexnxtxoxs:
mxexnxtxoxs Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2011
Actually, punishing people that aren't responsible for their actions is very common. Law enforcement isn't based on revenge. It's based on removing harmful people from society or re-educating them. Happiness isn't an illusion, and so people will naturally strive towards common happiness, which is what gave us law. This way, their decisions are always predictable, but also, in a practical way, moral, if their happiness is derived from social happiness.

We praise virtuous people because we want them to keep being virtuous. We blame people for crime because we don't want them to show that behavior anymore.

People might be products of society, but products can be fixed.
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:iconrelaxeder:
relaxeder Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2011   Traditional Artist
I need to revise that part of my artist’s comment. You’re right - it does make sense to punish and reward if we’re going to attempt a civil and orderly society… even from a deterministic point of view. It doesn’t, however, make sense to earnestly blame or praise from a deterministic point of view. Illegal and legal aren’t synonymous with immoral and moral, after all. From a deterministic viewpoint the human machine should be viewed as incapable of moral choice - yet cooperative and courteous behavior could (conceivably) be manufactured through the positive and negative reinforcement of reward and punishment.

People are certainly conditioned by society to a greater or lesser degree. It’s not my belief, though, that we can be entirely reduced to mere “products” of society or that human behavior is always predictable. (What appears to be) your deterministic take on things neglects the more deeply held values common to nearly everyone in exchange for some sort of generic and vague thing you’ve termed societal “happiness”. This view you’ve presented casually overlooks the, almost universal, human aspirations towards creativity, individuality, dignity, moral desert, true moral responsibility, a sense of personal worth, the prospect of an open future, and genuine love and friendship. None of the afore mentioned qualities (or categories or goals) are possible within a deterministic framework… only their illusion is possible. If what you mean by “happiness” is something like the creature comforts offered by food, sex, shelter, and all that, well – sure… that’s possible. If you what you mean by “happiness” is genuine fulfillment and joy then I’d have to wholeheartedly disagree.

Addressing the issue of free will with the focus on the societal organism instead of the individual organism only serves to extend the issue to a greater scale - it doesn’t eliminate the underlying problem presented by the deterministic worldview, though. A healthy society, like any healthy individual, aspires towards creativity, dignity, moral progress, genuine love and friendship, etc… so a deterministic framework (if commonly believed, properly understood, and accepted) would be just as devastating to a society as it would the individual.
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:iconmxexnxtxoxs:
mxexnxtxoxs Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
I'm a bit of a reductionist as well; I believe universal human aspirations and quick satisfaction of needs all boil down to long term happiness and short term happiness, and to be honest I'd be much more content with just the category "happiness" because things like conversations tend to last long and yet satisfy your current urge to conversate.

Food, sex and shelter are just a few of the things that make a person happy. Creativity, love and friendship are only different in levels of abstraction and necessity, such as in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

I think you're putting too much worth in pre-set definitions of something. There is no important difference in true or false moral responsibility, because the results will still be the same in a world that is deterministic.

I also think we both know society won't be influenced by determinism at all. David Hume toppled the very foundation that science stood on with his questions about induction. Did science care? It most certainly did not.
Determinism might say that your actions are predetermined, but no one is actually capable of thinking in those kinds of abstractions when applying them to every single thing you do. We don't know the cause of our behavior. We don't know how the future will look like, regardless of whether or not they're predetermined. The deterministic goal of life is the same as the goals of everyone else; to achieve happiness, be it through helping puppies at the animal shelter or enjoying a cup of coffee.
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November 11, 2008
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