Posted by: Ken Brown | February 26, 2008

In Praise of Free Love

The following was first posted here (part of a different blogologue), and is tangential to the present discussion of inclusivism, so I wont add it to the list, but since free will is important to my position on these issues, I think it’s relevant:

In the comments on my post about free will, doctor(logic) made a statement that I don’t want to fall off the main page unnoticed. Arguing that accepting determinism would not adversely affect our experience, he provides the following example:

If we could explain the details of a love affair in terms of chemistry, that wouldn’t really make much difference to the experience. We still “feel free” to weigh our options and decide according to how we feel.

I think this example itself illustrates the danger of deterministic thinking. What is “love” anyway? Is it a rush of emotions? Attraction? If that’s all it is, then I could make his statement even stronger: we already know that this is essentially a chemical phenomena. Truly, the fact that we can tie our emotions to certain hormones doesn’t change our enjoyment of the sensations they cause. In that sense, determinism does not impact the experience.

But note that we have now redefined love in terms of chemistry. In the process, we have lost the very thing that makes it valuable: choice. Love is not infatuation, though such emotions can strengthen it. Love is the choice to treat another “as you would treat yourself,” to “consider another more important than yourself,” to “put someone else first.” It is the choice that makes it love, not the chemically induced emotions sometimes associated with it, nor even the actions it produces. Selfless action without choice isn’t love, it’s slavery — whether chemically or socially induced.

In love as in life, choice is inherent to our experience. To leave it out is to leave love out, and that seems a poor trade for determinism.

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