A Semantic Theory of Ethical Naturalism
The everyday notions of causality involve choices but the causal model in science doesn’t. For instance, we know that if we consume an analgesic then our pain would be relieved, if we eat food the body will get strength, if you pull the trigger on a loaded gun then a shot will be fired. The everyday notion of causality does not necessitate that a painkiller would be consumed, that food would be eaten or that a shot will be fired; these are possibilities converted into reality by a choice. Scientific determinism, however, entails that the painkiller would be consumed, food will be eaten and shots will be fired automatically. Accordingly, there is moral responsibility in everyday causality but not in scientific causality.
The deterministic causal model failed in the 20th century as more and more cases of incompleteness and indeterminism were discovered across science one after another. Many scientists and non-scientists began to view this failure as implying a central role for choices in determining the events or outcomes in nature. But there are also others who claim that the incompleteness of science would one day be overcome and the complete theory of nature would preclude free choices.
This book presents an alternative model of causality in which science can be complete and deterministic although there will still be room for free choices. Nature can be modeled as a drama whose script is predetermined although the actors in the script are not. That is, nature is what-deterministic but who-indeterministic. Two preliminary steps are necessary for this causal model to be true. First, we must overcome the current incompleteness of events. Second, we must show that the event determinism will not fix trajectories (when an object is an observer, the succession of the observer’s experiences represent trajectories). This book undertakes both these exercises—it shows why: (1) current science is event-indeterministic although the problem can be fixed by incorporating meanings in matter, and (2) the event deterministic semantic theory of nature would still be observer indeterministic.
The events are governed by meanings but the trajectories are governed by truth. The determinism is that certain types of meanings would be created in certain space-time. The free will is that one can choose to participate in these events, and the consequences of the choice depend on the truth of those meanings. As the meanings get closer to truth, the consequences cease. The distinction between meaning and truth depends on a semantic theory of nature, and the semantic view will therefore not only entail a new view of matter but also a new understanding of free will and morality.
If some meanings are false, then how are they created? What is the origin of illusion, hallucination and misperception? The book describes a new kind of material existence that filters reality to produce a limited perception. When parts of reality have been filtered, the remainder is an illusion. The illusion, therefore, has no independent existence without reality, because it only filters reality. However, the observer must discard these filters to know the truth and thereby reinstate free will.