Sunday, November 6, 2016

Merovingian and the question of free will

The matrix trilogy is one of my favorites. Sure, it might have ripped off a few others like ghost in the shell and some comics that are not well known but at least in my mind there is no doubt that it was with the release of the matrix in 1999 that these elements/sentiments were brought to the limelight, to the consciousness of the popular culture. The movies played around with quite a few philosophical questions, one recurring question being do we have free will? Check this,

"Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the why." merovingian

It turns out most of those who are interested in this question are either in camp “free will” or camp “determinism”. Both camps have their fair share of spokesman and enough literature to keep an army of scholars busy for a long while. 

Camp free will tells us that the trajectory of a ball released by the hand of a cricketer(baller) is determined, determined by the laws of physics but the cricketer's decision to release the ball to send it hurdling at the batsman in a particular way was one made of free will. In a very generalized sense, free will states that if an action was performed with mind it was done so with free will as the mind could have chosen to do otherwise. Camp determinism is opposed to this categorization based on the existence/non-existence of mind. They believe that every action is determined by some underlying law, even those made with mind, that it is not as simple as “hey man... I got pepperoni pizza instead of deviled chicken because i felt like it.. you know”. Yes, some of the residents of camp determinism tend to be mean spirited and seem to be looking for stones to throw at the other camp. 

Back to the matrix and the merovingian, It's clear that he is a determinist, a hard determinist at that. In a hypothetical scenario where computation has progressed so far(like in the movie) I could maybe entertain the possibility that an intellect could exist that could fathom the insane amount of knowledge/understanding that would be needed and then to actually gather it to be able to say without a doubt why a mind decided to make one choice and not another. Now I know that we have a pretty good idea of how our brains work, we can predict correctly what a mind will chooses to do sometimes but till we can predict correctly every single time without any constraints, it's still guesswork. The debate of free will vs determinism is one that will not be settled till another debate that is between holism and reductionism is resolved(onlyagame makes an interesting case for holism which I think makes sense) and it's foolish to think that it will happen in our lifetime. Meanwhile this armchair philosopher is just going to wait around for a kick ass reboot of the matrix without wasting too much time on questions that no one has found answers to.