Monday, July 18, 2011

Coexistence of Explainability and Free Will

The God Puzzle and the Ultimate Intellect!

This post discusses the coexistence of explainablility and free will. I'd like to clarify at the outset that the only meaning of this term, with respect to the current discussion, will be the one that I'm going to give in the next paragraph.

We are going to define 'explainability' as a true occurrence of the the following statement:

"Everything that happens has an explanation, whether we know it or not." [1]

Let us now look at the assumptions and implications of this statement. Here one of the underlying assumption may be construed as the existence of some kind of an intellect that has the ability to understand or process the kind of knowledge in question. Here we are concerned only with the ability, and not the actual knowing. Moreover since the entire effort to analyse and study the Ultimate Truth would be futile if this assumption were not true; we'll assume it's existence for the time being.

Now let's consider the hypothesis that an explanation does indeed exist for everything that happens [2]. If that is the case, then our own actions (and thoughts) should also have an explanation. But ability to explain a phenomenon implies that it should be governed by some well-defined laws. In the present context what it means is that all our actions (and thoughts) are constrained by various kinds of natural laws.

Let's examine this fact in some more depth. What does this mean? Doesn't it imply that there has to be some area of the (whole) truth that has the potential to escape our very understanding! If our mental apparatus itself is functioning under some sort of fixed rules, then the thought pathways that don't follow these rules will never be created in our brain. It simply means that these rules will constrain us from being completely free and comprehensive in our thinking. There will always be a finite chance that there exist natural phenomena that our brain is incapable of processing either fully or partially.
  And while you think about this, let's explore it from another angle. If an ultimate truth does exists then there must exist an entity (even theoretical) that can comprehend it, otherwise it doesn't really have any meaning! Why is that? Think carefully! Explanation is a concept that is tightly coupled with complementary concept of an intelligent entity. An explanation is always for someone. The very concept of 'explanation' means that it should be able to make somebody understand something. If it can't make anybody understand anything, then it simply means that it is not an explanation! A very interesting fact emerges here:

"In order for an explanation to exist, there must be an entity that 'can' understand (or process) it." [3]

Now let's take a look at the following statement in light of the preceding statement. The link is not so obvious, but let me assure you that the next statement is a logical implication of the previous statement. It might be a good idea (though not necessary for understanding this article) if you try to spend some time on thinking about this logical connection before moving any further.

"If there is no God (or an ultimate intellect), nothing has any meaning, nothing makes sense, and there is no purpose to life!" [4]

Now, coming back to the earlier discussion. With reference to [3], we can say that if explainability exists, then everything may be explained including the behavior, actions and thought processes of the entity that is trying to understand or analyse it. This is because the term "everything" includes even the entity that is trying to understand it! We are not at a liberty to exclude any portion of the reality if we want the complete truth. Here we are faced with a logical impasse, because it directly implies that

"There can be no such thing as a true 'free will', if explainability exists!" [5]

The logical derivation is simple enough here too. The ultimate intellect that can process the ultimate truth must be truly free. This is necessary as its mental machinery would not be constrained by any kind of rules or laws, so that it is free to explore all possible pathways. So what stops us from proposing the existence of such an intellect? As far as I know, nothing. Such an intellectual being might very well exist. However, the implications of this proposition might be far reaching. Firstly, let me tell you that by proposing this statement (the existence of the ultimate intellect) we have a created a monster that threatens to shatter the entire logical framework on which we rely for all our intellectual activity. Some people might be disturbed by this, but I believe that it's an intellectually exciting and rewarding thing to explore. 

Coming back to the issue, what we have said essentially, through this proposition here, is that something exists that doesn't follow any kinds of rules or laws! But if that is so, then by our earlier arguments, this entity itself cannot be explainable. This creates a contradiction with our initial assumption that everything is explainable.
On the other hand, if some kind of ultimate intellect or free will doesn't exist, then there's nothing that can understand the Ultimate Truth. So, following from [3], the Ultimate Truth just doesn't exist. Mind it, it's not just about knowing or not knowing, but about the very existence of this so called Ultimate Explanation.

This looks like a paradox! Though some people might say that it does make a certain kind of sense. Still what it does indeed do is create an impassable barrier for our logical faculties. A wall, or a dead end. The only way known to the humankind beyond these walls is that of faith
 It's possible that the likely reason for the above paradox may also be a use of inadequate or constrained reasoning methods. It's also possible that the procedure of analysis here is flawed somewhere. Or perhaps the logic needed for such matters is some kind of an elusive Higher/Lower Logic, which we are not familiar with. A logical framework that is free from the constrains of the various underlying assumptions of time and space. Besides it should not be contaminated with the inherent imperfection associated with the human thinking process. So the question before us here is how do we modify our existing logical system before it becomes good enough to analyse the secrets that lie beyond the edges of these walls? Is such a thing even possible?