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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More on the "true self"

Tony Newell nails it, I think, in a comment on the earlier thread:

There seem to be many a folk who despise the irrationality of the soul mechanism—I suppose because of the religious associations it entails—yet absolutely lap up the idea that there is some kind of pure, quintessential self trapped inside their personal shells of conflict and imperfection. They appear to regard strife, confusion, and vexing ambivalence as something too imperfect for themselves, and, therefore, something that should be exempted from their genuine identities.

Certainly, we can do without the false choice and accept that Pierpont’s true self is, in fact, homosexual, self-loathing, and confused.

The thing is, I am constituted by, among other things, all of my desires. There is no sub-set that is my "true" self. If I have a desire to have sex while wearing a rubber wetsuit, while also thinking that there is something depraved about having sex in a rubber wetsuit, while also wondering whether my judgments about what is or is not "depraved" are justifiable, then all of the above is part of me.

Normally, I may not reveal this desire - I may be ashamed of it, embarrassed for others to know of it, and so on. But if I get drunk and reveal my desire for sex in a rubber wetsuit I am indeed revealing something true about myself. In that sense, people who hear me say (positive) things about having sex in a rubber wetsuit really are learning something about me that they otherwise would not know - drunkenness can, indeed, be revealing. But it doesn't follow that my desire for sex in a rubber wetsuit is my "true" self and that my belief that sex in a rubber wetsuit is depraved, my desire not to act on my sexual desire, and my desire not even to mention it, are not my "true" self. All of these are components or aspects of the complex thing that is me.

There is still a question as to whether someone with the combination of beliefs and desires that I specified above should actually find one or more like-minded partners for the purpose of rubber-websuit sex. Is it or is not most rational for this person to do so? That may mean trying to sort out whether rubber-wetsuit sex really is "depraved", and a lot of other soul-searching.

It is not obvious that, if I have this desire for rubber-wetsuit sex, I should simply act on it. But nor is it obvious that I should simply refuse to act on the desire in accordance with my current inhibitions or concerns about it. But whatever I decide, it won't be a matter of finding my "true" self while the rest of my desires and beliefs are somehow outside of and alien to what is "truly" me. That may be one way to look at it, as a simplified model, but it's not what is really going on. All my beliefs and desires are truly me, even if some are stronger or "deeper" or less revisable than others.


Jambe said...

It was a very concise, accurate comment, yes.

This is OT, but I just wanted to comment — I've recently rejected compatibilism for hard determinism. Perhaps you could help me out, or point me somewhere where I might read more on the subject.

My problem hinges on whether there is any substance to "free will" that need be reconciled with determinism (I can't find any). It seems that free will and "agency" are merely illusions brought on by the fact that we can never discern all the causal links of every phenomenon.

That is to say, because we can never have each "piece of the causality puzzle" as individuals, there will always be a degree of mystery to our behavior, even though a conceivable future supercomputer might be able to model a system like our solar system down the atomic level and accurately simulate lives that are indistinguishable from our own. This last bit was actually a theory posited by some scientists, I believe, relayed to me by a friend: that there could actually be multiple levels of simulation, and that given the age of the universe, and assuming life is not unique to Earth, it is likely we are, in fact, in a simulation, or in a simulation within a simulation within a...

I've also realized that the way most compatibilists talk about free will smacks of the spooky libertarian woo that is (ironically) attacked by compatibilists.

I'm just really struggling to understand what quality "free will" has that necessitates its reconciliation with determinism. Right now, my definition of free will would be something like this:

"the illusion of agency brought about by our incomplete comprehension of cause and effect"

And that conception of free will doesn't need to be reconciled with anything.


Svlad Cjelli said...

I was under the impression that more or less this was meant by "compatibilist free will".

Perhaps not?

Richard Wein said...

I'd like to suggest that a semantic error may be contributing to this continued belief in a "true" self (among people who don't believe in a soul). There's a tendency to refer to some parts of our mind (and corresponding mental states) as "deeper". I think we tend to apply this word to more evolutionarily primitive and/or subconscious parts, and I think that's a reasonable usage as long as we're careful not to imbue it with inappropriate meanings. But in other contexts the word "deep" can have connotations of "profound", "significant" or even "true". And perhaps people are being influenced by those connotations into thinking that their "deeper" mental states are their "true" ones.

March Hare said...

The 'true self' that enjoys gay sex in a rubber wetsuit while looking at penguins is not the same 'true self' that looks on in disgust after the act. We constantly change and just because the similarities for most folk vastly outweigh the differences moment to moment, year to year, does not mean they don't exist or that they don't, in fact, constitute a different person.

When I stand outside a restaurant, hungry, and decide to have the steak, the me that leaves is a very different beast from the me that went in in search of the steak. To think otherwise is to misconstrue the coherence in memory and appearance with continuity of self.

Too many long words, probably misused.

The me a second ago is incredibly similar to the me a minute ago, but they are both fundamentally different to me now and every thought I have, every breath I take, every particle of food I metabolise, changes me from what I was before. That the change is infinitesimal is irrelevant, if we scale it up to, say, a serious car crash the principles are identical but the difference is noticeable.

March Hare said...

Jambe - disproving hard determinism is trivially easy (do a QM experiment with an uncertain outcome and travel home by route A if it happens and route B if not - ideally chaos will cause scaled-up effects based on this experiment that makes hard determinism wrong - it opens the door to statistical (or stochastic) determinism which is where I lay my proverbial hat.

Free will, as described by compatibalists such as Dennett, is no more free than a chess computer deciding on a move (or a stem cell deciding what kind of body cell to become). If you wanna call that free will then have at it, but the man in the street is not going to understand what you're on about and will think he has libertarian free will and that scientists/philosophers have backed his view up when they have done no such thing.

Russell Blackford said...

Yes, we change - but so do other things like trees and animals. To say that I am not the same person that I was before dinner begs a lot of questions about the concept of what it is to be the same thing.

March Hare said...

Agreed, and that's a conversation worth having, but until we have it there is no point getting into a discussion about one's 'true self' and I guess that was my point.

My view is that I am a pattern* of looks, behaviours, memories and preconceptions. To do this concept justice would probably take more than a blog comment :)

*In other people's brains, and my own self-representation, I am an expected pattern, in reality I am an actual pattern. Which makes more sense of phrases like "he's not acting like himself" or people who see themselves acting in ways they don't think they would - it is simply that the expected pattern (of whichever metric) and the actual one have diverged to the point of being incompatible within their brain.

Sean (quantheory) said...

From a personal perspective, I seem not to have a strong illusion of having a single unified mind. It may in fact be the case that certain personality traits or desires are roughly localized in different parts of the brain (like a weaker version of the split brain condition), or perhaps that one can view the same phenomenon in two different ways that would be in tension, except that they can't both be held in mind at the same time.

The circuitry for two conflicting views could perhaps exist at similar levels in a single person, so I don't know what the "true self" would be in a neurological sense.

However, there may be a sense in which ex-gay people are distinctly mistaken about themselves. If for example, there's no way to change one's sexual orientation, or if it is possible but does not actually occur in most people who claim to be ex-gay, then they may be adhering to false propositions about themselves, and their self-concept is faulty.

A lesbian Christian who opts for celibacy, or for attempting a straight marriage despite the difficulty thereof, might actually be living according to what her "true self" would actually do, as long as she actually holds true beliefs about her own orientation. But if she remains a lesbian (as defined by attraction, including physical arousal that might in theory be objectively measurable by others) while working to shore up her image of herself as no longer having attractions to other women, she's shoring up a false conception of herself that is who she used to wish she was, and who she now believes she has become, while not in fact changing those psychological characteristics at all.

It could be argued that she would be better able to handle her life if she came to terms with the reality of her desires, whether or not she continued to abstain from sex with women. Otherwise she is making decisions based on what she believes she desires, but these desires are actually attributable to someone she desires to be (or to believe herself to be). She's oversimplifying her own motives, and in that sense acting out a false persona that she has created in order to conform to her self-image as a Christian and to social pressure.

But I sense that merely having true beliefs about oneself is not quite what's meant by being one's "true self". Being yourself is usually taken to mean that one should actively assert unique aspects of one's personality even against social pressure to the contrary (in this example, to not merely recognize one's sexual desires, but to actually satisfy them).

Relatedly, I don't think people regard the drunk self as more genuine just because it is less thoughtful. I think they regard the drunk self as more genuine because it is more likely to ignore social pressure and decorum, and thus exposes aspects of the individual which are not tailored to maintaining one's image. Advocating an unpopular view due to careful reflection is also "being oneself", in that it involves a refusal to bow to pressure. But I don't think the term has a consistent meaning in situations that don't invoke a clear individual vs. society conflict.

Or even in situations where there is such a conflict. Is a schizophrenic more himself when medicated or unmedicated? What if he wants to be off his meds but is forced to take them? What if he wants the medication but it is withheld from him? What if his medicated and unmedicated selves have different opinions? The relevant question here is about weighing the interests of various parties involved, not some apparently semantic (or perhaps metaphysical) question of which person is "the true person".

Jambe said...

@March Hare: I'm largely ignorant here but


suggests there are logically coherent theories which indicate that QM is deterministic (whether it is determinable is a different question).

Your use of chaos theory strikes me as misleading and irrelevant. I am knowledgeable enough to know chaotic systems are wholly deterministic. I'm just trying to follow your logic here.

What you seem to be suggesting is that the purportedly-probabilistic QM fluctuation of an initial state could trigger a chaotic cascade of events on the macro-scale... and if such a thing occurred, this would be proof that the QM event was probabilistic? This is rather circular, hence my bafflement.

Regardless, whether a quantum state change caused or was caused by a non-chaotic phenomenon (hammer -> nail) or the a chaotic event (dust particles -> tornado) has nothing whatsoever to do with the mechanics of the quantum state change. Unless I'm missing something, ofc, which is entirely possible.

There is research being done in quantum chaos, essentially asking (if I understand correctly) whether quantum mechanics is highly condition-sensitive in a dynamic way just like we see in classical systems... but this whole field seems to be arguing against your position.

Sorry I derailed your comments thread, Mr Blackford.

Jambe said...

@Svlad Cjelli: yes, yes, you're right, but what I'm asking is... why bother "reconciling" that conception of free will with determinism? Why bother glorifying an illusion? Why not just admit that it's an illusion, at which point you can just say "well, there's nothing to reconcile"?

Per Mr Blackford's other articles on the subject and other reading I have done, I would assume it is mostly to due with dislike and/or fear of fatalism, which strikes me as an EXTREMELY spooky, vague and even quasi-religious red herring.

Russell Blackford said...

^Well, yes - but I don't know why so many people on the internet are convinced that the folk believe in libertarian free will. That is not my experience with teaching university students, who are a self-selecting group who are more interested in these issues than most. They come in with a fairly vague concept of free will and when asked to think about the possibilities and sharpen up there thoughts the majority go for what is known as compatibilism.

I don't know whether this is another Australian/American difference, but I'm constantly amazed at all the confident claims on the internet that what people mean by free will is libertarian free will and that the compatibilist conception of free will is some kind of "redefinition" or moving of the goal posts. That is simply not my experience.

Nor does it seem even vaguely plausible to me that free will means more than being able to act in accordance with your own desires, values, etc., after deliberation if you want to stop and deliberate. The idea that you could somehow determine what your desires, etc., are all the way down makes no sense to me.

I realise that Kant is against me, but Hume is with me, as are the Stoics, and many others. Also, I see absolutely nothing spooky about this. Compatibilists are not positing anything more myterious than what we experience all the time, i.e. having desires and making choices based on those desires. A theory that denied that experience would pretty much rule itself out.

Conversely, fatalism is a very common idea, historically and even now. Therefore, it makes perfectly good sense to emphasise that we really can make choices that are based largely on our own desires ("largely" because we also make them on the basis of the circumstances that confront us). These are choices that can truly reflect our characters, and they can be efficacious.

I don't see how much more you can want, unless you want something that is very mysterious and perhaps not even coherent.

That said, Jambe, a writer who takes a kind of hard determinist, or hard incompatibilist, view (with due allowance for quantum effects) is Derk Pereboom. You might like to read his book on the subject.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Not only things like trees and animals, but also stones change.

Anyhow, I'd prefer to scrap "free will" outside of the context of, say, blackmail or imprisonment, and instead refer to simple "will".

Richard Wein said...

I'm with March Hare and Jambe on this. I think the folk meaning of free will is a libertarian one. I think most people would say or think something along these lines: "How can my decisions be 'free' if they're fully determined by prior states [and/or by the results of random events]? That's not what I mean by 'free will'." They may not be able to say what they _do_ mean by "free will", but I think they will be pretty insistent that they don't mean _that_. This reaction seems to me like a very natural one. I have a strong inclination to think that way myself. A choice which is predetermined (or random) certainly doesn't feel "free" to me.

What's more I have the very strong illusion that there is a real "me" or "self" inside this body calling the shots, at least some of the time. And there seems good reason to think that this illusion is the norm. Many people identify this real "self" with a "soul", and believers in souls probably constitute the majority of the world's population. Again, it seems very natural (if mistaken) to think that the real me does not have its decisons predetermined for it (or randomly determined). Most people seem to feel that this illusory inner self or soul is a kind of final arbiter or ultimate cause of their decisions.

Russell: "I don't see how much more you can want, unless you want something that is very mysterious and perhaps not even coherent."

Well, yes, I would say that people do want something that seems mysterious and arguably incoherent when you think it through carefully enough. But then I would say the same about what people want from morality. (And wouldn't you?) It's quite possible for people to want something mysterious or even incoherent. So the fact that attributing a certain meaning to people puts them in the position of wanting something mysterious (or even incoherent) is not sufficient reason to deny that that's their meaning. Of course, all other things being equal it would be better to attribute to them a meaning which does not have this unfortunate property. But all other things are not equal here. In both cases (free will and morality) there is evidence that the mysterious meaning is what people really mean.

"Also, I see absolutely nothing spooky about this. Compatibilists are not positing anything more myterious than what we experience all the time..."

I don't think anyone is saying that compatibilists are _positing_ something spooky. The problem is that they're failing to recognise the spookiness inherent in the normal meaning of "free will", and so mis-defining the term. However, it's possible that some compatibilists are unwittingly conflating their non-spooky meaning of free will with the actual, spooky meaning, and consequently _may_ be unwittingly accepting the existence of spooky free will along with their non-spooky "free will". (This would be analogous to what moral naturalists do, in my opinion, when they mis-define moral terms.)

Russell Blackford said...

As I say, Richard, I just find that sort of confident claim about what the folk understanding is very weird - having taught this stuff to quite a large number of students and finding no evidence of it at all.

Once again, this may be a cultural difference between Australia and the US, but I still don't understand it. Outside of a theological context, I don't know why someone would reach such a bizarre conclusion as that we possess libertarian free will. I can completely understand why people might think that fatalism is false - i.e. our choices are efficacious in affecting the future. But I don't see any evidence that the folk think about the fate versus free will question much further than that.

That doesn't prove you're wrong, of course. Maybe if confronted by a choice between fatalism, some kind of libertarian position, some sort of compatibilist position, and a don't know/none of the above position, and with no opportunity to study the positions but just to tick a box, most people will tick the libertarian box. It would be interesting to see some properly done surveys - perhaps for various countries. But for the moment I'm convinced that most people have only a vague notion of what they mean by "free will", just as I'm convinced that they have only a vague notion of what they mean by "morally good".

March Hare said...

Every person who believes in life after death, heaven and hell, must believe in libertarian free will. It makes no sense to say that God set up the universe and they simply follow the natural laws He set up from the starting position He put them in and, at the end, He punishes them for what He is ultimately responsible for. So that's a rather large block of people who are contra-causal free will proponents.

We had this discussion before (when I didn't have a quote handy) but the US legal system, and probably most systems worldwide, are based on the idea of libertarian free will hence punishment is such a big factor with rehabilitation less than it ought* to be.


California Supreme Court 1959 People vs Gorshen J. Spence:
"Medical psychology has embarrassingly few answers to this one question which the criminal law is most interested in. It does no good to proclaim to the jurist that scientific evidence proves that there is no such thing as free will. There is a subjective phenomenon which the normal individual experiences as free will. Illusory or not, free will remains the basis of all criminal law simply because free will is the basis of all normal social behavior."

As for your interactions, they are students speaking to a lecturer so are likelt to follow your lead rather than risk displeasuring you or looking stupid; they are studying philosophy so they have thought about this stuff much more than regular people and have read much more than 'the folks'.

* Don't start with Hume...

Jambe said...

Mr Blackford, I agree that libertarian free will is weird, but it's irrelevant to my point. I'm suggesting that your desire to reconcile the illusion conception of free will with determinism strikes me as glorification of said illusion, and that this glorification is somewhat spooky.

It's possible that I misunderstand fatalism, so I'll elaborate to see if I'm just flat wrong. I am very earnestly curious as to why you think fatalism needs to be combated. As far as I can tell it's not a problem. We are incapable of fitting every piece of the causal puzzle of our existence into place, so there will always be mystery in our lives (the illusion of choice will always exist).

Fatalism is the notion that, since the universe is deterministic, the past is essentially a script for the future — i.e. that we are totally bound to act and feel the way we do by the physical happenstance of our existence. Is that correct?

How is that not actually true, though?

It appears that you feel the need to combat defeatism, which is a rather woo extension of fatalism, so you glorify the illusion of free will. You may not outright say that the illusion "gives us respite from the domineering script of causality" but you heavily imply it. I see exactly that happening in this quote:

"fatalism is a very common idea, historically and even now. Therefore, it makes perfectly good sense to emphasise that we really can make choices that are based largely on our own desires ("largely" because we also make them on the basis of the circumstances that confront us). These are choices that can truly reflect our characters, and they can be efficacious."

That passage makes more sense to me if "fatalism" is replaced with "defeatism". Am I misreading you?

Yes, our "choices" are "efficacious" but that does not mean they weren't the only ones we could have made. Yes, we have "desires" but only because conditions existed in the past to create them. And yes, our behavior reflects our "character", but our character is as causally-determined as anything else in existence.

The fact that we act in accordance with our surroundings is readily apparent, I should think, and the implication that there is but one "inevitable" path for us to follow is just as evident (because there is only the one set of surroundings, i.e. the universe).

As far as I can see, the inevitability of a discrete outcome to every circumstance does not mean that life is pointless, or that our decisions don't affect the future, or that we should live lethargic, reactionary lives because "everything is inevitable anyway".

Unless we augment ourselves with supercomputers which can simulate extremely complex chaotic systems like social webs with high degrees of efficacy, we will never have to worry about Oedipus moments.

Svlad Cjelli said...

@March Hare - Is it not so, though, that occasionally religious people and scripture scholars do present that the creator of the universe meant for some to be sinners and punished from the very start?

Though I can't remember their names and thereby rediscover the mentions, I do recall some scriptural suggestions of it, à la "I will harden his heart".

March Hare said...

@ Svlad, I assume you are referring to God hardening the heart of the Pharaoh so as to not give into Moses 'let my people go' spiel.

I think in these situations there are a few points that have to be addressed:
1. The Pharaoh was a believer in a whole other religion so was doomed already, in their view.
2. It was Old Testament which many regard as parable rather than fact.
3. While many religious people do believe in supernatural agents influencing events (hence prayer!) they still believe people get what they deserve* - and that can only be based on what you 'freely' choose. NB. Freely here doesn't mean free from influence/pressure but rather openly chosen within your own mind. Which refers back to the 'true self' gibberish.
4. People tend to only see God as a positive force and not one that would make people act badly and doom themselves - this is perhaps more true of Christianity than other major religions, not sure.
4.1. Whatever God wills is good and people who want to be an instrument of God on earth will get their reward in heaven.
5. Regardless of old stories the internal view is one of having complete free will and the view of an immaterial soul being the 'true self' and the body as a vessel for that soul to act in the world is pervasive and persuasive to certain mindsets.

* I have heard the explanation that God hardening the Pharaoh's heart was simply, and you have to love this, encouraging his 'true self' to come to the fore.

Richard Wein said...


I don't think philosophy students (even new ones) who've thought about the subject carefully are representative of most people. It seems to me that compatibilist philosophers have been influenced by a desire to reconcile their belief in free will with their belief in determinism, and your students may well have been influenced in the same way. A more naive person may be less inclined towards determinism and so feel less need to reconcile it with free will.

Still, I'll grant that, unlike moral discourse (which is commonplace), discourse about "free will" is comparatively unusual, and largely limited to philosophical discussions about whether it exists. So it may be fair to say that there is no prevalent "folk" meaning of the term. Let me say instead (and more vaguely) that deterministic "free will" doesn't seem "free" in any appropriate sense.

Russell Blackford said...

Okay - but whether it seems "free" in any appropriate sense is going to be a matter of opinion after much conceptual analysis. We'd have to clarify what we - individually or collectively - consider an "appropriate" sense of "free." From my point of view, it's actually libertarian free will that fails to deliver what we want, once we start to clarify and analyse our concepts. After all, it seems to me that libertarian free will ends up being very weird. For example, it can alienate us from our own desires, treating them as something outside of us.

By contrast, compatibilism can tell a straightforward story about our desires. They help constitute us, and when we act in accordance with them, or at least in accordance with the ones that we endorse after rational reflection, we are acting freely - not in the grip of something like an alien force, as Kant seemingly thought of our desires.

As for my students - yes, they may be more willing to take a scientific perspective than the general population. I grant that. But it's not as if they come in from 18 years of being socialised with a clear understanding of what is meant by "free will" in the culture around them. So I do think they provide reasonable evidence that, as you put it, "there is no prevalent 'folk' meaning of the term." All I'm really trying to do in this post is establish that as a possibility, given how many people seem confident that there is such a folk meaning and that they know what it is.

Richard Wein said...

Fair enough, Russell. I've just read this paper which reports some experimental philosophy conducted among some US students:

The results are more mixed than you reported for your students, but they refute my assumptions about how most people would respond on this subject.

BTW In case you're collecting data for your US/others hypothesis, I'm a Brit.

Marshall said...

Out here in the American backwoods, I think the core folk concept is "responsibility" rather than "free will"; that is to say "you are responsible for your actions". We understand that being badly brought up in a dysfunctional home predisposes towards bad work habits and other forms of criminality, but it is up the the individual to rise above all that, or not. "It was an accident" can be a partial defense (probably too readily accepted), but we understand what we mean by "voluntary" actions, such as doing drugs.

People live everyday lives in the realm of middle-sized objects which at least appears to be replete with indeterminate events. People who don't grasp what Darwinian evolution is about are not going to grasp hard determinism, with or without the involvement of a deity. At this level of abstraction, the philosophical question is meaningless. The compatibilist position embodies the idea that two levels of abstraction (personal responsibility vis-a-vis Newtonian mechanics) are both valid although logically incompatible.

I just find that sort of confident claim about what the folk understanding is very weird
I agree with enthusiasm. Many are far too ready to say "If someone believes X, they must also agree to Y". Actual questions of belief are not so cut-and-dry.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Yeah, you're right, March Hare, and I wasn't very clear about whom I was referring to. I meant that I recall hearing from modern religious suggestions that sinners and sin are necessary parts of a divine plan, so that the deity deliberately ensures there will be a use for both the punishment and the reward.

I can't remember the names of any particular proponent of this view, however. Except possibly the Phelps', who are of the stated opinion that everybody will be punished for sin, and that there is no salvation from sin or from punishment.

March Hare said...

Interesting study Richard, thanks for that.

However, it doesn't present the question in a personal way - it should ask: "Do you accept that every thought you have ever had, or ever will have, and every action you have taken, or will take, is completely caused by a chain of physical, chemical and biological reactions that go back to before you were born?"

Present it stark and in their face.

Russell Blackford said...

March Hare, you seem awfully dogmatic about this. You claim with no evidence that my students would favour compatibilism because they are interacting with me, but that is simply not how it works. Students have no compunction in expressing concern if I am putting views that they are uncomfortable with, so that's not an issue. A lot of students come in from high school with some form of crude moral relativism in their heads, and philosophy teachers try to show them the problems with it. They are quite capable of expressing worry in return and often do.

But the point is that the students don't come in with a clear view of free will, even though they may be more interested in such issues than the folk generally. Which is some evidence that the folk generally don't have such a clear idea either.

As for the way you want the questionnaire to read ... yes, if you phrase the question in a highly tendentious way to steer people towards a libertarian free will answer, that's the answer you might get. So?

March Hare said...

Russell, I think you are right. I had a conversation with my favourite religionistas and they're quite happy with determinism but somehow still think that God, who set up the rules and starting conditions, is still able to punish and reward outcomes AND that people deserve it!?!

There is no limit to the cognitive dissonance of some people.

In the grand scheme of things it is a minor point and a distraction from real issues and I shall henceforth drop it.