Issue #194 / May 2022

I’ve recently been grappling with the concept of determinism and the implications it has on morality. Out of curiosity (and I suppose the entire casual web resulting in this message) what are your thoughts on this subject, is it still ok to show praise or to blame others for behaviour that is wholly and entirely out of their (and our) ultimate control? Even more curiously, how many people deserve writing credits when every single person alive (and who has ever lived before) has ultimately resulted in “your” finished song?


Dear J.I,

This is the sort of question that I have absolutely no authority to answer. There are far cleverer people out there who have thought long and hard about these matters – determinism and the existence of free will – people who, with a yawn and slow swipe of their hand, could demolish practically anything I have to say on the matter.

However, since you asked, I will say this: there seem to me to be some ideas that may very well be false, but are beneficial to a person or group of people to believe them. I, personally, would put the belief in God in that category. Similarly, there are other ideas that may very well be true, but it is simply not beneficial to a person, or society in general, to believe them. I would put determinism, or lack of free will, in that category. It is just untenable to base a society on the idea that we have no free will – that no one is responsible for their actions, whether they be good or bad.

Therefore, I believe that I have individual sovereignty and am responsible for whatever wrongs I have done in the world, but can also take a certain pride in the good. So, with that in mind, and with all the love and respect in the world, if you’re angling to claim a portion of my publishing royalties – 1/7.9 billionth of them – because ultimately I wasn’t responsible for writing them, as they were determined by causes outside of my will, well, J.I., it just ain’t gonna fucking happen.
Love, Nick


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