**This is from guest blogger, Erik V.**
Say I’m walking home from Ethics one day and a strange old man appears from behind a bush by Science Hall. He has a 10x10 grid of identical red squares and tells me “Pick the correct square and you win $50!” Imagine I don’t get scared and punch the strange old man or ignore him and keep walking or anything like that. Whichever one I pick, I am picking because I think it is the winning square. What’s the reason I think that the one I pick is the one that will win? For the determinist, is it really just as simple as “that’s the way you’re neurons in your brain were firing then” or “your experience with grids and spatial proximity of squares makes you pick that one given the circumstances leading up to it”? There doesn’t seem to be a good reason as to why I think that any particular square is more likely the winning square than any other, yet I still “pick” one because I want to get something. I guess the second explanation the determinist gives me, the “experience with squares one” I’m likely to buy; even though I doubt most of us have a robust experience with squares and grids, unless you have a stamp collection, but it still feels kind of funny to me. Maybe I’m not even really choosing, there doesn’t seem to be anything dire at stake, it’s not like I’m wrong and he chops my arm off. How does this then translate to moral choices?
At any given point I have a lot of things I could be doing, yet I’m not because the thing I am doing will yield a result I am expecting. If I had more complete knowledge of my actions and their results, wouldn’t I then be more likely to then repeat them (or not)? Back to the strange old man, if I pick a square and it’s wrong, let’s say he removes it and lets me try again the next day. After a few days of getting it wrong, he starts giving me hints too. I eventually pick it and get $50. After a week I see him pulling the same stunt with another student, I walk up, and pick the winning square (one of his hints was that he doesn’t ever change the square/board). Since I have a complete knowledge of how the game works, and I want $50, I keep hunting him down so I can keep obtaining the result I want. If I were to extend this to the choices we make, it seems to follow that the more we know about choices and what follows, the more likely we are to make that choice again. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t choose it because the result doesn’t agree with our value system (ex: I don’t drink bleach because it wouldn’t make me happy because I’m a hedonist). So does this mean even if we have a free will, we could potentially fall into a deterministic lifestyle given knowledge of our actions and their results? Any input would be great. I feel very lost and confused.