Life’s self-motion

1.) Determinism does not arise from the perfection of natural motion but from its poverty. Nature is not moving with precise, perfect, ironclad and exceptionless law but is a network of moved movers whose actions are nothing but the manifestation of earlier states of affairs. Natural action stretches infinitely in both directions because of its inability to self-initiate.

2.) Say life self-initiates, and physical life does so by acting with and/or upon physical causes, so that the action of the living is other than what would happen by physical law and initial conditions alone. What then?

Objection: You’re claiming that physics is incomplete. What’s your evidence?

 Response: Physics itself gives it. Natural laws only explain the actual world together with initial conditions. Now either initial condition X has some condition before it or not. If so, it does not suffice to explain since it is explained by the one before; and if not it does not suffice to explain since all we can say* is that “it is what it is” – which, if valid, is something we could have said about the actual world without having to bother about physics. Laws + initial conditions already require something else to explain the actual world.

Briefly, physical causes are moved movers, and these explain the continuance of a determinate action, but not its determinacy.

Objection: Conservation laws require that outcomes be already determined. By your own admission, life has to be able to “alter what would happen by physical causes alone” and therefore violates conservation laws.

Response: Again, laws and initial conditions do not suffice to explain the actual world. Life only “alters” physical causes under the counterfactual supposition that physical causes could act alone, i.e. in a way that could suffice to explain outcomes in the actual world.

Objection: It is meaningless to describe life acting on physical laws and conditions when we can’t detect this. Life-actions are vacuous entities about which we can say nothing at all. What’s their Hamiltonian?

Response: Physical laws and conditions as physical are instrumental or partial accounts of the actual world. The interactive mechanisms and measurement devices appropriate to establishing the existence of physical causes are not appropriate tools for describing all causes of the actual world.


*By appealing to the resources of physics, that is.

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