Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An uncaused event?

When in Manchester I decided, just before heading back to the car, to kill the last ten minutes with a quick stroll down Oldham Street to take in its funky plethora of shops. And, just as I took my first tentative steps down the street, I bumped into someone I know - the actor, Matt McGuirk. Or, as we refer to him, Matt McGuirk The Actor. Which was, of course, a tremendous coincidence. I know a few people in Manchester but Matt was the one I stumbled into. "Hey," he said. "What are you doing here?" We (Finn, myself and Matt McGuirk The Actor) went for a cuppa in Cup, which just happens to be owned by one Mr Scruff, hence all the Mr Scruff artwork-a-dangling down. Over tea, whilst listening to Matt opine about the perils of the acting profession, and between my responses that included some gripes about the perils of the writing profession, I started thinking about this chance encounter. Why here? Why now? How, how, how? Did it mean that we were, somehow, inextricably linked on a level above and beyond both being involved in the short film It's My Party? Were we destined to fall in love? It was then I decided that fate had played a hand in bringing us to this place, where media types in fancy glasses tippy-typed and Photoshopped on Apple Macs. But why, well, I don't know. Maybe Matt needed me and I needed him. Isn't life a weird unfathomable piece of silliness? Or maybe it was more to do with me choosing to go down Oldham Street, where Matt happens to live, at the same time that he was heading out for some biscuits.

As Adler has it...

In the philosophical theory of probability, what happens by chance is what happens without a cause. Consider the coincidence of two individuals who happen to meet on a particular street at a particular time. Why do we call this coincidental meeting, and regard it as an uncaused event?

The answer is that each of the two individuals is caused to be at the spot where the chance meeting occurs by all the causal factors operating in his own past, but nothing in their separate pasts causes them to meet each other there. The coincidence is, therefore, an uncaused or a chance event.

In human activity, free choice as well as physical cause operate. Freedom of choice is present when in deciding on any activity, the individual could have chosen otherwise. His action is, therefore, causally determined by the exercise of his willpower rather than by the kind of causes that operate in nature.

It is, therefore, incorrect to think that there is an irresolute conflict between free will and causal determinism. The freely chosen decision is causally determined, but not in the same way that events in the physical world are causally determined.

Yes, the odds of meeting Matt McGuirk The Actor just round the corner from where he lives were pretty high. He's always down there, of course. And I've visited Manchester and walked down Oldham Street on several occasions. It was bound to happen.

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