An issue with skeptics of free will and other such topics is that they make some unwarranted assumptions to justify their two-cause universe that are ultimately contradictory. The modern skeptic is more of a Diet Skeptic than a true skeptic.
First, Prove That Something Is Illusory
Or, for that matter, prove anything at all
As Luke Smith frames it in a recent video, many so-called thinkers posit a world of nothing but matter randomly bumping into each other, causing a large-scale chain reaction. Following this materialist hypothesis, then, should lead us to conclude that classical free will is just an illusion; it is nothing more than a predetermined action with material and efficient causes. This would seem reasonable, but I will demonstrate that following this theory to its logical conclusion is almost never done by materialists and is quite unreasonable, hence Diet Skeptics, and that no matter anyone’s opinions or views, we all fall into something I will call the Trap of Consciousness.
The Great Trap
No man can get outside his own head. No matter the “discovery” or “realization”, man cannot free himself from the limitations of the consciousness he has. This is the so-called Trap of Consciousness, and it is why the realist philosophy of Plato and Aristotle to the Scholastics is quite difficult and focuses upon gaining knowledge that exists outside of our minds. Materialism seems to think that good quality science can supplant hard Realism, but the facts, and even the falsities, which science may produce are dependent upon the interpreting minds of men trapped in their own consciousness. This is not a problem suited for scientists, it is a problem for metaphysicians.
If man is really and truly trapped in his own head, the true skeptic will conclude that even his own thoughts, interpretations, and impressions of the natural world are themselves illusory. It is not rational to state that “all is material” in this context as the Diet Skeptics do, because such an interpretation is coming from a deluded limited consciousness. Therefore, the true skeptic makes the final step in order to stay “coherent”, by saying that he has no mind or consciousness at all. If he has no mind or consciousness, then he cannot state a single thing about the world, like a speechless animal that cannot know. No science, no propositions, no nothing can be said to be anything more than the grunts of an animal.
But how many modern materialists actually take this step? To make grand claims in the name of science while denying the mind and its operations which make those claims is completely irrational. To prove the non-existence of free will, for example, will require making unwarranted assumptions that our minds can state anything correct about the universe in the first place, which, since we have followed the logic already, is shown to be incoherent. Claiming something does not exist is much more difficult than claiming something does exist.
The Existence Issue
There is also an issue of the existence of things which are outside of human perception. For example, let us suppose there is a creek in my woods at this very moment and no one is around it to perceive it. Does it exist? The realists and materialists both answer yes for different reasons, but the true skeptic (or true materialist) says no (he cannot know).
A better question is this: why does the creek continue to exist outside ourselves? The materialist must either posit that it somehow exists of itself, an unprovable tautology, or that it caused its own existence and so continues to cause its existence, an utter impossibility, or, if he is being honest, has no real answer; even if he did, it would fall under the Great Trap. Things do not seem to exist unless they are present in a mind of sorts, but this creek most definitely exists; the mind in which it exists must know it correctly and is not subject to the limited consciousness of man. Though not perceived or even conceived of by human minds, things exist because they are present in a different, totally complete mind, the Divine Mind. If things were not present in this all-knowing mind, then those things would not at all exist.
For another example, consider bacteria. For thousands of years, man never perceived nor even conceived of the existence of bacteria; they were not present in his mind, yet bacteria existed. Bacteria did not pop into existence once a decent microscope was invented, they were “discovered” but were of course existent long before their discovery. Their existence for those thousands of years was not maintained in the human mind, but in the Divine Mind. But for a true skeptic, the bacteria does not exist because it is out of human perception, and even if it were not, he is incapable of knowing anything.
How To Break The Entire Theory Of Knowledge
By not lending creedence to the existence of substances outside of the material, materialists back themselves into a corner with nihilism as the only possible answer with nothing in between. Of course, nihilism is no answer at all, but a sorry coping mechanism for denying things that are normally self-evident. Falling into the pit of the true skeptic/nihilist ultimately means that knowledge of anything is impossible, because nothing can be known. This is just a circular argument that rebuts itself. It is also hysterically contradictory: if knowledge of anything is impossible, how do we know that knowledge of anything is impossible?
What a mess we have made! It would seem that an honest materialist would see the logical inevitability of his position and reevaluate, but very few do. You cannot put full faith into something like science without also trusting in human rationality and its capacity for knowledge and interpretation which cannot be proven in a material way. All knowledge attainable by man must go through the filter that is human consciousness, and a certain kind of faith is required to trust that the truth goes through that filter unscathed. This faith however, cannot be proven materially since it is a different substance.
This is what I mean by skeptics don’t go far enough. They will deny metaphysics because it cannot be validated by material science, but don’t go all the way to deny that anything can be validated at all in their philosophy for the reasons above. They possess a fideism in their own rational faculties working correctly that is less honest than nihilism which attempts, naively, to claim nothing. Aristotle doesn’t just have his Realist foot in the door, he’s broken it down while everyone pretends he isn’t there. Every increase in knowledge that is independent of human conception will only further validate his work and his successors'.