A fresh, topical take on a timeless & riveting philosophical discussion. Don’t mind if I do.

About Mr. Paul Erdos, apparently, he only started taking them at the age of 58 to cope with the loss of his mother, with whom he was very close with. So they may have revitalized his late-mathematics career, but he did not initially take them with intent to perform better. But even if he did do it intentionally, why doesn’t anyone give a crap? I’d say because namely, society doesn’t care about math competitively the way it does with major sports to raise a flag that Erdos was a cheat. It’s also to do with the dynamics of each respective game, where in one, there’s a communal effort to produce truth, and in another, you’re constantly competing for millions of dollars to win a fake trophy.

Now what about free will? In fact, I don’t think it’s much of a discussion within the scope of steroids or anything to do with society and it’s subset of problems.  Society is set up under the assumption that it does indeed exist. We set up laws and rules based on decisions each of us make, that fall on the right or wrong side of said laws and rules. However, I should note, there are such cases where we make exemptions to this notion, where a human being is said to be in a state of no control, and acting reactionarily to their respective environment. For example, defendants often use the insanity plea to escape criminal consequences. But if we are to assume the opposite premise, that there is no free will, then no one would be accountable for their actions (since it’s not up to them), and we would live in an anarchic dystopia. I realize this doesn’t go into the deeper philosophical layer of the discussion, but if we try and practically solve society’s problems sans free will, chaos ensues.

Now, with respect to natural giftedness in contrast with environmentally earned talents, it’s always a balance of both. There are natural talents one is gifted with, such as consciousness, which we all possess, or an inclination to jumping very high, which unfortunately neither of us do. When an athlete decides to give himself an edge in their respective sport, we judge them on this because we operate under the assumption of free will. We realize that he or she is being dishonest (whether you agree with the merit of the use or not, it is illegal nonetheless), and choosing to partake in a ‘shortcut’. The interesting question you raise is with respect to a mother making that decision for the child. Would this ‘super’ child then be able to compete in sports, when the mother had made this decision for them before they were able to object? Does the lack of free will or choice of the child evade them of the responsibility of this decision?

~ R