• Ludwig V
    1k

    Thanks for the thought. As it happens, I do understand. If one tries to respond to everything, it quickly becomes too much (and I, at least, get muddled). Even if one limits oneself to actual mentions, it still gets too much - especially if some of the replies overlap. But it is nice to get an acknowledgement.
  • ssu
    8.2k
    The question is this: Did I let go of the pillow in exactly the way I did because all the constituents of my brain - whether we examine them as particles and physics, or molecules and chemistry, or structures and biology, or whatever - acted in the only ways each of them could, all purely physical interactions driven by the physical laws?Patterner
    In physics, we know of this problem as the measurement problem: when the measurement itself effects what is measured, taking a classic measurement won't do. For example quantum models are preferred from Newtonian models.

    The logical side here is self reference. It shows logically why here just a simple extrapolation won't do, as does it works perfectly for example in predicting the movements of planets. So yes, the question here is of the actor, who initiated something. When do you initiate the letting go, from what height do you drop it, etc.

    The logical problem is when the model would have to take itself to account. Sometimes this can be done, but which is here crucial here, not always. Not especially when you have negative self reference. You cannot overcome that. Just as you cannot write and answer that you don't write. It simply goes against logic.

    Did I throw the pillow because all the constituents of my brain acted in the only ways each of them could, all purely physical interactions driven by the physical laws?Patterner
    We do start from a courageous premiss that you are aware of what you are doing and you can decided when to throw the pillow. The basic problem comes when someone would have to forecast when you through the pillow with you hearing the forecast. That forecast might make you not to throw it or throw it another way you first intended. Hence the model itself has an effect on how you will act. How could an accurate forecast be made, when the forecast itself effects what it should model? Hopefully you see the problem is similar to the measurement having an effect on what is measured.

    Does this refute the idea that you let go of the pillow in exactly the way I did because all the constituents of my brain? Actually not. The determinism holds. But it shows that this determinism isn't at all a limit here.
  • Patterner
    665
    Does this refute the idea that you let go of the pillow in exactly the way I did because all the constituents of my brain? Actually not. The determinism holds. But it shows that this determinism isn't at all a limit here.ssu
    Unlimited determinism is still determinism. That's my point. Many say we can make choices within an entirely deterministic reality. My position is that those choices are equivalent to the glass breaking. Yes, glasses hitting floors can break in in gigantic number of different ways. But every glass that has ever actually hit a floor broke exactly as it did because that's the only way it could have. Because of the speed it was going when it hit, the spin, the exact location that first made contact, the material it and the floor were made of, and many other factors.

    If all is deterministic, then every decision I've ever made was exactly as it was because that's the only decision I could have made. Pointing out things like stored memories that affect how I react to stimuli, or how hearing a forecast of when I will take action affects when I do, don't change the fact that it's all just physical events. Even if our decisions are the result of more physical events, more kinds of physical events, and physical events that interact far more than anything else that we are aware of.

    We call the glass breaking an event, but what I do a choice. But, despite the different levels of complexity, the only actual difference is that I am aware of what's going on, and the glass is not. and if the determinists are correct, my awareness is also only physical events, and it doesn't have any causal power.
  • ssu
    8.2k
    If all is deterministic, then every decision I've ever made was exactly as it was because that's the only decision I could have made.Patterner
    And that just shows how meaningless the idea is. Because you have to make decisions. That determinism says that with probability 1 you make or abstain from making a decision has no value, because it doesn't give you any more information.

    We make models about reality and those models are useful if to give us some more information. The Block Universe model of determinism itself doesn't give us much. Newtonian physics gives us useful models for many things, but not to everything.

    Is reality deterministic is a metaphysical question for the obvious reasons and itself isn't such helpful. But understanding our limitations that we have in models using mathematics or logic is important.

    But, despite the different levels of complexity, the only actual difference is that I am aware of what's going on, and the glass is not. and if the determinists are correct, my awareness is also only physical events, and it doesn't have any causal power.Patterner
    But even if your awareness is an physical event, that's not the problem here. The problem is with the modelling when you have interaction. And obviously you have interaction when somebody is making a choice. If you have a choice to make, you obviously understand that there is a choice to make and you have to think about the alternate effects different actions would make. That's not extrapolation! The determinist model of you making a choice doesn't help you.
  • ssu
    8.2k
    Back when I was young and innocent, I read an article by Richard Taylor, a Brown University philosophy professor. Taylor’s view was that some phenomena have “causes” and can be described accordingly, whereas others – namely, “actions” performed by “agents” – are different. “Agents initiate action,” he argued, while causes and effects are links in a long chain which, in principle, can be traced back in time indefinitely.Thales
    For the hard-core determinist, there's no difference between causes and "actions" performed by "agents". But of course this making the division between causes and actions does understand they have to thought of differently.
  • Ludwig V
    1k
    Which leaves gaps (junctions?) in the chain of causation for the exercise of personal willpower to choose (decide) the next step.Gnomon
    The orthodox articulation of the debate requires either positing free will as a magical kind of cause that is causally determined and/or a gap in causality that allows this unique kind of event to occur. Neither is at all plausible.

    And that just shows how meaningless the idea is. Because you have to make decisions. That determinism says that with probability 1 you make or abstain from making a decision has no value, because it doesn't give you any more information.ssu
    This is a promising approach, but nonetheless seems to leave our supposedly freely made decisions vulnerable to the apparently controlling force of determinism. It may not give me any information, but it will certainly influence the attitude of others to my decision, and may even influence my own attitude to my own decision.

    The determinist model of you making a choice doesn't help you.ssu
    I think it's more like to hinder me. (There's a classic argument against fatalism, that it tends to make us lazy, since the causally determined outcome will happen "whatever I do" or at least whatever I do will make no difference. I realize it's a muddle, but still...)

    For the hard-core determinist, there's no difference between causes and "actions" performed by "agents". But of course this making the division between causes and actions does understand they have to thought of differently.ssu
    That's certainly true. The practical syllogism, which models rational decision-making about action, is quite different from the paradigm syllogism. Practice syllogism require values, desires &c and lead to action. Neither is true of the paradigm syllogism.
    But that's the point. Thinking about actions (people) is a different language game from thinking about events. But it's not a matter of two different kinds of event, but a different way of thinking about some events. Most philosophers leave the argument there, but that won't do. We have to understand how actions can be (need to be) explained in two apparently incompatible ways - as actions, and as events with causes.

    If that's the key problem - and I'm sure it is - then here are a couple of out-of-the-box thoughts.
    (This will only be a starting-point.)

      1 Freedom is not opposed to determinism; it requires it. We could not act freely if the causal network was not (reasonably) reliable.

      2 The idea that freedom does not apply to causally-determined events is a prejudice of philosophers, in pursuit of their idea of the special cause for actions. Ordinary language is perfectly happy to call such events free, and paying attention to that illuminates what free should mean. Why do we speak of bodies being in free fall? Why do require our wheels and cranks to spin freely? In both cases, we are thinking of what happens if nothing intervenes to prevent it in the context of our lives in the world. Free fall is usually a disaster, so we approach the phenomenon from that perspective - not from the dispassionate perspective of the scientist. Freely spinning wheels and cranks are important for the proper functioning of various machines - again, the human, practical perspective.

      3 The (correct) idea that our brains and bodies are subject to causality is only half the story. The preparation and weighing up of our decisions may have a causal network behind it. If it works properly, we can act freely. When it goes wrong, we don't. In just the same way, when a computer carries out a calculation, success follows when the system works properly and failure follows when it doesn't. It's not about being caused or not. Admittedly, this requires interpreting or explaining the action in the light of the human beings involved in it, and this is not the same view of the world as the dispassionate examination of the workings of the machine (that metaphor is, of course, seriously misleading) that is the universe.
  • Patterner
    665
    Freedom is not opposed to determinism; it requires it.Ludwig V
    Can you define "freedom"? Freedom from what?

    We could not act freely if the causal network was not (reasonably) reliable.Ludwig V
    Can you give me an example of a free action?

    Also, by "reasonably reliable", do you mean the casual network is not always reliable? If that is what you mean, can you give an example of it not being reliable?
  • Patterner
    665

    Your post brings a post on another site to mind.
    https://kevinswatch.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=1098685#p1098685

    It's a site dedicated to a series of fantasy books, and the author in general. But we have forums for various other things.
  • Thales
    18
    Your post brings a post on another site to mind.
    https://kevinswatch.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=1098685#p1098685
    Patterner

    Thank you, Patterner. I really enjoyed that post by Zarathustra. Great stuff! Maybe I'm in the wrong forum here, and should switch over to science fiction fora. :cool:
  • Thales
    18
    For the hard-core determinist, there's no difference between causes and "actions" performed by "agents".ssu

    You’re exactly right, ssu. And upon reflection, I should really throw in the towel. Because even “hard-core” free willists believe in determinism – albeit self-determinism. I remember when some philosophers grabbed onto the new physics of quantum mechanics to save us from the onslaught of determinism, but that only gave us “indeterminism” – random, uncaused events instead of reasoned, well-considered actions.

    There’s just something about determinism that seems odd to me. I keep coming back to asking what it is that determinists are doing when they argue. It seems as if they are trying to convince someone who believes in free will of the strength of their arguments – that a free willist will consider all the evidence and, in the end, choose to believe that determinism makes the most sense. But according to determinism, this is not what determinists are doing.

    According to determinism, determinists are not, in fact, trying to convince others of their position when they argue for the merits of determinism. Determinists are compelled to believe what they do because of their own antecedent causes (i.e., physical, chemical, biological, genetic, environmental and social conditions) – just like everyone else. Their arguments are the result of a chain of causes that go back to their births and social environments.

    And this just seems odd to me. For some reason, this deterministic explanation for what determinists do when they argue their point doesn’t seem right. They do seem to be reasoning, considering the evidence and trying to convince others of their position. Don't they? And if they are doing these things, doesn’t this belie their deterministic position?
  • Patterner
    665

    That's a very long thread, and he has some great stuff to say.

    And you can't go wrong with scifi. :grin:
  • Gnomon
    3.6k
    Which leaves gaps (junctions?) in the chain of causation for the exercise of personal willpower to choose (decide) the next step. — Gnomon
    The orthodox articulation of the debate requires either positing free will as a magical kind of cause that is causally determined and/or a gap in causality that allows this unique kind of event to occur. Neither is at all plausible.
    Ludwig V
    Yes. I'm aware that my "articulation" of a Causal Gap in Determinism is un-orthodox. But it's based on science, not magic. Beginning in the early 2000s, scientists began to study Complexity and Chaos seriously. The Santa Fe Institute was established specifically to bring together physicists & mathematicians, and a few philosophers, to learn about some of the Uncertainties in Nature that puzzled the early Quantum pioneers. Quantum Mechanics seemed to be missing a few gears. So, the Uncertainty Principle has been postulated as an opportunity for the exercise of FreeWill. In opposition, the Conjecture of SuperDeterminism*1 has been proposed, but as the link below notes, its argument seems circular.

    For my own philosophical purposes, I'm trying to think ahead of pragmatic science. The metaphor I'm postulating is not yet "plausible" for scientific purposes, but I think it can provide fodder for philosophizing. Most traditional arguments against Fatalistic Determinism are based on Morality. But this metaphor is based on physical Contingency*2 : opportunities for innovation.

    Based, in part, on the studies linked in my previous post, I have concluded that Magic is not necessary to control Destiny. Instead, Physics has found Gaps in Natural Determinism for Meta-Physics to fill with the kind of statistical Potential that Terrence Deacon described as "Causal" or "Constituitive Absence"*3. That counter-intuitive notion may begin to make sense though, if you combine it with Ed Lorenz's non-linear complexity equations that, when graphed by a computer {dynamic image below}, reveal an absence at the center of Chaos, that has been labeled a Strange Attractor. Complexity is indeterminate, due to the Contingencies of Initial Conditions.

    That hole at the center of Determinism may be "strange" but it's not a god-of-the-gaps conjecture. It's a feature of Nature that the human mind may be able to exploit in order to impose its will on Nature. We know it happens --- we call it Culture*4 --- but explaining exactly how mind-over-matter works may take more time. For now, we can draw upon Complexity & Chaos science for philosophical metaphors to help us understand how human Will can evade Fate.

    Lorenz's equations have already been used to explain why the weather is unpredictable. Maybe, in time, they will also reveal why the human mind is unpredictable. It's called Creativity. :smile:


    *1. Does Quantum Mechanics Rule Out Free Will? :
    In a recent video, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, whose work I admire, notes that superdeterminism eliminates the apparent randomness of quantum mechanics. . . .
    The arguments seem circular : the world is deterministic, hence quantum mechanics must be deterministic.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-quantum-mechanics-rule-out-free-will/

    *2. Contingency vs Destiny :
    "Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life used the story of the origin of animals during the Cambrian radiation to argue that contingency has had a dominant role in the history of life. . . . .
    Although contingency may play a central role in many other complex adaptive systems, few have explored the importance of contingency and determinism, and this discussion has been largely lacking at SFI".

    https://santafe.edu/events/contingency-and-determinism-in-complex-adaptive-systems

    *3. What is Constitutive Absence?
    A particular and precise missing something that is a critical defining attribute of 'ententional' phenomena, such as functions, thoughts, adaptations, purposes, and subjective experiences.
    https://absence.github.io/3-explanations/absential/absential.html

    *4. Nature vs Culture :
    Nature didn't give us wings to fly to the moon. But it gave us the ability to impose our collective Will upon the physical world by means of Culture : human intellectual & intentional acheivements.


    PS___ Notice that the moving dot --- a point in statistical phase space --- cycles over time toward infinity, but it never crosses its own path, and it never enters the Destiny Gap in the center. This may be the Absence that Deacon labelled "Causal".
    A_Trajectory_Through_Phase_Space_in_a_Lorenz_Attractor.gif
  • ssu
    8.2k
    This is a promising approach, but nonetheless seems to leave our supposedly freely made decisions vulnerable to the apparently controlling force of determinism. It may not give me any information, but it will certainly influence the attitude of others to my decision, and may even influence my own attitude to my own decision.Ludwig V
    But that's the incredible thing: there isn't the influence or a controlling force with determinism!


    It may not give me any information, but it will certainly influence the attitude of others to my decision, and may even influence my own attitude to my own decision.Ludwig V
    I'll try to explain my point by making the following thought experiment.

    Let's assume that everything you have said has been recorded and written down into a book. Or if that's too unrealistic, then let's look at all the comments that @Ludwig V makes in the Philosophy Forum. The time I'm writing this you have been here 2 years and posted 1037 times. Now a determinist would argue that just as there's the 1037 exact unique comments that you make, there will be the n number of exact comments that you will make (or then no 1037 was the last one). And we all hope there's going to be 1038, 1039 and perhaps 1050!

    Now, does this deterministic view of there being your answer 1038, 1039 and 1050 limit what you can write? No. Could they be forecasted? Again no, this isn't simple extrapolation from what has become for. Now if you're active on this thread, 1050 might come soon, yet you might have quite easily changed a lot of ideas that you have now when participate here in 2025 or 2026. At least I've change some thought since I first came (to the old, previous) PF.

    And when you think of it, it would be totally impossible to show you all those next post that you haven't yet written. If it would be true, then you wouldn't have any free will: your post 1038 would be exactly what you have been shown, which would be quite absurd. This doesn't break determinism, it's simply shows that such future knowledge in this case is impossible. Hence there are the number n future post you do (or don't), but that cannot be simply modeled.

    So one could argue that free will (or interaction) is a limit to making models, extrapolation or forecasting, but it doesn't refute determinism.
  • ssu
    8.2k
    There’s just something about determinism that seems odd to me. I keep coming back to asking what it is that determinists are doing when they argue. It seems as if they are trying to convince someone who believes in free will of the strength of their arguments – that a free willist will consider all the evidence and, in the end, choose to believe that determinism makes the most sense. But according to determinism, this is not what determinists are doing.Thales
    I think this is more of a way of argumentation, just like the person who insists that he bases his views on scientific facts and science, makes the not so veiled accusation that others don't believe in science. Or then the person makes the point that a lot of our behaviour is taught, is similar to others and hence our "Free Will" isn't so free as we want to believe. But this in my view doesn't approach the philosophical side of the World views.

    Their arguments are the result of a chain of causes that go back to their births and social environments.

    And this just seems odd to me.
    Thales
    Determinists in this way can make huge leaps like first you were a child and then you learned and was taught by experience that molded you to be the way you are now. Yet notice just how radical these changes are: the way you think about a lot of things has changed, the way you interact with people has changed, a lot has changed since you were a toddler. Yet something like learning is still quite a black box in social sciences.

    At least historians understand this: they talk about the uniqueness of different historical times. And that history doesn't repeat itself, but it can rhyme. That someone calls a historical period unique just shows how difficult the determinism really is.
  • Patterner
    665
    Now, does this deterministic view of there being your answer 1038, 1039 and 1050 limit what you can write? No. Could they be forecasted? Again no, this isn't simple extrapolation from what has become for.ssu
    Why is determinism called determinism? What is deterministic about it?
  • ssu
    8.2k
    Why is determinism called determinism? What is deterministic about it?Patterner
    Well, I guess if you believe a multiverse or single universe or that there's "Chance" and "fate" that has an effect on our lives while others don't, I think there's enough differences to define some to be determinists and some others as indeterminists. Especially if one believes that there's events without causes, then those who disagree would be (I think) determinists.
  • Ludwig V
    1k
    Most traditional arguments against Fatalistic Determinism are based on Morality.Gnomon
    Yes, and they are less than persuasive for that reason. However, I think that while fatalistic determinism is easy to confuse with causal determinism, it does not pose the same problems. (I'm assuming you mean by "fatalistic determinism" what I think you mean - the ancient form that did not appeal to science and causality, but to logic and metaphysics) Roughly, Laplace's demon is a version of fatalistic determinism and easier to refute on logical grounds than causal determinism.

    It's a feature of Nature that the human mind may be able to exploit in order to impose its will on Nature.Gnomon
    If we think of it like that, we are making a mistake. The human mind is a product of Nature and part of it. Or, to put it another way, to think of Nature as something to exploit perpetuates the practices that have landed us with climate change. Worse than that, although we can and do exploit Nature in some ways, Nature also imposes itself on us - witness climate change and antibiotic resistance. It has to be a balance.

    Lorenz's equations have already been used to explain why the weather is unpredictable. Maybe, in time, they will also reveal why the human mind is unpredictable.Gnomon
    Yes, I'm aware that there are many examples of systems and situations that reveal that the systems at work in the world are much more complex and much less predictable than our classical models have recognized. They do give us a basis for thinking that human life may be, in the end, not incompatible with scientific explanation. But they do not get us there, any more than simple randomness gets us there. I think that the research into self-constituting autonomous systems, feedback loops and ideas like Conway's Game of Life are much more to the point.

    I don't think that unpredictability is a significant phenomenon here. Volcanoes and football matches, not to mention the weather, are all unpredictable. But no-one thinks that free will is involved.

    The determinism holds. But it shows that this determinism isn't at all a limit here.ssu
    Well put. Though perhaps we might say that the causal network is sometimes a limit on what we can do, and sometimes an opportunity to achieve what we want to achieve. Which it is, depends on the context of what we value, what we want, what we need on different occasions. So our attitude to the fact (insofar as it is a fact, as opposed to an aspiration) of causal determinism depends on us, not on what the facts are.

    But that's the incredible thing: there isn't the influence or a controlling force with determinism!ssu
    Yes. I'm impressed by your articulation of this argument. It is very tempting to think that the causal network in our world imposes things on us; we forget that it also enables us to do the things that we want to do, or at least some of them. With respect to our values and desires, it is neutral.

    Now, does this deterministic view of there being your answer 1038, 1039 and 1050 limit what you can write? No. Could they be forecasted? Again no, this isn't simple extrapolation from what has become for.ssu
    Yes. This is essentially the argument against fatalistic or logical determinism, but chimes with the neutrality of the causal network.

    "Chance" and "fate" that has an effect on our lives while others don't,ssu
    I don't think that "Chance" or "fate" have an effect on our lives. "Chance" is just a basket into which we put events that we don't have an explanation for. "Fate" is another basket into which we put the things that actually happen, whatever the explanation may be.
    It's important that "determine" or "determined" or "determinism" has more than one meaning. It can mean "fixed" or "exact"; it can mean "discover" or "reveal"; it can mean "control" or "influence".

    they are trying to convince someone who believes in free will of the strength of their arguments – that a free willist will consider all the evidence and, in the end, choose to believe that determinism makes the most sense.Thales
    Yes, that is self-contradictory. But you don't seem to recognize that the importance of this. Insofar as we are rational, calculating (in the widest sense) animals, with goals and preferences, what we do needs to be explained in particular ways, which are not the same as the ways that we explain the way the world works. There are different, but related, language games here; our problem is to understand how they are related.
    I think we can begin to get a handle on this by thinking about why we consider that computers can do calculations. A physical process can output the result of a calculation. It is clearly possible, but how?
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