• apokrisis
    4.3k
    I’ve not heard of sleepwalkers doing anything novel or useful. So no. It is just being awake enough to react automatically to familiar cues.

    And to sleepwalk more than a few moments would only happen in adults with a neurological condition or in kids with, presumably, less developed habits of conscious self regulation.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    And surprise, surprise, we can choose to do just that. We can disengage a sense of oversight.apokrisis

    As I said, if you are testing an hypothesis that we have free will, the experiments will be meaningless as their results can be explained some other way; 'disassociation' as you suggest. There is, however, nothing metaphysically wrong with holding an hypothesis that we do not have free will. To some this is the only 'scientific' hypothesis as it does not require the creation of some phenomenon we have not yet demonstrated the need for. If one is testing the hypothesis that we have no free will, one would do so by trying to prove we do, and failing to do that. These experiments try to show that free will (conscious control over decisions to act) is necessarily present, but fail to find it. Thus they constitute good scientific justification for continuing with the belief that we have no free will. If you didn't have that belief in the first place you would need to look to other experiments to test your hypothesis.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    But the freewill deal is the fear that our decisions might be physically deterministic. So as soon as you view the brain in information processing terms, that issue is already dead.

    The issue after that concerns people’s dualistic take on conciousness. So they want awareness to be something above and beyond the meat machinery of habit and attention.

    Yet that again is to fail to understand an information processing functionalism.

    So it is just science vs folk confusion. And the experiments aren’t great as they buy into the confusion.

    If you just want to study the neurobiology of voluntary control, that’s what you should do as a scientist. And that’s what the mainstream does.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    But the freewill deal is the fear that our decisions might be physically deterministic. So as soon as you view the brain in information processing terms, that issue is already dead.apokrisis

    Why?
    The reasoning is that the "program" your brain runs to process information and make decisions is determined by nature, through your DNA. From the moment you are conceived, this program determines everything about how your brain develops (as well as the rest of your body, of course). Obviously there are all kinds of environmental factors that affect this, as well, but you don't have control over those either so they are irrelevant. Point being, if your brain's processing and decision making are a product of this program, they do what they do automatically, meaning none of your decisions are true decisions because you could not possibly make a different decision than the one you make.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    To use the computer analogy, does the hardware determine its own next physical state or is it the software that determines that?

    Point being, if your brain's processing and decision making are a product of this program, they do what they do automatically, meaning none of your decisions are true decisions because you could not possibly make a different decision than the one you make.JustSomeGuy

    Yep. So now we have to understand information processing as something more interesting than Turing universal computation.

    Also note that you insert this "you" into your questioning as if there really is some dualistic mind-stuff or spiritual element - a res cogitans. So already your metaphysics is presuming a supernatural ontology and abandoning any hope of a properly naturalistic one.

    Is this "you" you want to claim the whole of me? A part of me? Do you want to identify your essential being with your attentional-level processes and so exclude your habit-level organisation - all the accumulated wisdom of past attention-driven learning? Is that other half of you some robotic, unthinking, not-you that somehow shares "your" body?

    Philosophy of mind is dogged by these kinds of basic folk psychology misconceptions. They are grounded in theology rather than science.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    To use the computer analogy, does the hardware determine its own next physical state or is it the software that determines that?apokrisis

    I'm not sure what you mean by "next physical state", but the "program" in my example would clearly be the software in yours.

    Philosophy of mind is dogged by these kinds of basic folk psychology misconceptions.apokrisis

    It's not a "folk psychology misconception", it's just how we talk about these things. It has to do with language, that's all. I think you're the one getting dogged by being nit-picky about language.

    Using the computer analogy, if you're running a program on some hardware, that program has to be pre-written to follow certain parameters and do certain things, and everything it does is a result of the program's code. Even if you bring artificial intelligence into it, a program that can learn, it still does everything it does based on the initial code you wrote. Every "decision" it makes is a direct result of following this code. It is all determined by the code (as well as other environmental/outside factors).
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    I'm not sure what you mean by "next physical state", but the "program" in my example would clearly be the software in yours.JustSomeGuy

    Well you were replying to the point that I made about freewill being problematic because of the LaPlacean implications of Newtonian determinism.

    So if physicalism is just about "hardware", then there is a problem. And the computational analogy is a way to show that the physics of matter doesn't get to control everything. There is also the physics of information.

    So yes. The program determines its own next physical state. The hardware doesn't. Unless the circuits start misbehaving due to stray cosmic rays or something.

    It's not a "folk psychology misconception", it's just how we talk about these things. It has to do with language, that's all. I think you're the one getting dogged by being nit-picky about language.JustSomeGuy

    So now you want to complain about introducing the philosophy that motivates the common conceptions? Are you in the right place?

    Using the computer analogy, if you're running a program on some hardware, that program has to be pre-written to follow certain parameters and do certain things, and everything it does is a result of the program's code. Even if you bring artificial intelligence into it, a program that can learn, it still does everything it does based on the initial code you wrote. Every "decision" it makes is a direct result of following this code. It is all determined by the code (as well as other environmental/outside factors).JustSomeGuy

    Yeah. So now let's again talk about this mysterious "you" you keep wanting to introduce into the scientific or natural philosophy account.

    Sure, the formal and final cause of a "program" do come from outside it. It has to be written with a certain design that serves a certain purpose.

    The program itself is simply a pattern of material/effective causal entailment. A set of instructions that maps one physical machine state to its next. So that is why computers are only a weak analogy for the neuroscience. It is information processing without the designer or intender.

    Actual neuroscience needs to account for that other bit of the puzzle. How and why does the nervous system "write its own meaningful programs"?

    To cut to the chase, that is where I would bring up Peircean semiotics and other current neurobiological conceptions of what is really going on with a mind that has "a self that can form plans to meet goals".
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    So if physicalism is just about "hardware", then there is a problem. And the computational analogy is a way to show that the physics of matter doesn't get to control everything. There is also the physics of information.

    So yes. The program determines its own next physical state. The hardware doesn't. Unless the circuits start misbehaving due to stray cosmic rays or something.
    apokrisis

    Yes, this is just restating part of what I was saying.

    So now you want to complain about introducing the philosophy that motivates the common conceptions? Are you in the right place?apokrisis

    I'm saying that you are being unnecessarily difficult when it comes to something so simple, and it's distracting from the actual discussion. You are making unwarranted assumptions about what I mean by a very common-sense term. This...

    Yeah. So now let's again talk about this mysterious "you" you keep wanting to introduce into the scientific or natural philosophy account.apokrisis

    ...is exactly what I mean. You act as if it is implicit when I say "your brain", "your DNA", "your decisions", etc. that "your" is referring to some mystical immortal consciousness or something. It is not. You're making that leap on your own for no good reason.

    "You" is in reference to your person. Your self, comprised of your body and everything in it. This isn't something I should have to explain.

    Sure, the formal and final cause of a "program" do come from outside it. It has to be written with a certain design that serves a certain purpose.

    The program itself is simply a pattern of material/effective causal entailment. A set of instructions that maps one physical machine state to its next.
    apokrisis

    Again, this is all just restating what I already said.

    So that is why computers are only a weak analogy for the neuroscience. It is information processing without the designer or intender.apokrisis

    Is the "it" here referencing computers or the brain?

    Actual neuroscience needs to account for that other bit of the puzzle. How and why does the nervous system "write its own meaningful programs"?apokrisis

    DNA, as I already stated, is the origin of these "programs". Your DNA determines the "code" for your brain and how it processes things. And what wrote this code into your DNA? Nature. Evolution.

    So where is the missing piece?

    To bring things back to my original point: how does any of this "kill" determinism? In this model, your decisions are determined by the "program" your brain is running. The "code" for this program is determined by your DNA. All of the information in your DNA is determined by nature through the process of evolution.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    "You" is in reference to your person. Your self, comprised of your body and everything in it. This isn't something I should have to explain.JustSomeGuy

    Unbunch your panties a little. If you are going to talk about this "you" who decides to push the button, you have to have a proper theory of what constitutes this you. Your hand-waving approach is not good enough for philosophy or science.

    Again, this is all just restating what I already said.JustSomeGuy

    Yeah. But minus the hand-waving. So with the missing rigour.

    DNA, as I already stated, is the origin of these "programs". Your DNA determines the "code" for your brain and how it processes things. And what wrote this code into your DNA? Nature. Evolution.JustSomeGuy

    Yeah, nah. If you are talking about this mysterious self that runs the show (according to folk psychology), then the full story has to bring in the several levels of semiosis or code.

    So yes. There is the DNA and its evolutionary history. But then there is the neural code and the brain's developmental history. And with humans, our linguistic code and its cultural evolutionary history.
  • JustSomeGuy
    307
    Unbunch your panties a little.apokrisis

    I'm familiar with the technique of demeaning someone in order to make yourself look more reasonable. Frankly, it's immature, so I suggest you reconsider next time.

    If you are going to talk about this "you" who decides to push the button, you have to have a proper theory of what constitutes this you. Your hand-waving approach is not good enough for philosophy and science.apokrisis

    I can't believe you're still doing it. Do you know how many times you have used the word "you" or a variation on it during our discussion? Just in that paragraph, you used it three times not in reference to my "you". Have I once demanded that you "provide me with a proper theory of what constitutes this you"? No. Because both you and I know what the other means when we use it, and if you honestly don't know what I have been referring to every time I say "you", then you have far deeper issues that I can't help you with.
    This has become ridiculous, and I'm very close to ending this conversation since you're either purposefully being uncooperative or you're genuinely just this difficult to converse with. I'm not sure which it is.

    Yeah. But minus the hand-wavingapokrisis

    Show me where my hand-waving was.

    Yeah, nah. If you are talking about this mysterious self that runs the show, according to folk psychology, then the full story has to bring in the several levels of semiosis or code.apokrisis

    I'm going to ignore this because I have already made it painfully clear that that is not what I'm talking about.

    So yes. There is the DNA and its evolutionary history. But then there is the neural code and the brain's developmental history. And with humans, our linguistic code and its cultural evolutionary history.apokrisis

    So you're agreeing with me? These are the things that determine our decisions?
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    Have I once demanded that you "provide me with a proper theory of what constitutes this you"?JustSomeGuy

    And why not? That would be perfectly reasonable.

    Freewill is a debate that comes up every week here. Just last week I gave this general account that is worth recycling.

    Get back to basics. The sense of self is a perceptual contrast the brain has to construct so as to be able to perceive ... "the world". Even our immune and digestive systems have to encode some sense of what is self so as to know what is "other" - either other organisms that shouldn't be there, or the food the gut wants to break down. And so too, the brain has to form a sense of what is self to know that the world is other.

    A second basic of the evolved brain is that it is needs to rely on forward modelling the world. You probably think the brain is some kind of computer, taking in sensory data, doing some processing, then throwing up a conscious display. Awareness is an output. But brains are slow devices. It takes a fifth of a second to emit a well learnt habitual response to the world, and half a second to reach an attentional level of understanding and decision making. We couldn't even safely climb the stairs if we had to wait that long to process the state of the world.

    So instead, the brain relies on anticipation or prediction. It imagines how the world is likely to be in the next moment or so. So it is "conscious" of the world ahead of time. It has an "illusion" of the next split second just about to happen. That creates a feeling of zero lag - to the degree the predictions turn out right.

    And this forward modelling is necessary just to allow for a continual perceptual construction of our "self". We have to be able to tell that it is our turning head that causes the world to spin, and not the other way round. So when we are just about to shift our eyes or move our hand, a copy of that motor instruction is broadcast in a way that it can be subtracted from the sensory inputs that then follow. The self is created in that moment because it is the part we are subtracting from the flow of impressions. The world is then whatever stayed stable despite our actions.

    It is not hard to look at the cognitive architecture of brains and see the necessary evolutionary logic of its processing structure. And a running sense of self is just the flipside of constructing a running sense of the world.

    Then on top of that, brains have to deal with an actual processing lag. And the best way to deal with that is to forward-model the shit out of the world.

    Then on top of that, it is efficient to have a division of labour. The brain wants to do as much as it can out of learnt habit, and that then leaves slower responding attention to mop up whatever turns out to be novel, surprising or significant during some moment.

    That leads to consciousness having a logical temporal structure. You have some kind of conscious or attention-level set of expectations and plans at least several seconds out from a moment. About half a second out, attention is done and learnt, well-briefed, habit has to take over. It does detailed subconscious predicting and reacting. If someone steps into the road while you are driving, you hit the brakes automatically in about a fifth of a second. After that, attention level processing comes back into it. You can consciously note that thank god you are so quick on the brakes, and what was that crazy guy thinking, and why now is he looking angry at me, etc.

    So [conscious prediction [subconscious prediction [the moment] subconscious reaction] conscious reaction].

    This is all proven by psychological experiment. The whole issue of reaction times and processing times is what got experimental psychology started in the late 1800s.

    Where does human freewill come into it? Well what I've outlined is the evolution of the cognitive neurobiology. The basic logic is the same for all anmals with large brains. They all need to construct a running sense of self so as to have a running sense of what then constitutes "the world". They all have a division of labour where they can act out of fast learnt habit or slower voluntary attention.

    But humans are different in that we have evolved language and are essentially social creatures mentally organised by cultural evolution. Yes, memes.

    So now our perceptual sense of self takes on a social dimension. We learn to think of "ourselves" in terms of a wider social world that we are representing. We learn to "other" our biological selves - this running perceptual self with all its grubby biological intentionality - and see it from an imagined social point of view. We learn to be disembodied from our own bodies and take an introspective or third person stance on the fact we can make choices that our societies might have something strong to say about.

    So freewill is a social meme. It is the cultural idea that being a human self involves being able to perceive a difference between the "unthinking" selfish or biologocally instinctual level of action and a "thinking", socially informed, level of self-less action.

    An animal is a self in a simple direct fashion - a self only so far as needed to then perceive "a world". A human, through language, learns to perceive a world that has themselves in it as moral agent making individual choices. That then requires the individual to take "conscious responsibility" for their actions. Every action must be judged in terms of the contrast between "what I want to do" and "what I ought to do".

    So the idea of freewill is an ideal we strive to live up to. And yet the temporal structure of actual brain processes gives us plenty of dilemmas. We do have to rely on "subconscious" habit just for the sake of speed and efficiency. The gold standard of self-control is attention-level processing. But that is slow and effortful. However - as human culture has evolved - it has set the bar ever higher on that score. As a society, we give people less and less latitude for sloppy self-control, while also making their daily lives fantastically more complex.

    A hunter/gather level of decision making is pretty cruisey by comparison. You go with the flow of the group. Your personal identity is largely a tribal identity. You get away with what you can get away with.

    But then came institutionalised religion, stratified society, the complex demands of being a "self-actualising" being. A literal cult of freewill developed. The paradoxical cultural demand - in the modern Western tradition - is that we be "self-made".

    So sure, there must be some evolutionary logic to this. There must be a reason why the freewill meme is culturally productive. But the point also is that it is a psychologically unrealistic construct. It runs roughshod over the actual cognitive logic of the brain.

    We just shouldn't beat ourselves up for not being literally in charge of our actions at all times. We are designed to be in some kind of flow of action where we let well-drilled habit do its thing. And of course our minds will wander when we are being expected to consciously attend to the execution of stuff we can handle just as well out of habit. The idea that we can switch our concentration off and on "at will" just cuts against the grain of how the brain naturally wants to be. Attention is there for when things get surprising, dangerous, difficult, not for taking charge of the execution of the routine.

    So "freewill" sits at the centre of so much cultural hogwash. There is good cultural reasons for it as a meme. It is really to modern society's advantage to have us think about our "selves" in this disembodied fashion. It allows society to claim control over our most inadvertent or reflexive actions.

    But it is also a demonstrably unhealthy way to frame human psychology. If we just recognise that we have slower voluntary level planning and faster drilled habitual responses, then this unconscious vs conscious dilemma would not create so much existential angst.

    We are not a conscious ego in possible conflict with an unconscious id (and also under the yoke of a social super-ego). Our "self" is the skilled totality of everything the brain does to created a well-adapted flow of responses to the continually varying demands of living in the world - a world that is both a physical one and a social one for us as naturally social creatures.

    The actual freewill dilemma arose because Newtonian determinism appeared to make it paradoxical. If we are just meat machines, then how could we be selves that make our own rational or emotional choices?

    But physics has gone past such determinism. And the very fact that the brain has to forward model to keep up with the world means that it is not being neurally determined anyway. Its knowledge of how the world was an instant or two ago is certainly a constraint on the expectations it forms. But the very fact it has to start every moment with its best guess of the future, and act on that, already means we couldn't be completely deterministic devices even if we tried.

    Universal computation is logically deterministic. A programme - some structure of set rules and definite data - has to mechanically proceed from an input state, its initial conditions, to an output state.

    But the brain is not that kind of computer. So it is neither physically deterministic (as no physics is that in the LaPlacean sense), nor is it computationally deterministic.

    Thus "freewill" just isn't a real ontological problem. There is no metaphysical conflict. (Unless you are a dualist who believes "mind" to be a separate substance or spirit-stuff. And of course there are many who take that essentially religious view still. But for psychological science, there just isn't an ontological-strength problem.)
  • Dzung
    42
    OK then I must now accept it as rather a supernatural phenomenon than something clear cut, that serious people don't seem to have pleasures to analyze. It's a surprise so few decent researches about it, probably they cannot do much due to that super natural reason, though no claims it's super natural.
    The only one decent name I found is Baron Reichenbach who discovered the earth's magnet field that was accepted. Ironically In connection to this somnambulism, his researches led to Odic force and was badged as uneducated and deceitful - what a praise.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    But humans are different in that we have evolved language and are essentially social creatures mentally organised by cultural evolution. Yes, memes.

    No, many other animals have language and culture, chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants and rhesus monkeys have all been shown to have both language and cultural behaviours unique to their geography, learnt from parents, invented, modified and passed on. So if you want to make an argument that humans are different, you need to do more work than that. The rather clichéd "Our language/culture is more complex" is pretty weak without defining the level at which this happens and why.

    I have no argument with this;
    So freewill is a social meme. It is the cultural idea that being a human self involves being able to perceive a difference between the "unthinking" selfish or biologically instinctual level of action and a "thinking", socially informed, level of self-less action.
    but this,
    A human, through language, learns to perceive a world that has themselves in it as moral agent making individual choices. That then requires the individual to take "conscious responsibility" for their actions. Every action must be judged in terms of the contrast between "what I want to do" and "what I ought to do".
    does not follow logically. You have to presume, for this to work, that moral behaviour is in some way opposed to natural instinctive behaviour. I don't see any evidence for this. Much of a social animal's instinctive behaviour is exactly the sort of activity we would define as moral, and much considered actions taken under the illusion of free will are behaviours we would condemn as immoral.

    Putting that rather unsubstantiated assumption to one side though, your argument against determinism doesn't seem in any way related to the very neat and well-put outline of the self illusion above. You then say.

    But the very fact it has to start every moment with its best guess of the future, and act on that, already means we couldn't be completely deterministic devices even if we tried.

    This does not follow from anything you've said above about the illusion of self, but rather seems plucked out of thin air. Why would we presume that the brain's ability to model the future isn't entirely determined by the information is has gained up to the present and the current state of it's neural connections which together determine the picture it will generate of the future world?

    You seem to have taken a lot of very insightful information about the reason the brain creates such illusions and then simply concluded "therefore no determinism", without explaining your logical process at all.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    The rather clichéd "Our language/culture is more complex" is pretty weak without defining the level at which this happens and why.Pseudonym

    Cliched? Human language is articulate and syntactic. It is rule based symbolism so capable of unlimited combination. You are talking apples and oranges in claiming other species have “language”.

    You have to presume, for this to work, that moral behaviour is in some way opposed to natural instinctive behaviour. I don't see any evidence for this.Pseudonym

    It should be enough to mention #MeToo.

    Why would we presume that the brain's ability to model the future isn't entirely determined by the information is has gained up to the present and the current state of it's neural connections which together determine the picture it will generate of the future world?Pseudonym

    Yeah. We might make a guess that is determined by our best information. And then the guess turns out to be wrong.

    So I’m not arguing against the ability to constrain uncertainty. I’m attacking the presumption of absolute determinism - mechanistic understanding of physical and informational processes.

    The point of having a brain is to make the best choices, given an uncertain world. You seem determined to recover some kind of actual determinacy in what the brain does. But I am arguing from a systems science or hierarchy theory perspective where the causality of reality in general is understood in terms of constraints on degrees of freedom.

    It’s not just neurobiology. Even physics is not deterministic.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    So I’m not arguing against the ability to constrain uncertainty. I’m attacking the presumption of absolute determinism - mechanistic understanding of physical and informational processes.

    The point of having a brain is to make the best choices, given an uncertain world. You seem determined to recover some kind of actual determinacy in what the brain does. But I am arguing from a systems science or hierarchy theory perspective where the causality of reality in general is understood in terms of constraints on degrees of freedom.
    apokrisis

    I understand the position you're arguing from, and the aim of such a position, what I'm lacking is the actual argument.

    How is the brain's model of the future not determined entirely by the information it has at the current time and the neurological connections which represent its current responses to all the multitude of stimuli presented in the model?

    We frequently hear how physics is not determined, but no one has yet put forward a theory explaining how that has any impact on the human brain. It seems to lead to entirely predictable determined behaviour in everything larger than a single particle, which our brain certainly is.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    How is the brain's model of the future not determined entirely by the information it has at the current time and the neurological connections which represent its current responses to all the multitude of stimuli presented in the model?Pseudonym

    Explain to me how you think information exists in brains. What is brain information in your book - the kind that you are claiming to be mechanically deterministic?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    Explain to me how you think information exists in brains. What is brain information in your book - the kind that you are claiming to be mechanically deterministic?apokrisis

    I'm not making any claims, I'm trying to understand yours. Determinism is a belief of mine. As with any reasonable belief (in my opinion) I test that belief by trying to disprove it, so the only interest to me in your argument is the extent to which determinism is necessary. That's why I'm asking how you reached your conclusion. All you've presented so far is a vague "because fundamental particles cannot be measured, we must have free-will", which is fine if you're looking to simply justify an already held belief in indeterminacy, but not really a sufficient argument to ground its necessity.

    If the answer to your question helps you to explain your argument somehow, then for me information is the state of a collection of neurons, no different to the way information is the state of a collection of transistors in a computer. That state, together with inputs from the external system, determines the state in the next moment. Of course, given that this is a transition from one state to another, it could also be described as a process, but I see that as a semantic issue, not a metaphysical one.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    I'm not making any claims,Pseudonym

    Well you are in insisting that brain function is deterministic, even if that just means a deterministic computation, and even if that in turn just means the computations are deterministic guesswork about an undetermined reality.

    So you are very determined to make determinism true here, and reject my constraints-based, semiotic, approach where - as a metaphysical generality - all events can be only relatively deterministic and are unable to be absolutely deterministic.

    All you've presented so far is a vague "because fundamental particles cannot be measured, we must have free-will", which is fine if you're looking to simply justify an already held belief in indeterminacy, but not really a sufficient argument to ground its necessity.Pseudonym

    Haven't you got that back to front? If my position cashes out at a general metaphysical level against determinism, then in fact it is a necessity that some local bit of complex machinery - like a brain - operates with a constraints-based causality and not a mechanically determined one.

    So yes, quantum level indeterminacy is exhibit A. And then chaos theory and non-linear dynamics would be exhibit B.

    For me to take a strong position here, it is important that modern physics is now evidence against the Newtonian classical deterministic paradigm.

    If the answer to your question helps you to explain your argument somehow, then for me information is the state of a collection of neurons, no different to the way information is the state of a collection of transistors in a computer. That state, together with inputs from the external system, determines the state in the next moment. Of course, given that this is a transition from one state to another, it could also be described as a process, but I see that as a semantic issue, not a metaphysical one.Pseudonym

    So how would you go about measuring the state that is a collection of neurons?

    Or in a collection of transistors in a computer.

    And how would you know what the previous state was and the next state was of either. Would your "determinism" allow you to predict that using Newton's laws of motion? If not, what laws are you proposing that would connect one measured state to another measured state?

    If you can't answer these questions, you haven't got an argument.
  • cruffyd
    7
    There's no actual certainty in what we think as causation.TheMadFool

    Good point, @TheMadFool. That could be taken one step further. One could posit from extrapolation that there is no actual certainty in anything we think. One might also substitute 'accuracy' for 'certainty', since certainty may be absolute only when doubt exists. In a state of omniscience, no certainty is needed because all things are known. (I am fully aware that the above statement could be used against me later)

    This leads into the question of predetermination. If God (or non-personified version) is absolute, then God's knowledge is also absolute. However, possessing foreknowledge of events does not necessarily translate into a predetermination of events. One could decide to believe God created the known substance with knowledge of events from conception. This could also include the multiverse of all possibilities. Having done so, the universe could be left to itself. In the case of choosing either the apple or the orange, it has been predetermined that the chooser be able to choose. Foreknowledge of that choice does not represent force, but passivity. Being also omnipotent, which God must be if 'omni' is to be all-encompassing, God is then free to exercise force, at will.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    So how would you go about measuring the state that is a collection of neurons?

    Or in a collection of transistors in a computer.

    And how would you know what the previous state was and the next state was of either.
    apokrisis

    I imagine in much the same way as the sentence "the next word I'm going to write is the word 'tells'", tells you exactly what state my post will be in next. The state of my post up to that pont contains the information you need to determine the state it will be in next.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    I don’t follow. Are you being sarcastic?

    So fill in the blank. The next word I’m going to write is the word ...
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    So fill in the blank. The next word I’m going to write is the word ...apokrisis

    There is not information in that sentence to tell me what the next word you're going to write is, the information to tell me that is in your brain and the state of the entire universe around you, which is why I can't possibly predict it, but that doesn't mean it's not there. The sentence I used as an example contained within it at one moment (just before I wrote the second 'tells') the information you needed to know what its state would be the next moment (exactly the same but with the word 'tells' added. I don't see what you're finding so hard to understand about that.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    But you were going to tell me how my next word could be predicted in principle by a prior neural state. Apparently the information is in my brain and in the entire universe. That seems a little hand-wavy, no?

    Remember the question I actually asked.

    And how would you know what the previous state was and the next state was of either. Would your "determinism" allow you to predict that using Newton's laws of motion? If not, what laws are you proposing that would connect one measured state to another measured state?apokrisis

    If your version of determinism is informational rather than material, then what law of nature determines the transition from one neural state to the next?

    So just saying there is information involved is not an answer. I’m asking what kind of natural law are you imagining ruling the neurobiology. Where is the evidence that the brain is literally a finite state automata that could even sustain that kind of completely constrained or deterministic state mapping?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    You seem to be confusing determinism with omniscience. No-one said anything about a human being ever actually knowing what is going to happen next, only that it is determined by the previous state of the universe. No-one had even claimed that this determination should be by virtue of physical laws (though many do claim that). The claim of determinism is solely that somehow the state of the universe in the next moment is determined by its state in the previous moment.

    Determinists are not claiming to have sufficient knowledge of the physical laws which cause one state to progress to the next, nor that such knowledge could ever be practically obtainable, only that such laws exist and that they do cause ons state to proceed to the next in a determined manner.

    I'm not suggesting that such a world-view is irrefutable, very few world-view are, but that it is an entirely reasonable, well supported and pragmatic approach which has yet to be disproven.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    The claim of determinism is solely that somehow the state of the universe in the next moment is determined by its state in the previous moment.Pseudonym

    Remember we are discussing freewill. Are you claiming there was a widely discussed problem before Newton’s mechanistic laws of motion?

    And while you could take a looser view on determinism - I certainly do - the normal view relies on laws to ensure one state has no choice but to lead to the next.

    Nomological determinism is the most common form of causal determinism. It is the notion that the past and the present dictate the future entirely and necessarily by rigid natural laws, that every occurrence results inevitably from prior events.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism

    Then what you actually claimed is that there is informational determinism when it comes to the brain. After all, as I pointed out, no one uses Newton’s laws of motions to say that physics determines any putative finite state transitions.

    So again, what ensures that neurons behave deterministically if you are claiming it is information and not physics?

    As I said, the design feature of computers is that nothing about the physics of transistors should dictate the way a gate decides to open or shut. Only the program instructions are meant to determine the state transitions. So we certainly know how to build a deterministic finite state automata.

    However if it is our free choice about what programme code to write, what rules to create, then the freewill issue can’t be solved by pointing to that kind of machine determinism. We still lurk behind the scene.

    So at some point you have to be able to say in what way you think the neurobiology of brains is informationally deterministic. What does such a claim mean?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    what ensures that neurons behave deterministically if you are claiming it is information and not physics?apokrisis

    I'm not claiming it is information, as opposed to physics, in the same way as my example with the sentence would not be considered either information or words, it is both. 'Information' is just a word we give to the effect of one physical state on the physical state of our brains. There's no necessity for it to be non-physical.

    However if it is our free choice about what programme code to write, what rules to create, then the freewill issue can’t be solved by pointing to that kind of machine determinism.apokrisis

    This doesn't demonstrate anything without begging the question. The computer is used as an example of our brain, a metaphor, once it is running a calculation. In the real world you obviously have to have a programmer, but does that programmer have to have free will? Are you suggesting that it would somehow be impossible for a computer to program another computer?

    But in answer to your direct question I don't think it's at all inconceivable that the laws of chemistry and physics could dictate the subsequent state of our neurons based on their prior state and the new electrical and chemical stimuli they receive.

    What set them into their starting conditions? DNA. what set that to be chemically the way it is? Your parent's DNA and the chemical and physical environment in which the two chromosomes paired (which determine any errors). Go back far enough you get to the first DNA molecule made they way it is by the chemical and physical environment, caused ultimately by the physical laws governing the universe, all the way back to the big bang. Beyond that, who knows?

    So at some point you have to be able to say in what way you think the neurobiology of brains is informationally deterministic. What does such a claim mean?apokrisis

    As above really, it means that the next physical state of all the neurons in the brain is determined by the prior physical state of those neurons plus all the universe interacting with them. The change from one state to the next being determined by the laws of physics, which themselves are determined by the initial state of the universe.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    Sorry. You are not getting it. Biology tells us that bodies aren’t deterministic devices. Life likes to control matter. So it has to separate itself from matter to have that control.

    You will find the argument laid out here ... https://www.informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/publications/pattee/pattee.html
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    You do realise how utterly pointless it is on a philosophy forum to just say, "you don't get it, it's all written down here" and then point to your preferred commentator. Is Pattee widely considered to be the world authority on how to think about biological systems? No.

    If we can't maintain an argument where each post presents counter arguments to the prior post then there's little point in continuing. We might just as well refer each other to the SEP entry for the position we're arguing.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    You do realise how utterly pointlessPseudonym

    If nothing else, at least you have successful uncovered how pointless academic philosophy has become.

    Philosophy is the art of shared observation and discovery. This is simply a manifestation of the nature of Life, i.e, the ability to create, learn, and evolve. To understand and acknowledge this brings us back to philosophy. What academic teaches us pointless, merry-go-round argumentation.
  • apokrisis
    4.3k
    So at some point you have to be able to say in what way you think the neurobiology of brains is informationally deterministic. What does such a claim mean?
    — apokrisis

    As above really, it means that the next physical state of all the neurons in the brain is determined by the prior physical state of those neurons plus all the universe interacting with them. The change from one state to the next being determined by the laws of physics, which themselves are determined by the initial state of the universe.
    Pseudonym

    There didn’t seem any point continuing when you just keep making the same bald claim and say nothing about how that could be the case in terms of the actual neurobiology.

    If you believe every thought and choice you could have, every next word you could say, was hardwired into the quantum foam at the beginning of time, then you are asking me to take seriously something that is just too silly.

    If you were familiar with biology, then you would find that life actually depends on randomness. It needs material instability so that it can have something to regulate with its information. It is made of molecules that will fall apart and put themselves back together so long as they get the right signals.

    So just in that you have the fact that life thrives on the edge of chaos. Where things are the most poised and unpredictable, is where information can then point that constructive energy in a predicted or constrained direction.

    That is why I urged you to read Pattee. And your response tells me all I need to know about your interest in any actual challenge to your assumed position.
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