• MetaphysicsNow
    315
    OK, well I guess the authors meant something like "the choice is not the outcome of a function..." so it seems reasonable to think that the PSR does rule out free will in that sense. So, the next question for @tom would be: why would it follow that science is not possible if every choice an experimenter makes must be the outcome of a function of some or all of the information accessible to him or her?
  • tom
    1.5k
    Just say that humans having free will falsifies the principle.Michael

    And claiming that humans cannot choose what button to press also falsifies the principle.
  • Michael
    7.3k
    And claiming that humans cannot choose what button to press also falsifies the principle.tom

    Again, this has nothing to do with my issue with you, which is that there's no point in bringing up the free will theorem. This just seems like a weird excuse to plug a favourite theory of yours.
  • tom
    1.5k
    OK, well I guess the authors meant something like "the choice is not the outcome of a function..." so it seems reasonable to think that the PSR does rule out free will in that sense. So, the next question for tom would be: why would it follow that science is not possible if every choice an experimenter makes must be the outcome of a function of some or all of the information accessible to him or her?MetaphysicsNow

    If choice is not possible, then there can be no sense in which there is information on which a choice can be made.

    As I mentioned earlier, because of quantum mechanics, if we can't make choices, Reality must be super-determined i.e. it is an acausal conspiracy.
  • tom
    1.5k
    Again, this has nothing to do with my issue with you, which is that there's no point in bringing up the free will theorem. This just seems like a weird excuse to plug a favourite theory of yours.Michael

    It's not a theory, the clue is in the title.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    If choice is not possible, then there can be no sense in which there is information on which a choice can be made.
    Nobody is saying that choice is not possible. What the PSR entails is that there is no such thing as freedom of will in the sense used by the authors of your pet theorem. Denying freedom of will in that sense is simply to insist that all choices that do exist are the outcomes of functions of information accessible to the choosers. That's all. Nothing you have said so far provides an argument that science becomes impossible if free will in that sense is denied.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Yes, shame on you @Michael for providing Tom with a perfect opportunity to avoid responding to the challenge :wink:
  • Michael
    7.3k
    ignoratio elenchi?
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    This is proved false by quantum mechanics.tom

    Can you tell me how? Thanks.

    I thought we had given up trying to prove theories true since at least the advent of the scientific method. Instead, we try to find problems with theories and find solutions.tom

    Ok.

    We have a deep theory of reality that says PSR is false.tom

    Can you help me with understanding that? Thanks
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Taking the opportunity to respond on tom's behalf, I think the usual argument concerning QM and PSR is along the following lines:
    1) If PSR is true, then only a very strict understanding of determinism is true.
    2) If QM is true, then a very strict understanding of determinism is false.
    3) QM is true.
    Therefore a very strict understanding of determinism is false.
    Therefore the PSR is false.

    All 3 premises are open to debate, of course, but that seems to be the gist of the QMers v the PSRers debate.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Regarding premise 2), the idea is that under a very strict understanding of determinism, if the state of a system at time t is fully determined, then there is only one possible state for the system to evolve into. QM seems to imply that even if the state of a system at time t is fully determined, there is more than one possible state into which it may evolve.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Regarding premise 1), I'm not sure what the argument there is. It seems to me that PSR is compatible with more relaxed forms of determinism, but I'd be interested in real arguments to the contrary (and specifically not arguments of the form "the Free Will Theorem proves it").
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Regarding premise 3) - one thing to bear in mind when discussing QM and truth is that you have, on the one hand, the formalism of QM which provides extremely successful means of predicting experimental outcomes (and subsequently all kinds of useful devices have been constructed) and then you have interpretations of that formalism, of which there are quite a few.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Thanks for the information.

    I don't know a lot of physics but let me point out a relevant difference.

    QM applies to the atomic realm. We, however, live at a different scale of time and space. This world, the one we can see, touch, hear and taste, is governed by deterministic laws of physics and chemistry.

    So, while I agree that QM defies the PSR we must remind ourselves that we live at a different spatio-temporal scale than atoms. In fact the PSR seems to be abstracted at this level and not the atomic universe.

    Extending the thought a little bit it could be that the universe itself, which is definitely at a vastly different scale than our lives, could be violating the PSR. I'm thinking of God here.
  • Sam26
    1k
    An interesting short paper worth reading that has some bearing on this in terms of causes vs reasons is the following: https://is.muni.cz/repo/989715/On_the_Idea_of_Analysis_in_the_Late_Wittgenstein.pdf -- read the second section Cause and Reason.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Thanks - but it appears to be just a link to a page of this thread - could you relink?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Do his distinction between reason and cause mean the PSR is not an empirical principal?
  • Sam26
    1k
    Do his distinction between reason and cause mean the PSR is not an empirical principal?Cavacava

    Good question, and to be honest, I'm not sure. My opinion is that there is something wrong with this principle.

    From the SEP:
    "A simple formulation of the principle is as follows:

    (1) For every fact F, there must be a sufficient reason why F is the case.

    The term “fact” in the above formulation is not intended to express any commitment to an ontology of facts. Still, if one wishes to avoid such connotations, the principle can be formulated more schematically:

    (2) For every x, there is a y such that y is the sufficient reason for x

    (formally: ∀x∃yRyx [where “Rxy” denotes the binary relation of providing a sufficient reason])."

    I have a problem with (1), how does it follow that "For every fact F, there must be some reason why F is the case." Some facts have no reasons, they obtain as a result of causes. Why can't there simply be mechanistic causes for many facts? Even factual propositions needn't have reasons to support them, some do some don't. Moreover, again, why can't there be facts that have no cause or reason?
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Perhaps formulating the principle in the terms "Everything that happens has an explanation" would bypass the problematic distinction between reasons and causes? Then one could explain something either by giving a reason (in Wittgenstein's sense) or by citing its cause (in Wittgenstein's sense) as appropriate (and perhaps in some cases by doing both). Interesting that Wittgenstein might have held a statistical conception of causality, rather than a strongly deterministic one.
  • Sam26
    1k
    Part of the problem is trying to simplify things into a neat theory, that's what's problematic. I don't think reducing it to an "explanation" would help, it just begs-the-question, besides it seems quite possible that some reasons or causes have no explanation.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    I take the PSR to be an epistemological, not an ontological, principle. So Thorongil is right to say that it cannot be refuted, epistemologically and logically speaking at least, because to do so would be to find reason that the principle does not obtain: a performative contradiction. — Janus


    How so?

    First, as has been discussed here, the scope of the PSR may be limited to events or entities and not include "things" such as rules, principles, laws, etc.

    But even if it did, the denial of the PSR would state that there is at least one thing that does not have a sufficient reason. That in no way contradicts the statement that there is one thing (the denial of the PSR) that does have a sufficient reason.
    SophistiCat

    The PSR is applicable to both, I would say, but in different ways. The PSR, as I understand it, covers both causes and reasons. So, causes are understood to constitute the sufficient reasons that explain why things are as they are, when it comes to events and entities. Rules, principles and laws are the generalized formulations that describe the nature of the conditions that are believed to govern causation in the realm of events and entities. It is on account of our observations of invariance and our systematic understanding of causation that we have sufficient reason to believe in the principles (if we in fact do). In this connection the PSR is the formulation of the Principle that is implicit in all principles, and we have sufficient reason to believe in it because of its universality. We also have reason to believe in it on account of its indispensability; anything at all is only intelligible to us in terms of sufficient reasons for its being the way it is.

    Of course, in a merely logical sense, it is possible to say that its denial "would state that there is at least one thing that does not have a sufficient reason", but so what? Firstly, we could never know that there really is no sufficient reason for any given thing, only that we don't presently know what the sufficient reason might be. We also cannot know, as Kant pointed out, that "things in themselves" must have a sufficient reason, we just know that things for us, that is anything we could experience, (in order to be intelligible) must have a sufficient reason.

    If there are natural events which are absolutely random, those events could never be anything for us — Janus


    What do you mean?

    We can posit that there are quantum events that simply happen, and are not caused by anything. But those events are posited as universally present, not isolated exceptions. So the decay of uranium atoms is perhaps utterly random and uncaused, but it is statistically invariant.

    So even if the decay of a uranium atom is never caused by anything else, the decay of uranium atoms in general has proven to be a statistically invariant phenomenon which indicates that it is a manifestation of the unique nature of uranium, and that, for us, is its sufficient reason for happening. In fact we have no way of knowing for sure that the decay of uranium atoms is truly not determined by something else of which we do not presently have knowledge.

    Personally, I believe there are uncaused events at the smallest scales in nature; but that does nothing to refute the PSR, because those events cannot be anything for us, other than insofar as they are understood to be statistically predictable, and this understanding is their sufficient reason in an epistemological sense.

    So, in summary your objection, which seems to be in terms of mere logical possibility, says nothing about the phenomenology of human experience and judgement, and so has no actual bearing on the issue, as far as I can tell. Or if it was intended to raise an issue in an ontological context, then it has no bearing either, since the PSR is a purely epistemological principle, as I understand it.
  • Janus
    5.9k


    From one of the footnotes in that paper: "Wittgenstein hereby denies the Principle of Sufficient Reason for propositions and facts while he preserves the Principle for material objects and events."

    I couldn't see where that conclusion is supported in the text, though.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Part of the problem is trying to simplify things into a neat theory, that's what's problematic. I don't think reducing it to an "explanation" would help, it just begs-the-question, besides it seems quite possible that some reasons or causes have no explanation.

    Not sure I understand what you are driving at here. What question is begged by framing the PSR in terms of explanations? Even when couched in terms of the requirement for explanation, it retains the appearance, at least, of something that is capable of being true or false, it just renders the whole reason/cause distinction that the author of the article homes in on as somewhat irrelevant to deciding whether it is true or false.

    You might be right that there are things that happen that have no explanation. The PSR couched in terms of explanations rules them out, so if you could cite an indisputable example of such an event, the PSR would indeed be false.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    I think the author takes it to follow based on the idea that insofar as propositions are concerned, the PSR requires a reason for each proposition. However, the author considers that Wittgenstein thought that not all propositions can be given a reason because reason giving has to come to end somewhere. Not sure how that works as Wittgenstein exegisis. In the context of the article it might work if the PSR was taken by Wittgenstein to have scope only within the context of a "reason giving game", but insofar as the PSR transcends the boundaries of any particular "reason giving game", it doesn't look to me like Wittgenstein is denying the PSR.
  • Janus
    5.9k


    Yes. Looked at another way, if our knowledge is founded on axioms for which demonstrable reasons cannot be given, does that falsify the PSR? I'd say 'No': it is "sufficient reason", not "indisputable reason"; all our knowledge is ultimately fallible.

    You might be right that there are things that happen that have no explanation. The PSR couched in terms of explanations rules them out, so if you could cite an indisputable example of such an event, the PSR would indeed be false.MetaphysicsNow

    There could be things that happen that have no explanation, and there could even be things that can have no explanation. We could know if the former is the case, but not the latter. For any unexplained event, it is always possible that there might be an explanation that we are not currently aware of. So it would seem there could never be "an indisputable example of such an event".
  • SophistiCat
    476
    The PSR, as I understand it, covers both causes and reasons.Janus

    First, we shouldn't be talking about "the" PSR without further qualifications. The SEP entry that Posty linked has a good intro chapter that classifies the various ways in which a PSR can be formulated and analyzed.

    One important question that can be asked of a PSR is what constitutes a sufficient reason. You seem to make your requirements so loose that your PSR becomes nothing more than a requirement for having a sound epistemology, good reasons for belief (where what constitutes good reasons is left unspecified).
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Mm, I tried to stress the criteria of sufficiency earlier, but it's all but been ignored for most of this thread, unfortunately.
  • MetaphysicsNow
    315
    Sophisticat is correct about PSR having a number of different formulations, but in some of them the notion of sufficiency just falls away (or is covered up, at least).

    The PSR is these days often expressed, for example by Della Rocca, as the claim that everything has an explanation, and so the notion of sufficiency "disappears" in that formulation. So, let's say that someone proffers that A is explained by B. If your point about sufficiency (based on reading your first post on Heidegger) is that another person could come along and say "that's not enough of an explanation, because it has not been explained why Arather than C" , then (provided that A and C are somehow exclusive of each other, e.g. logically or physically) at least two responses seem available:

    1) In explaining A by B, at the same time why A and not C is explained since C is excluded by A.
    2) An explanation ofsomething different is being required; an explanation of C's exclusion by A.

    If, however, C is entirely unconnected to A, then the question "why A and not C" would make little sense and so pushing the "that's not enough of an explanation" would be meaningless in the context.

    All that, of course, is to take something like a "linguistic" turn in thinking about the PSR, but taking that linguistic turn seems to obviate any need to think about critieria for sufficiency - if only to replace it by the need to think about what counts as an explanation (or if you prefer the Wittgensteinian approach, what counts as giving an explanation).
  • Janus
    5.9k
    One important question that can be asked of a PSR is what constitutes a sufficient reason. You seem to make your requirements so loose that your PSR becomes nothing more than a requirement for having a sound epistemology, good reasons for belief (where what constitutes good reasons is left unspecified).SophistiCat

    Well, I think that's as it should be. What constitutes "good reasons" is always relative to some overall context, or "paradigm" in Kuhnian terms. It therefore cannot be precisely formulated. If you think of prime-itive human cultures where the sufficient reasons for natural events might have been things like the moods of the gods, you can see the PSR operating in human understanding just as much as you can see it in modern or postmodern culture. For humans there is never an event which is utterly inexplicable; we would not even be able to experience such an event.

    I think the point is that the PSR is transcendent of paradigms, not dependent upon them.
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