• ho ching leung
    3
    Freedom and Determinism pt. 2

    Living with the knowledge that ‘you’ (and I say ‘you’ because language and logic precludes the ability to refer to a conscious agent devoid of free will) are not the determinant of your free choices and actions is an uncanny feeling. It is the selfsame feeling of acting but not acting… a fundamental dissociation between the perception and the will. Today I will further attempt to reconcile the notions of morality and determinism.

    The conception of determinism is not dubious. But as regards morality – I feel as though the fundamental conception of morality as an imperative, whether arbitrary or otherwise, is unsound – precluded by the notion of determinism.

    I would not go so far as to deny the presence of morality, at least not before I am able to come to an elucidation of what it is – not to mention that to refute morality itself would run counter to what I truly believe it to be – an inevitable retrospective constructive of the pre-determined psyche.

    We revisit the conception of what determinism is – that given the current state of reality (whatever that is), there is a law of nature unbeknownst to us, that leads unerringly to a second state in time. This infinitely reducible process leads reality to an inevitably decided ‘end’. This law of nature only makes my argument valid when we omit the possibility that we can ever influence it, nor that we are able to elucidate its workings. As such, it is a kind of ethereal governor – we’ll leave it at that.

    If we then define free will as the ability to consciously influence the outcome of reality, determinism necessarily precludes it. As a consequence, ‘true’ free will cannot be reconciled with determinism. However, we continue to make ‘choices’ in the less metaphysical realm and in daily life. How is this possible, you ask? This is because I fundamentally believe the notion of a ‘choice’ is tied to memory, in ignorance of the concept of determinism. Without knowledge of the fact that our actions are pre-determined, we refer retrospectively to our actions as ‘choices’ – and inherent human tendency to extrapolate past possibility to future possibility leads us to believe that since, with a cursory glance over the shoulder, we have made such ‘choices’, that ‘choices’ can be made consciously by ‘will’ in the future, rather than exist only as an essentially retrospective concept.

    It is at this point, before I move on to the conception of morality, that I must confront the stalemate generated by the knowledge of determinism and action. It is easy to elucidate why one, wary of the fact that free will does not exist, would freeze at a crossroads, unknowing of what to choose – waiting for fate to illuminate his path. But this stalemate is not logically impossible. Who’s to say that freezing at this ethereal and yet very real crossroads is not the predetermined path for the enlightened? Indeed, the wary may feel anguished, but, I do not pause my pen, even as I am aware there is no alternative. Perhaps this misconception is merely that of positive and negative – active and passive action, but who am I to say?

    It is furthermore, clear from this that there are two phenomena from which morality can be borne. The first is the direct manifestation of the law of nature – that despite everything being predetermined, that we ‘believe’ future ‘choice’ is possible (when I have already explained its impediment by determinism). It would be, so to speak, a cognitive glitch that which deceives and preserves our illusion of free will. The second possibility is that of the extrapolation of the misconception of ‘future choice’. If we can see the past and conclude that the future will allow us a freedom of will to make the ‘choices’ that will ostensibly be made, why cannot we similarly be misled into believing that there is an imperative in making those choices? Or better yet, that morality, when actually adhered to, is merely a cameo, a glimpse, an intimation of nature’s predetermined course?

    We will, I suppose, never know.
  • Relativist
    829
    If we then define free will as the ability to consciously influence the outcome of reality, determinism necessarily precludes it.ho ching leung
    I strongly disagree, and I think this erroneous conclusion is a consequence of conflating logic with causation.

    Contrast chains of logic with causal chains. Where Pi are propositions, and Ci are causes:

    P1 =>P2=>P3=>....=>Pn (P1 implies P2, P2 implies P3...)
    C1 ->C2->C3->...>Cn (C1 directly causes C2, C2 directly causes C3....)

    Logic is transitive, so the above logic chain entails: P1=>Pn for all n. The intermediate Pi are irrelevant.

    On the other hand, causation is NOT transitive. C1 does not directly cause Cn for all n. No Ci is irrelevant.

    This matters because you are one of the Ci: you were caused, but you nevertheless are a causal agent - and a complex one at that. What are you? You are the sum total of your initial physical state (the DNA that comprised the zygote from which you emerged), and the various changes to yourself as a result of living. Collectively, these result in you having feelings, conditioned responses, desires, urges, knowledge, ways of thinking...etc. These are the things that went into making you who, and what, you are today, and your unique combination of these things are what "determine" the choices you will make. But since they are YOU, it is still YOU that is making the choice. A different YOU would make a different choice, so you are a critically important part of the causal chain. You become a different YOU when you learn from past mistakes, or introspectively decide to behave differently - perhaps more or less selflessly. Without you being who and what you are, the future causal chain (your output) would be different.

    Bear in mind that although your factors were the product of determination, this does not imply you were designed to make the choices you make. It doesn't imply there's a puppetmaster pulling your strings, forcing a choice. You are the causal agent.
  • Echarmion
    630
    This matters because you are one of the Ci: you were caused, but you nevertheless are a causal agent - and a complex one at that. What are you? You are the sum total of your initial physical state (the DNA that comprised the zygote from which you emerged), and the various changes to yourself as a result of living. Collectively, these result in you having feelings, conditioned responses, desires, urges, knowledge...etc. These are the things that went into making you who, and what, you are today, and your unique combination of these things are what "determine" the choices you will make. But since they are YOU, it is still YOU that is making the choice. A different YOU would make a different choice, so you are a critically important part of the causal chain. Without you being who and what you are, the future causal chain (your output) would be different.Relativist

    This is very nicely put. It pretty much encompasses the reason why I think juxtaposing freedom and determinism is a mistake.
  • PoeticUniverse
    592
    Freedom and Determinismho ching leung

    Excellent essay.

    In this lost haunt, out on the Orion arm
    Of the Milky Way—where safe from the core’s harm;
    The philosophers gather in the forum,
    As new Sherlocks unweaving the Cosmic yarn.

    ‘Magic’ has fallen by the wayside, it
    As trancendence an intangible writ,
    Unable to be distinct from matter,
    Having to talk/walk the talk/walk of it.

    The Fundamental Eterne of the causeless,
    Whose state cannot have inputs to its mess,
    Dooms ‘God’, along with any specifics—
    The bedrock of All must be randomness.

    Of the random base, some small parts endure,
    And code as quarks, which code for atoms pure,
    As at each new realm new laws determine—
    But for when bedrock’s touched—effects for sure.

    Conscious qualia reflect the just past,
    Decisions and thoughts produced, though it’s fast,
    The mechanizations not apparent,
    Their constancy such that on Earth we’ll last.
  • PoeticUniverse
    592
    Without you being who and what you are, the future causal chain (your output) would be different.Relativist

    And, yet, the actuality of one being in the chain trumps the "if's" and "could haves" of not being there.
  • T Clark
    4.1k


    Free will and determinism get discussed frequently here on the forum. I don't think I've ever seen the issues laid out better and more clearly than you have here. I have lots of problems with the concepts of determinism and free will. I won't spend much time with those here. I do have a couple of thoughts.

    First, and this is a theme you will hear from me over and over if you hang around the forum, determinism and free will are metaphysical and epistemological issues. As such, they are neither true nor false. They are useful or not useful in specific situations for specific purposes.

    Second, there is an active thread on the post right now examining whether causal determinism is a useful, meaningful concept - "Determinism vs. Predictability."

    OP Part 1

    There is a group of issues that I’ve been wrestling with lately. They are ones that come up a lot on the Forum. Specific issues include determinism, predictability, probability, reductionism, emergence, free-will, causation, chaos theory. I don’t want to retread all the recent threads, so I’ll focus on a fairly specific issue. How is determinism different from predictability.
    T Clark

    I come down on the "no" side.

    I won't say anything else to distract you from the direction you are leading the thread.
  • NOS4A2
    581


    Thanks for writing that. Well put.

    Maybe I’m ignorant, but one thing I cannot reconcile in the debate over determinism and free will is that every “choice” is self-caused, it begins and ends at the individual. It takes a sheer act of will to believe something outside of myself determined that move, nor can it be demonstrated.
  • ho ching leung
    3
    Bear in mind that although your factors were the product of determination, this does not imply you were designed to make the choices you make.Relativist

    Thank you for your very constructive feedback. I'm just not sure that I can agree that it follows from the fact that my factors were predetermined, that there is an "alternative" to the choices that I have and am making. But then again, this is predicated on the fact that I see "me" as merely a whole that cannot be changed excepting when the predetermined factors differ, and that "living" is just further aggregation of these "factors", except external to the body (so rather than my DNA, that every event that has happened was also predetermined).

    I understand your issue with my conflating causation and implication though.
  • ho ching leung
    3


    i suppose the better way of expressing this would be to conceptualise the entire universe as an aggregate of predetermined factors, "me" being a particular bunch of such factors. Would it be a little easier to see how "living" (in the universe) then does not absolve "me" of the grasp of determinism?
  • Echarmion
    630
    i suppose the better way of expressing this would be to conceptualise the entire universe as an aggregate of predetermined factors, "me" being a particular bunch of such factors. Would it be a little easier to see how "living" (in the universe) then does not absolve "me" of the grasp of determinism?ho ching leung

    The question is, what would being "absolved of the grasp of determinism" even mean? I think everyone will agree that making choices is usually a combination of your past experiences combined with you current state of mind. Yet at the same time, that is exactly what people call their "free will". Hence I also think what you wrote before is a little too constructed:

    However, we continue to make ‘choices’ in the less metaphysical realm and in daily life. How is this possible, you ask? This is because I fundamentally believe the notion of a ‘choice’ is tied to memory, in ignorance of the concept of determinism. Without knowledge of the fact that our actions are pre-determined, we refer retrospectively to our actions as ‘choices’ – and inherent human tendency to extrapolate past possibility to future possibility leads us to believe that since, with a cursory glance over the shoulder, we have made such ‘choices’, that ‘choices’ can be made consciously by ‘will’ in the future, rather than exist only as an essentially retrospective concept.ho ching leung

    Is your argument here that people actually think that way? Because I don't think they do. And if you are supposing some subconscious process, what would be your evidence?

    You call daily life the "less metaphysical realm", but I think that is mistaken. The realm in which our will operates is the metaphysical one. Because it's within that realm that the physical exists. It's not free will that we only construct in retrospect, it's determinism. Determinism is only apparent to us by going from some arbitrary event, which we designate the "effect", to it's "causes". This is also true for us observing determinism in the brain - we can only do so from the outside, we can never just "be determined" within our own consciousness.

    Hence why free will isn't really opposed to determinism.
  • Relativist
    829
    I'm just not sure that I can agree that it follows from the fact that my factors were predetermined, that there is an "alternative" to the choices that I have and am making.ho ching leung
    Are alternatives even logically possible if there is libertarian free will? Reflect on some important decision you made. There are reasons you came to that decision, reasons that you identified during your deliberation. Does it make sense to think that you could have deliberated to that set of reasons, and then made a different decision? Of course not. Those reasons determined your decision. The same process applies to the deliberation that led you to develop each of those individual reasons. A different decision could only have occurred if you had some different thoughts or beliefs. This is true irrespective of whether our wills are libertarian.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.