Comments

  • Is there any physical basis for what constitutes a 'thing' or 'object'?
    Depends on what you mean by thing/object, so you should clarify that first (and before that I would suggest clarifying the need for such a definition in the first place).

    If you mean something like "moderate-sized specimens of dry goods," we could probably come up with a (messy, fuzzy and ambiguous) set of criteria from psycho-physical considerations, but before diving into that unwieldy project, I would want to better understand the motivation.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    There isn't a problem with specialist terms. But "cogent and useful" is both cogent and useful as a definition of "make sense". I would rather not have to try to find another definition. "Cogent and useful" can mean different things in different contexts.Ludwig V

    I was referring to how folk who are unfamiliar with specialist terms that are based on words in the ordinary language try to make sense of those terms: they interpret them in light of the more familiar senses of the words. Naturally, this doesn't always work. Misinterpretations happen even in familiar contexts, and they are all the more likely in an unfamiliar domain. And as with neologisms, some just aren't going to like the coining for one reason or another, even when they understand the context. But that alone shouldn't be a barrier to understanding and accepting specialist terms.

    In the background, I understand, there are people who have doubts about the validity of mathematical inductionLudwig V

    Yes, ultra-finitists reject mathematical induction as a proof method, but that is a rather extreme position.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    In the supertasks article, they mention a “hotel with a countably infinite number of rooms”. Right there, at the premise, what does “countably infinite” point to? That’s nonsense. That’s a square circle. We don’t get out of the gate. The infinite is by definition uncountableFire Ologist

    When I first saw the phrase "countably infinite", I thought that was absurd, and I still think it is an unfortunately ambiguous description of what it means. I would put it this way - any (finite) part of the infinite set can be counted, even though the whole of the set cannot be counted in one go.Ludwig V

    A "countable" set is one that can be placed into a one-to-one correspondence with the counting numbers - integers. Why do mathematicians define "countable" that way? Well, think of how we actually count. You look at a herd of sheep, say, and go "1, 2, 3, ..." The number at which you stop is the number of sheep in the herd. What you have done is you placed the set of sheep into a one-to-one correspondence with a subset of integers. Or you may have used your fingers or beads or scratch marks - either way, counting comes down to placing a set of an unknown size into a one-to-one correspondence with a set of a known size.

    Counting infinite sets is just a natural extension of the same idea: you try to establish a one-to-one correspondence between some infinite set and the set of integers. You do not need to actually count every member of the set one by one, you only need to establish a procedure of how you would do it, or even just prove that such a procedure exists. If you can do this, then you have established that your set has the same "size" as the set of integers.

    Anyway, this is just a specialist term. It doesn't have to "make sense" to be cogent and useful.
  • Solipsism is a weak interpretation of the underlying observation
    This isn't the result of word games. The observations that underlie solipsism are not a matter of semantics. We observe that we do not experience anything that isn't Sensory Data.Treatid

    Of course these are word games. An experience is an experience of something "in the world" - of being warm or cold, of sitting or standing, of conversing or looking out the window. This is just what the word 'experience' means. We do not experience any such thing as "sensory data" - that is a distortion, poor word games.
  • How would you respond to the trolley problem?
    But if I didn’t think of the sickness of the situation and recognize all of the apparatus and planning that had to be in place to put me here, and I just played along, that doesn’t make me a hero or murderer for pulling the lever. It makes me quick at math under some pressure. It demonstrates the immorality of telling someone to make that choice in that fabricated situation. It doesn’t make me any better or worse if I made a choice that someone else would have made differently.Fire Ologist

    So, you reframe the problem to be not about making what is best for others, but about what is best for your self-image.

    (Playing a devil's advocate here, I don't have my own answer yet.)
  • How would you respond to the trolley problem?
    Yes, I hate the trolley problem. It's one of those things that gives philosophy a bad name. It's nothing like any person will ever have to face in the real world.T Clark

    I am not sure that I agree. For simple, totalizing moral theories, such as classical utilitarianism, it is very much relevant (perhaps as a reductio).

    In other cases it depends on degree of similarity and how that factors into your moral thinking. Most of us at least contemplate public policies. Public policies not infrequently involve life-and-death decisions. Do we do this and save this many lives, or do we do that and save that many, or do we do nothing? How about emergency room or field hospital triage? Battlefield decisions? Relatively few people are directly involved in those, but it's not a negligible number.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    Like I said, I don't want to get involved in that old trainwreck. I already said what I wanted to say about Thompson's Lamp. And since you don't want to engage with my posts, I think we are done.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    I’m using Thomson’s lamp to show that continuous motion entails contradictions.Michael

    Well, as far as I can see, you haven't done either: you haven't demonstrated any contradictions in TL, nor linked it to continuous motion. But I am not going to wade into that trainwreck. I chimed in to comment on the TL. You can engage with that if you want, or leave it alone.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    The problem is that if motion is continuous and if the sensors are set up as statedMichael

    You are just restating - reimagining - Thompson's Lamp thought experiment, which has nothing to do with continuous motion as such (and repeating once more your baseless conclusion).
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    Continuous motion suffers from the same problem. We can imagine sensors at each successive half way point that when passed turn a lamp on or off. Is the lamp on or off when we finish our run?Michael

    I don't see how it's a problem for continuous motion that you can imagine something else taking place alongside of it.

    The simple solution is to say that motion isn’t continuous. Discrete motion at some scale is a metaphysical necessity.Michael

    Solution to what? I have yet to see a problem in need of a solution here.
  • Infinite Staircase Paradox
    The interesting thing about Thompson's Lamp thought experiment is that it produces an indeterminate outcome where one might not expect it. If you take an ordinary lamp with an on/off switch, you could think of it as a simple deterministic system, as long as switching is determinate. You can always tell whether the lamp is on or off at any given time t if you know the state of the lamp at some earlier time, plus how many times the lamp was switched between then and t. Another way to tell could be by inquiring whether the lamp was on or off just before t and whether the switch was activated at t. And yet, in this thought experiment with a determinate sequence of switchings, determinism breaks down at a certain point. There is no mystery as to how that happens, but one is still left with a feeling that something funny is going on.

    However, it is difficult to see how one could make much metaphysical hay out of Thompson's Lamp. Unlike Zeno's thought experiments, which deal with examples of ordinary motion, Thompson's Lamp is blatantly unrealistic. It is not like anything in this world. Its "motion" is not even piecewise-continuous. So what if it's indeterministic? Who said that it must be? Neither intuitions nor physics are of much help here.

    The most one can do here is argue that while, of course, Thompson's Lamp is not physically possible, it is possible in a "metaphysical" sense. And at the same time, its indeterminate state is not possible in that same sense. But that argument would be hard to put across (and I haven't seen anyone seriously try). Just what kind of goofy sense of possibility slices the problem in just such a way? And why would we be obligated to take it seriously?
  • RIP Daniel Dennett
    RIP DC Dennett. He was very much a public philosopher, and my impression (as a member of the public who occasionally peruses academic publications) is that he was received differently inside and outside his field. For those on the outside, he was a polarizing figure. He had his enthusiastic fans (e.g., Sean Carroll), but for the non-fans he was often their "favorite intellectual enemy", as one of them put it.

    One reason, I think, (other than Dennett's provocative style) is that lay people often see the relatively few public figures like him as representative, if not wholly constituent of their field, whereas in reality, the field is both more crowded and more diverse than they realize. As a result, those public figures are seen as more significant and/or controversial on the outside than on the inside. Among his peers, Dennett is well-known and cited, but not nearly as much as one might assume if one were only reading philosophy of mind topics on this forum.

    Take his views on free will, for example: though Dennett had original things to say on the subject, on the whole, he was neither as original nor as controversial in his compatibilism as many seem to think. Views that are broadly like his go back as far as GE Moore and AJ Ayer, and they have been in the philosophical mainstream for the last half-century at least.
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    Swoooooooning.AmadeusD

    Good stuff. I know little of Mendelsohn's lieder.

    Google translates the title as "favorite cookies" :)

    Beloved Little Spot

    Do you know where I like to linger
    In the cool of an evening?
    In the quiet valley there spins
    A little mill,
    And there is a little brook beside it,
    With trees standing all around it.
    I often sit there for hours on end,
    Looking around and daydreaming.

    Even the little flowers in the grass
    Begin to speak,
    And the little blue one says:
    Look at how my little head is hanging!
    The little rose with a thorny kiss
    Has pricked me:
    Ah, it has made me so sad
    That my heart has broken.

    There approaches a small white spider,
    saying: Be content;
    Some day you will die,
    For that is the way it is here on this earth;
    Better that your heart breaks
    From the kiss of a rose,
    Than that you never know love
    And die loveless.
    — Friederike Robert, tr. Emily Ezust
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    Maya Beiser's take on Terry Riley's classic (cello with loop pedals and percussions)

  • Is Knowledge Merely Belief?
    Knowledge, then, is multifaceted. Since to agree, to accept and to devote have different truth conditions - or none at all, like a devotion. One can say one knows in different senses. Knowledge isn't one kind of thing, and an item of knowledge need not be a statement. And knowing as conviction may not be itemizable at all.fdrake

    I think this bears reiterating. There is no point in trying to nail down the one correct definition of knowledge, because, like many words in the ordinary language, "knowledge" is used in different ways. And since meaning is use, the meaning of "knowledge" is not univocal.

    Those who insist that when we say "I know" we mean nothing other than "I am convinced" (or some such) have a point, because that is one of the common uses of the word. But that doesn't exhaust all uses. For example, when we deny someone's claim of knowledge, most of the time, what we deny is the truth of what they claim to know, not the truth of their conviction.

    Of course, all of the above considerations apply only if all we care about is the ordinary language meaning, which is best left to semantics scholars, anyway. But then - and I realize that this flies in the face of the long and rich history of philosophical debates on the subject of knowledge - I am not sure what value philosophers could contribute to this discussion. (That was realization was kind of a dead end for "ordinary language philosophy".)

    Yes, there are different kinds of knowing. There is 'knowing how', there is the knowing of familiarity and there is 'knowing that'. I think the salient question in this thread concerns only 'knowing that' or propositional knowing, because the other two categories do not necessarily involve belief.Janus

    Even if you want to bracket out 'knowing how' (and I agree with @Moliere and @Banno that knowing is entangled with doing), there is still more than one way in which 'knowing that' is used propositionally.
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    I fell in love with Scarlatti K87. I'd heard it before (it is one of his best known sonatas), but yesterday it hit me hard for some reason.

    Clara Haskil :heart: (two takes)


    Igor Kipnis (clavichord :heart:)


    Ross's complete recording of Scarlatti I just don't love... I don't know why.

    I am also skipping Horowitz (and a few others for that matter). His is the kind of Romantic (re)interpretation that is breathtaking and hard to un-hear once you have heard it. And granted, this peace positively invites it. But I would then prefer to go all the way and do something like what Vaughan Williams did with his dreamy take on Thomas Tallis:


    This was the original inspiration - a severe, militant psalm, striking in its own right, with words like "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."



    You can see (as in Scarlatti) what harmonies moved Williams and why he took it to such different places (without changing a note of the original!)
  • After all - Artificial Intelligennce is thick as a brick
    It is a bit cheap to proclaim that AI will never be able to achieve something or other because it hasn't done so yet, or just because. A more substantive argument is needed for such theses to be taken seriously.

    The history of game-playing AI is a case in point. It wasn't so long ago that chess experts confidently predicted that AI would never be able to beat a grandmaster. At best, they argued, extrapolating from chess computers of the day, they would hold their own against most players through sheer brute force calculation and programmed strategies, churning out dull games. Others maintained that even if AI chess mastery were achievable in principle, mastering Go would just be mathematically impossible. Well, we know how that turned out. And the point of the story is not to extrapolate further AI successes. I am not even an AI optimist - I am agnostic about its future. The point is that arguing for the impossibility of a future development in a field (especially lacking any relevant expertise) is an ungrateful endeavor. (If Agnostic Meta-Induction hasn't been coined yet, I am coining it now :smile:)

    I get the impression that many of those who insist that AI will fail are rather anxious for it to fail, so this is may also be a kind of wishful thinking.

    Rules are always common to many different cases. To find out, if a singular case applies to a rule, judgement is necessary. There is no way to find this out by exerting another rule, as this results in an infinite regress. So my argument to support the provocative title of this discussion is: AI is indeed intelligent in that it is able to find patterns in huge amounts of data but there is no way AI could reach to judgements like we humans can.Pez

    It is odd that you talk of rules as being contrary to common-sense judgement, because rule-based AI is currently out of fashion. So-called expert systems of the early days of AI were rule-based. They showed promise, but proved to be limited and have since been largely abandoned. But some prominent AI researchers now argue that further advances in AI will require an infusion of rule-based reasoning. And part of their argument is that common knowledge and common sense that AI often lacks is very much rule-driven (rule-of-thumb driven, one might say).
  • Why populism leads to authoritarianism
    Yes, it's deeply ironic that the instincts of populist movements are invariably authoritarian, anti-democratic. They don't trust the people to govern themselves, and firmly believe themselves to be the best suited to hold all the power and the privilege - which, of course, is the very definition of elitism. They don't necessarily start out with the cynical plan to become the new elites in an authoritarian system, but that is what they end up doing anyway.
  • Supervenience Problems: P-Regions and B-Minimal Properties
    A physical entity is part of the P-Region if and only if it is essential to M. This facet is what rules out multiple realizability. If a physical entity can be removed from the system and it doesn't affect M then by definition it in not included in the P-Region. We are now in a situation where P cannot vary unless M also varies (P is in fact defined in terms of M so that this is the case).Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think you are mixing up counterfactual possible worlds with different partitions of the same world. All these supervenience definitions are ultimately about counterfactuals: if M supervenes on P, then in a counterfactual world where M is different, P must also be different. The counterfactual world is not different from the actual world in how we choose to draw the boundaries around P.
  • Supervenience Problems: P-Regions and B-Minimal Properties
    There is a somewhat more detailed introduction found in the IEP article on supervenience, where you can also find references to original publications where these concepts are introduced.

    Ha, not to go back on my OP, but I am now thinking that B-Minimal Properties do not rule out multiple realizability in an important sense.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I don't think any of these attempted precisions are aimed at ruling out multiple realizability. Multiple realizability is a feature, not a bug of supervenience, and I haven't seen anyone actually trying to rule it out.

    If you are defining superveniance with B-minimal properties or P Regions this is not the case. Any change in P, the (relevant) brush strokes (or their properties) would, by definition, be a change in the experience/aesthetic qualities of the painting. Multiple realizability is sacrificed by using these methods to define superveniance.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I don't see how that follows. Supervenience with P-regions or B-minimal properties is still an asymmetric relation: There can be no M-differences without P-differences, but the reverse does not hold.
  • The whole is limitless
    By limited I mean restricted in size. Think of spacetime for example. If spacetime is restricted in size then we can reach its edges by moving in straight lines (of course if spacetime is not a closed manifold). The problem is what is beyond the edges. It cannot be nothing since nothing does not have any geometry and occupies no room. So, whatever is the beyond edges of spacetime is something. Therefore, what I said follows.MoK

    OK, so you are basically reprising Lucretius' javelin argument:

    For whatever bounds it, that thing must itself be bounded likewise; and to this bounding thing there must be a bound again, and so on for ever and ever throughout all immensity. Suppose, however, for a moment, all existing space to be bounded, and that a man runs forward to the uttermost borders, and stands upon the last verge of things, and then hurls forward a winged javelin,— suppose you that the dart, when hurled by the vivid force, shall take its way to the point the darter aimed at, or that something will take its stand in the path of its flight, and arrest it? For one or other of these things must happen. There is a dilemma here that you never can escape from.
  • The whole is limitless
    To show this let's assume that the whole is limited, let's call the whole W1. This means that W1 is bounded by something else, let's call this B1.MoK

    This doesn't follow, unless by "limited" you mean just that: being limited by something else. But that would make your argument a simple and uninteresting tautology.
  • About strong emergence and downward causation
    Although emergence is often sloganized in terms of wholes vs. parts, it doesn't necessarily boil down to mereology, nor to substances. (Also, emergence should not be identified with reduction - another notoriously muddled concept.) There have been many takes on emergence with no common agreement forthcoming: just searching publication titles, you will find several titled "What is Emergence?", "Making Sense of Emergence", and so on. That doesn't mean that the idea is hopeless though - rather the opposite I would think. And just because there are disagreements, doesn't mean that every party is equally wrong.
  • About strong emergence and downward causation
    Sorry if you misunderstood my post, but I really meant that my definition has the same meaning as Wikipedia 's definition.Ypan1944

    It is not. Just reread the definitions and pay attention to the placing of the terms. This is essential to understand in a discussion of emergence.

    Your definition:

    A property A is called supervenient over a (subvenient) property B if a change in B has direct consequences for A.Ypan1944

    In slogan form, “there cannot be a B-difference without an A-difference”.

    SEP/Wiki definition:

    A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties.SEP

    In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference”.

    In the case of consciousness: this is certainly emergent and my remark that some parts of the brain are crucial for consciousness indicates that there is at least some form of supervenience.Ypan1944

    This contradicts what you said earlier, which would indeed follow from your personal definition of supervenience, but not from the standard definition:

    To argue that our consciousness is highly emergent you must show that the features of our consciousness are supervenient over the underlying complex structure of neurons. This would mean that any damage to the brain has consequences for consciousness.Ypan1944
  • About strong emergence and downward causation
    Sorry, but look at Wikipedia for this definition:
    "In philosophy, supervenience refers to a relation between sets of properties or sets of facts. X is said to supervene on Y if and only if some difference in Y is necessary for any difference in X to be possible."
    This has nothing to do with your "downward causation" conception
    Ypan1944

    Yes, this is almost identical to the definition that I quoted in my post, and it is the opposite of what you stated and then used to argue that consciousness cannot supervene on brain properties.

    I said nothing about downward causation, but emergence and supervenience are closely related concepts, so it is important to get the basics right in a discussion about them.
  • About strong emergence and downward causation
    A property A is called supervenient over a (subvenient) property B if a change in B has direct consequences for A.Ypan1944

    This is an incorrect definition of supervenience: the relationship goes in the opposite direction. And you go on to make an incorrect argument from it:

    To argue that our consciousness is highly emergent you must show that the features of our consciousness are supervenient over the underlying complex structure of neurons. This would mean that any damage to the brain has consequences for consciousness.Ypan1944

    A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties. In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference”.SEP

    Thus, supervenience admits underdetermination of supervenient properties by subvenient properties. If consciousness is supervenient upon the structure of neurons, what follows is that any difference in conscious states must be accompanied (not to say "caused") by a difference in the brain structure. Conversely, a difference in the brain structure, such as minor brain damage, but also any number of harmless variations, does not necessarily bear consequences for consciousness.
  • Web development in 2023
    Not a web developer (or a pro developer) here, so don't have anything to contribute. I have a slightly off topic question though if you don't mind. I've been doing a bit of coding for study, work, or small personal projects for about as long as Python has been around, but I've always been prejudiced against it. Its use of indentation for syntax seems like a monumentally bad idea. What do you have to say for that? And are there advantages to Python beyond its use in server scripting? (I also dislike JavaScript, but in that at least I don't seem to be alone.)
  • Philosophical jargon: Supervenience
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/supervenience/
    This is the source of the quotation and a good intro to the subject.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    Sorry for the late response. I've been traveling and otherwise preoccupied.

    Yes, but this is the man-made (artificial) case that I excluded. The determinist's claim is not a claim which limits itself to artificial realities. There is no formal model to justify the determinist's claim, which is a claim about all of reality.Leontiskos

    On the contrary, I wouldn't even know how to understand determinism other than in the context of a model (formal or informal, complete or partial). Even if we take your favored criterion of predictability, what would you make predictions from if not from a model? It's models all the way down when we talk about determinism or indeterminism.

    Okay, fair enough. Since our approach to the act of understanding may be different, I may be begging the question here. I would want to say that an intellect which understands something transcends that thing through its act of understanding. So if I understand a Roomba vacuum in its entirety then I have, at least in some way, transcended it. I have contained it in a way that it has not contained me. A concrete example of this would be the case where I am able to predict its movements whereas it is not able to predict my movements.

    From there I want to say that 1) to assert that something is deterministic is to imply exhaustive (in-principle) comprehension or standing-over or encompassment; 2) to assert that all existing things are deterministic entails asserting that I myself am deterministic; 3) to assert that I am deterministic involves applying (1) to myself; but 4) I cannot pretend to comprehend or stand over or encompass myself, for it is impossible for something to stand over itself or encompass itself.

    The weak premise here is surely (1). Someone will say, "I am not claiming exhaustive comprehension, but only a probabilistic opinion." To be naively concise, my point is not that the act itself is an act of comprehensive understanding, but rather that the supposition or hunch or opinion contains within itself a failure to recognize the boundary of (4). "I have a hunch that I myself am fully explainable in terms of deterministic principles," involves the idea that a theory which came from minds itself fully explains minds. But that can't be. Just as a mind cannot comprehend itself, neither can a theory produced by a mind comprehensively explain minds. Whatever else we want to say determinism is, it is surely also a theory.

    So feel free to have a go at (1), but do give me some insight into your own views in the process.
    Leontiskos

    The weak premise here is indeed (1), but not for the reason you give. As I already explained, "exhaustive (in-principle) comprehension" is not how I understand determinism, and I don't think this tracks with the general usage either.

    This is a different argument. I don't want to stretch this post too long, but I want to say something about it. Would you be willing to grant that it appears that the act of understanding is neither necessitated nor inevitable? Or does it simply appear to you that an act which is accepted to be necessitated, like two billiard balls colliding, and an act of understanding, like Pythagoras' act of understanding the Pythagorean theorem, equally possess the quality of "necessitated"? It seems that we usually take necessitation to preclude knowledge, e.g., "He's just parroting the definition of the Pythagorean theorem to pass the quiz. He doesn't really understand it." (Although this example doesn't utilize strict causal necessitation, it does utilize instrumental or consequence necessitation, i.e. <It is necessary to recite this theorem in order to pass the quiz, therefore I will recite the theorem>.)Leontiskos

    Would it be preferable to acquire beliefs as a result of a deterministic or a chancy process? I don't have an intuition one way or another, and I wouldn't trust intuitions anyway - I don't think they are informative in this instance. As for the example that you give, it doesn't seem apt: it is more about demonstrating the depth of knowledge or believing things for the right reasons than about causal necessitation.

    I suspect that your real concern here is not with necessitation in the sense of causal determination, but with sourcehood: being an autonomous and responsible agent, the true "owner" and originator of thought and action. Whether or not this is compatible with determinism is a matter of philosophical debate best known from the related subject of free will. It is probably best to leave that for another conversation, but I will only say that the contrary position - that the world is indeterministic - may not be of much help to you if what you really care about is sourcehood. This is something that gives incompatibilists the most difficulty.

    A scientist who calls an arbitrary system deterministic—such as a Roomba vacuum—is not thereby a determinist. Determinism is a philosophical theory about the entirety of existence, not some subset of itLeontiskos

    So apparently determinism is an absolute truth about the world and not a limited truth about certain parts of the world.Leontiskos

    True, which is why I think that to be a determinist or indeterminist in the above sense you need to hold to a kind of totalizing reductionist view in which there is (in principle) one true theory that describes the world in its totality. That theory can then be either deterministic or indeterministic. If you don't hold to that view, then I don't see what the terms determinism and indeterminism could even mean to you.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    Echoing my elaboration post, what justification is required to claim that a system is deterministic? Exhaustive predictability is the strongest form of justification, is it not? At least when it comes to systems which are not man-made (artificial)? And at the very least, everything in the system must at least plausibly be in-principle predictable. It's not at all clear to me that the thesis of determinism can be separated from a claim of in-principle predictability, and if this is correct then where in-principle predictability is incoherent, determinism fails.Leontiskos

    Predictability is the most straightforward and intuitive path towards inductive (or abductive, if you prefer) inference of determinism. But induction (abduction) is not exhaustive by its very nature. On the other hand, if you are looking at a formal model, you may be able conclude whether or not it is deterministic without demonstrating predictability, simply by analyzing its structure.

    Quantum mechanics is an instructive case in point. It is often thought of as a paradigmatically indeterministic theory. Indeed, as far as its observable predictions go, it is most definitely indeterministic. And yet, there are competing indeterministic and deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics, none of which are obviously true or false (or there would not be a competition).

    In practice, we are always looking at the world through a veil of epistemic underdetermination: unknown, uncertain and/or uncontrollable factors are always in play to a greater or lesser extent. But our mental models can be either deterministic or indeterministic, as suites the occasion, or as suites your taste, if the choice is not obvious. Those models that work best (or that we like best) we hold as saying something true about the world, however provisionally.

    I would want to say that no intellect which understands determinism could be deterministic. If such an intellect claims that it itself is deterministic, then either it does not understand what determinism means (and is therefore equivocating), or else it does understand what determinism means and is drawing a non-sequitur. To understand what determinism means is at the same time to place oneself outside of the deterministic paradigm. As I said in my follow-up, the theorizer can never be accounted for by his theory (at least in the way the determinist supposes he could be).Leontiskos

    Yeah, I didn't get that bit. I don't need to know everything in order to know (or have an opinion about) something. Perhaps it all just comes down to what you said later:

    My guess is that this rests on my conviction that true knowledge—which is different than Plato's "true opinion"—cannot be necessitated.Leontiskos

    Well, I don't share that conviction, and neither would any determinist, obviously.

    But determinism is a "final and absolute truth about the world," and even the minimal definition, provided in your very first post, is committed to in-principle predictability.Leontiskos

    No, it's really not.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    The distinction does save the logical coherence of determinism in the short term, but at what price? Does it rise above the level of an ad hoc response to the paradox of predictability? Is the determinist doing more than merely defending their theory by saying, "Oh, well in that case we stipulate that our observer is not part of the universe"?Leontiskos

    Depends on what sort of determinism is at stake. The definition that I quoted from one of the papers commits only to the existence of a one-to-one mapping between states of the universe at different times. This says nothing about observers and predictability, so determinists do not need ad hoc assumptions to defend against the paradox of predictability, as long as they are willing to concede that some types of predictability are not realizable in principle in a deterministic universe. Though I am not a committed determinist myself, to me that does not seem like a high price to pay. Limited predictability certainly does not go against our experience.

    ↪andrewk rightly makes the claim that the demon must be "causally isolated from [our universe]." But is it really coherent to envisage a being who is outside of the causal universe in this manner?Leontiskos

    Depends on who you ask. To Laplace the demon is just a thought experiment illustrating the concept. Laplace's determinism commits to causality and computability, so it is a little stronger than the minimal determinism discussed above, but it does not depend on the existence of an omniscient observer. If instead we are talking theology - that's different, but then our starting positions going in are different as well: we are no longer bound by the assumptions of naturalism and causal closure.

    ↪T Clark suggests that determinism without in-principle predictability is a meaningless idea. Whether or not that is right, such a form of determinism is a great deal more meaningless and toothless than the sort of determinism which brings along with it the intuitive consequence of in-principle predictability.Leontiskos

    @T Clark throws around accusations of meaninglessness rather freely, but that's on him. I rather think that a determinism that is demonstrably incoherent is a lot less meaningful than one that does not suffer from such a defect.

    I originally said that the minimal definition of determinism that does not commit to predictability of any sort is the more conventional one. That can be debated, but I would maintain that it is close to what is usually meant by determinism in the sciences, which are concerned with specific laws and theories, rather than final and absolute truths about the world. In such contexts distinguishing deterministic and indeterministic systems is meaningful and useful.


    I find that people's idea of "determinism worth having" or determinism to be avoided at all costs is strongly influenced by their underlying worries going into the debate: worries about human freedom, worth and responsibility on one side, and worries about order, predictability and intelligibility on the other side. I think it is worth making explicit your stakes if you are going to argue for a particular demarcation. Why is unrestricted in-principle predictability important to you?
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    If Bach Kept Bees...



    Music from the young Arvo Pärt, from around the time when he got into early music.

    The buzzing tune heard at the beginning and throughout the piece is a slightly obfuscated B-A-C-H sequence (spelled out in German musical notation). The ending quotes a prelude from WTC 1.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    And if Russia succeeded in absorbing/subjugating Ukraine, it would then have four more NATO countries at its borders!
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Why would there be troops defending a city deep in Russia when Ukrainians are nowhere near Rostov?ssu

    Because it's a critical command-and-control center? And yet it was taken with hardly a shot fired, and two generals, including a deputy Minister of Defense, apparently taken hostage. More to the point, the Russians supposedly had advance warning about the mutiny. How could they be caught with their pants down like that?

    Compare and contrast with the successful defense of Mykolaev in the first days of the invasion. It was organized with very little advance warning and mostly local defenders.

    Clearly, there was a lack of will here, if not outright collusion with the mutineers.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    So why on Earth the weak timid response then from Putin and the references to 1917 and civil war?ssu

    And if the objective of Prigozhin was to capture the military leadeship (as WSJ writes), it is absolutely hilarious to deny that this wasn’t a coup attempt, because they weren’t going for Putin.ssu

    Particularly puzzling is how it happened that Wagner was allowed to cross the border and capture a million+ city hosting Southern Military District headquarters (by far the biggest prize in the entire campaign :rofl:) when Russian security agencies were aware of their plans (as both Western and Russian sources claim)?

    Prigozhin originally intended to capture Defense Minister Sergei
    Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s general
    staff, during a visit to a southern region that borders Ukraine that
    the two were planning. But the Federal Security Service, or FSB, found
    out about the plan two days before it was to be executed, according to
    Western officials.

    Gen. Viktor Zolotov, commander of the National Guard of Russia, a
    domestic military force that reports directly to President Vladimir
    Putin, also said authorities knew about Prigozhin’s intentions
    before he launched his attempt.

    “Specific leaks about preparations for a rebellion that would begin
    between June 22-25 were leaked from Prigozhin’s camp,” Zolotov
    told state media on Tuesday.
    WSJ
  • Ukraine Crisis
    I don't understand why their military was pitted against itself to begin with. Was that on purpose to keep the military from taking over? Or what?frank

    Wagner wasn't military. They weren't even legal (an "illegal armed group" is how Russian law qualifies such formations). As for what purpose they served, originally they were a semi-secret pro-government mercenary group that functioned somewhat like old-time privateers. They operated mostly in Africa, enriching themselves with deniable help and blessing of the Kremlin. They saw action in Ukraine in 2014 and later in Syria.

    When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Wagner was not there originally; Prigozhin's relationship with the military top brass was already poor at that time. But, shrewd businessman that he was, he quickly got on the action, and following the failure of blyatzkrieg, Putin must have appreciated any help he could get. Wagner's mercenaries, boosted by tens of thousands of expendable convicts recruited directly from prison camps, proved to be the most effective assault troops (which says much about the state of the Russian military).
  • Ukraine Crisis
    For all that's already been known, the degree of dysfunction in the power structure and the society that this episode has brought to the surface is pretty amazing.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    How do commentators here compare the January 6 insurrection in the US capitol building with Prigozhin's coup attempt (if that's what it was)?BC

    I'd say you're comparing kids playing cowboys and Indians with a proper re-enactment of the October revolution.unenlightened

    Things are still in motion, and of what has happened so far a lot remains unclear, and a lot will probably remain hidden from view in the foreseeable future. But from what I can see, it was neither of these extremes. Comparison with the January 6 riots in Washington is inapt, but if there is anything in common between these events, it is that neither of them was an attempted coup, strictly speaking. Trump's rioters hardly had any definite plan, but their actions amounted to trying to force the hand of Congress, rather than to literally overthrow the government and install Trump.

    Prigozhin's mutiny was clearly well planned (US intelligence now say that they saw Wagner's preparations days in advance, and that is believable). But it seems that he was also aiming to force change within the system, rather than to overthrow Putin. Prigozhin may be a loose cannon, but he is not insane. Most likely, he sought to renegotiate the terms of whatever informal agreement he had with Putin, improve his standing, replace military leadership with whom he had been feuding. Such a feudalistic power play on the part of a warlord is not that out of place in today's Russia.

    My guess would be that Prigozhin hoped more people would bandwagon aboard, since dissatisfaction with Shoigu is apparently widespread in the military.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yeah, that's my take too. Prigozhin was probably gambling on receiving support from parts of the military, but he miscalculated.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Isn't arresting anti-war and dissident activists/protestors and then sending them to the front to gain leadership experience and a chance to b radicalize your army almost always a bad idea?Count Timothy von Icarus

    That was one mistake they did not repeat this time around. Reportedly, when Wagner and then MoD were recruiting fighters from prisons, political prisoners were strictly excluded.