Determinism

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Re: Determinism

Postby promethean75 » Wed Feb 19, 2020 8:23 pm

well biggs if you must know, 'freewill' isn't only inconceivable but also unworkable in any possible system whatsoever. the first part - what is inconceivable - is what the concept 'will' is supposed to mean in the language of the freewill argument. but even if we were to grant such an entity or agency, we'd still be faced with the ontological problem of interacting substances that are not reducible to the same fundamental properties... in which case we wouldn't be able to understand how they affect each other. if you take for example descartes' substance-dualism of the material (world) and the immaterial (self), you might be able to imagine these two substances existing independently and on their own... but how would they interact? how would the immaterial self touch and make contact with the material world in order to cause and direct physical action?

now my school of analytical nihilism (i just started it, btw) goes even further in criticism. we could even grant that this interaction were possible between these two ontologically distinct substances... and we'd still not have a case of genuine freewill. we would have to ask what compels the immaterial self to interact as it does with the material world, which it is not a part of, without itself being subject to some form of immaterial causality. that is to say, we'd have to posit an infinite regress of 'freewills' to get around this dilemma.

so if you ax me about the cash value of this fact, i'd admit that there is very little to it; we still live in a world as if we have freewill. it certainly seems like we do, and as such we have to find a workable way to live that sustains this illusion without it causing collateral damage. problem is, it's causing a whole lotta collateral damage in ethics (and criminal justice, especially). this is something peacegirl was very attentive to and wrote a lot about.

the great paradox here is that abandoning belief in freewill actually has the opposite effect of fatalism and places more responsibility on man to control his environment and the causes within it. and of course you'd say 'but even that would be part of the dominos toppling over', yes. i admit that at this point we have not yet worked out a way to deal with this redundancy, but our research does show great promise. we're now working on a theory called polymeric causal holism. its central thesis is that when a certain threshold of determined events occurs, an emergent self-determining effect results and is able to separate itself from the causal chain from which it evolved and direct itself as if it had freewill. but this doesn't happen on an individual level. it happens on a ecological level... and by ecological i mean the interactions between environment, intelligent animals, and language users.

no just kidding. there still ain't no freewill. i wuz just bullshitting.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Feb 24, 2020 7:30 pm

promethean75 wrote:well biggs if you must know, 'freewill' isn't only inconceivable but also unworkable in any possible system whatsoever. the first part - what is inconceivable - is what the concept 'will' is supposed to mean in the language of the freewill argument. but even if we were to grant such an entity or agency, we'd still be faced with the ontological problem of interacting substances that are not reducible to the same fundamental properties... in which case we wouldn't be able to understand how they affect each other. if you take for example descartes' substance-dualism of the material (world) and the immaterial (self), you might be able to imagine these two substances existing independently and on their own... but how would they interact? how would the immaterial self touch and make contact with the material world in order to cause and direct physical action?

now my school of analytical nihilism (i just started it, btw) goes even further in criticism. we could even grant that this interaction were possible between these two ontologically distinct substances... and we'd still not have a case of genuine freewill. we would have to ask what compels the immaterial self to interact as it does with the material world, which it is not a part of, without itself being subject to some form of immaterial causality. that is to say, we'd have to posit an infinite regress of 'freewills' to get around this dilemma.

so if you ax me about the cash value of this fact, i'd admit that there is very little to it; we still live in a world as if we have freewill. it certainly seems like we do, and as such we have to find a workable way to live that sustains this illusion without it causing collateral damage. problem is, it's causing a whole lotta collateral damage in ethics (and criminal justice, especially). this is something peacegirl was very attentive to and wrote a lot about.

the great paradox here is that abandoning belief in freewill actually has the opposite effect of fatalism and places more responsibility on man to control his environment and the causes within it. and of course you'd say 'but even that would be part of the dominos toppling over', yes. i admit that at this point we have not yet worked out a way to deal with this redundancy, but our research does show great promise. we're now working on a theory called polymeric causal holism. its central thesis is that when a certain threshold of determined events occurs, an emergent self-determining effect results and is able to separate itself from the causal chain from which it evolved and direct itself as if it had freewill. but this doesn't happen on an individual level. it happens on a ecological level... and by ecological i mean the interactions between environment, intelligent animals, and language users.

no just kidding. there still ain't no freewill. i wuz just bullshitting.


Pick one:

* you couldn't have said it better if you tried
* you couldn't have said it worse if you tried

You know, if there really ain't no freewill.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Feb 24, 2020 7:57 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

As we move through childhood, with the help of our parents, we hopefully begin to control our impulses and desires. For example, we learn that we can’t have everything exactly when we want it, and so learn to delay gratification, developing self-control. As we need less care and attention from our parents, we exercise more autonomy, learn to make more decisions for ourselves and to follow our own interests and goals. In this sense, human development is a process of becoming less bound by biological and environmental influences and gain more free will and autonomy. And ideally, this process should continue throughout our lives.


Ever and always it is merely assumed that this reconfiguration is not wholly configured by the laws of nature themselves. In fact, some are compelled by nature to get really, really fierce in insisting that their own life is shaped and molded wholly in accordance with their own autonomous behaviors. The ubermen among us in particular mock those who insist that they were never able not to mock those who were never able not to believe that their own lives are considerably less remarkable because they were never able not to be.

These exchanges can get really, really surreal, really, really fast.

But, even assuming volition, we are then confronted with that which our free will and autonomy does in fact pursue out in the world with others in shaping those biological and environmental influences. How ought they be shaped and molded given that this is something that is more or less in our command.

And these exchange are often not only surreal but, at times, downright vicious. Not only am I free but I use my freedom in the pursuit of those behaviors that are the obligation of all rational and virtuous men and women to pursue in turn.

So, which is worse...being enthrall to the laws of nature or to the laws of those objectivists who set out to shape and mold the world [and everyone in in it] to their own moral and political specs.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby Tab » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:29 pm

Freewill is macroscopic quantum coherence suspending the collapse of superpositions long enough for the brain to get it's shit together and effect the outcome.

Not sure I entirely believe it, but it sure sounds cool.

At any rate, I'll settle for 'unpredictable will', which kicks determinism out the window. Kinda.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:39 pm

Tab wrote:Freewill is macroscopic quantum coherence suspending the collapse of superpositions long enough for the brain to get it's shit together and effect the outcome.

Not sure I entirely believe it, but it sure sounds cool.

At any rate, I'll settle for 'unpredictable will', which kicks determinism out the window. Kinda.


Pick one:

* you couldn't have said it better if you tried
* you couldn't have said it worse if you tried

:banana-dance: :wink: :D :) :( :o :-? 8) :lol: :x :P :oops: :evil: :evilfun: =D> #-o [-o< 8-[ :-k :-" O:) =; :-& :-$ :arrow: :!: :idea: :mrgreen: :| :?: :shock: ](*,) :eusa-shifty: :drool: :banana-dance:

Sorry, that too was beyond my control.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Tue Mar 03, 2020 7:29 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Spiritual development can also be seen as a process of gaining increased autonomy. For example, many Eastern spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism or yoga, place great emphasis on self-discipline and self-control: control of our own behaviour, so that we no longer cause harm to others; control of our desires, so that we no longer lust after physical pleasures; control of our thoughts, so that we can quieten the mind through meditation, and so on. In some traditions, spiritual development is seen as a process of ‘taming’ the body and mind, and this is, of course, only possible through intense self-discipline, requiring self-control.


Again, what am I missing here? As though somehow the "spiritual" facet of human interactions is exempt from the laws of matter. The Buddha teaches self-discipline and self-control. And, surely, the Buddha himself was exempt from the laws of nature.

And certainly God is.

It always comes back to the psychological sense -- here manifested in religion -- that [somehow] I just know that what I am thinking and feeling and saying and doing is under my control. Sure, contingent on both genetic and memetic variables that are, in some crucial respects, beyond my control, but... but never completely beyond my control.

And that may well be the case. I certainly have not reached the point where, at times, I don't have significant doubts about my own recent turn in the direction of determinism. Viscerally, it just does not seem possible that I am not of my own volition [whatever that means] typing what I do here. But it's that I can't know this beyond all doubt that is always there exasperating me.

Although it can sometimes occur suddenly and spontaneously, the deep serenity and intensified awareness of spiritual awakening is usually the culmination of a long process of increasing our innate quotient of personal freedom to the point where our minds become the dominant influence. When spiritually awakened people are referred to as ‘masters’, this could easily refer to them as being masters of themselves.


Right, like he can go to the scientists who study this empirically and experimentally, using the rigors of the "scientific method", and say, "Okay, give me the definitive argument I can use to prove that a 'spiritual' quest does in fact demonstrate the reality of free will among our species."

Really, who cares how long the introspective process is when there are folks on both sides of the debate who have gone down that path and come to different conclusions.

Disciplines like Buddhism are just more intent and intense in focusing in on the ego in ways that other religious denominations are not. But that doesn't make either the intention or the intensity of the pursuit any less necessarily exempt from whatever brought matter into existence and then laid down the law regarding what it can or cannot do. Only to the extent that the human brain is shown to be the one exception to the rule, does autonomy become more plausible. Spiritually or otherwise.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Tue Mar 03, 2020 11:03 pm

Saving the Self
Raymond Tallis defends personal identity from those who say the self is an illusion.

Neuroscience cannot find the self (even less the free agent) for two reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t examine the person but the isolated nervous system and it is an unproven and highly implausible assumption that the person really is the isolated nervous system.


Tell me this is not downright "spooky"? There you are poking around inside the brain or probing it in real time, functioning through fMRI images. And who knows what new technology the neuroscientists either have or will have at their disposal.

But it's not like they have ever reached the point where, while performing their experiments, probing their images, they actually make contact with the "I". The part of the brain able to be separated out from the purely biological functions of all the parts.

Imagine that conversation!

Secondly, it approaches the nervous system from the impersonal standpoint of physical chemistry so that the brain boils down to sets of semi-permeable membranes along which electrochemical impulses propagate. While the brain is a necessary condition of the self (the beheaded are pretty selfless), we should not expect to find the self in a stand-alone bit of brain but in a brain that is part of a body environed by the natural world and a massively complex, historically evolved, culture. Uprooting the brain from all this is a sure-fire way of mislaying the self.


See? As soon as you start in on the actual interaction between brain scientists and any one particular brain, you're back to the chemical and the neurological interactions that can be documented and encompassed as in fact true objectively.

At best we can note the biological parameters involved and then point out how this particular brain in this particular head in this particular person is intertwined with all of the other things that we are reasonably certain about regarding the historical, cultural, and interpersonal "I".

Without coming into contact with that "stand alone bit of the brain", we are back to square one.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Mar 11, 2020 8:13 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

In Western philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche meant something similar ["being masters of themselves"] with his concept of ‘self-overcoming’. Nietzsche spoke disparagingly of the ‘Ultimate Man’, who is completely satisfied with himself as he is and strives only to make his life as comfortable and pleasurable as possible. But in reality, says Nietzsche, human nature is not fixed or finished. Human beings are part of an evolutionary process – not a goal, but a bridge – “a rope fastened between animal and Superman” (Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1891). The potential Superman is the human being who is not self-satisfied, who has the urge to ‘overcome himself.’ For him, life is an attempt at bridging the gulf between animal and superman.


Of course Nietzsche too was no less addicted to his own "general description intellectual contraptions" in exploring the nature of "I" able to "overcome" itself "in his head".

But what "out in the world" does that mean when, in overcoming yourself in any particular context, others overcoming themselves, insist that the consequences of your own overcoming comes into conflict with the consequences of their overcoming.

Exactly: As soon as this or that overcoming precipitates social and political and economic conflicts, what then?

Suppose you set out to "overcome" yourself in regard to the coronavirus? How do you suppose that might play itself out given particular behaviors that you choose?

As for being "self-satisfied", how is this not in turn the embodiment of dasein? You may choose a new path and for all practical purposes your choices may improve your lot in the world. But what I always focus on is the part where the consequences of this "new you" detracts from the well-being of others.

The part that for me precipitates the fracturing and the fragmenting. How does it not for you? And, again, how is any of this back and forth assessing able to be demonstrated as within the parameters of human autonomy?

Here's how the author "demonstrates" it?

Liberating Freedom

We all possess a degree of freedom, and we all have the capacity to extend the degree of freedom we’re bequeathed – to become less dominated by our genes, our brain chemistry, and the society and wider environment into which we’re born. We are all potentially much more powerful than we have been led to believe, even to the extent of being able to alter or even control the forces that have been supposed to completely control us. And to a large extent our well-being, our achievements and our sense of meaning in life depend on this. The more you exercise and increase your freedom, the more meaningful and fulfilling your life will be.


He merely asserts all of the above to be true by assuming he was not compelled by the laws of nature embodied in his brain to do so. And it's not like the determinists can demonstrate otherwise. So, around and around we all go, leap by leap by leap.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Mar 19, 2020 4:35 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

The eeriest episode in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the visit to Ebenezer Scrooge of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. The shrouded specter transports the old man to a bedroom where his own corpse lies “plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for,” and then to his grave in a churchyard “overrun by grass and weeds.” When Scrooge begs to “see some tenderness connected with a death” the ghost conducts him to the Cratchit family grieving over the death of Tiny Tim. Profoundly shaken, Scrooge implores: “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” The ghost remains silent, but we know from the end of Dickens’ tale that Scrooge begins altering his life on Christmas day.


Wow. I recall as a child, there were two movies that first got me to thinking about the relationship between time, myself and free will. One was The Time Machine with Rod Taylor and the other was A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim.

And it was the part that took us into the future that most intrigued me. After all if we could go into the future and observe it, how could it ever not but be that way?

But then there is also the focus of films like Back To the Future, Timecrimes and Primer...films that explore how, if we go back in time and change something, that changes the future into something else. But what I could never quite configure in my head was the part about the future. If, for example, today, we could go forward in time 6 months and see our coronavirus ravaged world then, how could things not be compelled to unfold such that this was the only possible future?

Then the part where, in the multiverse, every possible combination of events exists in one or another of an infinite number of parallel universes.

Even now I still can't quite wrap my head around the extent to which I am thinking this through in the most rational manner. Or if there is a way in which to think it through in the most rational manner at all.

Who can really "assure us" of anything here?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Fri Mar 27, 2020 5:57 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

Fate & Freedom

This story differs in a philosophically interesting way from fatalistic tales of protagonists who, although warned about calamities to come, are unable to avoid them. Oedipus for example, as foretold in prophecy, is fated to kill his father and marry his mother regardless of the steps taken to prevent these deeds from happening. Ignorant of how exactly his fate will unfold, and blind to its inevitability, he becomes the instrument of his own destruction.


Again, however, this presumes there must be at least some measure of human autonomy here. Otherwise in a wholly determined universe as I understand it both protagonists act out only that which their creators [Dickens and Sophocles ] were compelled by nature to invent for them.

That's how surreal this all becomes. The characters in both Oedipus Rex and A Christmas Carol, acquire "free will" from the authors who created them. But could not nature be construed as the "author" of both Dickens and Sophocles themselves? It's just that with nature, the most surreal aspect of all is that there does not appear to be any teleological intention behind anything at all. Matter is just somehow able reconfigure itself into a mindful consciousness that is still no less driven to interact with all other matter [mindful or not] in the only possible way that can be.

In other words, how is being a philosopher examining this change anything? Aren't they all in turn no less subsumed in these laws?

Scrooge, on the other hand, wisely asks whether the future that he has glimpsed is inevitable: “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” He sees at once the critical difference: “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead… But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” Although the ghost remains silent, Scrooge bets on “May be” rather than “Will be.” Hoping that his fate is up to him, he begins to mend his miserly ways.


See my points above. The wisdom that Dickens imparts to Scrooge either is or is not interchangeable with nature creating a brain able to accomplish this. To make a distinction between "may be" and "will be" seems part and parcel of the position described by the compatibilists. A point of view I am still not able to grapple with and grasp. If it is nature and only nature that is behind things "departed from", then nature and Dickens and Scrooge and all of us are intertwined in the one and only one possible reality.

But over and again I acknowledge the problem here may well be my own inability to think this through correctly...assuming it is within my capacity even to think it through correctly.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:15 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

Scrooge’s mending of his miserly ways is relevant to current debates about free will because of the ‘consequence’ argument. The consequence argument asserts that if past events and the laws of nature determine everything that will ever happen, then no one has any choice about anything. There is no free will.


Of course here we immediately bump into the gap/chasm between deducing that this is true in an argument and, say, devising an experiment that would demonstrate that this is empathically true empirically, existentially. Only here the experiment itself may or may not be wholly compelled by nature.

Same with the current coronavirus pandemic. Few would argue that the virus itself is choosing to wreak havoc on the lives of millions and millions of us. And our bodies react to it [down to the most miniscule of quantum particles] like atomic clockwork. Until we come to the brain. Are the laws of nature also wholly applicable to it as well? And how far are we from closing the gap between posts like these and definitive experiments able to provide the definitive proof that my "I" and your "I" does or does not possess at least some capacity to the react to the virus of our own free will.

Since visits by ghosts violate the laws of nature, one might doubt that the consequence argument applies to Scrooge’s story at all. We can sidestep this doubt by interpreting his encounters as dreams or hallucinations. Dreams and hallucinations are natural events, and they have natural causes. Indeed, Scrooge himself suggests this interpretation when he says to the first ghost, his old partner, Jacob Marley, “There is more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” Given a naturalistic interpretation, Scrooge’s hallucination of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is just another link in the causal chain. Past events, such as eating greasy gravy for dinner, and the laws of nature, have made it inevitable that Scrooge will have this terrifying vision, that he will resolve to become a better man, and that he will make a good start of it. These developments are lucky for Scrooge and the people around him; but if they are the necessary consequences of chains of events that started long before he was born, it seems doubtful that he can take credit for his change of heart, or be said to have done it out of free will.


Still, however more protracted our speculations become, nothing really changes. These conjectures either are entirely subsumed in consequences that are entirely subsumed in the laws of matter, or someone comes up with the verifiable evidence, documented scientifically, that "I" really is somehow the one exception to the rule.

And dreams provide us only with experiences regarding just how profoundly problematic reality can be...or can appear to be. "I" while in them seems as authentic as "I" wholly awake and aware. These "chains of events" in dreams are experienced by us as though "I" is more than just "another link in the causal chain". But how is this then conclusively, decisively confirmed?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sat Apr 11, 2020 7:21 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

Past & Future

Philosophers have been debating antecedents of the consequence argument since antiquity, but it gained new credibility at the end of the Seventeenth Century from the dazzlingly accurate predictions of Isaac Newton’s physics of matter and motion. In 1814, the Marquis de Laplace summarized what he took to be the implications of it: “We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its anterior state and the cause of the one that is to follow” (A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, translated from the sixth French Edition by F.W. Truscott and F.L. Emory). This position is now known as determinism. Laplace claimed that if an intelligence (often called ‘Laplace’s demon’) were vast enough to know and analyze all the conditions and forces of nature at a certain moment, then “the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes.”


One thing here I know for sure: if this intelligence does in fact exist on this planet, the argument hasn't gotten around to me yet.

How about you? What, in your view, reflects the argument that at least comes closest? Acknowledging of course that we are not privy to the arguments of intelligent life forms on any other planet. Or to an explanation from God, if in fact there is one. Or [of course] even if any explanation that we are privy to at all is not embodied in a wholly determined universe.

The author "considers the possibility of changing destiny" here, but that must involve a definition of destiny that I am not familiar with. If you can change our destiny in regard to "know[ing] and analyz[ing] all the conditions and forces of nature at a certain moment" in order to encompass the past, present and future wholly in sync with the laws of nature, then it clearly wasn't destiny in the first place.

In 1884 William James argued that determinism is tragic because it deprives us of any opportunity to make the future better than it is destined to be. Determinism, he says, implies an ‘iron block’ universe where the “future has no ambiguous possibilities bidden in its womb; the part we call the present is compatible with only one totality. Any other future complement than the one fixed from eternity is impossible” (‘The Dilemma of Determinism’, The Will to Believe: & Other Essays in Popular Philosophy).


How can something that could only ever be, ever be "tragic"? Instead, the laws of matter -- nature -- may well have created a human mind able to concoct a psychological state that we were compelled to construe as tragic.

Think about the creations of Nathan in the film Ex Machina -- viewtopic.php?f=24&t=179469&p=2562128&hilit=ex+machina+directed#p2562128

Then the scene where it dawns on Caleb that he too might be just another creation of Nathan. And, if that had turned out to be the case, and he felt that this was tragic...?

You tell me.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Fri Apr 17, 2020 7:04 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

In 1983, Peter van Inwagen breathed new life into this old argument about determinism and its consequences. He asserts: “Determinism is quite simply the thesis that the past determines a unique future.” He fleshes out this thesis with a lot of technical details, but restates it less technically in a later essay: “Determinism says that the past (the past at any given instant, a complete specification of the universe at any given instant in the past) and the laws of nature together determine everything, that they leave no open possibilities.” He argues that if determinism is true, then it consigns us to a predestined future: “it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.”


my emphasis

Compelled or not, this argument still makes the most sense to me. I was never not able to type these words. You were never not able to read them. And the consequences of that could not be clearer: personal responsibility is a psychological illusion built by nature into the human brain for whatever reason that the immutable laws of nature exist at all.

Morality is no less an illusion. Therefore any good things that I take credit for or any bad things for which I am blamed, were always ever going to be going back to what was always ever going to be given all of the necessary components of existence itself. And, therefore, "compatibilism" is in turn no less subsumed in a necessary reality itself.

Not that I can actually demonstrate that any of this is indisputably true.

Here, as with you, I am stuck with that which up until now I was compelled by nature -- compelled by what? -- to think myself into believing.

Unless of course someone has accomplished the task of his or her own volition of demonstrating that in fact it is otherwise.

Anyone here perchance?

Causation & Free Will
All versions of the consequence argument begin with the premise that determinism is true. But is it?

First, there is disagreement over how to define determinism.


Gasp!

Van Inwagen gives one common definition. Often, however, it is defined as universal causation – the thesis that everything that happens is caused by prior events and the laws of nature. But although this thesis may be true of a great many events, it is not true of every event.


See how it works? The extent to which determinism is one thing rather than another becomes entirely dependent on how one defines it. Then, what, it is merely assumed as well that how you define it is also encompassed in that definition? Again, going back to what in fact really is the case embedded in the gap between what "I" think explains reality [human and otherwise] and all that would need to be known to explain it.

Encompassing in turn this...

Most physicists believe that atoms and their parts are governed by the merely statistical probabilities of quantum mechanics, rather than by strict causal necessity. They believe, for example, that the emission of an electron from the nucleus of a radioactive atom at any particular time is not determined by prior events, but instead just happens (albeit with a measureable probability). This means that there is an element of pure chance or irreducible randomness in the timing of such emissions, or in any other quantum activity. We can hear this randomness by listening to the clicks of a Geiger counter.


Okay, this is what some believe about quantum interactions. But who among us is able to demonstrate definitively that this is in fact the case?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Tue Apr 21, 2020 4:41 pm

Thought I'd put this one here too...

Nietzsche and Morality
Roger Caldwell responds to an analysis of Nietzsche’s morality.

...like Spinoza before him, Nietzsche is a naturalist and a determinist. Human beings are not privileged over other animals – rather, like them, we are part of “a causal web that comprises the whole universe.” Where other writers speak of the freedom of the human will, Nietzsche tells us that the will is neither free nor unfree, but rather strong or weak.


Here we go again. A determinist who argues that human beings are part of "a causul web that comprises the whole universe" and then reconfigures that into a will that is either strong or weak.

Morality aside, if one's will is entirely shaped by the laws of matter compelling the brain to embody either a weak or a strong will in any particular individual what difference does that make when manifested in human interactions if those interactions could only be what nature compels?

What the hell do I keep missing here...if I actually do have the capacity to not miss it?

For Simon Blackburn he was the first philosopher to try to assimilate Darwinism. Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals is an exercise in ‘animal psychology’, studying (in Nietzsche’s own words) “the physiology and evolutionary history of organisms and concepts.” In a number of other central works Nietzsche embraces science as providing access to what he sees as ‘the real world of nature’ – whereas our religious, moral and aesthetic sentiments belong only to the surface of things.


Same thing. Making a distinction between grasping the surface of things and grasping things in depth in a world where both are a necessary/inherent component of nature's immutable laws is for all practical purposes to make no distinction at all. Or so it still seems to me.

Through our need to see the universe as existing for the sake of human beings, in effect we create a merely apparent world, which for Nietzsche is “the value-laden world as error.” To what degree we can live in truth not error is another matter, of course: in some moods Nietzsche praises the value of art precisely as that it protects us from reality. He dares us to be superficial. But it is nonetheless a central intention in his writings precisely to strip us of our illusions – not least the fundamental illusion that we are rational creatures.


Same thing. In a wholly determined universe how could anything that we think, feel, say and do not be rational if by rational we mean wholly in sync with the laws of matter?

This is something I come back to time and again because the only way morality can have any real substantive meaning in our lives is if in some way that we may or may not come to understand we are in fact free to choose behaviors other than the ones that we do.

Right?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:09 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

Some philosophers seek to save free will...by bringing in indeterminism, such as a measure of quantum randomness in the operations of our brains. However, randomness in the relevant brain activity would actually threaten free will. An action triggered by a random event would be more like an uncontrolled spasm than a voluntary choice.


This is particularly difficult for me to wrap my head around. If, in my brain, "random" chemical and neurological interactions occurred spontaneously what exactly would bring this about? Would it just happen "out of the blue"? Somehow connected or not connected at all to those processes that are in sync with the laws of matter.

I mean, how disturbing would that be? I think, feel, say and do things for reasons that can both be explained and not explained? If we have no control over these random "firings" in our brain, then we would have to figure out a way to connect the dots between them and, say, moral responsibility.

In other words, which might be worse, doing things only because we could not not do them, or doing things because our brain just stochastically sets what we do into motion

Indeed, free will seems to require that our choices and actions be determined in accordance with our beliefs and desires, not simply left to chance. If you found yourself choosing to do what you don’t want to do, and don’t believe you should be doing – say, hitting your head against a wall – you would probably think you were losing your mind rather than exercising your free will. So even advocates of free will might have a stake in defending the claim that causal determination is in force when we choose a course of action.


And, in fact, when you look at the interaction of matter, it's not for nothing that you don't often encounter things happening that would seem to suggest this sort of randomness. It's just that with self-conscious mindful matter, we encounter behaviors strange enough to suspect it. Here though people might be doing something that seems absolutely unintelligible to us...but that is only because we don't understand the context or are not privy to their motive. Or maybe the laws of matter manifest themselves in any number of diseases that can afflict the brain.

It's just that even those behaviors that seem to reflect "choices and actions...determined in accordance with our beliefs and desires", may not actually be determined that way at all. Also, there are brain afflictions like Stereotypic Movement Disorder that can in fact cause someone to bang their head against the wall. Repeatedly.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed May 06, 2020 4:59 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

And here we go again: compatibilism

Another popular view among philosophers today rejects the equation of free will with being able to do otherwise under the exactly the same circumstances. This view claims that free will and moral responsibility can be understood in ways that make them compatible with determinism.


Once more I will make the attempt to grasp how this is actually possible given my own assumption that the human brain is in fact [if it is a fact] just the latest in the evolution of matter wholly in sync with its own physical laws.

Any exceptions would have to be explained in such a way that the attempt to explain in and of itself is not [somehow] in sync with these laws.

These compatibilists believe that free will and moral responsibility are grounded in special features of deterministic causal processes that produce voluntary choice and action.


Right, like what the compatibilists believe is an exception to the material laws of nature.

Among the causes they stress are: 1) Guidance of our actions by our personal core values; and, 2) Correction of our selves and values through rational responses to what we learn about ourselves and the world. But the consequence argument threatens to nullify these grounds of supposed compatibility by declaring that if determinism is true, then no process of guidance or self correction can alter in the slightest the future that awaits us.


Uh, exactly?

From my frame of mind [compelled or not] there appears to be no argument that the compatibilists can propose that makes this go away. Only the psychological illusion that their argument regarding "guidance of our actions" and "correction of our selves" produces this "voluntary involuntary" compatibility.

Consider Scrooge again. Although he resolves to alter the course of his life by becoming a better man, and begins his transformation by the end of A Christmas Carol, the consequence argument implies that whatever success he makes will be the actualization of an unavoidable future, not the alteration of a malleable one.


That's what still makes sense to me too. Otherwise you are attributing to "I" -- re the past, present and future -- some "extra" quality that accounts for both the laws of matter and volition. Which many link to one or another God.

And it may be there. But, if so, link me to the scientific and/or philosophical and/or spiritual argument that explains it. Along with an actual demonstration of why all rational men and women are obligated to accept it. In part voluntarily and in part involuntarily.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon May 11, 2020 5:26 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

The human brain is adept at picking out short causal chains and inferring outcomes from them. I infer that the tennis ball that you just lobbed over the net is going to come down in the back right corner of the court. You infer that the half pound of salt I accidentally dropped in the stew is going to make the stew taste salty. We rely on inferences such as these to guide our actions: to return a tennis ball, or to avoid eating salty stew. However, our ability to infer future events in this way is limited. We have difficulty foreseeing the results of clashes with other causal chains, such as a sudden gust of wind that blows the tennis ball off the court. Moreover, we are not adept at inferring the future from the remote, or even the relatively recent, past. I cannot infer where the tennis ball is going to land now from events that happened yesterday, much less a thousand years ago.


I think on the most visceral level this encompasses much of the skepticism that many have in regard to hard determinism.

Consider...

Up to a point the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon Rainforest can result in a tornado in Oklahoma seems vaguely reasonable. For one thing neither the butterfly nor the tornado are conscious of the actual physical laws of nature that would make something like this possible. But in fact these laws do exist and the butterfly and the tornado are just along for the ride.

This is often referred to as "choas theory"...but in fact it is really anything but. In fact, quite the opposite. Nothing is random here. It is all wholly in sync with the only possible reality there could be.

But then consider further this chain of events: Something brings into existence the universe, nature, reality...existence itself. And its immutable laws. And, as a result of that, I have no choice but to shoot my next door neighbor dead.

And yet given determinism as some claim it to be, both events would seem to be interchangable. In other words, they [and, for that matter, everything else] happen solely because there is no way in which they could not have happened.

Does our ability to infer the future, albeit in limited ways, enable us to alter the future in any way? There is a trivial sense in which we cannot. As an old Doris Day song reminds us, “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.” This is a tautology – a truth about the meaning of words rather than an informative statement about the world. The consequence argument may also be tautological, though less obviously so. Let’s define determinism to mean that the state of the world at any given instant plus the laws of nature determine a unique future that leaves no other possibilities. What I think the consequence argument claims is that if determinism is true then the actualization of one possibility rather than another (say, avoiding rather than committing murder) is not up to us.


Yep, that's certainly one way to look at it. On the other hand, that's not the only way to define determinism. Thus...

This is a clever argument, but it tells us only what follows logically from a particular definition of determinism. What we really want to know is whether the future is in fact unalterable. In particular, we want to discover whether possible occurrences in our personal futures can turn out just one way – whether they “Will be” or “May be.” How can we discover this?


Actually, what I want to know is this: Is there a way in which to determine if what I want to know is in fact something that I could freely have chosen not to want to know instead?

Our brains allow us to ponder that but our brains are also embedded smack dab in the middle of what we are attempting to understand. How can we possibly get around that?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sun May 17, 2020 6:49 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

Predictability & Liberty

Consider a new version of an old thought experiment. In this experiment Laplace’s demon is replaced by a supercomputer that can calculate what you will do by meticulously observing presents events and applying the laws of nature to them. To test this wonderful machine you ask it to tell you whether you will next move your right hand up or down. The computer says ‘down’; but then, just to defy its prediction, you move your hand up. The computer can’t win.


Whatever the computer predicts that you will do and whatever you "choose" to do instead -- either in sync with or contrary to what the computer predicts -- who cares? It all either unfolds only as it ever could have or you actually are able to choose of your own volition to defy the computer's prediction. And, as well, we are either able to conclude which of our own volition or we are not.

That's why "thought experiments" of this sort seem moot if they are in turn ever and always included in a brain thinking them up that is ever and always subsumed in the laws of matter unfolding immutably.

Then more words that are ensnared in all that we do not know about these relationships:

Even though it can calculate that you are going to defy its predictions, it can’t use that recognition to trump what you’re going to choose to do. As long as you know what it predicts you will do, it will be impossible for it to predict correctly whether you will move your hand up or down. A champion of the consequence argument might protest that this is because the experiment imposes a self-defeating constraint on the computer – namely, that the computer must tell you what it predicts you are going do before you do it. But determinism imposes a similar constraint on the universe. By rendering the universe intellectually friendly, determinism makes it possible in principle for us to infer the outcomes of causal chains, and so prevent some of those outcomes from happening in the same way as we can with the supercomputer.


All of this conjecture is basically over my head. What exactly is he suggesting here about determinism as it relates to the computer, to the computer programmer, and to you or I either raising or not raising our hand.

Freely.

Either there is an argument -- a demonstrable argument -- able to establish human volition here or there is not. Otherwise [to me] it's just more words defining and defending more words still without the capacity to reconfigure the thought experiment itself something altogether new and different. Something that truly astonishes us about this age-old debate: Wow! I never thought of that!
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sun May 24, 2020 7:22 pm

The Free Will of Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard Kamber considers the possibility of changing destiny.

...an advocate of the consequence argument might pounce on my words and declare that we mistakenly think we can alter the future only because we don’t have a broad or clear enough view of the chains of causes that bring that future about. “Scrooge,” that advocate might say, “assumes that his fate is up to him because he is focused on the probable outcome of his miserly ways, but his view is too narrow. There are a multitude of physical, physiological – remember the gravy – psychological and cultural causes that have brought him to this point in his life. But indeed, it is the minutely intricate successive states of the universe from one instant to the next that sweep him along in an iron progression to an unalterable future.”


On the other hand, an advocate of the consequence argument may be entirely compelled by the laws of nature to pounce on his words.

Then around and around everyone goes. Embedded -- inherently? -- smack dab in the middle of that ubiquitous gap between what we think we know about all of this and the fact that "we don’t have a broad or clear enough view of the chains of causes that bring that future about."

Can't have?

But what recourse is there but to presume "I" does have at least some capacity not to be necessarily entangled in all the variables there are when nature subsumes nurture in a particular set of circumstances and we ponder why we choose this instead of that.

Here we know that Scrooge lives in a wholly determined world because he is just a character invented by Dickens. Nothing he thinks, feels, says or does is not entirely dependent on the choices that Dickens makes. Instead, it's Dickens writing the novel and you and I reading it that prompts the sort of reactions we encounter on threads like this one.

This reply sounds better than it is. We have already acknowledged the limited scope of our ability to infer future events; but that does not settle the question of whether we are being swept along by the successive states of the universe to an unalterable future, or rather, whether we can alter the future by our choices.


Okay, fine, that reply sounds better than it is. As though anyone else has come up with a reply so superior that all others must be measured against it. It's not in acknowledging the limited scope our ability here, but in acknowledging the extent to which we really have no definitive idea of what an unlimited scope might possibly be.

But then I reprimand myself here by pointing out that all the author is attempting is a conjecture that clearly seems to be more educated, more sophisticated than others.

In other words, I recognize that what angers me the most is in having to accept that I will almost certainly go to the grave as ultimately ignorant then as when I first became fascinated with the question itself.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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