# The Difference Between Causality and Determinism

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3. » The Difference Between Causality and Determinism

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 12:51 pm
The Difference Between Causality and Determinism

There seems to be a general trend to conflate causality and determinism. At the very least people seem to consider determinism to be a strong form of causality. Often the term "Causal Determinism" is used. I maintain that the notions of causality and determinism are not the same.

Determinism generally is the notion that given a specified state of the world at time t, and given that the laws of nature are fixed, the course of future events is fixed as a matter of natural law. ( There is only one possible future which is determined by the current state of the world and the laws of nature). Any earlier complete state of the world entails any later state of the world in all its details. The present could also be used to specify the conditions of the past. Determinism is a bidirectional in time notion.

Causality is generally the notion that event e follows preceding conditions c with regularity. Whether event e invariably results or follows condition c is another matter. In fact in the quantum world we know that apparently identical conditions c may give rise to a variety of different events along a stochastic probability distribution. The observed events are thus caused by conditions c but not determined by them. We also know that in complex system even those following deterministic laws chaotic and unpredictable behavior occurs. Causality is also generally not considered to be bidirectional in time as determinism is. The rejection of determinism does not entail rejection of the notion of causality.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:10 pm
@prothero,
prothero;115610 wrote:
The Difference Between Causality and Determinism

There seems to be a general trend to conflate causality and determinism. At the very least people seem to consider determinism to be a strong form of causality. Often the term "Causal Determinism" is used. I maintain that the notions of causality and determinism are not the same.

Determinism generally is the notion that given a specified state of the world at time t, and given that the laws of nature are fixed, the course of future events is fixed as a matter of natural law. ( There is only one possible future which is determined by the current state of the world and the laws of nature). Any earlier complete state of the world entails any later state of the world in all its details. The present could also be used to specify the conditions of the past. Determinism is a bidirectional in time notion.

Causality is generally the notion that event e follows preceding conditions c with regularity. Whether event e invariably results or follows condition c is another matter. In fact in the quantum world we know that apparently identical conditions c may give rise to a variety of different events along a stochastic probability distribution. The observed events are thus caused by conditions c but not determined by them. We also know that in complex system even those following deterministic laws chaotic and unpredictable behavior occurs. Causality is also generally not considered to be bidirectional in time as determinism is. The rejection of determinism does not rejection of the notion of causality.

You just mean by "determinism" "hard determinism". Determinism that is incompatible with free will. But that does not mean that just determinism, the view that every event has a cause, and every cause is an event is hard determinism, is incompatible with free will. What determinism is, and whether it is true, is one thing; whether determinism and free will are compatible is a different thing. You are mixing up those two issues. you have to separate them.

Jebediah

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:11 pm
@prothero,
I suspect this requires you to understand quantum physics. And no one understands quantum physics.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:12 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;115619 wrote:
I suspect this requires you to understand quantum physics. And no one understands quantum physics.

What does? ................

prothero

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:15 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;115618 wrote:
You just mean by "determinism" "hard determinism". Determinism that is incompatible with free will. But that does not mean that just determinism, the view that every event has a cause, and every cause is an event is hard determinism, is incompatible with free will. What determinism is, and whether it is true, is one thing; whether determinism and free will are compatible is a different thing. You are mixing up those two issues. you have to separate them.
Did I mention free will somewhere because I was trying (for the moment) to leave free will out of the discussion.
You keep talking about "soft determinism" I put forward the standard notion of determinism. Can you define "soft determinism" except in relationship to "free will"?
I think you and many others confuse causality and determinism.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:19 pm
@prothero,
prothero;115621 wrote:
Did I mention free will somewhere because I was trying (for the moment) to leave free will out of the discussion.
You keep talking about "soft determinism" I put forward the standard notion of determinism. Can you define "soft determinism" except in relationship to "free will"?
I think you and many others confuse causality and determinism.

But your view of determinism excluded the possibility of free will. No, I cannot define "soft determinism" except by saying it does not exclude free will. But, unlike you, I can define "determinism" without implying anything about free will. Soft determinism is compatible with free will, and hard determinism is not. But determinism is neutral. What is your position? Is determinism compatible with free will, or is it incompatible? If you have no position, then I suggest that you define "determinism" neutrally.

prothero

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:22 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;115623 wrote:
But your view of determinism excluded the possibility of free will. No, I cannot define "soft determinism" except by saying it does not exclude free will. But, unlike you, I can define "determinism" without implying anything about free will. Soft determinism is compatible with free will, and hard determinism is not. But determinism is neutral.
My definition of determinism did not mention free will but I would really like to see your definiton of determinism and of causality.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 01:24 pm
@prothero,
prothero;115625 wrote:
My definition of determinism did not mention free will but I would really like to see your definiton of determinism and of causality.

It did not mention it. But it excluded it anyway.

I have already presented the definition of "determinism". But, here it is again.

Determinism= Every event has a cause, and every cause is an event.

ACB

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 02:45 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;115619 wrote:
I suspect this requires you to understand quantum physics. And no one understands quantum physics.

Yes. Any discussion of determinism must take quantum physics into account. The factors to be considered are:

(a) deterministic physics (i.e. classical physics and relativity);
(b) non-deterministic (i.e. quantum) physics;
(c) independent (non-determined and non-random) free will, if such a thing exists.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 02:49 pm
@ACB,
ACB;115664 wrote:
Yes. Any discussion of determinism must take quantum physics into account. The factors to be considered are:

(a) deterministic physics (i.e. classical physics and relativity);
(b) non-deterministic (i.e. quantum) physics;
(c) independent (non-determined and non-random) free will, if such a thing exists.

It may be that indeterminism is true at the micro-level, but not at the macro-level. Anyway, indeterministic free will (whatever that would be) is not the kind of free will anyone would want.

prothero

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 02:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;115626 wrote:
Determinism= Every event has a cause, and every cause is an event.
As far as I can see you are defining determinism as causality. As far as I can tell that would be a minority viewpoint. It still leaves open your notion about causes and events.
Is there more than one possible future? Does the state of the present comletely inform the future?

ACB

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 03:23 pm
@prothero,
prothero;115610 wrote:

Causality is generally the notion that event e follows preceding conditions c with regularity. Whether event e invariably results or follows condition c is another matter. In fact in the quantum world we know that apparently identical conditions c may give rise to a variety of different events along a stochastic probability distribution. The observed events are thus caused by conditions c but not determined by them. We also know that in complex system even those following deterministic laws chaotic and unpredictable behavior occurs. Causality is also generally not considered to be bidirectional in time as determinism is. The rejection of determinism does not entail rejection of the notion of causality.

kennethamy

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 03:44 pm
@prothero,
prothero;115668 wrote:
As far as I can see you are defining determinism as causality. As far as I can tell that would be a minority viewpoint. It still leaves open your notion about causes and events.
Is there more than one possible future? Does the state of the present comletely inform the future?

Why do you say it is a "minority view"? It is the standard philosophical view. Your questions have to do with the nature of causality, and, of course, with the notion of possibility.

Determinism is the view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences.[

Wikipedia

prothero

Wed 30 Dec, 2009 09:36 pm
@prothero,
[QUOTE=kennethamy;115683]Why do you say it is a "minority view"? It is the standard philosophical view. Your questions have to do with the nature of causality, and, of course, with the notion of possibility. [/QUOTE]
kennethamy;115683 wrote:

Determinism is the view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior ccurrences.[Wikipedia

I am going to suggest
Determinism
Probability
Predictability
Causality
Are related but different terms and to define determinism solely in terms of causality leads to confusion not to clarity.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia or Philosophy (Causal Determinism):excerpts

Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature

In most of what follows, I will speak simply of determinism, rather than of causal determinism. This follows recent philosophical practice of sharply distinguishing views and theories of what causation is from any conclusions about the success or failure of determinism (cf. Earman, 1986; an exception is Mellor 1994). For the most part this disengagement of the two concepts is appropriate

Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.

Prediction and determinism are also easy to disentangle, barring certain strong theological commitments. As the following famous expression of determinism by Laplace shows, however, the two are also easy to commingle:

We ought to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that is to follow. An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary positions of all things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes. The perfection that the human mind has been able to give to astronomy affords but a feeble outline of such an intelligence. (Laplace 1820)

In this century, Karl Popper defined determinism in terms of predictability also.
Laplace

Predictability does however make vivid what is at stake in determinism: our fears about our own status as free agents in the world. In Laplace's story, a sufficiently bright demon who knew how things stood in the world 100 years before my birth could predict every action, every emotion, every belief in the course of my life. Were she then to watch me live through it, she might smile condescendingly, as one who watches a marionette dance to the tugs of strings that it knows nothing about. We can't stand the thought that we are (in some sense) marionettes. Nor does it matter whether any demon (or even God) can, or cares to, actually predict what we will do: the existence of the strings of physical necessity, linked to far-past states of the world and determining our current every move, is what alarms us. End of excerpts from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Your definition of determinism (which I would say is causality not determinism):I have already presented the definition of "determinism". But, here it is again.
Determinism= Every event has a cause, and every cause is an event.

My question to you (about determinism) which you never answer:Is there more than one possible future? Does the state of the present completely inform the future?

jeeprs

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 01:13 am
@prothero,
I thought it was established beyond doubt now that because of 'quantum indeterminacy' and the nature of chaotic systems, that a linear cause and effect sequence cannot be predicted for complex systems. Some things are likely to happen and some things not, but unpredictable events can occur which completely change the situation. That quote from the Stanford Encyc seems to support that idea.

A Buddhist analysis of determinism from the Mahayana viewpoint: Phenomena can be analysed on three levels. First there are existing objects of perception, like cart, forest, object, individual, and so on. (Unenlightened) people generally sieze upon these objects of perception by mistakenly believing that they have real, independent existence (when in fact they have no real essence or independent existence other than their designated and constructed nature). This is how attachment gives rise to consequences (i.e. this is the sense in which the future becomes determined by actions, due to clinging to objects of perception which have no substance, because of ignorance, which drives intentional actions, which creates karma, which determines your existence).

The second level of analysis is that which understands the subtle constituent elements (such as the five skandhas, or constituents of being, including sense perception, conceptual construction, habitual energies, name-and-form, etc, as described by the Abhidharma.) This is a deeper level of analysis of the true nature of sensory objects but when seen with the 'wisdom-eye', these constituents too are known to be empty (sunya) (i.e. so that it is a relatively more subtle level of perception but still creates karma albeit of a more subtle nature).

The final level of understanding is that of the sage who realises the truly unconditioned nature of reality. It is said that the ultimate reality has no specific character and is therefore indeterminate. However it is not something ultimately separate from the realm of the determinate either. The ultimate nature is not something that exists, as distinct from all the individual existences; rather it is the final truth about the way in which things themselves exist.

Quote:
As an individual, one is different from another; this is the mundane truth where distinctions are essential. But in the ultimate truth, with respect to the ultimate nature, the individuals are not different; for the ultimate nature of one is itself the ultimate nature of all.

Nagarjuna's Philosophy, K. Venkata Ramanan, Motilal Banarsadis, 1974, Pp 96-97, 216-217.

The upshot is that your future is indeed determined, but only insofar as you sieze upon, and identify with, things, conditions and situations as sources of fulfilment. The nature of ignorance (avidya) and clinging must be penetrated and dispersed by wisdom (prajna) which is liberation from the cycle of birth-and-death (= the realm where determism is operative).

kennethamy

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 02:37 am
@prothero,
prothero;115779 wrote:

My question to you (about determinism) which you never answer:Is there more than one possible future? Does the state of the present completely inform the future?

All right. Here it goes.

1. Yes there is more than one possible future.
2. I don't know. But certainly, according to the best evidence, not in the case of micro-events. In the case of macro-events, I don't know if it completely "informs" the future. But it certainly largely does.

All right?

Alan McDougall

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 07:14 am
@prothero,
Forgive my ignorance but is Causality not a random occurrence and determinism an act of intelligent sentient forethought?

kennethamy

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 07:19 am
@Alan McDougall,
Alan McDougall;115845 wrote:
Forgive my ignorance but is Causality not a random occurrence and determinism an act of intelligent sentient forethought?

No. And your ignorance is unforgivable.

salima

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 07:34 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;115847 wrote:
No. And your ignorance is unforgivable.

oh kenneth, you do have a way with words! now please do tell the truth, that you were joking! i know you have a wonderful sense of humor...

kennethamy

Thu 31 Dec, 2009 07:37 am
@salima,
salima;115850 wrote:
oh kenneth, you do have a way with words! now please do tell the truth, that you were joking! i know you have a wonderful sense of humor...

Why would I have been joking? What he said is false, and he should have known it. This is a philosophy forum. It is also something easy to look up. But, you are right. I have a way with two things. And one of them is with words.

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