Where does Determinism leave us?

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Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 12:09 pm
I'll leave the question open as to Soft VS Hard Determinism but I want this thread to discuss how we should approach moral law, and judgment of im/moral behaviour, knowing that human (or any physical being's) behaviour is caused.
Whether that causation is found in the brain, social influence, physiological state or whereever else is irrelavent. You can try to argue for Freewill (libertarianism) if you must but it will have to be a brilliant argument because not only have I no idea how we could have Freewill, but neither does the concept even make sense.

It seems difficult to judge one act right or wrong if we are determined (even if we can judge it good or bad easily enough) and it also seems difficult to decide how WE should behave outside of some objective moral law (which I say no reason to believe in) to which we can respond (which we can't if we are determined).


I only think now - though I hope this thread will make me revise my thoughts - that we should be very sympathetic with criminals and 'immoral' people. Yes punish them if for the sake of improving them or protecting other people but I think we must not actually think "he's evil".
 
click here
 
Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 06:04 pm
@Greg phil,
What really bugs me sometimes is people whom think that if Determinism is true then life is pointless and I'm just going to go sit on a couch and let my outside variables run me. Or something ridiculous like that.

When an agent finds out that it is not innately in control of its 'own' actions its following actions are based off of all of the previous influences on the 'self' which could force the agent deterministically to madness, ignorance or a variety of other outcomes.
 
Neil D
 
Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 06:46 pm
@click here,
Hello,

Heisenberg did an experiment, it was called "the uncertainty principle" where he was trying to determine the position and the momentum of a particle simultanously and concluded:

[INDENT]"The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa."
[/INDENT]Contrary to what many argued, this was not due to any fault from the observer. Simplified, we can say that this imprecision is due to an actual fuzziness in the fabric universe itself, at the quantum level.

It actually follows from quantum mechanics, solidly confirmed by experiments, that on the quantum level, the universe is not at all deterministic. Events happen according to a statistical distribution that comes out of quantum equations. Given an elementary particle, if it can go zing or zong, it is actually inheritably impossible to determine with certainty which it will do either, only the statistical probabilities.

While Einstein, and even some contemporary physicists, argue that there must be an actual underlying deterministic system to quantum mechanics, this system has never been found, and little evidence available now suggests it ever will.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 09:55 pm
@Greg phil,
Greg;69165 wrote:
I only think now - though I hope this thread will make me revise my thoughts - that we should be very sympathetic with criminals and 'immoral' people. Yes punish them if for the sake of improving them or protecting other people but I think we must not actually think "he's evil".


Hi,

I could easily argue for Free Will, since Determinism cannot explain uniqueness or directional impetus. However, I will not go there.

From a deterministic point of view, moral laws are all determined. So you can give it as much or as little thought as you want, because whatever you do is exactly suppose to happen. So it is all OK.

The one problem you may have, is where did the concept of moral law come from in a Deterministic world. Did it just poof out of the stuff somewhere? I mean, the inspiration for it?

Rich
 
click here
 
Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 10:31 pm
@richrf,
richrf;69330 wrote:
Hi, I could easily argue for Free Will, since Determinism cannot explain uniqueness or directional impetus. However, I will not go there. From a deterministic point of view, moral laws are all determined. So you can give it as much or as little thought as you want, because whatever you do is exactly suppose to happen. So it is all OK. The one problem you may have, is where did the concept of moral law come from in a Deterministic world. Did it just poof out of the stuff somewhere? I mean, the inspiration for it? Rich



Just curious, would you argue for free will from an atheist perspective? I'm in a sour mood right now, if my post seems to come off with a little zing, that's the reason why. I'll tell you what really irritates me. Atheists whom swear by evolution but run away from determinism. They joke about how ridiculous it is that their very actions and 'choices' are the result of various causes millions of years ago that 'forced' them into doing what they did and will do. Yet when it comes to evolution they have no problem saying that their very complex existence is all a result of lots of chance of little things effecting little things all spawning from the Big Bang. Do they not see it? They are being hypocrites in their views of what is 'reasonably comprehensible' as valid. Why do they have no difficulty assuming their existence is a result of billions of years of chance from a single explosion? Well they do not like the other option. What is that option? God. Now, in the case of free will. If one doesn't accept determinism (because they think it utterly absurd their choice to respond to my post is a result of past effects), then they can easily have their precious free will. Why do they not choose determinism like they chose their belief in evolution? No one likes the idea of not having control. This is where they hold on to their 'god', their pacifier, their sanity that keeps them going: free will.
I have a certain kind of respect for those atheists whom while I don't share their views I certainly respect the fact that their views do not blatantly conflict.
You make it sound like free will is so obvious to you. Well I'll tell you this, you certainly aren't going to prove it philosophically nor scientifically. Free will can not be material in nature, its existence to control material must exist outside of material. You can't argue that the ability to make decisions lies in 'consciousness' as consciousness is nothing but a result of physical processes. Depending on how you define it, it is either an illusion or a material determinable essence. If free will is the result of physical parts then it is by definition determinable. If free will exists outside the material world, as it must to truly be free will, then it begs the question of a spiritual higher being.
Who knows, maybe you'll want to bring "Quantum Mechanics" into this. Go right ahead, it will not help you one single iota.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Sun 14 Jun, 2009 10:36 pm
@Neil D,
Neil;69273 wrote:

It actually follows from quantum mechanics, solidly confirmed by experiments, that on the quantum level, the universe is not at all deterministic. Events happen according to a statistical distribution that comes out of quantum equations. Given an elementary particle, if it can go zing or zong, it is actually inheritably impossible to determine with certainty which it will do either, only the statistical probabilities.


As we go further to the micro level and macro level of the system away from our normal perspective, our perspective must undergo change in order to keep the 'pattern'/predictability of the system in place. The change starts gradual, but then it rockets to a huge change in perspective in order to keep the determinism in tact. Perhaps today, there is just a gap or lack of abstract thinking to shift the perspective to negotiate with quantum aspects of the system. Our perspective of such a system is not shifted to match the requirements for pattern in the quantum level. Now that the fractal has gotten low enough, a boom in abstract is required.

Determinism is a way of describing what we want to pinpoint in the system which is based off patterns which don't exist in the first place in actuality. Determinism relies on subjective input, to say all of a sudden it deteriorates at a certain causal level, that which we defines ourselves as well, well... that's just silly.

When Einstein coined the phrase "God does not play dice", he was implying a piece of common sense. We could not even say that causal levels are objective. macro to micro, well, that's just subjective, if we defined each level as a value, well what if the values were scrambled all of a sudden? What if the causation level for your pencil went from value 4 to value 1000? Everything would appear quite random wouldn't it?

In fact, what if we did assign simply for mathematical purposes (because even math is not objective) each causation level with a value. And these causation levels in actuality don't exist, nor does causality. There is simply extension. And so, we have them in a certain sequence for the sake of a pattern, and our pattern matches for what allows us to be 'alive' in the first place. If all of a sudden the values for the causation levels were scrambled at a level far from the causation levels of our perception, then does it affect why we can come to be? Not much.

If a consciousness emerged from a quantum causal level, well, it would find pattern don't you think, in it's environment that affects, in all practicality, it's ability to emerge in the first place.
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:01 am
@click here,
click here;69346 wrote:

Who knows, maybe you'll want to bring "Quantum Mechanics" into this. Go right ahead, it will not help you one single iota.


Hi there,

Actually, Free Will sounds a lot more interesting to me as a way of leading my life than determinism, and since I am not sure of either, I will choose Free Will. Smile

But on another note, Determinism seems rather absurd as a Thought Experiment, since it explains nothing and is a theory about nothing. It is just there, as an outgrowth of some notion that everything happens like the action of pool balls. Bang, bang, bang. The problem, always is, that some event has to occur to hit the ball to get things going. And everything is going in different directions. How can that be? What gets everything going in a different direction? Now all this can be ignored for the purpose of making the world mechanical (I think Newton is so passe), but for me it is very unsatisfying, so I prefer the Eastern philosophy point of view.

However, I don't mind that you adopt Determinism in your life. No skin off my teeth. If you can live with it, I sure can. I'll enjoy doing Free Will things in my life.

Rich
 
click here
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 05:43 am
@richrf,
richrf;69365 wrote:
Hi there,

Actually, Free Will sounds a lot more interesting to me as a way of leading my life than determinism, and since I am not sure of either, I will choose Free Will. Smile



What if I used that kind of argument for why I believe in God? You wouldn't have any gripes?
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 08:36 am
@Greg phil,
I think some of you missed the point of this thread: it is meant to start from the assumption that Freewill doesn't really exist.
(No Quantum Indetermenency, even if it is true, would not disprove Determinism at least in the moral sence. Ok some of your behaviour may be indetermined; but that does not lead to Freewill, at best it leads to random behaviour which, while not determined by physical laws, is nonetheless out of your control).


richrf wrote:
From a deterministic point of view, moral laws are all determined. So you can give it as much or as little thought as you want, because whatever you do is exactly suppose to happen. So it is all OK.

Well I'm not sure its QUITE as simple as that. Even if our behaviour is externally caused, we still can chose how to behave and chose to think rationally and how to apply such. This may seem contrary so I'll elaborate:
We can chose how to behave and use our reason to guide us (e.g. which shirt to wear today) but we cannot chose what to chose (which shirt I will ultimately chose to chose is caused exterior to somekind of interior 'will').
I will call this distinction first and second order freedom so that we do have first-order freedom (e.g I can chose to shout out loud if I want) but not second-order freedom (my brain is telling me not to chose to shout out loud now because I will feel like an idiot which will lead to anxiety etc).

I will put this more mathematically:
take the curve y=3(x^2)-2 or any quadratic. Now this curve will change its rate of change (i.e. gradient) all the time similarly to how we change our behaviour all the time. In fact it can make a total change of direction {i.e. at the minimum (-2,0)} similar to how we can chose to change our ways.
HOWEVER the chance of the change of the rate of chance (the derivative 6x) is immutable and predetermined. Similarly our behaviour can be [conceivably but incredibly complicatedly] diferentiated; dB/dC, where B is our behaviour and C is our choices, to produce an predetermined equation.
The fact is that people think they are free and DO act like they are free (prima facie) but that is because they are unaware of all the influences and causations upon them, In fact there is no 'person' that exists at all to have 'freewill' since all a human is is lots of material bits clumped together.


Anyway back to the topic: it seems to me that we should chose to exercise our reason to produce the best outcomes in the totality of possible worlds [upto our rational restrains] and develope our own ethical systems from value judgements we make (e.g. treat others as you'd will to be treated).
any other ideas to build upon?
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 08:56 am
@click here,
click here;69388 wrote:
What if I used that kind of argument for why I believe in God? You wouldn't have any gripes?


Hi,

None whatsoever. You have your journey and I have mine. I think life is about exploration. We all explore in our own ways.

Rich
 
henry quirk
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 08:59 am
@Greg phil,
greg:

you wrote: "I want this thread to discuss how we should approach moral law, and judgment of im/moral behaviour, knowing that human (or any physical being's) behaviour is caused."


my take: morality is just the median of behaviors of a helluva lot of folks across a great span of time

that is: some behaviors work (promote the common weal) and others don't

morality is the attempt to promote the productive behaviors...'law' is the codification of some of that morality

while 'morality' and 'law' are 'good' for the group, both tend to work against the 'one'

since i'm an unabashed 'one': i don't hold much with the conventions of morality and law

*shrug*

as for the great debate of determinism versus free will: i believe there's a third option, that being 'agent causation'...simply: the agent is mired in causal chains, but -- by virtue of being an agent -- can initiate causal chains...in a deterministic (though not determined) universe, agency/agent causation, as notion, seems to describe the day-to-day experiences of the human individual in a way that 'free will', as notion, doesn't and as determinism, as notion, can't
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 08:59 am
@Greg phil,
Greg;69408 wrote:
Well I'm not sure its QUITE as simple as that. Even if our behaviour is externally caused, we still can chose how to behave and chose to think rationally and how to apply such.


Hi Greg,

Then we are somewhat in agreement. There are many ways to view Free Will. I believe, from observation, that everyone is affected by what is around them. but we do have the opportunity to move in different directions. In other words, to navigate through, around, or away. Of course, whichever direction we move, we encounter new forces. It is like sailing a ship.

Rich
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:22 pm
@Greg phil,
henry quirk, do you mean you adopt an essencially [conditional] egoist approach to morality? i.e. focus on your own interests so long as you do not harm other people?
A lot of people do not like that approach as it effectively denies any objectiv moral law but I accept that, given determinism, it may be a rational position. I'm undecided how I feel about egoism yet btw.

richrf I think your position is very appealing but I'd beg two questions:
i) on what basis or value should you chose your 'direction'?
ii) should we treat people as being morally blameworthy or praiseworthy? Even if we have control over our behaviour, given that that control is itself controlled, can we really blame/praise people on their moral behaviour?
 
henry quirk
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 12:42 pm
@Greg phil,
"...do you mean you adopt an essencially [conditional] egoist approach to morality?"

actually: i mean i take a 'henry quirk' approach to morality

that is: my morality/ethics is mine...'right' and 'wrong' ARE 'right and 'wrong' for reasons i suss out for myself

this, obviously, puts me at odds with the conventions at least part of the time

i'm not comfortable with 'egoist' or any other placeholder that implies universality or 'oughtness'

my position is my own, arrived at by, and for, myself



"...focus on your own interests so long as you do not harm other people?"

'harming' or 'not harming' others doesn't figure into things with me...for the individuals who matter to me (each for his or her own, singular, reasons) i'm a great defender/asset/friend...for those who don't matter to me: *shrug* those folks should be prepared to self-defend



"A lot of people do not like that approach as it effectively denies any objectiv moral law..."

as far as i can tell: there is no objective moral law



"...but I accept that, given determinism, it may be a rational position."

as far as i can tell: a deterministic universe isn't synonymous with a determined one

---------- Post added at 01:48 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:42 PM ----------

"...can we really blame/praise people on their moral behaviour?"

1-i can hold the other accountable based on the morality/ethic he or she advocates for

or

2-i can hold the other accountable by my own standard


in cases of obvious hypocrisy: i'd go with 1

in cases where 'i' (or my family/friends) are at risk, i'd go with 2


of course: sometime the situation is just too damned squirrelly to apply 1 or 2...in such cases, i'd go with whatever i could work out for myself in the moment
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:05 pm
@Greg phil,
hmm, interesting
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 01:42 pm
@richrf,
I agree with Greg, and Greg's method is exploration too. Math helps, though it's not necessary I think to understand determinism, one just needs to get a grip on what a system is. Determinism leaves us with moral nihilism, woot, so let's all go back to thinking about the implications on the system, and not the moral comprehension, which really has little to do with how we're defining free will anyways.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 02:13 pm
@Holiday20310401,
I think that determinism is totally inconsequential to us. We can neither use it to effectively predict an outcome nor totally find a root determining cause.
I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that the destiny of an object is written into it, that is, that its future is totally determined. It changes nothing in a practical sense, and it seems logically sound.

The fact of the matter is that morality is not logical, it is rational. Will to act is not logical, it is emotional. Rationality is the synthesis of emotion with a logical framework. We can recognize that the future is determined but inaccessible to us as we live in the present, and also recognize that there is no reason to alter a behavior because of this. Sitting around moping about determinism or the fact that progress is not defined objectively or that morality has no totally logical basis is just silly.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 02:31 pm
@Greg phil,
Greg;69165 wrote:
I'll leave the question open as to Soft VS Hard Determinism but I want this thread to discuss how we should approach moral law, and judgment of im/moral behaviour, knowing that human (or any physical being's) behaviour is caused.
Whether that causation is found in the brain, social influence, physiological state or whereever else is irrelavent. You can try to argue for Freewill (libertarianism) if you must but it will have to be a brilliant argument because not only have I no idea how we could have Freewill, but neither does the concept even make sense.

It seems difficult to judge one act right or wrong if we are determined (even if we can judge it good or bad easily enough) and it also seems difficult to decide how WE should behave outside of some objective moral law (which I say no reason to believe in) to which we can respond (which we can't if we are determined).


I only think now - though I hope this thread will make me revise my thoughts - that we should be very sympathetic with criminals and 'immoral' people. Yes punish them if for the sake of improving them or protecting other people but I think we must not actually think "he's evil".



Well, it certainly seems to me important not that one is determined (caused) to do something, but how one is determined (caused) to do that thing.

If I am a bank teller, and I am forced at the point of a gun to hand over money, that is one thing. But if I am a bank teller in cahoots with the robber, and it is my avarice that caused me to hand over the money so we can split it later, that's a different thing. It seems to me that it was excusable that I hand over the money in the first case, but not excusable in the second case, even though in both cases there was a cause of what I did. And in the first case, I think that the teller deserves sympathy, but why, when the motivation was greed, should there be sympathy?

What you say reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then asked the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 15 Jun, 2009 02:56 pm
@Greg phil,
Greg;69436 wrote:

richrf I think your position is very appealing but I'd beg two questions:
i) on what basis or value should you chose your 'direction'?
ii) should we treat people as being morally blameworthy or praiseworthy? Even if we have control over our behaviour, given that that control is itself controlled, can we really blame/praise people on their moral behaviour?


Hi Greg,

i. We are getting into complicated grounds, because my view of the nature of human existence is more aligned with Heraclitus and Eastern philosophy, so in order to grasp it, there has to be some fundamental understandings between you and I about what I am talking about. Without this, it is difficult to convey how I view things. With this said:

i. I believe there are many aspects of Individual Human Consciousness simultaneously at work, that ultimately chooses the direction. There could be the Mind (the drive to create and observe), the Will (the drive to survive), the Soul (the drive to learn), the Spirit (the drive to come together), etc. Depending upon your state, different aspects will predominate. For example, I play sports much, much better when I am relaxed - i.e., my Will is somewhat passive. When I feel I am in danger, the Will totally dominates, though I may be better off if it were not so Maybe a creative solution, using the Mind will get me out of trouble faster. But in any case, all of these aspects use the skills that they have learned plus what they observe, and they come to agreement and make a move. Sometimes instantaneously, sometimes they mull over in sleep - at which time they have an infinite amount of time, since time does not exist in sleep. Smile

ii. We can, if we want. It is all part of the Game of Life. Blame is certainly an aspect. But I also, at times, as an observer, step back, and reflect that this is the way this person is learning. So there are many aspects to observing human behavior in action. All are OK. It doesn't have to either or. I can blame the person one moment and in the next moment reflect on that person's journey. With my son, I always consider that he is own his own journey, and I try to support it, rather than blame him. At times, it is very, very tough though. Smile

Rich
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2009 04:12 am
@Greg phil,
Yeah I guess I agree that the moral philosophy of determinism should not detere us from moral behaviour: at the end of the day we have just as much moral agency as we did when people like Aquinas, Kant and Bentham etc developed ethical guideline to live by.
I guess the only immediate implication of an acceptance of determinism is a bit more compassion and mercy for criminals and the like. Maybe Jesus was on to something when he said we should love our neighbours including our enemies.
 
 

 
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