Determinism: What's Left?

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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 04:41 pm
How far can we take causal determinism today?

Science has shown us that causal determinism does not always hold. The conclusion from determinism that free actions are illusory has also lead to the criticism that, if determinism is true, then there are not any good reasons for believing determinism, or anything else.

None the less, indeterminism seems fruitless. So, where do we stand today? Does determinism have any value, or should we scrap it altogether? If it still has value, how? What can we learn from it?
 
topherfox
 
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:10 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
The main reason I don't really explicitly believe in it or give it as much merit as I use to is because of learning the uncertainty principle. This isn't an argument from a philosophical point of view, but non the less, if you need something to take your mind off of it or try and explain it, I suggest reading on that.
 
Edvin
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 02:36 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:

"The conclusion from determinism that free actions are illusory has also lead to the criticism that, if determinism is true, then there are not any good reasons for believing determinism, or anything else."


I smell truth in this, but why can we not be predetermined to believe in determinism? Smile

Very good topic btw.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 04:54 pm
@Edvin,
Quote:
I smell truth in this, but why can we not be predetermined to believe in determinism?


And that seems to be a problem of determinism, namely, that we cannot be said to have good reason for our beliefs, and of them.

Of course, if determinism is true, then I'm not sure if we need any good reason for believing anything.
 
Doobah47
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 05:18 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I seem to be thinking that our bodies are only partially connected to our thoughts, and that we have free will (to an extent) in our thoughts, yet our bodies are determined by necessity and only act upon our thoughts when our thoughts become subconscious and intuitive. This way our bodies run on instinct and connect to our subconscious mind - this means that our free will is disconnected from our actions... I don't really know if I believe this idea, but it's an idea nonetheless.
 
Edvin
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 09:38 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:

And that seems to be a problem of determinism, namely, that we cannot be said to have good reason for our beliefs, and of them.




Why? Can't we be predetermined to attributing meaning to what we observe? Is it not possible that this is a part of human nature?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 17 Mar, 2008 10:00 pm
@Edvin,
Edvin wrote:
I smell truth in this, but why can we not be predetermined to believe in determinism? Smile

.


Why cannot we have good reasons for believing in determinism which determine me to believe that determinism is true. What is the problem?

After all, suppose I have a good reason for going to see a play. And that reason is that the play has been well-reviewed. Now, suppose that reason causes me to see the play. So what? Isn't that still a good reason for going to see the play?
 
Quatl
 
Reply Thu 20 Mar, 2008 03:23 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
How far can we take causal determinism today?

Science has shown us that causal determinism does not always hold. The conclusion from determinism that free actions are illusory has also lead to the criticism that, if determinism is true, then there are not any good reasons for believing determinism, or anything else.

None the less, indeterminism seems fruitless. So, where do we stand today? Does determinism have any value, or should we scrap it altogether? If it still has value, how? What can we learn from it?

I'm not so sure that science has shown that determinism doesn't hold, so much as it has shown that determinism can not always be demonstrated (Heisenberg.) We don't however have to be able to prove determinism in order for it to be true.

Without determinism we can make no truly free decisions, we cannot have responsibility, there can be no causes or effects so we cannot have conceptualizations that are useful at all.
------
As an aside, I'm always a bit confused by what people call free will, as it doesn't sound coherent to me. To be clear, I understand the idea, but the conclusions are bizarre.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 20 Mar, 2008 06:59 pm
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:

------
As an aside, I'm always a bit confused by what people call free will, as it doesn't sound coherent to me. To be clear, I understand the idea, but the conclusions are bizarre.


If someone asks whether Joe marries Esmeralda of his own free will, you don't understand that? I would understand that as asking whether Joe was forced to marry Esmeralda. That is, something like, was Esmeralda pregnant, and was her father threatening Joe with a shotgun?
 
Quatl
 
Reply Thu 20 Mar, 2008 08:16 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
If someone asks whether Joe marries Esmeralda of his own free will, you don't understand that? I would understand that as asking whether Joe was forced to marry Esmeralda. That is, something like, was Esmeralda pregnant, and was her father threatening Joe with a shotgun?
Of course I understand situations like this just fine, it's later in the conversation that people stop making sense.

Joe chooses to marry her because he wants to. Free will everyone's book.

Joe chooses to marry Esmeralda instead of being shot. Still free will in my book. Joe chooses between things he does not want, by choosing the better of two options (from his own subjective opinion.) I can see though why some would disagree with this, death is not considered a "reasonable" choice. We all make choices like this all the time though. Albeit less dramatic ones. The thing is that obviously isn't what folks have been arguing about for the last 2000 years.

(Note the scenario you offer is also not pure because for most of us there is strong moralistic emotion involved with children. Moral and social obligation is another discussion entirely.)

Free will in the philosophical lore doesn't seem to be predicated on choice as such, but something else. What exactly I'm not sure, I feel like I must misunderstand as the claims made are nonsensical to me. It doesn't help that people are vague about it.

Usually it's phrased as in opposition to determinism, that is "that every effect has a cause." What I don't get, I guess, is what exactly a "choice with no cause or context" could possibly mean.

Even whimsy is about pleasure (value judgment, as in assessments about relative preference.)

I used to think people meant that our choices have an effect on our future, something I agree with by the way, however this is only true because of determinism.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 21 Mar, 2008 04:52 am
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:

Usually it's phrased as in opposition to determinism, that is "that every effect has a cause." What I don't get, I guess, is what exactly a "choice with no cause or context" could possibly mean.



Not usually, since as you have already noted, that is not how we, in ordinary circumstances, use the term, "free will", and it is not what in ordinary circumstances we mean when we say of someone that he has done something of his own free will. What we mean is to deny that the person has acted under some kind of compulsion, and to deny that he could not have done otherwise.

The question is why that notion has been transformed into whether free will is compatible with determinism. It has, but why, and what is the justification for doing so. After all, it must be believed by those who have done so that there is some connection between the question whether an action has been compelled, and whether it has been determined, wouldn't you think? And the idea is, I imagine, that if an action has been causally determined, then that is the same thing as to say it has been compelled, and that the agent could not have done otherwise. It is the equation of causation and compulsion that seems to be at the nub here. But, is it true that all causes compel? It is true, I suppose that all compulsions are causes, but it does not follow from that all causes are compulsions. After all, in general, all Y is X does not follow from, All X is Y (e.g. all apples are f fruits, but all fruits are apples is false). So, do all causes compel? Is it true that if all a person's actions are caused, then that person could not have done otherwise than as he did do. If determinism is true, then all my actions have causes. But does that mean that all my actions are compelled so that I could not have done otherwise?

Isn't that the issue?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 01:27 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
I'm not so sure that science has shown that determinism doesn't hold, so much as it has shown that determinism can not always be demonstrated (Heisenberg.) We don't however have to be able to prove determinism in order for it to be true.


Science has shown that, on a subatomic level anyway, some events are uncaused.

The general response to this fact is that the laws governing subatomic particles do not govern the macro world. However, determinism received it's big push from the findings of science, so for science to say determinism is not the case is quite a blow to the theory.

Quote:
But does that mean that all my actions are compelled so that I could not have done otherwise?


If we are to call them "causes", then yes a cause must compel. But I think your objection runs deeper - should we, in response to your evaluation, refrain from using "cause" in every case and instead use "influence". Everything we do is certainly influenced by some other event, but as you suggest, not necessarily caused by some other event.
 
Quatl
 
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 07:33 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Science has shown that, on a subatomic level anyway, some events are uncaused.
This is what I thought you meant, I'm not so sure this is true. The science says that we cannot measure certain things and one interpretation of this is that we should posit no cause where we cannot see. I'm not so sure we shouldn't rather say that we don't know.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
The general response to this fact is that the laws governing subatomic particles do not govern the macro world. However, determinism received it's big push from the findings of science, so for science to say determinism is not the case is quite a blow to the theory.

Maybe, but consider that even if the quantum behavior is uncaused, causation is still a rather successful way of interpreting a great many events in the universe. Since you asked about utility, there it is Smile

If causal explanations are useful for some phenomena why is it not ok to use such explanations in these cases.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
If we are to call them "causes", then yes a cause must compel. But I think your objection runs deeper - should we, in response to your evaluation, refrain from using "cause" in every case and instead use "influence". Everything we do is certainly influenced by some other event, but as you suggest, not necessarily caused by some other event.
Ah, but what if the cause is deliberation? Are we supposed to be free from our own decisions?

Steven Pinker in the context of genetic influence on behavior makes a useful distinction between "proximate" and "ultimate" causes. Proximate causes are things like desires. Ultimate causes are things like biology, physics. Both types of cause are simultaneously true.
 
find me in space
 
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 07:51 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
if joe married esmeralda out of social judgement,and for ten years found himself discontent,then for the next fifty years found instinctive love,which is more necesary?
 
ogden
 
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 09:56 am
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
Steven Pinker in the context of genetic influence on behavior makes a useful distinction between "proximate" and "ultimate" causes. Proximate causes are things like desires. Ultimate causes are things like biology, physics. Both types of cause are simultaneously true.


The line between biological and physical is grey because biology is ultimately a pyhsical process. Also the distinction between biology and desire is grey because there is difficulty in seperating biological causes from desires. Do you desire food or is it determined by your biology? If you desire a specific food is it desire or a result of your biology signaling you to crave a certain nutrient?

I cannot argue quantum physics but from what I understand there is a point that cause and pradictability breaks down. Quatl you may be correct that we just don't know enough yet.

As for human behavior I think there is alot of work to be done regarding what causes us to behave the way we do. The matrix of information that converge to "determin" our behavior is vast and elusive, sometimes creating the perception that actions are free and random. I think there is more genetic/biological determinism for behavior than we have previously thought. I mean we respond to moral and social influences, but also things like hormones, pheromones, neuro-chemical conditions, environmental pollutants, and epigenetics in subtle ways that are abstruse.

Not to say that within the multitude of influences an individual does not have free will, but that the rationale (or behavior) can not be devoid from influence and so is determined in some maner.

The problem now is that determinism flies in the face of phenomenology. When all of the specific deteminations have been reduced (assuming you could do this) the final reduction, or initial cause of existance, is still a phenomenon.
 
 

 
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