Defense of Freewill Against Determinism

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Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 10:18 am
Causal determinism is not a threat to freewill.

Quote:
Causal (or nomological) determinism is the thesis that future events are necessitated by past and present events combined with the laws of nature. Such determinism is sometimes illustrated by the thought experiment of Laplace's demon. Imagine an entity that knows all facts about the past and the present, and knows all natural laws that govern the universe. Such an entity might be able to use this knowledge to foresee the future, down to the smallest detail.
The key word in the above paragraph is "necessitated". It's this term that gives the argument its weight. It's also this term that is decidedly unscientific. There's no possible way to test if an event is necessary i.e. it has to happen. You could flip a coin once a second and have it land on heads for the next 1,000 years but you still wouldn't have observed anything necessary. There's no possible way to test between something that has to happen vs. just does happen. In all cases we can only observe what happens. Even if something always happens that doesn't therefore mean that it must happen.

If the following statement is true...

1. You will wear a yellow shirt tomorrow.

...then it is true only because, tomorrow, you, in fact, wear a yellow shirt.

Likewise, if the following statement is true...

2. Nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light.

...then it is true only because, at all times and places, nothing, in fact, ever accelerates faster than the speed of light.

Statements take their truth from the world. The statement "the cat is on the mat" is true iff the cat is on the mat.

Though, some people have it curiously twisted. They think that, in fact, nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light because the statement "nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light" is true! Instead of the statement being true because it corresponds with reality, reality conforms itself to the truth of the statement. That sounds much like the way chanting a magic spell such as "open sesame" can make the world conform to its power.

At this point, most people would say...

"But if it's true that nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light then I can't accelerate faster than the speed of light!"

This is a retreat to logical determinism and this is also a form of the modal fallacy. Strictly speaking, it's not that you can't. It's that you won't. Let's go back to a mundane example. If it's true now that..

3. Tomorrow I will wear a yellow shirt.

...then it seems like I have no choice but to wear a yellow shirt. I can't change my mind. That's false though. The solution to the problem is that (3) is only true because I don't change my mind. If I do change my mind then (3) won't be true. By saying (3) is true we're also implying "I will change my mind and wear blue instead" is false.

If we take this further and make it a law-like statement...

4. Night Ripper only wears yellow shirts.

...then (4) is true only if I never decide to wear a different color of shirt. If one day I decide to wear blue then (4) is false. However, we're already taking (4) as true now. Therefore, I don't (not that I can't) ever change my mind.

The universe isn't governed in the sense that the universe has to behave a certain way. It's rather that the universe can be described with law-like statements. The truth of these statements don't thereby force us into doing anything, however.
 
Emil
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 10:28 am
@Night Ripper,
That's right. This is basically what Swartz wrote too.

Notes on Free Will and Determinism - Prof. Norman Swartz
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 11:04 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144617 wrote:
The universe isn't governed in the sense that the universe has to behave a certain way. It's rather that the universe can be described with law-like statements. The truth of these statements don't thereby force us into doing anything, however.
Your thoughts on this have triggered me to think about cause. And that has led me to the notice the nature of questions.

When I ask a question, I've created a blank space. Something needs to fill it. I go on a quest to fill the blank.

If I ask why the man climbed the mountain, and you say: because he climbed the mountain, I'm not happy. I was looking for something beyond the basis of the question. It's actually amazing to me all of the sudden that people can do that: create a blank space.

Why can be taken in two ways: efficient and final cause. If I ask why the heart beats and I mean what triggers it to beat, the answer is: a nerve. If I ask why it beats, and I mean as in Spanish, por que? For what? The answer is: to make blood pressure. This is what Aristotle called the final cause... the purpose. In either case, we see that the blank space created by why is filled by something outside the heart. (Or so it would seem.)

So, as folks have commented, when you ask for the cause of everything... you need to notice something. You just posited something outside of everything. What's the definition of everything? It can't have a cause.

On the other hand, we could notice that if we delete the sympathetic nerve and blood pressure from reality: there is no heart. There couldn't be. That situation warrants a little pause for thought.

We start with a discreet object: the heart. We create a blank space for something we will then draw into a causal relation to the heart. But hello... this isn't just any kind of relationship where they meet and have a chat over coffee. This is a relationship where the parties can't exist without each other. So aha! This sheds light on the real situation with that blank space.

What actually happened with the blank space is that I'm expecting a widening of my field of understanding. (!) I'm not looking to just link another car on my choo choo train. The question is actually an expansion from one car (the heart) to the bigger train (nerve, heart, and blood pressure).

This is why Regularist are onto something. They're drawing our attention to a sort of error. We might think cause must be something outside of the effect. While the blank is still empty, the two are distinctly different. One we know, the other we don't. But once the blank is filled, we don't actually have two separate things. We have one bigger picture. :Glasses:
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 11:05 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144617 wrote:
Causal determinism is not a threat to freewill.

The key word in the above paragraph is "necessitated". It's this term that gives the argument its weight. It's also this term that is decidedly unscientific. There's no possible way to test if an event is necessary i.e. it has to happen. You could flip a coin once a second and have it land on heads for the next 1,000 years but you still wouldn't have observed anything necessary. There's no possible way to test between something that has to happen vs. just does happen. In all cases we can only observe what happens. Even if something always happens that doesn't therefore mean that it must happen.

If the following statement is true...

1. You will wear a yellow shirt tomorrow.

...then it is true only because, tomorrow, you, in fact, wear a yellow shirt.

Likewise, if the following statement is true...

2. Nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light.

...then it is true only because, at all times and places, nothing, in fact, ever accelerates faster than the speed of light.

Statements take their truth from the world. The statement "the cat is on the mat" is true iff the cat is on the mat.

Though, some people have it curiously twisted. They think that, in fact, nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light because the statement "nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light" is true! Instead of the statement being true because it corresponds with reality, reality conforms itself to the truth of the statement. That sounds much like the way chanting a magic spell such as "open sesame" can make the world conform to its power.

At this point, most people would say...

"But if it's true that nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light then I can't accelerate faster than the speed of light!"

This is a retreat to logical determinism and this is also a form of the modal fallacy. Strictly speaking, it's not that you can't. It's that you won't. Let's go back to a mundane example. If it's true now that..

3. Tomorrow I will wear a yellow shirt.

...then it seems like I have no choice but to wear a yellow shirt. I can't change my mind. That's false though. The solution to the problem is that (3) is only true because I don't change my mind. If I do change my mind then (3) won't be true. By saying (3) is true we're also implying "I will change my mind and wear blue instead" is false.

If we take this further and make it a law-like statement...

4. Night Ripper only wears yellow shirts.

...then (4) is true only if I never decide to wear a different color of shirt. If one day I decide to wear blue then (4) is false. However, we're already taking (4) as true now. Therefore, I don't (not that I can't) ever change my mind.

The universe isn't governed in the sense that the universe has to behave a certain way. It's rather that the universe can be described with law-like statements. The truth of these statements don't thereby force us into doing anything, however.


---------- Post added 03-27-2010 at 12:19 PM ----------

(...all there is is BEING, no emptiness, nowhere...)
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 11:27 am
@Night Ripper,
Ripper:
I thouroghly enjoyed your post.
I have always seen it as thus: The functionality of free will qua the agent.
As mortal agents we, as you have pointed out, cannot fully fathom or even design a cogent test for causation, especially ultimate causation. This makes the concept of our actions being determined moot. We do however function as if we had free will. Our behavior and perception hinges on us acting as if we have free will. This also renders the the abstracted concepts of determinism and causation moot. Theologically this thread of thought concerning free will throw a bit of a wrench into the workings of some doctrines concerning sin and punsihment, but I suppose that is a a topic for another thread.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:18 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144617 wrote:
Causal determinism is not a threat to freewill.

The key word in the above paragraph is "necessitated". It's this term that gives the argument its weight. It's also this term that is decidedly unscientific. There's no possible way to test if an event is necessary i.e. it has to happen. You could flip a coin once a second and have it land on heads for the next 1,000 years but you still wouldn't have observed anything necessary. There's no possible way to test between something that has to happen vs. just does happen. In all cases we can only observe what happens. Even if something always happens that doesn't therefore mean that it must happen.

.



The perplexing nature of the puzzle is clearly revealed when the gold-sphere generalization is paired with a remarkably similar generalization about uranium spheres:[INDENT]All gold spheres are less than a mile in diameter. All uranium spheres are less than a mile in diameter.
[/INDENT] Though the former is not a law, the latter arguably is. The latter is not nearly so accidental as the first, since uranium's critical mass is such as to guarantee that such a large sphere will never exist (van Fraassen 1989, 27). What makes the difference? What makes the former an accidental generalization and the latter a law?



(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)



Notice that there are (both) no gold spheres spheres that are a mile in diameter, and there are no uranium spheres a mile in diameter. But still, it is true that there could be a gold sphere a mile in diameter (since there is no physical law of nature that prevents this) but there could not be a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, since there is a physical law that prevents this. So while it does just happen that there is neither a gold nor a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, the first is an accident since there could be; but the second is not an accident, since it is physically impossible that there should be such a uranium sphere. And, if it is physically impossible that there should be such a uranium sphere, isn't it physically necessary that there isn't such a sphere, whereas it is not physically necessary there there is no such gold sphere?

By the way. I also think there is no conflict between determinism and free will. But not because there is no nomic causation. Since the above argument seems to show that there is.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:31 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;144678 wrote:
there could not be a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, since there is a physical law that prevents this.
You realise that quote of van Fraassen is from Laws and Symmetry? A book in which he argues that there are no laws of nature.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:35 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;144685 wrote:
You realise that quote of van Fraassen is from Laws and Symmetry? A book in which he argues that there are no laws of nature.


No, I did not. But I don't think that here, the distinction between laws of science, and laws of nature, is important. We are still talking about physical necessity, and whether there is any such thing.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:41 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144617 wrote:
Causal determinism is not a threat to freewill.

The key word in the above paragraph is "necessitated". It's this term that gives the argument its weight. It's also this term that is decidedly unscientific. There's no possible way to test if an event is necessary i.e. it has to happen. You could flip a coin once a second and have it land on heads for the next 1,000 years but you still wouldn't have observed anything necessary. There's no possible way to test between something that has to happen vs. just does happen. In all cases we can only observe what happens. Even if something always happens that doesn't therefore mean that it must happen.

If the following statement is true...

1. You will wear a yellow shirt tomorrow.

...then it is true only because, tomorrow, you, in fact, wear a yellow shirt.

Likewise, if the following statement is true...

2. Nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light.

...then it is true only because, at all times and places, nothing, in fact, ever accelerates faster than the speed of light.

Statements take their truth from the world. The statement "the cat is on the mat" is true iff the cat is on the mat.

Though, some people have it curiously twisted. They think that, in fact, nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light because the statement "nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light" is true! Instead of the statement being true because it corresponds with reality, reality conforms itself to the truth of the statement. That sounds much like the way chanting a magic spell such as "open sesame" can make the world conform to its power.

At this point, most people would say...

"But if it's true that nothing accelerates faster than the speed of light then I can't accelerate faster than the speed of light!"

This is a retreat to logical determinism and this is also a form of the modal fallacy. Strictly speaking, it's not that you can't. It's that you won't. Let's go back to a mundane example. If it's true now that..

3. Tomorrow I will wear a yellow shirt.

...then it seems like I have no choice but to wear a yellow shirt. I can't change my mind. That's false though. The solution to the problem is that (3) is only true because I don't change my mind. If I do change my mind then (3) won't be true. By saying (3) is true we're also implying "I will change my mind and wear blue instead" is false.

If we take this further and make it a law-like statement...

4. Night Ripper only wears yellow shirts.

...then (4) is true only if I never decide to wear a different color of shirt. If one day I decide to wear blue then (4) is false. However, we're already taking (4) as true now. Therefore, I don't (not that I can't) ever change my mind.

The universe isn't governed in the sense that the universe has to behave a certain way. It's rather that the universe can be described with law-like statements. The truth of these statements don't thereby force us into doing anything, however.



So, are you saying that it is false that you can't fly (without the aid of any devices), it is only that you do not fly? Why, though, do you not fly?

And what has this to do with free will?

As for free will, I think the first step is to decide what is being asserted when someone says that we have free will, as different people mean different things by such an expression:

Free Will[The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Free Will (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:47 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;144692 wrote:
So, are you saying that it is false that you can't fly (without the aid of any devices), it is only that you do not fly? Why, though, do you not fly?

And what has this to do with free will?

As for free will, I think the first step is to decide what is being asserted when someone says that we have free will, as different people mean different things by such an expression:

Free Will[The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Free Will (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)


I suppose he is attacking the notion that because determinism implies nomic necessity, free will and determinism are incompatible.
 
Emil
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:50 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;144678 wrote:
The perplexing nature of the puzzle is clearly revealed when the gold-sphere generalization is paired with a remarkably similar generalization about uranium spheres:[INDENT]All gold spheres are less than a mile in diameter. All uranium spheres are less than a mile in diameter.
[/INDENT] Though the former is not a law, the latter arguably is. The latter is not nearly so accidental as the first, since uranium's critical mass is such as to guarantee that such a large sphere will never exist (van Fraassen 1989, 27). What makes the difference? What makes the former an accidental generalization and the latter a law?



(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)



Notice that there are (both) no gold spheres spheres that are a mile in diameter, and there are no uranium spheres a mile in diameter. But still, it is true that there could be a gold sphere a mile in diameter (since there is no physical law of nature that prevents this) but there could not be a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, since there is a physical law that prevents this. So while it does just happen that there is neither a gold nor a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, the first is an accident since there could be; but the second is not an accident, since it is physically impossible that there should be such a uranium sphere. And, if it is physically impossible that there should be such a uranium sphere, isn't it physically necessary that there isn't such a sphere, whereas it is not physically necessary there there is no such gold sphere?

By the way. I also think there is no conflict between determinism and free will. But not because there is no nomic causation. Since the above argument seems to show that there is.


I think the above begs the question. A regularity theorist does not accept that there is a difference between the two cases. How would you show that there is? The above is really only convincing to necessity theorists.

---------- Post added 03-27-2010 at 07:54 PM ----------

For a short introduction to a regularity theory, see Swartz's page here.

Regularity Theory

For a full book on regularity theory and necessity theory see Swartz's The Concept of Physical Law. Also freely available on the net.

"The Concept of Physical Law", by Norman Swartz
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 12:58 pm
@Emil,
Emil;144699 wrote:
I think the above begs the question. A regularity theorist does not accept that there is a difference between the two cases. How would you show that there is? The above is really only convincing to necessity theorists.


That it would not convince a regularity theorist doesn't (I think) show it begs the question. Maybe it should convince a regularity theorist, in which case it doesn't beg the question. Do you think there isn't a difference between the gold and the uranium cases? Or do you think that the difference is not to be explain by the difference between an accidental generalization and a nomic generalization? And, if you think it is the second, what is your explanation of the difference. I don't understand why you would not think there is a difference between the two cases.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:01 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;144678 wrote:
But still, it is true that there could be a gold sphere a mile in diameter (since there is no physical law of nature that prevents this) but there could not be a uranium sphere a mile in diameter, since there is a physical law that prevents this.


The fact that all uranium spheres above a certain critical mass happen to undergo a nuclear chain reaction is not evidence that they have to and couldn't have done otherwise.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:07 pm
@Emil,
Emil;144699 wrote:
I think the above begs the question. A regularity theorist does not accept that there is a difference between the two cases. How would you show that there is? The above is really only convincing to necessity theorists.

---------- Post added 03-27-2010 at 07:54 PM ----------

For a short introduction to a regularity theory, see Swartz's page here.

Regularity Theory

For a full book on regularity theory and necessity theory see Swartz's The Concept of Physical Law. Also freely available on the net.

"The Concept of Physical Law", by Norman Swartz



I confess to not having read the long version, and only read part of the short introduction (skipping down to the parts that seemed most relevant), but how can one establish that the regularity theory is true? It seems to my rather slipshod reading of it that it is merely omitting the word "can" (and synonyms) and leaving us with "is" only. So it appears to be claiming that it is a myth that people cannot fly without the aid of any devices. What is true, according to the theory, is that people simply do not fly without the aid of any devices. But it seems to leave no answer to the question, why do people not fly without the aid of any devices? Or am I misunderstanding the theory?
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:12 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;144716 wrote:
I confess to not having read the long versions, and only read part of the short introduction (skipping down to the parts that seemed most relevant), but how can one establish that the regularity theory is true? It seems to my rather slipshod reading of it that it is merely omitting the word "can" (and synonyms) and leaving us with "is" only. So it appears to be claiming that it is a myth that people cannot fly without the aid of any devices. What is true, according to the theory, is that people simply do not fly without the aid of any devices. But it seems to leave no answer to the question, why do people not fly without the aid of any devices? Or am I misunderstanding the theory?


All explanations must come to an end. You can ask "why?" forever and at some point you have to say "that's just the way it is". These are called brute facts and I've never seen a convincing argument that doesn't appeal to them at some point. The only question is, which view is more empirical i.e. scientific, that the universe is controlled by magical laws that come from nowhere (or God if you're a theist) or that the universe isn't controlled at all? It's completely contingent.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:13 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144710 wrote:
The fact that all uranium spheres above a certain critical mass happen to undergo a nuclear chain reaction is not evidence that they have to and couldn't have done otherwise.



Well, to begin with, uranium spheres don't do things. People (and maybe animals) do things. Second of all, gold happens not to undergo a chain reaction above a certain critical mass, but (as we see) uranium does. Third of all, what makes you think there isn't a covering law that explains why uranium does?

---------- Post added 03-27-2010 at 03:15 PM ----------

Night Ripper;144723 wrote:
All explanations must come to an end. You can ask "why?" forever and at some point you have to say "that's just the way it is". These are called brute facts and I've never seen a convincing argument that doesn't appeal to them at some point. The only question is, which view is more empirical i.e. scientific, that the universe is controlled by magical laws that come from nowhere (or God if you're a theist) or that the universe isn't controlled at all? It's completely contingent.


The fact (if it is one) that "all explanations come to an end" does not mean that they come to an end right at the beginning, does it? There is an explanation for why water freezes a 0 C., even if there is no explanation for the whole universe.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:22 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;144710 wrote:
The fact that all uranium spheres above a certain critical mass happen to undergo a nuclear chain reaction is not evidence that they have to and couldn't have done otherwise.


Do you have any evidence that it could do otherwise? If not, how is your position any better?
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;144725 wrote:
Well, to begin with, uranium spheresdon't do things. People (and maybe animals) do things.


Uranium spheres explode. That's doing something. Either way that is a pedantic point to make and doesn't advance your argument at all.

kennethamy;144725 wrote:
Second of all, gold happens not to undergo a chain reaction above a certain critical mass, but (as we see) uranium does.


It sure does. Looks like you've already forgotten your first point. But how does that show that it must?

kennethamy;144725 wrote:
Third of all, what makes you think there isn't a covering law that explains why uranium does?


Does or must? What does that have to do with proving physical necessity? Gresham's Law explains something but does that make what it explains necessary?

kennethamy;144725 wrote:
The fact (if it is one) that "all explanations come to an end" does not mean that they come to an end right at the beginning, does it?


Explanations come to an end (or at least should) when there is no more evidence. Since there is no evidence that anything is necessary that's where I stop. You're welcome to keep going, just remember you're leaving the realm of empirical evidence behind.

---------- Post added 03-27-2010 at 02:27 PM ----------

Pyrrho;144735 wrote:
Do you have any evidence that it could do otherwise? If not, how is your position any better?


In other words, I can't prove God doesn't exist.

Right but if you think my position requires that then you don't understand my position. My position is that such beliefs (God, physical necessity, whatever) are untestable and superfluous. You're right that I don't know that such things aren't the case but I don't need to be certain something isn't the case to disbelieve it.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:27 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;144735 wrote:
Do you have any evidence that it could do otherwise? If not, how is your position any better?


But I thought we did have evidence that it could not do otherwise, anyway. It was that although neither kind of sphere exists, nevertheless, it would be physically possible for the gold sphere to exist, but it would not be physically possible for the uranium sphere to exist. Isn't that evidence against his position, and evidence for our position?
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Sat 27 Mar, 2010 01:31 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;144741 wrote:
But I thought we did have evidence that it could not do otherwise, anyway.


That sounds like a mistake.

Quote:
With two exceptions, since 1840, U.S. Presidents who have been elected in years ending in zero have been killed or have died of natural causes while in office. And one exception literally came within an inch of death.
According to your logic, if this pattern had no exceptions until "the end of time" then that would be evidence that it was necessary. You don't believe it would be though. Then why do you believe things are necessary with equally shaky evidence? There's nothing different in principle between the evidence for the death of presidents and the fission of uranium spheres except that, with the former, the pattern was broken and therefore less regular.
 
 

 
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