# Defense of Freewill Against Determinism

Zetherin

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:00 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:
It's been explained how. Intuitively we want a model of causation to say something like if C occurs, then E follows, and if E occurs, then C precedes it. But this notion of cause seems to have at least two intractable difficulties. First, as pointed out above, there is the problem of interference, which trivialises the model to C causes E, if C causes E, second, take the possible case that there is, for example, an active volcano on some planet in a distant galaxy, and every time that volcano emits a puff of smoke, then I submit a post to this board, and if that volcano doesn't emit a puff of smoke, then I dont post. Under a naive intuitive model of cause, that volcano causes me to post, so we need to introduce a relation of relevance between C and E, but that just relocates the problem of cause to a problem of relevance.

The volcano caused you to post. There's no problem.

Quote:
None need be relevant, if you a) accept that cause is a vague notion, b) accept that cause concerns distinct local events, and c) avoid confusing cause with determinism.

a.) If Bob shoots Phil in the head thereby killing Phil, we might say that Bob caused Phil's death. Or, in short, that Bob killed Phil. I don't see what's so vague about that. And we can surely extrapolate this to a billion other instances. Cause doesn't seem to be a vague notion.

b.) As opposed to global events? I never understood your distinction between local and global. I thought that which is global is a culmination of, well, all the locals.

c.) Well, I will have to concede there. I still haven't even wrapped my head around the distinction between laws of science and laws of nature yet.

ughaibu

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:11 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
The volcano caused you to post. There's no problem.
Of course there's a problem! Anything can be classed as a cause simply on account of timing. Wearing blue socks caused Phil's death, etc.

Zetherin

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:32 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Zetherin wrote:
The volcano caused you to post. There's no problem.
Of course there's a problem! Anything can be classed as a cause simply on account of timing. Wearing blue socks caused Phil's death, etc.

I don't think anything, but perhaps an unquantifiable number of things. But that doesn't mean we should just dismiss the causes we do know.

You really expect people to just dismiss the well known fact that oxidation causes iron to rust, simply because there may be another cause that a certain field may be interested in, or because there may be an unquantifiable number of conditions which we may never know about? It's still true that oxidation causes iron to rust, despite all this.

And of course you would understand what someone meant if they said that Bob caused Phil's death. There's nothing vague here.

ughaibu

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:40 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
that doesn't mean we should just dismiss the causes we do know.
There's no suggestion that the notion of cause be dispensed with, just that it either be rigourised, which appears to be impossible, or it be accepted that "cause" doesn't describe anything consistent and general, in other words, it is a vague notion.

Zetherin

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:48 pm
@ughaibu,
We can consistently understand the relationship between two occurrences, such as Phil's pulling the trigger and Bob's brain splattering. It's often very clear, not vague at all, what that relationship is. And that's because many things happen consistently.

I don't know what you're looking for. Maybe you're looking for The Theory of Everything, or something. But I don't see why you're pulling poor cause into this.

ughaibu

Sat 24 Jul, 2010 10:52 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
It's often very clear, not vague at all, what that relationship is.
Then state it in some rigorous form, what does it mean for C to cause E, and show me that this is consistently applicable.

Arjuna

Mon 26 Jul, 2010 09:59 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Zetherin wrote:
It's often very clear, not vague at all, what that relationship is.
Then state it in some rigorous form, what does it mean for C to cause E, and show me that this is consistently applicable.
I understand what you're getting at. But you're using the word cause in two ways aren't you... as both noun and verb? The words cause and effect imply each other. Cause is basically a bigger picture that effect fits into in a meaningful way.

The fact that cause is a bigger picture is the crux of the problem of looking at cause in an ultimate way, right?

Why is the word picture double underlined above? This is mysterious. Oh, now it's gone.

ughaibu

Mon 26 Jul, 2010 09:42 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:
you're using the word cause in two ways aren't you... as both noun and verb?
I dont see where I've made any equivocation, otherwise, why does this matter?
Arjuna wrote:
The words cause and effect imply each other.
Maybe. But, if smoking causes cancer, and a smoker doesn't develop cancer, then there is a cause without an effect.
Arjuna wrote:
Cause is basically a bigger picture that effect fits into in a meaningful way.
The fact that cause is a bigger picture is the crux of the problem of looking at cause in an ultimate way, right?
That there can, apparently, be causes without effects, is the problem of interfering non-causal conditions, which we've been discussing. So, if that's what you mean, then yes, this is one of the main problems for a satisfactory theory of cause.

Zetherin

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 01:00 am
ughaibu wrote:
Maybe. But, if smoking causes cancer, and a smoker doesn't develop cancer, then there is a cause without an effect.

What? That is not a cause without an effect. When one says "smoking causes cancer" one means that scientific evidence suggests that cancer can be caused by smoking, and that, there is a strong correlation between smoking and cancer. One is not declaring that every time one smokes, cancer is caused. But you already knew that.

By the way, in response to your request for rigor, I found this man's work:

http://onphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/06/03/causation/

And, I think that he has a practical definition for causality, which he even supports with mathematics: "I propose that if we are looking for causes for event X at time T then Y is a cause of X if and only if removing Y from the universe at time T would result in the failure of X to occur." Please have a look also at the cases he illustrates.

I'm not sure if this will satisfy you, but I hope you at least admit that the notion isn't vague. We practically apply the notion every day of our lives, and in fact it is the basis for inductive reasoning.

ughaibu

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:40 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
When one says "smoking causes cancer" one means that scientific evidence suggests that cancer can be caused by smoking, and that, there is a strong correlation between smoking and cancer.
In the 1960s a lot of experiments were conducted with the aim of demonstrating that smoking causes cancer. These experiments failed. So, it's not the case that when we talk about smoking causing cancer, that the relationship between smoking and cancer is either clear, or in accordance with your definition, quoted below.
Zetherin wrote:
"I propose that if we are looking for causes for event X at time T then Y is a cause of X if and only if removing Y from the universe at time T would result in the failure of X to occur."
The wording of this is a little confusing, presumably the writer means that Y occurs at T, and that X occurs at some later unspecified time. This kind of model is normally associated with D. Lewis. One problem with this model is that causes can only be assigned after the occurrence of effects, this leaves the problem of how there can be causally effective agents. Another problem is that there remain too many extra events which nobody considers to be causes. For example, if we select T arbitrarily, the probability of it being the T at which Y is Bob pulling the trigger, is infinitely small, so we need a very wide T, but this leads to absurdities such as Bob's birth causing his death. Due to this problem, we need a relevancy relation, and as pointed out before, this relocates the problem to that of defining the relevancy relation. So, the above definition is unsatisfactory as a basis for a theory of cause.

ughaibu

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 08:04 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:
Another problem is that there remain too many extra events which nobody considers to be causes. For example, if we select T arbitrarily, the probability of it being the T at which Y is Bob pulling the trigger, is infinitely small, so we need a very wide T, but this leads to absurdities such as Bob's birth causing his death. Due to this problem, we need a relevancy relation, and as pointed out before, this relocates the problem to that of defining the relevancy relation. So, the above definition is unsatisfactory as a basis for a theory of cause.
I see the guy mentioned this and offered an example of the kind of "solution" which leaves the matter unaddressed. By saying we follow increments of time back until we find an event that we agree is the cause, he ignores the exact problem which needs to be dealt with; why is it that event which we consider to be the cause?

Arjuna

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 08:51 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Arjuna wrote:
you're using the word cause in two ways aren't you... as both noun and verb?
I dont see where I've made any equivocation, otherwise, why does this matter?
I didn't mean that you were equivocating. I was just saying that when you ask how C causes E, you've constructed a sentence that is kind of convoluted. See what I mean?

The word cause means something to you. It's really more an examination of whether that meaning is logically coherent, and whether it might be leading to wrong conclusions, right?

If some logic lead to the conclusion that what we're calling cause can't exist separate from the effect... that would cause the meaning of the words to implode wouldn't it? Because the words imply a separation. Maybe this separation isn't something we ever really observed... maybe it's coming from our minds? We'd then be in the odd position of trying to observe our own minds... which would imply a separation.

Now I've pointed to how we're trying to observe our own minds... which implies another separation. It would seem this goes on forever. Now I'm observing an infinite progression of vantage points, each produced by an attempt to see. Funny, huh?
ughaibu wrote:

Maybe. But, if smoking causes cancer, and a smoker doesn't develop cancer, then there is a cause without an effect
I think people are still trying to understand what causes cancer. There are ideas about carcinogenic substances, viruses, genetic predispositions. Some zero in on what causes cells to be normal in the first place. So there's the idea of normal...

So that's an aspect of cause and effect... we don't imagine a cause for a state of things that is thought to be normal. Bertrand Russell used this fact to undermine Thomas Aquinas' proof of God.

Zetherin

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 02:12 pm
@ughaibu,
Is your claim that humans cannot know the relationship between two events, such as my throwing a baseball at a window and the window breaking?

If so, please provide evidence for this claim. For to say that we cannot know the relationship between two events, is to say that a good number of scientific endeavors are futile, and is also to say that induction is useless, and is also to say that free will doesn't exist (for how can you claim that I made a choice, if you do not believe that I caused Y to occur?[since you don't believe it is clear what my causing something to occur means]).

ughaibu

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:06 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
Is your claim that humans cannot know the relationship between two events, such as my throwing a baseball at a window and the window breaking?
My claim is no different from before; there is no satisfactory theory of cause in philosophy.

Zetherin

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:12 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Zetherin wrote:
Is your claim that humans cannot know the relationship between two events, such as my throwing a baseball at a window and the window breaking?
My claim is no different from before; there is no satisfactory theory of cause in philosophy.

I'm curious as to the implications of that claim. It must be tremendously hard for you to make sense of the world around you, since you do not believe we can understand relationships between occurrences. What is your explanation for the progression of science, free will, and our use of inductive reasoning which usually yields accurate results?

And if you do acknowledge all of that, then I am not sure why you aren't satisfied.

ughaibu

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:25 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
I'm curious as to the implications of that claim.
Okay.
Zetherin wrote:
It must be tremendously hard for you to make sense of the world around you, since you do not believe we can understand relationships between occurrences.
What I wrote is "there is no satisfactory theory of cause in philosophy", please explain how this translates to a belief that we can not understand relationships between occurrences.
Zetherin wrote:
What is your explanation for the progression of science, free will, and our use of inductive reasoning which usually yields accurate results?
Explain how any of these are dependent on a "satisfactory theory of cause in philosophy".
Zetherin wrote:
And if you do acknowledge all of that, then I am not sure why you aren't satisfied.
Acknowledge what? And the problems for any theory of cause have been spelled out.

Zetherin

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:31 pm
ughaibu wrote:
Explain how any of these are dependent on a "satisfactory theory of cause in philosophy".

So you do acknowledge the relationships between occurrences, but you are just uncomfortable saying saying that X caused Y?

What does you thinking every theory of causation is unsatisfactory translate to, in terms of how we routinely use the word "cause"? In other words, what does it mean to you when, for instance, someone says that oxidation causes iron to rust? If you find "cause" in this instance vague, then what do you think they mean? Or do you not think they mean anything at all?

north

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:36 pm
look there is cause and effect but there is also affect

think of a circle in which there is NO particular order of , cause , effect and affect . of anything

now introduce life , while the result of life can't be without the Universe ( I define the Universe as non-living here )

life is different

the living contemplate upon.......

ughaibu

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:44 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
So you do acknowledge the relationships between occurrences, but you are just uncomfortable saying saying that X caused Y?
1) it depends on which occurrences and what kind of relationship
2) where have I stated that I'm uncomfortable saying that X caused Y?
Unless there is a satisfactory theory of cause, cause remains a folk notion, it is vague and ambiguous. This makes statements on the lines of "everything has a cause" meaningless.

north

Tue 27 Jul, 2010 07:53 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Zetherin wrote:
So you do acknowledge the relationships between occurrences, but you are just uncomfortable saying saying that X caused Y?
1) it depends on which occurrences and what kind of relationship
2) where have I stated that I'm uncomfortable saying that X caused Y?
Unless there is a satisfactory theory of cause, cause remains a folk notion, it is vague and ambiguous. This makes statements on the lines of "everything has a cause" meaningless.

ughaibu

to the statement , 2) starting with , Unless .....

agreed