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Chrysander
07-22-2006, 06:18 AM
Hi dudes
This is always an interesting discussion, well usually. As far as I know there are like 3 or 4 ways of looking at existence and the choices we make.

1. Free will
Most atheist / agnostic people believe that any 'choice' we make is our own and that there was always the possibility to do X instead of Y, and given the same point of time over again with exactly the same circumstances, we might well decide Y instead.

2. Destiny
This is often believed in by more spiritual people and some religious people. The idea that events are unfolding towards a goal or goals / destination. As far as I know, there is kind of debate about 'controlling your destiny'. So I don't fully understand it as it seems oxymoronic to say that; if it's a destiny, then how can you have a say in it? Seems not too clearly defined, but anyway, it means that at least certain things are definitely going to happen, or maybe you have a choice of several destinies, but certainly, there is a limit to the eventualities (I think! Feel free to explain further what destiny means to you)

3. Fate
I guess similar to destiny, maybe it is the same, but I understand fate to be more of a set-in-stone thing than destiny. Fate seems to be like, certain things (or all things) are set out and no matter what we do, they will happen. Again spiritual and religious / superstitious people favour this in general. Whichever religious / spiritual books that person happens to have belief in, they will think that events are unfolding for that reason due to their God(s) or the Earth's Energy etc.

4. Pre-determination
Some people think that although nothing is 'planned' (IE there isn't a governing body or 'god'), there is only one thing that can ever happen in any circumstance. For instance, you roll a dice, and the reason it turns up 3 is because of the way you rolled it, the air between your hand and the table, the dents in the table, the polish on the table, the way the dice is manufactured, the weight of it, the paint on the dice etc etc. It isn't actually 'random', it is just a set of tiny circumstances which will lead to it landing on the 3. A human can't predict this as humans can't have the capacity to understand such complex things, yet the concept is that things are set in motion and there are no decisions being made since the beginning of time. The main problem with this is that people say they have free will, and that they feel it. The explanation is that humans are really just built up from cells, which are built up from smaller things, ultimately our brains are functioning because of billions of tiny chemical reactions which 'we' don't have control over - our consciousness and feeling of 'being' is determined by these things, and creates the illusion of control.

A friend of mine gave a good example of this. If you watch the movie Groundhog Day, imagine if the main character stayed in bed every day and did not affect anybody else. (He is the only person with the memory of previous repeats of the day, everyone else is living that same day as if it was normal). The answer is that everyone just goes about their life in exactly the same way each time. This is because, (in theory) given exactly the same circumstances (and I mean exactly), we don't do anything different, we do the same. And this holds the theory together; that no matter what happens, we react in one way only, and not in another. In fact, we only have evidence of one thing happening (of course!). You look back in history, only one thing happened, there is never any suggestion that anything else happened (alternate universes). With this in mind, it becomes the 'choices' which are theoretical. Will I have chocolate or vanilla icecream - whichever I end up choosing, that was the one I was going to choose (for whatever reason) and the one I didn't choose was just a theoretical choice which I never really had.

(I give longer explanation to pre-determination as many people are unfamiliar with it, and I think I've cleared up most questions about it)

I personally don't believe in anything, I don't see sufficient evidence to believe in any of those things. I feel like I have free-will certainly, but I don't take that as 100% evidence. I behave as though I have free-will. Pre-determination sounds compelling, in as much as I don't think it can be disproved. But it can't be proven either right now, so I don't believe that either. Fate and destiny seem least likely to me as of now, as I don't have any reason whatsoever to believe them, other than some books which say 'it is true, otherwise we will burn you alive', which frankly is just too scientific for me. It might turn out to be true and I guess I can be mocked in Hell etc because of my ridiculous evidence-based lack of beliefs.

zatoichi
07-22-2006, 07:30 AM
i don't believe in free will, as such. what makes the most sense to me is the theory of scientific determination. everything can be reduced to scientific principles. if a ball rolls in a given direction, at a specific speed and velocity, it will either stop at a certian point or collide with something else and be deflected in another direction. if the experiment is repeated with all the exact same conditions, the exact same thing will happen, theoretically. this principle of causation should be able to be applied to just about anything, i would think.
if you take a person's decision to, say, purchase the orange juice from concentrate or not-from-concentrate from a grocery store, you can reduce said decision to brain activity--electric impulses, neurotransmitters, etc. you can further reduce this brain activity to particles, to sub-atomic particles, until everything is just energy traveling in different directions at different velocities. now, i don't see why the principle of causation that was applied to the rolling and deflection of the ball can't be applied to all energy and matter.
if i was to choose not-from-concentrate orange juice in a given situation, if this situation was somehow repeated in a parallel universe, with all the events and conditions leading up to this decision being identical in every way, i don't see how it would be possible to choose the orange juice from concentrate. it's just not logical.

mountainvegan
07-22-2006, 10:11 AM
I’ll probably say more on this later, but this free will v. determinism problem is a bit of a dilemma and it largely seems to depend on what perspective you’re taking. Looking at it from a pragmatic standpoint, we have free will – I can choose to eat cereal or a bagel for breakfast, assuming both are equally appealing to me now. From this pragmatic view, free will and determinism both affect each other. For example, my choices now will determine the environment in which I make certain choices at a future time. Also, I have been determined by circumstances of birth, choices of others, and past choices of my own.

Looking at it from a theoretical and/or scientific POV, there is a huge problem with an uncaused event, Hume’s problem of induction notwithstanding. Everything we have ever seen in the universe seems to have a cause, and there are almost no exceptions to this. I say almost because of the question of randomness of position and momentum of particles in quantum physics, which some have claimed proves there can be an uncaused event. I have doubts about this; I just don’t think we (or at least I) really know enough about it to make any leaps to the reality of an uncaused event. Anyway, if every event, without exception, has a cause (i.e., is determined by previous physical forces), then theoretically, the can be no free will, even though from a practical standpoint it seems undeniable by personal experience that we have free will.

mountainvegan
07-22-2006, 10:22 AM
i don't believe in free will, as such. what makes the most sense to me is the theory of scientific determination. everything can be reduced to scientific principles. if a ball rolls in a given direction, at a specific speed and velocity, it will either stop at a certian point or collide with something else and be deflected in another direction. if the experiment is repeated with all the exact same conditions, the exact same thing will happen, theoretically. this principle of causation should be able to be applied to just about anything, i would think.
if you take a person's decision to, say, purchase the orange juice from concentrate or not-from-concentrate from a grocery store, you can reduce said decision to brain activity--electric impulses, neurotransmitters, etc. you can further reduce this brain activity to particles, to sub-atomic particles, until everything is just energy traveling in different directions at different velocities. now, i don't see why the principle of causation that was applied to the rolling and deflection of the ball can't be applied to all energy and matter.
if i was to choose not-from-concentrate orange juice in a given situation, if this situation was somehow repeated in a parallel universe, with all the events and conditions leading up to this decision being identical in every way, i don't see how it would be possible to choose the orange juice from concentrate. it's just not logical.

I agree with your reasoning here, but can everything be reduced to the whirl and buzz of sub-atomic particles? Are there different levels of reality that we should look at separately?

I suppose in pure theory, I'm a reductionist, but from a practical standpoint, it makes more sense to look at it from different levels of reality.

The implications of a purely deterministic world, after all, are that there is no responsibility for anything, moral or otherwise, since we can never really choose anything. Not that that should cause us to revise our theory or belief, but does it really make sense at our macro-level of reality?

Chrysander
07-22-2006, 10:38 AM
i don't believe in free will, as such. what makes the most sense to me is the theory of scientific determination. everything can be reduced to scientific principles. if a ball rolls in a given direction, at a specific speed and velocity, it will either stop at a certian point or collide with something else and be deflected in another direction. if the experiment is repeated with all the exact same conditions, the exact same thing will happen, theoretically. this principle of causation should be able to be applied to just about anything, i would think.
if you take a person's decision to, say, purchase the orange juice from concentrate or not-from-concentrate from a grocery store, you can reduce said decision to brain activity--electric impulses, neurotransmitters, etc. you can further reduce this brain activity to particles, to sub-atomic particles, until everything is just energy traveling in different directions at different velocities. now, i don't see why the principle of causation that was applied to the rolling and deflection of the ball can't be applied to all energy and matter.
if i was to choose not-from-concentrate orange juice in a given situation, if this situation was somehow repeated in a parallel universe, with all the events and conditions leading up to this decision being identical in every way, i don't see how it would be possible to choose the orange juice from concentrate. it's just not logical.

I totally agree with this, and would say this makes most sense to me, like you said. I am still not 100% behind it, as I don't feel I have like, total understanding of particles and sub-atomic particles etc, so it doesn't seem right for me to back it entirely. It seems most likely out of everything I've heard though.

nauthiz
07-22-2006, 01:42 PM
It's neat to see so much thought on this issue. I'm normally inclined to ignore it as philosophy's version of Fermat's Last Theorem - an obvious question that's deeply fascinating, maddeningly difficult to answer, and fundamentally pointless. Personally, I'm a scientific determinist like Zaitochi, but I'm not sure how believing in free will would (or should) change my actions.

But I suppose I should address the question and not just sit back and snipe it. :)

Free will would require things to happen spontaneously - without cause. That would beg the question, why should that only happen within the bounds of consciousness? Not only that, but why should it happen almost constantly within the confines of the skulls of countless souls, but never happen within the physical world (or at least, happen so rarely that we don't really notice it.) I have never seen a physical event that wasn't part of a continuum of events leading to and away from it. To convince me of something extraordinary like the idea that my mind functions any differently from the rest of creation would require extraordinary evidence.

Nanashi
07-22-2006, 06:09 PM
Determinism is silly. It can't be disproven.... therefore it's correct. But really who cares. It doesn't take away the feeling of free will we have.

Determinism only works up until you have a choice to make. If it were possible to not make a choice determinism would stop working because it needs you to make a decision. But you can't go through life without making any decisions... Ugh I can't help it...

"if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice" Rush "Freewill".

As soon as you make a decision determinism steps in and says... I knew it!!! I knew you'd choose that... see? how smart am I now? huh? Didn't I tell you you'd make that choice? Didn't I? In your face! Kind of an annoying little theory that one.

Probability and statistics do much better at explaining things than determinism. They at least allow for other outcomes instead of taking credit for decisions that have to be made.

The only way my body is like a ball or dice is that it's physical, unlike those objects I am animate. If you drop me I will try to contort to make the landing easier on me. a ball merely falls. Instead of dice I am a dice thrower, but not a gambler. I'm not sure using physics to explain human behavior and society is really the right approach. physics is good at describing large objects, metaphysics is good at describing objects infinitely smaller and people are living objects somewhere inbetween.

Maybe I don't understand free will, but I don't think it means complete randomness. like having the ability to create a lightning bolt because we want to. Or appear in Paris as if transported magically there in an instant. I think it's more along the lines of 'do I choose to hit this guy back' or 'I think I'm lost, should I stop and ask for directions or not?', to say I don't have the choice seems ridiculous to me. I don't think inanimate objects have free will either, so physical observations of inanimate objects doing the same things over and over in controled experiments doesn't do anything to describe what I think of as free will of living creatures.

At what point does determinism stop taking credit for all past decisions? Unless someone can come up with the underlying theories that prove determinism, thus allowing us to see the future I see no reason to believe in it. Of course if that were to happen nobody could believe anything different without being considered a nutjob.

Oh and needless to say, fate and destiny are right out in my book. Oh yeah, I have a book. It's called Freewill, subtitle everything you need to know to make your own decisions and stick it to the determinists who want to take credit for your every move. Random House ISBN 1425463835.

I guess I'd have to be a Compatibilist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism) If it came right down to it though.

nauthiz
07-22-2006, 07:30 PM
Probability and statistics do much better at explaining things than determinism. They at least allow for other outcomes instead of taking credit for decisions that have to be made.

Probability and statistics are used for modeling complex systems where you cannot or do not know all the variables, and therefore cannot possibly perform precise predictions. That doesn't necessarily mean that we couldn't model the system exactly if we did know all the variables.


Instead of dice I am a dice thrower, but not a gambler. I'm not sure using physics to explain human behavior and society is really the right approach. physics is good at describing large objects, metaphysics is good at describing objects infinitely smaller and people are living objects somewhere inbetween.

Physics is best at describing objects on a relatively human scale; that's where it got started and that's almost always what it's used for. The size at which it really falls apart is extremely tiny by our standards, somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillionth trillionth trillionth of a meter.

There's a book, Gödel, Escher, Bach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel,_Escher,_Bach), that explores how things like consciousness could emerge out of a sufficiently complex system. It's certainly not a proof or anything like that, but it does an excellent job of showing that the idea is plausible and exploring the general mechanisms by which it could happen. It starts with basic number theory and runs all the way up to trying to guess at the internal structure of a self-aware mind.


Like having the ability to create a lightning bolt because we want to. Or appear in Paris as if transported magically there in an instant. I think it's more along the lines of 'do I choose to hit this guy back' or 'I think I'm lost, should I stop and ask for directions or not?', to say I don't have the choice seems ridiculous to me.

At least to my mind, the case against free will isn't about complete randomness; I don't see how a mind without any order could exist at all. Nor do I think it's about not having a choice, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. It's more about trying to follow thoughts to their source. When a thought arises, does it just appear out of thin air? The idea seems preposterous to me. The kinds of thoughts people have are related to their personality, and thoughts are often precipitated by physical stimuli. So it must be possible for them to be influenced by the natural world.

They can also influence the natural world - supposing I'm scared, and I begin to sweat because of this. The sweat is a physical thing, and if it is brought about by the thought then there must be some connection chain of physical events that connects the thought to the phenomenon. Assuming for a moment that thought-stuff is not physical, is not bound by physical laws, where would the interaction between it and the physical world happen? Where would the chain of events end and the chain of thoughts begin? And what would be the mechanism for this interface?

I see no explanation of such an interface, so to me it is much more parsimonious to believe that there is not one, that thoughts are also wholly within the physical world. They are probably a kind of phenomenon rather than a collection of objects themselves, but they're still intimately bound to nature, and therefore to the laws of nature.


At what point does determinism stop taking credit for all past decisions? Unless someone can come up with the underlying theories that prove determinism, thus allowing us to see the future I see no reason to believe in it. Of course if that were to happen nobody could believe anything different without being considered a nutjob.

Nobody's predicted the future exactly, of course. That would be essentially impossible - to take it to an extreme degree, the only thing that could model the workings of the universe is the universe itself. Similarly, there is exactly enough matter in the solar system to produce a perfectly accurate simulation of it - ignore even one subatomic particle, and you're introducing inaccuracies.


I guess I'd have to be a Compatibilist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism) If it came right down to it though.

To be quite honest, I think of compatibilism (as it's described in that Wikipedia article) as hard determinism in free will clothing. The explanation of compatibilism that they give is that free will and determinism are not incompatible because, when faced with any situation, you might have made a different decision from the one you made if and only if the situation were different. This is identical to saying that, even in the realm of thought, a particular situation could have only produced one result - that it was pre-determined. Compatibilism seems to work by shoehorning free will into determinism by oxymoronicially redefining free will to be something that's deterministic rather than free.

(edit: is proofreading never done?)

zatoichi
07-22-2006, 07:39 PM
this episode of radiolab: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2005/03/04 has some interesting things to say about free will. one of the things it covers is an experiment in which people are asked to wiggle their index finger, and their corresponding decision-making brainwaves are measured. what's interesting is that the decision to wiggle one's finger seems to come about before the wiggler is even conscious of it.

mountainvegan
07-22-2006, 10:21 PM
I’ve thought about this problem in the past, but haven’t read much about it. I’m going to try reading http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/ and see if that adds to or reduces my current indecision on exactly what to think about this issue. The link seems to cover quite a bit of history and current trends on this paradox. Given that I’m reading other stuff these days and working, it could be a week or so before I actually finish reading it.

hazelfaern
07-23-2006, 04:16 AM
Instead of dice I am a dice thrower, but not a gambler. I'm not sure using physics to explain human behavior and society is really the right approach. physics is good at describing large objects, metaphysics is good at describing objects infinitely smaller and people are living objects somewhere inbetween.



Physics is best at describing objects on a relatively human scale; that's where it got started and that's almost always what it's used for. The size at which it really falls apart is extremely tiny by our standards, somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillionth trillionth trillionth of a meter.

There's a book, GŲdel, Escher, Bach, that explores how things like consciousness could emerge out of a sufficiently complex system. It's certainly not a proof or anything like that, but it does an excellent job of showing that the idea is plausible and exploring the general mechanisms by which it could happen. It starts with basic number theory and runs all the way up to trying to guess at the internal structure of a self-aware mind.


Yet, I think it would be more than fair to say that classically, science has seperated out physics (more specifically, physical science (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_science)) and biology as the science of inanimate things and the science of living things. Nanashi does have a point, in that we currently do not have a physics of consciousness or awareness.

I'm also not currently aware of a physics perspective on memory or learning, which would seem to be necessary in constructing a physics based theory of determinism. Without being able to functionally describe how we store, retrieve and use information in order to make choices, or more saliently, to invent or create, it seems to me that the input of physics boils down to "most events seem to occur due to a relationship within the chain of cause and effect".

I can grasp that there might be many ways in which the actions of sentient creatures are informed or caused, but without an underlying framework to explain (from a purely physical perspective) how the mechanical firings of synapses translates into a poem about a butterfly or an act of arson or an hour of weeping or a lapse of clinical depression, I have a hard time seeing determinism as anything other than an intriguing yet highly abstract, experimental theory.

At the same time, I tend to be very wary of a word like "feels". The world does not feel round to me, it feels flat. I can imagine that it would be entirely possible for me to feel a sense of free will and be mistaken in what I am describing -- not because my sensations are incorrect, but because I am not fully aware of the entirity of the process I am attempting to examine. Without understanding the role of gravity, the notion that the earth is actually round would be a difficult idea to accept.

And there are certain moods or feelings which seem to be easier to describe from a purely physical perspective. We can describe many aspects of anger or rage as a biological function involving the production and distribution of adrenalin, yet we don't seem as culturally inclined to describe love in the same way. I do think that there are conceptual details which we may tend to overlook because they have the ability to permanently alter the way we define ourselves.

In the long run, I'm inclined to believe that the tension between the concepts of free will and determinism is semantic in nature. If we're using the wrong words, metaphors, conceptual perspectives to contrast ideas like free will and determinism, we may wind up making the two seem far more contradictory than they actually are.

nauthiz
07-23-2006, 11:52 AM
I can grasp that there might be many ways in which the actions of sentient creatures are informed or caused, but without an underlying framework to explain (from a purely physical perspective) how the mechanical firings of synapses translates into a poem about a butterfly or an act of arson or an hour of weeping or a lapse of clinical depression, I have a hard time seeing determinism as anything other than an intriguing yet highly abstract, experimental theory.

But what is philosophy if it's not a collection of intriguing but highly abstract, experimental theories? ;)

vegbrain
07-23-2006, 03:52 PM
Yet, I think it would be more than fair to say that classically, science has seperated out physics (more specifically, physical science (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_science)) and biology as the science of inanimate things and the science of living things. Nanashi does have a point, in that we currently do not have a physics of consciousness or awareness.

I'm also not currently aware of a physics perspective on memory or learning, which would seem to be necessary in constructing a physics based theory of determinism.

Actually, both areas do have academic and research disciplines. Quantum physics is becoming more and more accepted in the intellecual circles and does tap into reality/dimensions and consciousness with mathematical and scientific pragmatism.

And neurophysiology does utilize basic laws of physics and electrical conduction/electrical potentials in explaining memory and learning; see: Long Term Potentiation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_potentiation)

This is a marvelous debate. Like most scietific debates, I have to say that a delicate and intricate combination of all areas could be at work here...Yes, there is some determinism, some free-will, some 'fate'. The complexity of the universe is yet to be understood. There are patterns that exist from the sub-atomic level all the way to intergalactic level(atomic orbitals to solar systems (http://www.bu.edu/smec/qsad/curriculum/text_modules/Hydrogen_Atomic_Orbitals.htm))....From the biological level all the way to the astrological level.(DNA to nebulas (http://www.his-forever.com/nebula.jpg)) There is much that we don't understand and the mysticism of life can be mind-boggling. I am not advocating for pure spirituality or scientific endeavor only, I just think that an embrace of all of these together can reveal more answers to things that maybe we aren't supposed to answer or figure out. Rather, we can wait and see what is revealed next when the proper mind is opened to understand.

hazelfaern
07-23-2006, 08:28 PM
But what is philosophy if it's not a collection of intriguing but highly abstract, experimental theories? ;)

Touche!


Actually, both areas do have academic and research disciplines. Quantum physics is becoming more and more accepted in the intellecual circles and does tap into reality/dimensions and consciousness with mathematical and scientific pragmatism.

And neurophysiology does utilize basic laws of physics and electrical conduction/electrical potentials in explaining memory and learning; see: Long Term Potentiation

This is a marvelous debate. Like most scietific debates, I have to say that a delicate and intricate combination of all areas could be at work here...Yes, there is some determinism, some free-will, some 'fate'. The complexity of the universe is yet to be understood. There are patterns that exist from the sub-atomic level all the way to intergalactic level(atomic orbitals to solar systems)....From the biological level all the way to the astrological level.(DNA to nebulas) There is much that we don't understand and the mysticism of life can be mind-boggling. I am not advocating for pure spirituality or scientific endeavor only, I just think that an embrace of all of these together can reveal more answers to things that maybe we aren't supposed to answer or figure out. Rather, we can wait and see what is revealed next when the proper mind is opened to understand.

Nicely put :) I'll have to check out those links.

Rawj
07-28-2006, 06:22 AM
if you do not believe in free will or you believe in fate/destiny does that mean you can not believe that people eating animals is wrong? it isn't their choice if that is your belief.

Kat
07-28-2006, 07:45 AM
Determinism is silly. It can't be disproven.... therefore it's correct.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster can not be disproven either. Therefore, I have submitted my life to his noodly appendage. :)

mishka
07-28-2006, 08:02 AM
The Flying Spaghetti Monster can not be disproven either.
:laugh:

hazelfaern
07-28-2006, 09:10 AM
if you do not believe in free will or you believe in fate/destiny does that mean you can not believe that people eating animals is wrong? it isn't their choice if that is your belief.

That's an interesting question. How does determinism affect the concept of self-determination and/or autonomy? This was something I found myself thinking about as I was reading through chapter 3 in Regan's The Case for Animal Rights, specifically where he explores and enlarges on Kants principles for autonomy:


Autonomy can be understood in different ways. On one interpretation, which finds its classic statement in Kant's writings, individuals are autonomous only if they are capable of acting on reasons they can will that any similiarly placed individual can act on. For example, if I am trying to decide whether I morally ought to keep a promise, I must, Kant believes, ask whether I could will that everyone else who is similiarly placed (ie, who has made a promise) can act as I do for the same reasons I have. In asking what I ought to do, in other words, I must determine what others can do, and it is only if I have the ability to think through and reflectively evaluate the merits of acting in one way or another (eg, to keep the promise or to break it) and, having done this, to make a decision on the basis of my deliberations, that I can be viewed as an autonomous individual.
...
But the Kantian sense of autonomy is not the only one. An alternative view is that individuals are autonomous if they have preferences and have the ability to initiate action with a view to satisfying them. It is not necessary, given this interpretation of autonomy (let us call this preference-autonomy) that one be able to abstract from one's own desires, goals, and so on, as a preliminary to asking what any other siniliarly placed individual ought to do; it is enough that one have the ability to initiate action because one has those desires or goals and believes, rightly or wrongly, that one's desires or purposes will be satisfied or achieved by acting in a certain way. Where the Kantian sense requires that one be able to think impartially if one is to posess autonomy, the preference sense does not.

There's been a bit of talk about the feeling or sense of free will, although this has not been defined, and we've glossed over the idea that effects tend to have causes and vice versa, although specifically how this effects the concept of decision-making is unclear.

For instance, if I say that I've read extensively on the issue of pet food and have decided to feed my cats a wholly vegan diet, you could say that my decision has been informed (it has causes -- not just my assimilation of the reading material, but also my interpretation of my experiences with cats, my general inclination towards reading material based on my previous experiences with books, etc, etc, ad infinitum) but does this nullify the sense that I've made a decision? Is a cause always equivelent to a form of coercion in which I essentially have no choice because the cumulative effects of causes on my actions outweigh any input I myself may have on the matter?

Regan seems to weigh the matter of preference-autonomy fairly strongly on the matter of having a belief that my actions will result in a preferrential reality, not necessarily that my actions have merit or that my actions will always lead to any sort of future reality. This makes me wonder if, even if there is a great degree of usefulness in the concept of determinism, and my sense that I've made decisions or have decided to act, necessarily nullifies a discussion of autonomy, altogether?

nauthiz
07-28-2006, 09:49 AM
if you do not believe in free will or you believe in fate/destiny does that mean you can not believe that people eating animals is wrong? it isn't their choice if that is your belief.

I don't think the two views exclude each other. To me, ethics comes from observations about what is helpful and what is hurtful, and is meant to describe what one should do if one has the goal of maximizing the one and minimizing the other.

Also, if you disbelieve in free will (in the way I do, anyway), ethics is a feature of thewhole shebang, not some inconsequential thing that rests outside it.

stegan
07-28-2006, 09:57 AM
The Flying Spaghetti Monster can not be disproven either. Therefore, I have submitted my life to his noodly appendage. :)
And why do you assume that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is male??? :)

bird
07-28-2006, 10:20 AM
And why do you assume that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is male??? :)Helloooo, noodly appendage!

stegan
07-28-2006, 10:22 AM
Helloooo, noodly appendage!
means nothing. They're arms! Jeez, get your mind out of the gutter. ;)

Chrysander
07-28-2006, 10:29 AM
if you do not believe in free will or you believe in fate/destiny does that mean you can not believe that people eating animals is wrong? it isn't their choice if that is your belief.

I think that if you believe that there isn't free will, then you can't blame anyone for what they're doing because you believe they had no choice. You can still say that you don't like it, if someone punches you in the face, and you believe they had no choice, that doesn't mean you think it's good, you still think it's bad, but you wouldn't blame the person for doing it. So in that respect, I agree that in some way you wouldn't say it is 'wrong'. But you might even go as far as saying that whoever made fate happen is wrong for making all these things happen in the first place, hah (God or whoever). I don't believe in either free-will or fate or anything 100%. I still blame people for what they do, as it seems like we have free-will. But we might not have free-will I don't know. But I don't take retribution on people either, so if we don't have free-will, at least I haven't been suplexing people for stuff they had no choice in doing :p

spacehippy
07-28-2006, 11:44 AM
if the experiment is repeated with all the exact same conditions, the exact same thing will happen, theoretically. this principle of causation should be able to be applied to just about anything, i would think.
This statement is inconsistent with quantum mechanics. On small scales, pretty much everything can be described as waves. The amplitude of these waves give the probability of finding a particle in a certain region of space. What isn't intuitive is that the particle doesn't have a defined location until it interacts with something. It only has the probability of being at a certain location rather than having a definite location. This introduces a degree of randomness into any situation. I'll admit, though, that this isn't intuitive.

However, if we look at the free will debate again with our quantum mechanics hats on, we have not gained free will. Instead of having scientific determinism from classical physics, we have gained quantum probabilities and randomness, but randomness does not give rise to free will.

The theory of quantum mechanics, by the way, is almost universally accepted by physicists as a description of reality as valid as Newton's theory of gravity.

nauthiz
07-28-2006, 11:56 AM
This statement is inconsistent with quantum mechanics. On small scales, pretty much everything can be described as waves. The amplitude of these waves give the probability of finding a particle in a certain region of space. What isn't intuitive is that the particle doesn't have a defined location until it interacts with something. It only has the probability of being at a certain location rather than having a definite location. This introduces a degree of randomness into any situation. I'll admit, though, that this isn't intuitive.

But isn't the probabilistic approach used in quantum mechanics forced by uncertainty? I've always worked under the assumption that, for example, the wave/particle duality isn't necessarily what's actually happening, it's just the best description we can come to given what we know now. For example, is it really that the particle doesn't have a defined location, or simply that we couldn't possibly say what that defined location is until it does interact with something.

If it's the latter, then while it might be physically impossible to exactly reproduce a particular situation, it's at least philosophically possible for the purposes of thought experiments.


The theory of quantum mechanics, by the way, is almost universally accepted by physicists as a description of reality as valid as Newton's theory of gravity.

Which is accepted as a valid and accurate model, not a 100% correct description of what's actually happening. ;)

mountainvegan
07-28-2006, 02:26 PM
The Interdependent Cycle of Determinism

The psychology of all conscious, sentient beings is an accumulation of literally millions of thoughts (impulses, reactions, deliberations, random mental events, etc.) and experiences (pleasure, pain, fear, remorse, joy, sadness, etc.). A person’s character is determined by an accumulation of habits; habits are determined by an accumulation of actions, actions are determined by an accumulation of thoughts and experiences; thoughts and experiences are determined by life circumstances and a person’s character; and finally life circumstances and a person’s character are determined by habits (which more than completes the cycle).

So, the law of determinism we see everywhere in the world** is true of human behavior, also. (**except for in quantum mechanics, which I don’t know enough about to say whether the uncertainty (non-deterministic) principle is a principle of reality or a principle of a lack of human understanding at the level of theoretical physics,)

For example, I really don’t have the psychological freedom to eat a cheeseburger or commit murder (under normal circumstances). Sure, in a sense I would *choose* not to eat a cheeseburger or not to commit murder (since there is nothing external stopping me), but psychologically (or internally), I just couldn’t force myself to make the (external) choice to do something I find repulsive (morally and otherwise). Alternatively, the person who murders someone, at the time they make the (external) choice to do so, always had some thought or impulse that caused them to take that action at that time because they believed/intuited/reacted that it was the most attractive option for them.

The Compatibility of Determinism and Personal Responsibility (or response ability) for Moral Action

We’re all ultimately determined, but we don’t all have the same personal responsibility for our actions, which vary with life circumstances and cumulative experiences outside of our control. For example, take two people born in much different circumstances. One person, A, is born into a violent world where violence is a way of life and the only way to survive. Another person, B, is born into a very peaceful and protected environment where peace and kindness are strongly encouraged and are the way to obtain all things desirable. Person A has no education other than his/her violent environment and a psychological disposition for violence. Person B has plenty of education and a very healthy psychological disposition for kindness. Who has more responsibility for their actions, per se? Certainly, we expect B to behave much better than A and attribute personal responsibility (response ability) to B based on that higher expectation of behavior. Why are our expectations of B higher? B is *determined* by his/her life circumstances and past action, thoughts and experiences to behave better and is simply better able to respond morally than A.

So, personal responsibility comes with favorable life circumstances for one to build a character such that one chooses or can’t help choosing (i.e., is determined to choose) good actions. With extremely unfavorable life circumstances, our personal responsibility for moral behavior declines close to zero. The more positive our life circumstances are (including genetic traits for moral behavior), the more personal responsibility we have for moral action.

hazelfaern
07-28-2006, 04:20 PM
The Interdependent Cycle of Determinism

The psychology of all conscious, sentient beings is an accumulation of literally millions of thoughts (impulses, reactions, deliberations, random mental events, etc.) and experiences (pleasure, pain, fear, remorse, joy, sadness, etc.). A personís character is determined by an accumulation of habits; habits are determined by an accumulation of actions, actions are determined by an accumulation of thoughts and experiences; thoughts and experiences are determined by life circumstances and a personís character; and finally life circumstances and a personís character are determined by habits (which more than completes the cycle).

So, the law of determinism we see everywhere in the world** is true of human behavior, also. (**except for in quantum mechanics, which I donít know enough about to say whether the uncertainty (non-deterministic) principle is a principle of reality or a principle of a lack of human understanding at the level of theoretical physics,)

For example, I really donít have the psychological freedom to eat a cheeseburger or commit murder (under normal circumstances). Sure, in a sense I would *choose* not to eat a cheeseburger or not to commit murder (since there is nothing external stopping me), but psychologically (or internally), I just couldnít force myself to make the (external) choice to do something I find repulsive (morally and otherwise). Alternatively, the person who murders someone, at the time they make the (external) choice to do so, always had some thought or impulse that caused them to take that action at that time because they believed/intuited/reacted that it was the most attractive option for them.

The Compatibility of Determinism and Personal Responsibility (or response ability) for Moral Action

Weíre all ultimately determined, but we donít all have the same personal responsibility for our actions, which vary with life circumstances and cumulative experiences outside of our control. For example, take two people born in much different circumstances. One person, A, is born into a violent world where violence is a way of life and the only way to survive. Another person, B, is born into a very peaceful and protected environment where peace and kindness are strongly encouraged and are the way to obtain all things desirable. Person A has no education other than his/her violent environment and a psychological disposition for violence. Person B has plenty of education and a very healthy psychological disposition for kindness. Who has more responsibility for their actions, per se? Certainly, we expect B to behave much better than A and attribute personal responsibility (response ability) to B based on that higher expectation of behavior. Why are our expectations of B higher? B is *determined* by his/her life circumstances and past action, thoughts and experiences to behave better and is simply better able to respond morally than A.

So, personal responsibility comes with favorable life circumstances for one to build a character such that one chooses or canít help choosing (i.e., is determined to choose) good actions. With extremely unfavorable life circumstances, our personal responsibility for moral behavior declines close to zero. The more positive our life circumstances are (including genetic traits for moral behavior), the more personal responsibility we have for moral action.

MV, did you write that or forget to mention the source?

spacehippy
07-28-2006, 11:59 PM
But isn't the probabilistic approach used in quantum mechanics forced by uncertainty? I've always worked under the assumption that, for example, the wave/particle duality isn't necessarily what's actually happening, it's just the best description we can come to given what we know now. For example, is it really that the particle doesn't have a defined location, or simply that we couldn't possibly say what that defined location is until it does interact with something.
In 1964, J.S. Bell published a paper showing that there really is an observable difference on whether the particle does or does not have a defined location. Experiments since then to test this have shown that particles really don't have a defined location until they interact with something. It's the interaction which forces the particle to have a defined location. There's more information here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell%27s_Theorem


Which is accepted as a valid and accurate model, not a 100% correct description of what's actually happening. ;)
Agreed. However, just as relativity reduces to Newton's mechanics in the appropriate limits (low speed, low gravity), any new theory must reduce to quantum mechanics when viewed in the appropriate limits also, just so that it can be consistent with experiments from the last seventy-five years.

mountainvegan
07-30-2006, 05:21 PM
MV, did you write that or forget to mention the source?
I wrote it. It's based on my scientific materialist worldview combined with what I know from experience and Western and Eastern psychology.

Chijou_no_seiza
07-31-2006, 02:06 AM
I hate this topic! Ethics class ruined my life :sob:

There is only one puzzlement I have (I know Zat and mountainvegan talked about this). If everything is determined, then the way subatomic particles collide would have to be determined as well. However they always say that in a room gas particles move around randomly, but acutally if determinism is true we could calculate out all trajectories based on the conditions if we have perfect knowledge (of momentum and trajectories) to take into consideration all the variables. So is "random collisions" just a simplification of science? If it is not, doesn't that mean that everything in fact is not caused by a previous event, that there is in fact some random events? (This is of course seperate from Quantum physics, popping in and out of reality).

According to my old ethics professor, determinism wasn't supposed to be applied to particles, only human situations. But I have a problem with "limiting" determinism. How determined is something if it's not ALWAYS determined by a previous event? :confused:

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 05:48 AM
Randomness can mean having an equal probability of occurrence or not following a fixed or predictable method or plan. Being determined, in the sense we’re using the word here, means being subject to cause and effect. So, the two concepts are compatible with each other. An event can be subject to cause and effect (determined) and yet be unpredictable (random).

An example is a roll of the dice. The result is random, but there is also cause and effect. The exact way the dice were held and thrown caused the dice to hit the table a certain way at a certain force which, combined with air currents and other variable causes, caused the dice to eventually stop in a certain position. Since there are so many immeasurable and tiny factors (causes) which vary with each throw, we cannot predict the effects of them all, but they exist nonetheless.

Another way of looking at this free will problem is to look at the phrase “free will.” What do we mean by will? Is it really free, or is it subject to cause and effect? I think we could substitute “desire” for “will” and say “free desire.” Is desire free of cause and effect, or is it subject to cause and effect? In a strong sense, we do not control our desires. In fact, even when we “control” our desires, what we’re really doing is abiding by another, stronger desire to “control our desire.” And when we want to control our desire, there is always a reason (i.e., cause) we can think of as to why we want to control our desire. IOW, every desire we have has some cause prior to it. Since every desire has a reason/cause, including desiring to desire in a certain way at a certain time, it is determined by that cause and is therefore not really free. At any split second, there is a cause for that immediate desire or action (even if it is random). It’s a trap with no escape.

will
07-31-2006, 09:13 AM
first of all, there is no way to unite determism and free will because a total and absolute deterministic perspective, by definition, states that everything in at least this universe is, in one way or another, the mere unfolding of various objects (energy/matter) given a certain set of physical laws of this universe.

even the randomness of quantum mechanics can be explained away through determinism with the mathematics of probability. i have yet to hear/see/find any such fully thought out explanation of this sort to explain away conciousness/free will using mathematical probability, however, i would be very suprised if it hasn't yet been attempted.

all that said, however, there are alternative explanatiions given on the metaphysical level wherein conciousness is considered a very real aspect of existence. usually, from what i have read/researched (and i have read quite a lot on this topic), it is usually thought that there is a physical universe in which our conciousnesses are performing acts of free will. it can be thought of as if our conciousnesses are "driving" our "vehicles" (bodies) within the confines of the universe in accordance to various physical laws. it is as though we are playing chess, for example, where the rules of the game are well defined, as are the players, yet we are given the ability to decide which move to make with whichever piece we decide to move.

this idea is not to be confused with some kind of unification of determinism and free will, since the two are actually considered as seperate, though interacting in this way. the mystery that remains in this perspective is what exactly _is_ conciousness, where does it come from, what (if any) are the rules/laws that govern this aspect of our existence?

for a very intriguing treatment of this viewpoint, i highly suggest watching the documentary called, "What the Bleep Do We Know?!" several scientists from various specific fields discuss the possible metaphysical interpretations of quantum physics, neurophysics, etc. that would make this viewpoint feasable. here's the website for the video/book: http://www.whatthebleep.com/
although you can probably rent it at a local video store or even borrow it from a library.

anyway, you might also look at conciousness as a phenomena that resulted from an otherwise deterministic universe, in such a way that, some how or another, the ability to make choices, i.e. have free will, evolved out of these natural processes unfolding in such a way as to "give birth" to conciuosness. in this view point, conciousness would be yet another aspect of the universe that will now play its own part in the rest of the unfolding of the universe. it would be kind of the way subatomic particles combine to form elements, combining to form chemicals, combining to form cells, coming together to form multi-cellular organisms, eventually becoming various species with brains, and thereby going on to the next level of complexity wherein conciousness arises and begins to create higher levels of complexity such as sociology, etc.. the interesting question that comes from this sort of perspective is...what is the next level after conciousness? mass-conciuosness? a universal-conciousness? something beyond conciousness? (whatever that would be...).

these are the three schools of thought i find to be most reasonable, in that they do not cary any inherent contradictions and are complete view points, meaning they can/do explain everything we know about this universe without having to alternate between different, contradictory metaphysical views to explain different aspects of existence as we know it and even can imagine it to be.


i, personally, do not generally operate based on any one of these perspectives as though they were certainly true. instead, i take the more pragmatic approach in the sense that there is simply no usefulness to the idea of total determinism. as stated many times already, an utterly deterministic POV rules out everything but a potential "illusion" of free will and is therefore not useuful when confronted with the "illusion" of needing to make a decision.

i therefore operate/function based upon the two latter models of existence wherein conciousness/free will is very real indeed and i am therefore responsible for making the best decisions i can in every given situation i find myself in.

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 10:33 AM
One thing that seems to cause much confusion in any discussion of free will and determinism is the definition or conception of the terms.

So, here are the definitions I’ve been working with:

Free will = 1) free desire, or 2) a choice of what to desire at any particular moment outside of past conditioning and/or cause and effect (i.e., necessarily opposed to determinism), or 3) actions occurring spontaneously without cause (i.e., without past experience and conditions/circumstances totally influencing the outcome).

Choice = absence of external (i.e., non-psychological) barriers to alternative courses of action.

Determinism = action affected by a cause (e.g., causes such as: desire, previous experience/conditioning, character, habit, life circumstances, the neural state immediately prior to a given thought or action).

Consciousness = an emergent phenomenon of the billions/trillions of electro-chemical interactions per second of billions of neurons. Like a film running through a projector, these interactions are so fast, complex, and numerous that they create our subjective reality like the individual slides create a movie on a screen.

So, we have desires and make choices, but those desires and choices are completely caused by past experience/conditioning and are therefore not really “free” (i.e., independent of past conditions/circumstances). I cannot choose to desire what I simply don’t desire based on past experience, therefore, my desire/will is not free. (e.g., I want chocolate because chocolate has given me pleasure in the past. I don’t want to touch the hot car engine because hot things have given me pain in the past).

I have consciousness, but it (the billions of interactions) too is determined by past conditions/circumstances and therefore is not free.

will
07-31-2006, 10:57 AM
okay, yes, i agree: we should agree upon the definitions of the terms we are using in this discussion.

however, you are defining the terms according to the model of determinism which of course only allows for one outcome--determinism.

i therefore suggest we keep the terms to be defined more generally, so they may be perceived from different POVs.

free will: the ability to make a decision/choice. limiting this decision to "desire" only accounts for more emotional decisions and does not allow for choices of a more intellectual nature. so i suggest keeping this as general as possible.

conciousness: an awareness of one's existence which comes with the ability to think and feel. defining conciousness as a biochemical interplay within the brain basically defines conciousness in terms of determinism and could not therefore be used for other philosophies.

determinism: the mode of thought that states everything in the observable universe is the unfolding of various elements (energy/matter) according to the physical laws of the universe. this of course discounts any form of free will and limits conciousness to a mere observation of the enactment of the "fated" outcomes of the unfolding universe.

your definitions definitely work, however, they are quite clearly definitions set specifically to tailor to the idea of determinism. you could just as well set definitions of these terms to other POVs in a like manner, though they would differ in fairly major ways.

keeping our definitions more general will allow us to look at them through the eyes of various perspectives and _then_ decide what their roles would be in the respective models of the universe.

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 11:36 AM
Well, haven’t you just defined the terms in a way which will allow for free will? (i.e., done the same thing I did for determinism?) ;) If free will is defined solely as the ability to make a choice, then I concede free will immediately and the discussion ends there.

What I’m saying is that all choices we make are made because of (or are caused by) our past experience and conditioning and are therefore determined. We may feel like we have freedom to choose, and in a certain sense we do (because there is nothing external stopping us), but in a sense we do not have freedom because every action we make is fated by a series of past thoughts, experiences, and conditions (even if only 10 milliseconds ago). The world is, in fact, an endless chain of cause and effect without beginning or end.

As far as differing POVs, I realize there are different ways of seeing the world (e.g., the scientific materialist POV, the Christian theologist POV, the Greek gods POV). I’ve stated earlier that my POV is a scientific materialist POV, which I see as having significantly more epistemological weight than any other POV. Attempting to allow for all differing worldviews in designing a philosophical theory by expanding definitions will necessarily result in kicking complications down the road (perhaps making them more intractable), not eliminating complications.

If anyone is interested in laying out the free will/determinism problem from a Christian theological POV (or any other than a scientific materialist POV), have at it. I’ll just remove myself from the discussion at that point since the question of which POV to see the problem from is really more of an epistemological discussion for another thread, IMO. :)

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 11:43 AM
limiting this decision to "desire" only accounts for more emotional decisions and does not allow for choices of a more intellectual nature. so i suggest keeping this as general as possible.

All "intellectually-driven" choices have desire driving them at a higher level. There is no such thing for animals (including human animals) as a purely intellectual decision or choice (i.e., not ultimately derived from desire). I agree with David Hume, "Reason is, and ought only to be, a slave of the passions."

will
07-31-2006, 12:02 PM
okay. well, before you go--though there are many things i would like to say--i would like to hear where you stand on the whole "illusion" of free will thing that ultimately comes from determinism. don't you think it is a little strange in any way that we think we have free will? where exactly does the concept of "illusion" fit in to determinsm whatsoever when everything is supposedly so concrete? what sort of purpose does this serve in the grand scheme of things according to determinism? is it some sort of ultimate cosmic joke on us? after all, if free will does not exist, why would the universe go through the bother of making us think it might?

i will refrain from responding to your other comments until after you respond to these questions. (though i feel the need to tell you i was not attempting to pave the way for the "christian theologist POV" and to remind you that there are more than one, let's just say, so-called "scientific" POVs.)

nauthiz
07-31-2006, 12:25 PM
okay. well, before you go--though there are many things i would like to say--i would like to hear where you stand on the whole "illusion" of free will thing that ultimately comes from determinism. don't you think it is a little strange in any way that we think we have free will? where exactly does the concept of "illusion" fit in to determinsm whatsoever when everything is supposedly so concrete? what sort of purpose does this serve in the grand scheme of things according to determinism? is it some sort of ultimate cosmic joke on us? after all, if free will does not exist, why would the universe go through the bother of making us think it might?

Pardon me while I butt in. ;)

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you mean by illusion. I think of illusion as being mislead by the senses (or one's own psyche, depending on context) to come to incorrect conclusions about things as they are. I'm not sure how determinism conflicts with this idea - the contents of my skull are much, much smaller than all of the reality that I try to keep track of. Because of this, it's probably physically impossible for me to maintain a mental model of my surroundings that is perfectly accurate, so abstractions and processing short-cuts are necessary to allow my mind to function. I see illusion as a natural result of those abstractions.

Many illusions - the "falling water" illusion, for example - happen at very nuts-and-bolts stages of the brain, and neuroscientists have even been able to find the exact bits of the brain in which the illusion occurs and figure out what "goes wrong" in them to produce the illusion.

Also, I'm not sure the concepts of "determinism" and "purpose" are compatible. Within a deterministic framework, everything happens because the rules say they have to, not because anything's working toward a particular goal or plan. Does a clock know what time it is? Does the mountain actually intend to cause an avalanche, or does it just sort of happen?

will
07-31-2006, 12:59 PM
pardon my word choice. i did not intend to use the word "purpose" in the sense of some _intended_ outcome as if it were asigned as such by some higher power.

all i meant was: why do we _think_ we have free will when we actually _don't_ according to the determinism theory?

nauthiz
07-31-2006, 01:30 PM
(This is a total shot in the dark; obviously I don't know all the inner workings of the mind.)

We aren't aware of how our minds work, so a lot of stuff that goes on in the background goes unpercieved.

Suppose for a moment that decision making is a deterministic thing. So when you are presented with a situation in which you have to make a choice, you see that there are several different courses of action that a person in your situation. Now, your mind works deterministically, so there is really only one course of action that you would take, but since you can't see every step of the decision-making process in your mind, you don't know that. All you are immediately aware of is that there is a set of choices and there is the choice you made, so you conclude that the choices you made were real possiblities that might actually occur if you came to the exact same situation in the exact same mental state a second time.

Here's an (admittedly sloppy and logically useless) thought experiment:
Suppose you're in a Groundhog's Day type situation where every day is the same, except that you don't realize it's happening so you don't have any knowledge of the previous repeats of the day when you wake up in the morning.

One feature of these days is that every time you wake up, someone comes into your bedroom with a 5lb mallet and asks you to whack yourself in the head a few times.

Now the idea of free will implies that there is a real chance that you will do this, not just that you bludgeoning yourself is a counterfactual course of action. If you have free will, then, eventually you're going to wake up in the morning and beat yourself senseless with a hammer. If this doesn't happen - if you'd always say "heck no!" - then your mind is behaving deterministically. (ie, the exact same situation keeps producing the exact same results.)

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 01:49 PM
all i meant was: why do we _think_ we have free will when we actually _don't_ according to the determinism theory?

Because we do, in fact, choose actions, but those choices are caused (determined) by cumulative past thoughts, experience, and conditioning (including the sub-conscious level occurring within milliseconds of our thought/choice/action). We are often not even aware of the specific past thoughts, experience, and conditioning that our choices are subject to. Even when we are fully aware of why we chose a particular action, the action was still caused (determined), at least in part, by that “why” we are aware of.

Nauthiz explained illusion and the incompatibility of ‘determinism’ and ‘purpose’ very well. I have nothing to say to elaborate on what he said.

Incidentally, I just threw the Christian theology POV out there as an example. I wasn’t implying that you were referring to any specific POV outside the scientific materialist POV. Also, I should define my scientific materialist POV as that which holds as a basic assumption that all events in the universe are caused by other events in an infinite, interdependent web or regress (i.e., there are no “uncaused events” or “sh*t doesn’t ‘just happen’”).

Here’s another example of our illusory psychology (NOT meant as an analogy to the determinism of our decision making; just an example of our inaccurate psychological views). The outcome of a baseball game is ultimately determined by cause and effect. Our watching it has no causal impact whatsoever on the outcome of the game. Whether we watch it live or on tape, the outcome will be the same. Assuming we could watch it on tape without knowing any details before we watched it, including the ultimate outcome of the game, psychologically we would much rather watch it live than taped. Psychologically, we erroneously think our watching the game live somehow matters at all because it hasn’t yet occurred. In reality, just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t be completely determined by cause and effect when it does happen.

will
07-31-2006, 02:20 PM
your shot in the dark presents a very interesting perspective into the determinism approach.

i will take your first, and more general, thought experiment and develop it from there.

given a situation and a certain mind state, one perceives, let's say for now, _two_ equally plausable decisions--meaning either choice presents about the same likelihood for potentially desirable outcomes, thus there is no obvious choice to be made. let's say that this person then decides to flip a coin--heads for one decision and tails for the other. this reintroduces randomness/probability into the "decision" making process and can therefore be explained through mathematical probability and therefore a fundamentally mathematical determinism theory.

interesting. i'll stew on that for a while.


however, if you could indulge me for a second...

in the determinism POV, every element (energy/matter) and even space-time itself has/performs a certain _function_ in the unfolding of the cosmos, starting from its set (energy/matter/space-time) and its axioms (physical laws).

for example: space-time itself has the function of essentially being what is referred to as gravitational force when two objects exist within it, thereby bending the space-time and achieving the effect of the two objects being "attracted" to one another.

another example: electromagnetic radiation is emmitted whenever electrons switch orbital paths, thereby having a _role_ in a universe entirely ruled by determinism.

i know ask, what is the _function_ of _conciousness_ and _free will_ when it...well, has no function? (in that it is not actually changing any of the outcomes of a deterministic universe)

it seems rather odd for there to be only _one_ thing in this deterministic universe that literally serves no purpose, i.e. has/performs no _function_.

can you think of _anything_ else in this universe that is of equally trivial value and yet still exists?

...i can't...

and it seems very ironic that the only _one_ thing that has no _function_ is what many think to be the most amazing result of the evolution of our physical universe--conciousness itself! and of course, free will along with it.

nauthiz
07-31-2006, 02:31 PM
Under the deterministic view, consciousness isn't an object in the same way that spacetime or electromagnetic raditation is an object. It's simply a name for a loosely defined pattern of events that emerges from a set of rules. It's more analogous to the orbit of one celestial body about another.

mountainvegan
07-31-2006, 03:14 PM
Consciousness is a prerequisite for any will or desire, free or not, but what’s at issue here is whether the will/desire is free of psychological cause or not.

Nobody is denying that will/desire exists, we’re just saying that will/desire is subject to cause and effect (i.e., determined by cause and effect), therefore is not free of cause and effect, and therefore there is no “free will”.

(It’s fun having a discussion with will about whether or not will is free.) (pun intended) :p

nauthiz
07-31-2006, 03:35 PM
Maybe we should change the name of this thread from Free will to Free Will. :silly:

will
07-31-2006, 04:21 PM
good point, nauthiz. afterall, conciousness, from the determinism stand point is the net result of many different physiological processes in the brain producing such things as emotion and thought. it is determinist to see everything as in one way or another extrapolated from the basic sets and axioms of this mathematical universe.

it is nevertheless perpexling to ponder how we are capable of having this..._misconception_ that we are in some way making decisions that are not predetermined by the physical processes that be.

admittedly, it is divergent from the scientific materialism POV to suggest that anything, even conciousness and free will, are in any way "just happening" without any physical explanation behind it.

still, the fact that we are at least _capable_ of having this "misconception" (as it would be judged by determinism) that we are in some way making decisions that are not determined by the mere evolution of the fundamental forces of the universe...well, it's still rather...odd. i would think that in a truly deterministic universe, that our conciousness would somehow always be aware of the true nature of our "choices," and, in fact, not capable of conceiving of any other possible explanation that would be independent of an ultimately scientific materialist POV.

this does not necessarily have to bring any special qualities to conciousness that could not be explained deterministically, but, then again, it does beg the question a bit.



to shed some light on my own approach to metaphysics: i tend to think more mathematically, in the sense of needing an absolute mathematical proof which encompasses everything...a sort of mathematical "theory of everything." it seems to me that some people tend to be more of "experimentalists," to coin a term, such that they choose their metaphysical viewpoint based on what has surfaced through "evidence" obtained through experimentation.

i'm more of the sort to need proof that something _always_ works for _everything_, and i'm not quite satisfied with "knowledge" thusly labled because it worked a thousand times (through experiment) or even a million times, etc..

so, though the determinism philosophy does indeed incoorporate everything into its general underlying principle, there is still the lack of a mathematical proof that this is the correct perspective. yes, there is _substantial_ evidence to suggest that our universe is entirely explainable through mathematics, yet there is still a lack of even experimental evidence that completes the picture to the extent of explaining conciousness, let alone a mathematical theory that does so.

i do not religiously subscribe to any POV, mostly due to the lack of a mathematical completeness to any of them, or the equivalent thereof.

it is quite possible that such a mathematical model will one day be discovered that fits everything we observe in this universe, perhaps even in all of existence, but that day has not quite come...if it ever will.

given the strange nature of conciousness, particularly considering this bizarre phenomena of the misconception of free will, i have also been exploring various other POVs, some of which consider the mathematical universe seperately from the conciousness. this need not be "spiritual" or "religious" though it is certainly abstract at this point, since, if any explanations do exist for conciousness outside of our physical universe, they are as of yet unknown.

still, they present reasonable perspectives on how conciousness and the mathematical universe might be related to each other. what is lacking is a theory on how this mysterious conciousness works, where it comes from, etc.. that said, i do not dismiss theories/observations because of a lack of ability to explain them. i find that to be a major fault of the die-hard scientific materialist POV. it can be rather...limiting, even to the point of denying/dismissing observed phenomena on the basis that there is no current explanation for them.

please understand that, though i do not _believe_ per se in any one theory, i have had what i called _preferred_ theories. this preferrence has usually been based upon aesthetics (as it might be applied to logic) as well as an overall _completeness_ of a given theory. there have been a select few to which i have excercised this "preference," and, just so you know, determinism is the main one to which i have done so.

so i am very familiar with the ideas of determinism, more so than most--though you two seem to be equally versed in its philosophy--yet i became more and more...disturbed...by this glaring irregularity of the misconception/illusion of free will that seems totally independent of any sort of predeterminism.

will
07-31-2006, 04:30 PM
good one montainvegan. to play along:

yes i _am_ will, and i am here to tell you that yes i am indeed FREE!

will
07-31-2006, 04:31 PM
(for a price) ^_^

apples_for_eva
08-01-2006, 11:02 AM
Helloooo, noodly appendage!

LOL LOL:laugh:

troub
02-08-2007, 01:06 AM
I believe in both free will and predestination at the same time.

explanation to follow!

VegeTexan
02-08-2007, 01:15 AM
I think I read somewhere once that "believe" is from latin roots meaning to wish. I don't speak latin so I wouldn't know for sure. I only know I don't believe in anything, or anyone except mamaquilla, cause she comes to me in my sleep.

And I believe in the Prime Directive, except where we need to violate it.