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JoshuaD
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I think this will be my last post on this topic in this thread. I've really enjoyed the discussion, and it has helped me understand other people's positions (particularly compatabilism) better, and I'm grateful for that.

I'd like to summarize my criticism of the two philosophies that I've argued with in this thread: Determinism and Compatabilism. I'm doing this to both gather and organize my own thoughts, and in the hopes that those of you who I've been arguing with will consider what I've said more deeply (so that, when we revisit this topic in another few years, either you'll be better equipped to help me untangle my ignorance, or perhaps I will have helped untangle yours.) This is not a position from which I intend to argue further; it is a summary of what I currently believe, outlined in a (hopefully) simple and clear form.

Similarly, I would be glad to read any summarizing remarks that you guys would like for me to consider. I'm sure I will be thinking about this topic for a while, so any final thoughts you have will be appreciated.

Determinism:

From my viewpoint, Determinism relies too heavily on faith. It appears to me that the determinist sees a great deal of machinery all around him (just as I do), but then he leaps too far with his conclusions.

I see a great deal of settled order, and I say "there must be a great deal of settled order." The determinist sees the same thing I do, but he concludes "Everything must be settled order." In this way, I think he leaps further with his reasoning, and perhaps leaps off a cliff.

I think the determinist overestimates the extent to which he has observed the universe, and underestimates the vast infinities of ignorance we are immersed in, from all directions.

The determinist claims to base his beliefs in experience. He often disclaims the theist for having faith in a God which cannot be verified by any experience. But the faith of the Determinist, from my view, goes even further the the Theist's. The theist has faith in something he cannot experience. The Determinist has faith that his experience cannot be true.

Like the theist, the determinist has faith in something he cannot verify or experience. However, unlike the theist, the determinist denies his own apparent reality. In the name of his faith, the determinist denies that his choice is anything but an illusion.

Furthermore, and perhaps most damning, in this leap of faith, he does not gain anything. Where the theist at least gains a rock to build his philosophies from (an imaginary rock, perhaps), The Determinist gainst nothing. He does not gain one conclusion over a belief system (like mine) which permits the machinery, but also permits the mystery.

Compatabilism:

From my point of view, Compatablism is Determinism combined with double-speak. I have all of the same criticisms for Compatabilism that I do for Determinism, but I also have additional criticisms reserved solely for Compatabilism.

The Compatabilist insists that free will and determinism are "compatible" ideas. In order to accomplish this, it appears to me that the Compatabilist must torture language. It seems to me that he must embrace Orwellian double-think.

The Compatabilist says quite willingly that free will (as it is commonly defined) is not free. On the other hand, he says that pre-determined action (unavoidable action) is free. In order to accomplish this, he provides new definitions of "free will" which are rooted solely in forced action.

He says that we are machines playing out our inevitable parts. He says that I write this paragraph because I was absolutely destined to since the big bang (or before). However, he calls this inevitability "free" because it is based on my "preferences" and "desires", which he admits are also unavoidably set in stone.

I believe that a person is free to choose either A or B, and I call that freedom of choice. The Compatabilist says that a person must choose A, and he calls that freedom of choice.

The Compatabilist, like the Determinist, believes in dominoes and only dominoes. He believes, with absolute faith, in an impeccable and inevitable chain of cause-and-effect.

However, in order to maintain his primary assertion (that free will and determinism are compatible) he asserts that when a series of dominoes falls, we can call it "preference". And when a second series falls, we can call it "desires". And when a third series falls, we can call it a "sense of purpose". And, then, when these three series join together and cause a fourth series to fall just so, we can call this fourth series "free will" or "choice". In this way, they take machinery and call it free. Never mind that each of these series was always pre-determined, and always inevitable.

----

As I said, I am going to try to resist the temptation to argue these two topics further in the thread. I think I've gotten to (and past) the point of simply repeating myself to those who are also repeating themselves. So rather than continue to flood the thread (and make it hard for new people to explore the topic, which is a bit of a derailing of the original post) I'd like for this to be my final word for the time being. I will still be reading along, and will certainly read any final thoughts directed at me from those I've been arguing with (Tom, Fenring, Scifi, Donald, Aris), or any others who want to jump in.

Finally, Adam: I'd also be interested in reading your disagreements with anything I've said here. From my point of view, on the question of determinism, we seem to agree. That being said, you have maintained a discomfort with my use of the phrases "free will" and "choice", and it's not a discomfort I fully understand. I believe I understand the positions of Tom, Fen, Scifi, Donald, and Aris. I don't believe I completely understand yours. Anything you could do to help me with that would be appreciated.

[ March 05, 2015, 03:28 PM: Message edited by: JoshuaD ]

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Pyrtolin
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In addition to what Fenring said, I'm also trying to say that when a free will argument is made that posits something a priori and uses a common term to refer to it, if someone metaphorically, for the purpose of communication (choice, will, agency, etc...) that it's not productive to try to redefine the concept in deterministic terms, and them pretend that was what was meant by it.

If you want to object to or argue against the concept itself, that's one thing, and grounds for good discussion. Arguing that something was meant by the term is similarly defying the premise and not productive to comparative discussion.

Like with the privilege discussion, accepting the premise does not preclude you from rejecting the concept. But constantly defying the premise or arguing from semantic distaste of the asserted terminology makes coherent discussion impossible.

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Aris Katsaris
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I use the words "decision", "choice", "will", "agency", "freedom", "determination" in the exact same way that I'd use them in the real world for every day concerns.

It's you people who want to redefine the meaning of the words, because only if you scramble words BEYOND the possibility of understanding, BEYOND the possibility of them connecting to anything *actual*, ONLY if you load them with a dozen different and contradictory assumptions, ONLY THEN can you possibly defend your insane, logically incoherent positions.

So you argue, insanely that a free choice isn't a free choice if someone can predict it from the *personality* and *preferences* of the person making that choice. For a person to be free, you argue, they somehow seem to need something else than their own brains making that decision!

Yes, you need *centuries* of philosophical and religious wankery to be able to scramble your mind like that, turning it inside out.

[ March 05, 2015, 04:47 PM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Fenring
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Aris, the issue is the definition of "free." You seem to me to be using the term to mean something like "unconstrained by outside forces", or perhaps "not prevented from expressing one's nature." This is perfectly valid, but is not at all what Christians, for instance, mean when they say it. They mean specifically an agency that does not follow natural law; it is divine. It, and not the physical body and its laws, is the important driver in the system, and it tries to express its will over the objections of the fallen body.

What you're talking about is effectively the same thing as political freedom, meaning that no one (including a creepy ghost) interferes with the natural desires of a person. It is, as scifi put it before, freedom of expression. This is, however, not what Josh is talking about when he uses the word, and distinctly not what is meant in common parlance. People who tend to believe in free will think they are not constrained by anything, including natural law.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
ONLY THEN can you possibly defend your insane, logically incoherent positions.
So what?Perhaps that's true. It's completely irrelevant to the process of trying to explain and honestly understand any given position. No one is trying to convert you to believe their position; defense is completely irrelevant. You seem to be the only one here whose bound and determined to evangelize instead of respectfully discuss and earnestly try to comprehend what others are saying, even if you feel that they're wrong, illogical, or what have you.
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Aris Katsaris
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I tried to not use the phrase 'free will' as a polite consideration to not confusing people here, but then people also wanted to take away my ability to say 'choice' 'decision' 'determination' and any other means of expressing the ability of human BRAINS to pick one alternative path out of others based on deterministic criteria.

So, I'd pretty much say 'eff you people', I'm the one using words simply and properly, like they're always used by human beings who are *actually* trying to communicate concept, and the 'free willers' are the ones who attempt to muddy up the issue.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
What you're talking about is effectively the same thing as political freedom, meaning that no one (including a creepy ghost) interferes with the natural desires of a person. It is, as scifi put it before, freedom of expression. This is, however, not what Josh is talking about when he uses the word, and distinctly not what is meant in common parlance. People who tend to believe in free will think they are not constrained by anything, including natural law.
And it's fine if you think that to be illogical, irrational, incoherent, or what have you. No one is asking you to subscribe to the concept,, only to show some respect for that being what they understand and use the term to mean, even if it doesn't align with your beliefs.

[ March 05, 2015, 05:34 PM: Message edited by: Pyrtolin ]

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scifibum
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quote:
He says that I write this paragraph because I was absolutely destined to since the big bang (or before).
Just as a note, I certainly don't believe this. I suppose it's possible, but I would tend to suppose that there's enough randomness that this isn't true.
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TomDavidson
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Yeah. One can be a determinist and still believe, for example, in quantum-level randomness.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Yeah. One can be a determinist and still believe, for example, in quantum-level randomness.

Well, I would just modify this to say that one can be a materialist and still believe in randomness. I think determinism ought to mean that literally every outcome would have been fully predictable right from the Big Bang if you had the calculus to figure it out, and randomness obviously makes accurate prediction impossible. I think determinism refers to an unbroken chain of causality where all the elements of the system are present from the start and nothing is added.
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MattP
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quote:
I think determinism ought to mean that literally every outcome would have been fully predictable right from the Big Bang if you had the calculus to figure it out, and randomness obviously makes accurate prediction impossible.
I think this depends on the scale of influence that quantum randomness has on macroscopic events. A universe in which a perfect knowledge of the current state allows me to predict with near perfect precision a later state is a universe that is practically deterministic, even if not perfectly so. Like classical physics, determinism would be the model that's good enough to get work done and it would certainly be deterministic enough for purposes of a free will discussion.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
I think determinism ought to mean that literally every outcome would have been fully predictable right from the Big Bang if you had the calculus to figure it out, and randomness obviously makes accurate prediction impossible.
I think this depends on the scale of influence that quantum randomness has on macroscopic events. A universe in which a perfect knowledge of the current state allows me to predict with near perfect precision a later state is a universe that is practically deterministic, even if not perfectly so. Like classical physics, determinism would be the model that's good enough to get work done and it would certainly be deterministic enough for purposes of a free will discussion.
I don't know how much randomness in this case would effect human behavior. It depends on quantum gravity once we solve it. It also depends on what time really is. But even if there's just a bit of randomness in human behavior that would still be enough to be able to say "you never know what he'll do next", versus "once we learn enough he will be completely predictable."
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
But even if there's just a bit of randomness in human behavior that would still be enough to be able to say "you never know what he'll do next", versus "once we learn enough he will be completely predictable."
As a sidenote the many-worlds-interpretation of quantum mechanics turns quantum-randomness into a deterministic phenomenon (everything that can possibly happen, gets happened in *some* Everrett branch), while at the same time meaning that you as a person can't know in which Everett branch you'll end up on (because you end up on all of them, but your multiply-splitting selves aren't in contact with each other).

So if that interpretation is correct, the universe would be progressing completely deterministically as seen from the outside, but it would still be unpredictable as experienced from the inside.

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Fenring
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Although the many-worlds theory plays havoc with Christian metaphysics, at the same time it offers a nice convenience for them, which is the introduction of the concept of "randomness, but only from the point of view of those in creation." It closes the hole of there being things God didn't cause, and yet that appear random to us (and actually are random to us).
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Adam Masterman
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This has gotten somewhat muddy: "Many Worlds" is not a theory; its an interpretation. The same is true of the Copenhagen Interpretation, the classic interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which asserts wave-functions collapsing into irreversible thermodynamic reality upon observation. The former allows for a deterministic reality, the latter does not. In both cases, the *theory* is quantum mechanics, which, as theories go, is quite reliable. However, what we observe in quantum mechanics is hard to understand; many experiments (like the double slit) yield results which are very repeatable, but whose meaning and implications are, really, anyone's guess. Hence, interpretations have arisen to explain *why* the universe behaves how it does.

These interpretations aren't scientific theories, in part because its not at all clear that they are falsifiable. Indeed, Copenhagen and Many Worlds both "predict" a universe that obeys the laws of quantum mechanics; neither is proved or disproved by the refining of that theory.

Its is possible that newly observed phenomena could invalidate an interpretation, but not guaranteed. Its also very much true that the prominence of an interpretation is not scientifically determined. Many world has grown in popularity, not because it is more predictive, accurate or useful than the Copenhagen interpretation; rather, its major selling point is that it allows a deterministic universe, which is a basic axiom of science. This is hardly evidence that it is more likely to be correct than the Copenhagen interpretation, merely an example of assuming the conclusion (which, in the case of science, I would argue is a necessary fallacy).

This doesn't actually hinder the scientific method; axioms are necessary to actually build knowledge and test hypotheses. And interpretations are actually completely unnecessary; quantum mechanics "works", and gives us microwave ovens and cell phones, without any need for an interpretation at all. Its one of those weird areas where science and philosophy overlap, but its still very important to be clear about the difference between an interpretation and a theory.

If we are asking whether the universe is deterministic, the theory of quantum mechanics is potentially useful. However, both the Copenhagen interpretation and the Many Worlds Interpretation are philosophical *assertions* regarding quantum mechanics, not variations of the theory itself. Neither has any scientific verification, excepting the fact that neither *contradicts* what is observed in Quantum Mechanics. In short, science is not about to answer this old question for us; at least not through this particular means.

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Fenring
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That both interpretations are paradigms within which to work is one thing; saying that they are arguably non-falsifiable is another. You might as well just say that any cosmological statement may be impossible to falsify; so what? If we learn nothing else from the Incompleteness Theorem we at least can say that it is possible both for something within an axiomatic system to be true and also for there to be no possible proof for it. In this sense it's true that it is within the realm of possibility that Many-Worlds is absolutely true and also that it effectively cannot ever be tested or demonstrated. This doesn't, however, mean that it isn't a theory. It's no more just 'an interpretation' of quantum observations than evolution is just 'an interpretation' of observations in breeding and natural selection. It's a completely separate set of ontological statements from the basic observations of quantum, and although at this point it is merely predictive and not shown, this is only because it's in its relative infancy as a topic. As another analogy, we can take projectile motion and make observations about it. We can then formulate a theory about how it works mechanically; this can be expressed in the form of an equation. This part is analogous to tests we run of quantum mechanics, where we are trying to formulate mathematically what is occurring. But then with projectile motion we can go the next step and assert Universal Gravitation, or even further than that and assert General Relativity. These are both theories, and both take basic tests and try to give them an ontological underpinning. This is analogous to the 'interpretations' of quantum. But just because the term "interpretation" is used in their naming doesn't mean it's any different from other statements a next-level up that try to explain why the lower-step phenomenon is the way it is.

That being said, I see no reason to assert that Many-Worlds implies determinism. Let's say the hard "free-willers" are right and that somehow there is free will that is free of chains of causality; Many Worlds can still occur, it just means that each new possibility or choice generates the new branching universe. Many-World implies that all possibilities occur, not that each event only follows from purely deterministic qualities. Many-Worlds and the existence of a divine creator can both be true, for instance.

It's true that quantum fluctuations and unpredictable location/momentum may well be explained away eventually as not random at all, at which time a better case could be made for determinism.

I'd also like to mention as an aside that the Copenhagen 'interpretation' and the Many-Worlds 'interpretation' are not the same type of statement with differing postulated scenarios. Copenhagen is simply an attempt to phrase quantum results in plain English without embellishing or resorting to abstraction that cannot be conceived. It is not a statement about anything other than the results of the experiments and what they might literally stand for. In this sense it's not a theory but simply a translation into English of what the results of the experiments seemed to be. Many-Worlds, however, makes new statements that are not simply restatements of an experiment but are positive ontological predictions that if true would impact our understanding of cosmology, among other things. It's definitely a theory, albeit one that is in its infancy and right now we don't know how to test. In this sense it fits right in with string theory, M-theory and all the rest as being on the fringe of the scientific method since we don't yet even know how to test them in any empirical way.

And even if one accepts a completely deterministic version of Many-Worlds, that still doesn't eliminate the word "random" from our lexicon, because it is one thing to say that from a God perspective everything is determined, and another to say that the statement is of any relevance from within the universe. From the point of view of each of us, it may be entirely unpredictable which universe that specific person will end up in. The knowledge that he actually did make all other possible choices somewhere else doesn't speak to the possibility or lack thereof of being able to predict what will happen next. You may as well just say "I'll make the other choices I never made when I get to heaven." Incidentally, I don't even see how Many-Worlds is possible as an explanation of anything unless there is true randomness. If the universe was purely deterministic then there could only be one possible outcome and therefore only one universe.

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Fenring
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This article is about a line of investigation in quantum theory that attempts to reintroduce a concrete rather than probabilistic ontology to reality:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140624-fluid-tests-hint-at-concrete-quantum-reality/

The relevance to this thread is in this descriptive paragraph:

quote:
To some researchers, the experiments suggest that quantum objects are as definite as droplets, and that they too are guided by pilot waves — in this case, fluid-like undulations in space and time. These arguments have injected new life into a deterministic (as opposed to probabilistic) theory of the microscopic world first proposed, and rejected, at the birth of quantum mechanics.
All this to say, that most modern physics theory had all but rejected a deterministic universe, as I mentioned above, because its current model involved true randomness in the system. In order to posit determinism nothing new must be added to the system, and any measure of 'probability' must be a measurement of how much information one is missing, rather than a comment on how certain events cannot be predicted.
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