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Non-Determinism
Posted: 30 March 2011 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Here’s an question, and perhaps the reason I’m agnostic towards determinism.

Can you choose lie to me?

Say I were to ask you to lie to me about the color of the shirt you are wearing right now.

You are free to lie and tell me some random color, or tell me the truth or ignore the question.

While after reading this question it may be causal to your future, it certainly does not determine the choice of response you make.

You have a range of choices. Nothing, no reason to pick any choice over the other. There is no consequence, no benefit in your choice of response. Nothing to compel you to make one choice over any other.

Now you have a range of actions you can pick from. No desire, no need, no obligation.

If you want to argue the case for determinism then lie to me or not and show how the choice to lie to me or not about the color of your shirt was determine by circumstances which existed before you were born.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

If you want to argue the case for determinism then lie to me or not and show how the choice to lie to me or not about the color of your shirt was determine by circumstances which existed before you were born.

About 11.5 million years ago my ancestor (and yours) was about to be killed and eaten by a very strong and hungry ape, but luckily, the hungry ape was standing on an edge of a cliff, slipped and died and didn’t eat my ancestor. Fast forward 11.5 million years and I was born. I am about to lie to you, but for biological reasons (or chemical or mechanical, depending on your choice of taste for reductionism) due to the laws of nature, one of the neurotransmitters that was going to fire a neuron which would result in me lying to you, didn’t fire (it “slipped off the edge of a cliff”) and prevented me from lying to you.

[ Edited: 30 March 2011 09:29 AM by George ]
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Posted: 30 March 2011 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

You have a range of choices. Nothing, no reason to pick any choice over the other.

1) I do have a reason to pick one over the other.

2) Random choice are completely uninteresting, we are interested in choices with a best option with reason(s)

So the best thing to do is think of a choice you made and think of the reason you didn’t make it. edit: oops i meant the reason you didn’t select a different option

That reason is a preventative cause!

So you know you were prevented from doing otherwise in all but unimportant choices. although I doubt that unimportant choices are really random, in any case.

So if we are prevented from doing otherwise in a given set of cirumstances how could we do otherwise at all?

answer: If prior circumstances had been different.

Stephen

[ Edited: 30 March 2011 10:22 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 30 March 2011 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 09:55 AM
Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

You have a range of choices. Nothing, no reason to pick any choice over the other.

1) I do have a reason to pick one over the other.

Okay, what is the reason?

2) Random choice are completely uninteresting, we are interested in choices with a best option with reason(s)

If a human is capable of making a random choice, then the ideology of determinism does not necessarily apply to human behavior. In this thread/topic not the issue I’m interested in.

So the best thing to do is think of a choice you made and think of the reason you didn’t make it.

That reason is a preventative cause!

So you know you were prevented from doing otherwise in all but unimportant choices. although I doubt that unimportant choices are really random, in any case.

So if we are prevented from doing otherwise in a given set of cirumstances how could we do otherwise at all?

answer: If prior circumstances had been different.

Stephen

Okay, fine, What prevents you from lying to me? Or what prior circumstances prevents you from lying to me now?

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Posted: 30 March 2011 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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George - 30 March 2011 09:22 AM
Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

If you want to argue the case for determinism then lie to me or not and show how the choice to lie to me or not about the color of your shirt was determine by circumstances which existed before you were born.

About 11.5 million years ago my ancestor (and yours) was about to be killed and eaten by a very strong and hungry ape, but luckily, the hungry ape was standing on an edge of a cliff, slipped and died and didn’t eat my ancestor. Fast forward 11.5 million years and I was born. I am about to lie to you, but for biological reasons (or chemical or mechanical, depending on your choice of taste for reductionism) due to the laws of nature, one of the neurotransmitters that was going to fire a neuron which would result in me lying to you, didn’t fire (it “slipped off the edge of a cliff”) and prevented me from lying to you.

Thank you George making a choice to respond, well if you did have any choice in the matter. Perhaps I shouldn’t thank you as according to determinism you really had no choice in the matter.  smile But still I appreciate the time you took.

Whether circumstances of history allowed you to be here at this moment to respond is kind of outside of the scope of the question.

The slip of a neurotransmitter could be the result of imperfection in the human body. So while evolution caused the imperfection it did not necessarily determine that it would slip at that moment. Certainly any choice you make could be the result random firing neurotransmitters, like if you had chosen to lie, picking a random color. However no reason to think that choice was predetermine prior to a random firing of your neurotransmitters.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 10:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 10:35 AM
StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 09:55 AM
Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

You have a range of choices. Nothing, no reason to pick any choice over the other.

1) I do have a reason to pick one over the other.

Okay, what is the reason?

I thought this was the best way to make my point.


Okay, fine, What prevents you from lying to me? Or what prior circumstances prevents you from lying to me now?

I didn’t think lying to you would achieve my goal as well as making the points I made.

If you think you know why you didn’t select a different option you think you know what prevented you.

Stephen

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Posted: 30 March 2011 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 10:51 AM

Whether circumstances of history allowed you to be here at this moment to respond is kind of outside of the scope of the question.

No, it’s not. The “circumstances of history” are as relevant to my thoughts as they are to the shape of my kidneys. 

Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 10:51 AM

The slip of a neurotransmitter could be the result of imperfection in the human body. So while evolution caused the imperfection it did not necessarily determine that it would slip at that moment. Certainly any choice you make could be the result random firing neurotransmitters, like if you had chosen to lie, picking a random color. However no reason to think that choice was predetermine prior to a random firing of your neurotransmitters.

First, you cannot really call it an imperfection. It would only seem like an imperfection if I didn’t lie and later realized that to lie was the right (the more convenient) thing to do. Second, what happens in our brain is far from being random, just like, once again, what happens in my kidneys is not random. If you jump from a window you will not randomly fall toward the ground or rise à la Icarus toward the sun. Everything in the universe happens for a reason. The question here is, obviously, what role consciousness plays in all of this, and why it feels as if we were free to choose our actions, instead of acting on some (non-random!) impulse.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 30 March 2011 11:23 AM

The question here is, obviously, what role consciousness plays in all of this,

I suspect it’s simpler than that, though of course we’d like to know.

and why it feels as if we were free to choose our actions, instead of acting on some (non-random!) impulse.

But the compatibilists (the few genuine ones) have already worked this out George.

We feel free because we are free and that is because freedom is compatible with determinism.

To understand it you need to understand the relevant sense of could have done otherwise.

The relevant sense is metaphysically the same as the relevant sense the moon could have done otherwise.

stephen

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Posted: 30 March 2011 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 12:01 PM

But the compatibilists (the few genuine ones) have already worked this out George.

Maybe. Me doesn’t underztandz compabilitilitibitism.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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George - 30 March 2011 12:03 PM
StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 12:01 PM

But the compatibilists (the few genuine ones) have already worked this out George.

Maybe. Me doesn’t underztandz compabilitilitibitism.

Well, much of what passes for compatibilism is bullshit George.

And not only do you understand that, but also know it.

But the way compatibilists make sense of could have done otherwise is something you can understand and it fits with our experience of choice making.

So I’m confident that there is no problem on that score.

Stephen

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Posted: 30 March 2011 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 10:57 AM
Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 10:35 AM
StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 09:55 AM
Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 09:04 AM

You have a range of choices. Nothing, no reason to pick any choice over the other.

1) I do have a reason to pick one over the other.

Okay, what is the reason?

I thought this was the best way to make my point.


Okay, fine, What prevents you from lying to me? Or what prior circumstances prevents you from lying to me now?

I didn’t think lying to you would achieve my goal as well as making the points I made.

If you think you know why you didn’t select a different option you think you know what prevented you.

Stephen

Okay, if you were to ask that question of me, nothing prevents me from lying to you about a random color.

Nothing in my past compels me to choose one option over another. So how could my specific choice among a range of choices be predetermined?

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Posted: 30 March 2011 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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George - 30 March 2011 11:23 AM

No, it’s not. The “circumstances of history” are as relevant to my thoughts as they are to the shape of my kidneys.

Ok, however does the relevancy mean you could not pick anything other then what you did?

First, you cannot really call it an imperfection. It would only seem like an imperfection if I didn’t lie and later realized that to lie was the right (the more convenient) thing to do. Second, what happens in our brain is far from being random, just like, once again, what happens in my kidneys is not random. If you jump from a window you will not randomly fall toward the ground or rise à la Icarus toward the sun. Everything in the universe happens for a reason. The question here is, obviously, what role consciousness plays in all of this, and why it feels as if we were free to choose our actions, instead of acting on some (non-random!) impulse.

Sure but again that you have a reason does not of itself mean you could not pick other then what you did. The determinist would like to imply that this is the case but we are far from any proof. You could as well say God caused you to make your choice. It is no greater or lesser argument since neither has proof. Just your acceptance as an unproven truth.

Or we could act as a result of a random impulse and later, after the fact create and accept a reason because it seems plausible.

[ Edited: 30 March 2011 02:54 PM by Gnostikosis ]
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Posted: 30 March 2011 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 March 2011 12:01 PM
George - 30 March 2011 11:23 AM

The question here is, obviously, what role consciousness plays in all of this,

I suspect it’s simpler than that, though of course we’d like to know.

and why it feels as if we were free to choose our actions, instead of acting on some (non-random!) impulse.

But the compatibilists (the few genuine ones) have already worked this out George.

We feel free because we are free and that is because freedom is compatible with determinism.

To understand it you need to understand the relevant sense of could have done otherwise.

The relevant sense is metaphysically the same as the relevant sense the moon could have done otherwise.

stephen

Sure which is fine. However necessary only because one has already accepted determinism is true wrt human choice.

Determinism in this case can’t be scientifically proven so it’s acceptance or non-acceptance is a matter of faith.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Geez, I hate to ever post on these determinism vs free will threads, but here goes.  The problem you posed, Gnostikosis, is meaningless.  Just because our behavior is determined doesn’t mean that we necessarily have any conscious idea of the factors caused it. Lack of that knowledge doesn’t mitigate for free will. Suppose, for example, that I decide to lie to you if a coin flipped comes up heads and to tell the truth if it comes up tails.  That would certainly seem random, however, we know that the forces on the coin, while unable to be recognized, are clearly deterministic, that is, the coin doesn’t have free will.

Occam

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Posted: 30 March 2011 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Gnostikosis - 30 March 2011 02:51 PM

Sure which is fine. However necessary only because one has already accepted determinism is true wrt human choice.

Determinism in this case can’t be scientifically proven so it’s acceptance or non-acceptance is a matter of faith.

Exactly. Conversely, some philosophers claim determinism (specifically causal determinism) is a false doctrine and therefore free will does not need to be compatible to it at all.

From this essay in the SEP on causal determinism

Controversial status of determinism wrt to free will:

Determinism is deeply connected with our understanding of the physical sciences and their explanatory ambitions, on the one hand, and with our views about human free action on the other. In both of these general areas there is no agreement over whether determinism is true (or even whether it can be known true or false), and what the import for human agency would be in either case.

Conceptual Issues in Determinism:

For a variety of reasons this approach is fraught with problems, and the reasons explain why philosophers of science mostly prefer to drop the word “causal” from their discussions of determinism. Generally, as John Earman quipped (1986), to go this route is to “… seek to explain a vague concept—determinism—in terms of a truly obscure one—causation.” More specifically, neither philosophers’ nor laymen’s conceptions of events have any correlate in any modern physical theory. The same goes for the notions of cause and sufficient cause.

More problems arise wrt causation, free action and determinism:

Moreover, thinking about how such determination relates to free action, a further problem arises. If the ceteris paribus clause is open-ended, who is to say that it should not include the negation of a potential disruptor corresponding to my freely deciding not to go get the beer? If it does, then we are left saying “When A, B, C, … Ted will then go to the fridge for a beer, unless D or E or F or … or Ted decides not to do so.” The marionette strings of a “sufficient cause” begin to look rather tenuous.

No universal laws of nature, consequently determinism is a false doctrine:

But a third and growing class of philosophers holds that (universal, exceptionless, true) laws of nature simply do not exist. Among those who hold this are influential philosophers such as Nancy Cartwright, Bas van Fraassen, and John Dupré. For these philosophers, there is a simple consequence: determinism is a false doctrine.

OTOH, if nature is creative, evolutionary and non-deterministic, i.e. “dependence on factors other than initial state and input” and “involving choices between indistinguishable possibilities”, free will is essential and inherent in the universe.

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Posted: 30 March 2011 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Does Determinism have anything to do with “reason”?

I can see that Determinism is causal, but to say it is reasoned is almost like Deism.

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