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Posted: 30 April 2006 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Philosophy and language

dougsmith wrote
“There is a lot of attempt to redefine issues in philosophy, or solve problems by linguistic prestidigitation. My advice for you is to run the other way when you see too much folderol about language ...”

dougsmith,
That reminded me of a quote “Language came before philosophy and that is what’s wrong with philosophy.” Are you familiar with the quotation? I don’t remember who said it—possibly Ayer. Would you like to comment on it?
Bob

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Posted: 01 May 2006 01:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Re: Philosophy and language

[quote author=“Bob”]That reminded me of a quote: “Language came before philosophy and that is what’s wrong with philosophy.” Are you familiar with the quotation? I don’t remember who said it—possibly Ayer. Would you like to comment on it?
Bob

Hm, don’t know it, Bob.

Much of mid-20th c. analytic philosophy was too obsessed with language as the key to reality. Throughout the ages, of course, philosophers agonized about “truth”, what was true and how we knew it.

Much of what went on in the mid 20th c. was to view “truth” as a strictly linguistic phenomenon, and to analyze it in terms of words, and how truth-talk worked in sentences.

This is all well and good as far as it goes. Clearly language is critically important. But what was missing was any sort of deep understanding of the role of science, experiment and extra-linguistic data and phenomena in the picture. Fortunately analytic philosophy (IMHO) got back on the right track in the late 20th c. ...

Arguably there are still strains of it here and there. Of course, it’s still an enormous problem in so-called “continental” philosophy.

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Posted: 01 May 2006 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Hume first put forth a theory to explain this, where he explained that a deterministic set of laws does not necessarily correlate with a necessity of causation. Physical laws are descriptions of events, and the laws-in-themselves have no causal role. So even if you were to provide a complete physical description of the brain’s decision-making process, those laws constructed from said description are not the cause of the brains behavior.

Humes I beleive, i could be wrong too, had to do with making liberty(freewill) and Necessity(determinism) work together. He used Wittgensteins method and resolved the issue linguistically so that we could have both determinism and freewill at the sametime.

If we were walking and I kicked a cat I could be blamed or prasied, but If I stepped on its tail by accident I couldn’t be because it was by accident, spontaneous.

.6. Hume’s answer to the objections from the concept of causation

3.6.1. Hume’s theory of causation…

“‘Tis constant union alone with which we are acquainted; and ‘tis from from the constant union the necessity arises… the necessity, which enters into that idea, is nothing but a determination of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, and infer the existence of one from that of the other.” (T 448/400)

“The necessity of any action, whether of matter or of the mind, is not properly a quality in the agent, but in any thinking and intelligent being, who may consider the action, and consists in the determination of his thought toinfer its existence from some preceding objects… (T 455f/408, E1 94))

3.6.2. ... and what follows from it as an answer to the objections

Ad F) If causation is somehow “in the observer” then psychophysical causation is no problem: “The same experienced union has the same effect on the mind, whether the united objects be motives, volitions or actions.” (T p.454/406f)

Zu G) If (in lucky cases) the motive is not force this does not mean that there is no relation of cause and effect between motive and action. For someone who has grasped that causation is somehow “in the observer” will not assume any longer that causal relations between physical objects is “something of force, and violence, and constraint, of which we are not sensible” in the first place. Instead, he will say that the succession of motive and action and the succession of the billiard ball’s being pushed and its rolling away do not differ in the presence of any force in the second case and the absence of it in the first case. There is only regular succession in both cases, and this is all we can expect from a causal relation:

“Let no one [object] that I assert the necessity of human actions, and place them on the same footing with the operations of senseless matter. I do not ascribe to the will that unintelligible necessity, which is suppos’d to lie in matter. But I ascribe to matter that intelligible quality, call it necessity or not, which the most rigorous orthodoxy ... must allow to belong to the will [predictability]. I change, therefore, nothing in the receiv’d systems with regard to the will, but only with regard to material objects.” (T p.457f/410)

4. The “doctrine of liberty”

Hume makes a difference between two kinds of liberty:

“[1] that [liberty] which is oppos’d to violence [liberty of spontaneity]

[2] and that which means a negation of necessity and causes [liberty of indifference].”(T455/407)

“[1] liberty, ... when opposed to constraint”

“[2] liberty, when opposed to necessity…”(E1 ?74, p.96)

Hume believes that there is liberty according to [1] but not according to [2]:

“The first is even the most common sense of the word; and as ‘tis only that species of liberty, which it concerns us to preserve, our thoughts have been principally turn’d towards it, and have almost universally confounded it with the other.” (T 455/407f)

“liberty, when opposed to necessity… is the same thing with chance; which is universally allowed to have no existence.” (E1 ?74, p.96)

“What is meant by liberty, when applied to voluntary actions? We cannot surely mean that actions have so little connexion with motives [...] that one affords no inference [to] to the existence of the other. [...] By liberty [when applied to voluntary actions], then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.” (E1 ?73, p.95)

5. The compatibility of the “doctrine of necessity” and the “doctrine of liberty”

Hume’s opinion is: liberty according to [1] is compatible with the “doctrine of necessity”, liberty according to [2] isn’t. But liberty according to [2] doesn’t exist anyway, since there is no chance in nature. Liberty according to [1] suffices in order to justify punishment. So the kind of liberty there is is also just the kind of liberty we want.


I also believe in a different type of dichotomy, one between the mental and the physical, that is non-reductive, yet whose ontology is wholly linguistic. There are certain events that only contain meaning through descriptions using mental terms. While these events may correspond (we use the term “supervene” in Philosophy of Mind) to a physical event in the brain, linguistically you cannot reduce the description of the mental event (say “pain”) to the description of the physical event (what is termed “c-fiber excitation” in philosophy; a simple term used to refer to whatever brain-event actually happens when a person experiences “pain”). This is a theory known as “Anomalous Monism”, and was put forth by Donald Davidson in his essay “Mental Events”. I believe “free-will” can be included within AM, or within a similar theory that builds off of Davidson’s work.

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Posted: 01 May 2006 04:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Ooof, WITHTEETH, a lot of stuff here. I can see you’re learning about Hume in your philosophy class now.

:wink:

[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]Hume first put forth a theory to explain this, where he explained that a deterministic set of laws does not necessarily correlate with a necessity of causation. Physical laws are descriptions of events, and the laws-in-themselves have no causal role. So even if you were to provide a complete physical description of the brain’s decision-making process, those laws constructed from said description are not the cause of the brains behavior.

Humes I beleive, i could be wrong too, had to do with making liberty(freewill) and Necessity(determinism) work together. He used Wittgensteins method and resolved the issue linguistically so that we could have both determinism and freewill at the sametime.

You have to be a bit careful here with Hume. First of all, he didn’t “use Wittgenstein’s method”, since Wittgenstein lived several hundred years later. He didn’t “resolve the issue linguistically” ... Hume wasn’t really interested in language per se, but rather in perceptions.

Hume had a very particular view of what cause and effect amounted to; he saw them as mental operations of a certain sort, which is not how I see them. Cause and effect are things in the world.

One also has to realize that Hume existed long before the advances in 20th century science ...

Hume was a great thinker in many ways, but I would not rely on him as the fount of my beliefs on anything.

“[1] liberty, ... when opposed to constraint”

“[2] liberty, when opposed to necessity…”(E1 ?74, p.96)

Hume believes that there is liberty according to [1] but not according to [2]:

“The first is even the most common sense of the word; and as ‘tis only that species of liberty, which it concerns us to preserve, our thoughts have been principally turn’d towards it, and have almost universally confounded it with the other.” (T 455/407f)

“liberty, when opposed to necessity… is the same thing with chance; which is universally allowed to have no existence.” (E1 ?74, p.96)

“What is meant by liberty, when applied to voluntary actions? We cannot surely mean that actions have so little connexion with motives [...] that one affords no inference [to] to the existence of the other. [...] By liberty [when applied to voluntary actions], then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.” (E1 ?73, p.95)

5. The compatibility of the “doctrine of necessity” and the “doctrine of liberty”

Hume’s opinion is: liberty according to [1] is compatible with the “doctrine of necessity”, liberty according to [2] isn’t. But liberty according to [2] doesn’t exist anyway, since there is no chance in nature. Liberty according to [1] suffices in order to justify punishment. So the kind of liberty there is is also just the kind of liberty we want.

Where is this gloss from? Is it from your professor? If so you really should quote him or her.

At any rate he/she is quite correct about all this, re. Hume. Liberty exists “when opposed to constraint” ... that is, we are free when we are unconstrained. Liberty does not exist “when opposed to necessity”. But we need some further analysis of what we mean by “necessity”. In my opinion, Hume had no good theory of necessity, since he was a thoroughgoing skeptic about the real world.

Modern theories about necessity (or “modal logic”) depend for their ontology on things like physical or mathematical laws. E.g., something is physically necessary if it follows from a physical law. Something is logically necessary if it follows from a law of logic. So being “at liberty” doesn’t mean that we can break necessary laws of physics or logic. (Hume would not have been able to describe the case that way. This, IMO, is one of his weaknesses).

You will also note that Hume says “chance ... has no existence”. Hum! We can see he lived before the development of quantum mechanics. Another reason why we have to treat the writings of long-dead philosophers with large grains of salt.


[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]I also believe in a different type of dichotomy, one between the mental and the physical, that is non-reductive, yet whose ontology is wholly linguistic.

:?: :?:

What do you mean? There is a lot of highfalutin’ terminology here. What ontology is “wholly linguistic”? The mental? The physical? Both? And what does it mean to say that its “ontology is wholly linguistic”? That the mind or physical reality is just made up of words?! That’s pretty loony.

Surely modern science has shown that the physical is made up of things such as quarks, leptons, forces, et cetera, and that the mind is made up of perceptions, beliefs, pictures, which are reducible to (or supervenient upon) states of the brain. Nothing necessarily linguistic about it.

[quote author=“WITHTEETH”] There are certain events that only contain meaning through descriptions using mental terms. While these events may correspond (we use the term “supervene” in Philosophy of Mind) to a physical event in the brain, linguistically you cannot reduce the description of the mental event (say “pain”) to the description of the physical event (what is termed “c-fiber excitation” in philosophy; a simple term used to refer to whatever brain-event actually happens when a person experiences “pain”). This is a theory known as “Anomalous Monism”, and was put forth by Donald Davidson in his essay “Mental Events”. I believe “free-will” can be included within AM, or within a similar theory that builds off of Davidson’s work.

I see you’re learning about Don Davidson as well. Must be a fun class.  :wink:

Remember, it is one thing to describe what he says and another to make any sense of it. [Caveat: Davidson was one of the direct targets of my Ph.D. dissertation].

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Posted: 06 May 2006 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Hmm, how would quantom mechanics effect the determinsm/freewill debate? I know there is a notion of indeterminism, but that still is not free will.

Whats your definition of free will? What Philosophers/scientists make an impact on free will to you? I’m limited in my knowledge im discovering, Philosophy is the broadest topic I can imagine spreading its wings everywhere. its gets into the roots of all topics.  :shock:

Good stuff!

:D

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Posted: 06 May 2006 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]Hmm, how would quantom mechanics effect the determinsm/freewill debate? I know there is a notion of indeterminism, but that still is not free will.

Hello WITHTEETH,

Quantum mechanics really has no particular effect on free will. Actions are only freely willed if they are determined by one’s beliefs and desires. All that QM does is tell us that there is an element of chance in all macro-causation. But to the extent that any particular behavior is caused by a chance QM fluctuation, it ipso facto isn’t an action. It’s just a twitch or jerk.

So it’s just as you say: QM effects the na憊e everyday notion of “determinism” by telling us that at the level of the very small, determinism is false. But even the level of synapses and nerve fibers (the level at which brain function takes place) is very large by QM standards. So QM is basically something we can disregard.

Nevertheless, “chance” is a real thing in the world. Hume was wrong.

[quote author=“WITHTEETH”]Whats your definition of free will? What Philosophers/scientists make an impact on free will to you? I’m limited in my knowledge im discovering, Philosophy is the broadest topic I can imagine spreading its wings everywhere. its gets into the roots of all topics.  :shock:

Philosophy is very cool stuff, yes ... but even cooler is science, since we make real advances based on evidence rather than armchair meditation. If you like, philosophy prepares the ground, but science does the planting and harvesting.

Dan Dennett has some good discussions of free will in a couple of his books. I am familiar with his older one called Elbow Room. That’s a good place to start.

Defining “free will” would be very difficult. First we would have to define what we meant by the “will”. Then we would have to distinguish between behaviors caused by the will freely versus those that were done by compulsion for example.

Roughly, we should say that a free act is one that was caused by our beliefs and desires, unconstrained by any unusual or untoward outside influences.

That is very preliminary, but at least a start. I could go farther but I don’t want to confuse things here, and things pretty soon get to be real work.

:wink:

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Posted: 06 May 2006 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Thats the point of philosophy though isn’t it? To take something extremely simple and make it as complicated as possible! lol
but then you have to simplify again i guess to comfertably understand it.  :D

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Posted: 06 May 2006 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“WITHTEETH”]Hmm, how would quantom mechanics effect the determinsm/freewill debate? I know there is a notion of indeterminism, but that still is not free will.

Hello WITHTEETH,

Quantum mechanics really has no particular effect on free will. Actions are only freely willed if they are determined by one’s beliefs and desires. All that QM does is tell us that there is an element of chance in all macro-causation. But to the extent that any particular behavior is caused by a chance QM fluctuation, it ipso facto isn’t an action. It’s just a twitch or jerk.

So it’s just as you say: QM effects the na憊e everyday notion of “determinism” by telling us that at the level of the very small, determinism is false. But even the level of synapses and nerve fibers (the level at which brain function takes place) is very large by QM standards. So QM is basically something we can disregard.

Nevertheless, “chance” is a real thing in the world. Hume was wrong.

Can you briefly mention a couple examples or a link of occurences that randomly happen by chance, I’ve heard about this by ear only and have not been able to pin point anything online about it. I heard something about black holes but if it is black holes what specifically.

It sounds like indeterminsm is only indetermined because we haven’t found the right questions and done the math yet, whats the chance of it being that? :?

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Posted: 07 May 2006 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Hi WITHTEETH,

I have given a sort of answer to your question on probability and QM here , since it deserves separate treatment and isn’t really specifically about free will.

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Posted: 09 May 2006 09:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Hi WITHTEETH,

I have given a sort of answer to your question on probability and QM here , since it deserves separate treatment and isn’t really specifically about free will.

I invite everyone in this discussion to review our conversation at this same website under Humanism (Secular and Otherwise), entitled: “Humanism is Not About Free Will”.  We sort out a number of the logical issues raised above.
BOB GULACK

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Posted: 22 October 2006 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Soft determinism

I am a soft deteminist , so I find our we choose among our causes . We overcome them .One gets over slight to ones ego .One puts oneself among better people . What we do not accept is contra-causal free will- no determinants, causes. We can give and take blame: that is the nature of responsibility. So , I see no reason not to be angry when that anger can help determine someone else’s behavior. One ccan do that calmly! Anyway , the fight with indeterminism is over; it is now a fight between soft and hard determinism.  :D :?:  :idea:

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 29 October 2006 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Geez, I just got through reading four pages of esoteric stuff that seemed to be far afield of the thread topic which, to a non-philosopher would seem to have a relatively simple answer.

While we can’t prove the law of cause and effect, we haven’t been able to find any instances where it didn’t hold.  So, I’ll accept it as accurate for now.

This means everything that that goes on in our brains is determined (even if by quantum randomness at the sub-atomic level). 

However, the number of causes is so great, and the interactions among them are so complex that we cannot possibly predict the outcome precisely, or often at all accurately.

As such, we have to function as if we had free-will even though it’s a chimera.
====
It sounds pretty simple, but I’m sure I’ve broken many laws and proprietaries of philosophy.  Could someone point out my errors?

Occam

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Posted: 29 October 2006 08:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]Geez, I just got through reading four pages of esoteric stuff that seemed to be far afield of the thread topic which, to a non-philosopher would seem to have a relatively simple answer.

While we can’t prove the law of cause and effect, we haven’t been able to find any instances where it didn’t hold.  So, I’ll accept it as accurate for now.

This means everything that that goes on in our brains is determined (even if by quantum randomness at the sub-atomic level). 

However, the number of causes is so great, and the interactions among them are so complex that we cannot possibly predict the outcome precisely, or often at all accurately.

As such, we have to function as if we had free-will even though it’s a chimera.
====
It sounds pretty simple, but I’m sure I’ve broken many laws and proprietaries of philosophy.  Could someone point out my errors?

On the causal stuff you’re right on, Occam. But I don’t think that free will is essentially contra-causal. Free will is compatible with being determined.

The result of this is that we do have free will, while being determined.

To flip the problem around: try to make sense of a notion of free will that didn’t involve causal determination of actions by beliefs and desires. It can’t be done.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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The problem with contra-causal free will is that one would be without a compass so that one might do just anytihng and therefore not be responsible .So Doug and I agree on causal free will .Doug, I am reading some of your posts now.

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 29 October 2006 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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I guess I don’t understand the definitions of free will, determinism, and cause and effect. 

It seems that while I see a clear dichotomy between being alive and dead, just as I see one between having one’s behavior determined by prior causes and being able to make decisions at least partially independent of the causes, you see that determinism and free-will can co-exist.

Sort of like in The Princess Bride when the magician (Billy Crystal) brings the dead prince back to life (well, he’s mostly dead).

In politics and social issues the unsophisticated tend to see things as two-valued and are not able to see the shades in most issues between black and white.  I suppose I’m too unsophisticated philosophically to see that being dead is really partially alive, that is, that one can have free-will that is causally determined.  (I got a shiver just typing that).  :shock:
Occam

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