Choice or Determinism

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thedoc
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by thedoc » Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:55 pm

John K wrote:Compatibilism (W.T. Stace) offers a possible way out of this age old dilemma. If the cause of said event is internal, resulting actions are determined by ourselves. Just a thought.

So we choose to determine what those actions will be?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:16 pm

It appears you are lumping the ability to choose somehow with theistic belief? ...I think you are making two separate arguments here. 1) That we have free will 2) Determinism precludes God. Which one would you like to discuss?


In support of aiddon's claim, consider the following:

Determinism...two types.

1) UltraCalvinism -- the belief that God predetermines everything, then micromanages the universe so as to make only one course of action ever happen. Requires Theism.

2) Materialism -- the belief that there is absolutely nothing but materials and scientific laws operating in the universe -- nothing but material cause plus natural effect -- so that from the initial singularity of origin every event in the history of the universe was already guaranteed to happen. Does not require Theism.

Thus Determinism can be explicated in terms of either metaphysic. The real question, though, is not about whether Theism or Atheism is true, but whether there's any way out of Determinism in either case.

aiddon
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:04 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
It appears you are lumping the ability to choose somehow with theistic belief? ...I think you are making two separate arguments here. 1) That we have free will 2) Determinism precludes God. Which one would you like to discuss?


In support of aiddon's claim, consider the following:

Determinism...two types.

1) UltraCalvinism -- the belief that God predetermines everything, then micromanages the universe so as to make only one course of action ever happen. Requires Theism.

2) Materialism -- the belief that there is absolutely nothing but materials and scientific laws operating in the universe -- nothing but material cause plus natural effect -- so that from the initial singularity of origin every event in the history of the universe was already guaranteed to happen. Does not require Theism.

Thus Determinism can be explicated in terms of either metaphysic. The real question, though, is not about whether Theism or Atheism is true, but whether there's any way out of Determinism in either case.
This is why I like you, IC. An informed opinion, cutting though the thicket of obscurity and presenting arguments clearly and intelligently. Philosophical writing sorely lacks this nowadays.

What is your particular stance on your above statements? Do you think that free will could also be described using theism and atheism starting points? Do you have an opinion on compatibilism, or do you think that is just trying to have your cake and eat it?

Glad you kickstarted this discussion into life. :D

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:29 pm

Thank you, aiddon: you're most kind. The appreciation is mutual. I find you a very sane, reasonable interlocutor.

Yes, I think it is possible to discover a place for the concept "free will" in a Theist universe. This is because foreknowledge and predestination are distinct concepts. There's no necessity that if God "knows" a thing, He is therefore the effective *cause* of that thing.

But Materialism? No, I can't save it from Determinism. If it's suppositions are true, then Determinism seems inevitably to follow.

Some people vainly look to "quantum physics" to get us out of the causality chain; but I think this is a vain hope because it only changes the mechanism by which the Determinism takes place -- moving it from blind causality to total randomness -- but either way we are the helpless pawns of forces that determine what will happen to us, without any volition on our part. The thing we need to save is the idea that our decisions, not impersonal forces of any kind, actually matter in the causal chain.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by John K » Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:43 pm

thedoc wrote:
John K wrote:Compatibilism (W.T. Stace) offers a possible way out of this age old dilemma. If the cause of said event is internal, resulting actions are determined by ourselves. Just a thought.
So we choose to determine what those actions will be?
Not always. I can decide to leave the room for lunch (internal cause). I can be dragged out of the room by the police (external cause). Both scenarios have causes, but are different kinds of causes.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:54 pm

Not always. I can decide to leave the room for lunch (internal cause). I can be dragged out of the room by the police (external cause). Both scenarios have causes, but are different kinds of causes.
Yet if Determinism is true, then even what you call an "internal cause" is actually, secretly, the long-term product of an "external cause". In that case, the distinction disappears again.

In other words, I might *think* I chose to go to lunch, but it was actually a product of my stomach pains, which were a product of my having eaten too early, which were a product of my having gotten up to early, which was a product of my having slept badly, which was a product of my having watched a disturbing film on the previous night, which was a product of my wife choosing the wrong channel on the TV, which was a product of her annoyance with me, which was a product of my having come home late from the pub... and so on, back to the Big Bang.

I really didn't *choose* to go to lunch: rather, I was *caused* to feel the sensation of making a choice by a specific chain previous events. My "internal" cause was an "external" one, ultimately.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by John K » Wed Jan 15, 2014 10:30 pm

Immanuel Can wrote: Yet if Determinism is true, then even what you call an "internal cause" is actually, secretly, the long-term product of an "external cause". In that case, the distinction disappears again.

In other words, I might *think* I chose to go to lunch, but it was actually a product of my stomach pains, which were a product of my having eaten too early, which were a product of my having gotten up to early, which was a product of my having slept badly, which was a product of my having watched a disturbing film on the previous night, which was a product of my wife choosing the wrong channel on the TV, which was a product of her annoyance with me, which was a product of my having come home late from the pub... and so on, back to the Big Bang.

I really didn't *choose* to go to lunch: rather, I was *caused* to feel the sensation of making a choice by a specific chain previous events. My "internal" cause was an "external" one, ultimately.
You saw that too. This is the argument hard determinists use to counter compatibilism. Stace places emphasis on the psychological state of the individual in question. People have died from hunger strikes, so it would seem they bucked the system and proved free will exists. It's a metaphysical game of rock-paper-scissors.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:53 pm

You saw that too. This is the argument hard determinists use to counter compatibilism. Stace places emphasis on the psychological state of the individual in question. People have died from hunger strikes, so it would seem they bucked the system and proved free will exists. It's a metaphysical game of rock-paper-scissors.
Going on hunger strike - or any feat of human "will" does not assume free will. In fact you can equally argue that again it is deterministic. Someone who "chooses" to go on hunger strike is obviously someone who is ideologically driven, courageous, principled...all of those things - these can be viewed as products of that person's genetics and environment for example. Not being afraid of dying is not a choice you make. Some people are naturally more afraid than others - this is hardwired into their neurology. Yes, one can change how they behave, prejudices, outlooks, etc. but this can just as easily be explain in terms of how someone is predisposed to the notion of change in the first place.

aiddon
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:02 am

Immanuel Can wrote: Yes, I think it is possible to discover a place for the concept "free will" in a Theist universe. This is because foreknowledge and predestination are distinct concepts. There's no necessity that if God "knows" a thing, He is therefore the effective *cause* of that thing.

But Materialism? No, I can't save it from Determinism. If it's suppositions are true, then Determinism seems inevitably to follow.

Some people vainly look to "quantum physics" to get us out of the causality chain; but I think this is a vain hope because it only changes the mechanism by which the Determinism takes place -- moving it from blind causality to total randomness -- but either way we are the helpless pawns of forces that determine what will happen to us, without any volition on our part. The thing we need to save is the idea that our decisions, not impersonal forces of any kind, actually matter in the causal chain.
I am by no means an expert in this area, as I think very few people can claim to be anyway - and I have changed positions on this many times in the past. I am beginning to find equilibrium, however, in the idea that free will is simply an illusion - albeit a very powerful illusion. Free will must be distinguished from the ability to make good choices and bad choices - themselves products of determinism. Some folk are genetically and neurologically programmed to make bad choices, due to genetic coding and environmental factors. Other folk make good choices. How often have we seen those from stable, nurturing or more well-off backgrounds making good choices? The number is very high. They may be under some illusion that they were exercising their free will - which happens to be somehow more finely-tuned than the beggar on the street. It appears to me more and more that we are simply a consequence of our actions, and our actions are a consequence of our biology. Again, I do not have a hardened line on this, but I do consider myself a materialist (though a very awestruck one, it must be said) and I suppose determinism sits very well with me in that sense.

What is your line on this, IC?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:44 am

Well, aiddon, I think it's a funny exercise we're involved in here!

We're philosophizing, but the (Determinist) truth of the matter is that we cannot change our minds anyway!

In fact, if we think further we realize that we can't even contribute anything to the delusion that we are changing our minds, because even that is determined.

If so, what are we doing?

I find all this...Reductional. And implausible, though I understand how completely irresistible it looks if one is already wedded to a strictly Materialist perspective. But I'm not sure that describes you.

As for me, I think that the physical world is *not* coextensive with the real world: meaning not that the physical world isn't real, but that it is not the *entirety* of the real things in existence. I believe in conscious minds, souls, God, values, morality, and other spooky stuff like that, such as Materialism is always ineffective at describing. I actually think they're real too.

Oh well...I guess I was just fated not to believe in Determinism. :wink:

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by John K » Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:55 pm

Immanuel Can wrote: In other words, I might *think* I chose to go to lunch, but it was actually a product of my stomach pains, which were a product of my having eaten too early, which were a product of my having gotten up to early, which was a product of my having slept badly, which was a product of my having watched a disturbing film on the previous night, which was a product of my wife choosing the wrong channel on the TV, which was a product of her annoyance with me, which was a product of my having come home late from the pub... and so on, back to the Big Bang.
This raises a new question. If I am hungry, the argument could still be made that it's me causing my leaving the room to have lunch. The free will philosopher might claim that after all, the source of his hunger is his own stomach, and is therefore (quite literally) an internal cause. It's begs the question as to when exactly (if ever) do we cross the line from determined to free action, since I can't control my hunger if I don't eat. Compatibilism acknowledges determined action in it's definition, and at some point it suggests we may break away from it's grasp. Hard determinists would claim than once we've crossed into its influence, all bets are off. In other words, if we go far enough back...gotcha! Can we use the BB as the source of determinism? It's an interesting question, since cause and effect is a time dependent phenomenon, and time didn't exist before it. I'm sure you see question this raises.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:30 pm

"I am hungry"

I want to eat 'cause my belly ('I') will feel better.

I need to eat 'cause eating is the means by which I fuel myself.

I got no say about feeling hungry, or, about the need to eat.

I can however...

-Choose what to eat (from what's available to me).

-Choose when to eat (I could -- if quixotic -- fast).

Seems to me: 'I' get to choose how and when to satisfy appetite.

Yes, I'm pushed toward 'this' or 'that' and -- yes -- my choice of 'this' or 'that' is informed (restrained) by a cluster of factors, but somewhere in the midst of all that determining pressure and restraint there is 'I' who weighs and judges and selects which pressures to heed now and which to defer to a later time.

It's not a free will, but it 'is' a will and while that will is subject to all manner of influence (determiners) it is never determined.

It's not so simple as 'the first domino falls and the rest is predictable'.

It's as complex as 'you can track any single particle in a cloud but never predict how all particles in the cloud can or will interact'.

The brain (the locus of 'me'), and the 'me' that issues out from the brain/body embedded in the world, is not digital event, but an on-going analog one with, I think, cloud-like properties.

Hell if I know exactly what I am (not exactly 'free', not exactly 'determined, not exactly the initiator of causal chains, not entirely mired in causal chains).

What I do know: it's not as simple (black and white) as "choice or determinism".

*shrug*

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:34 pm

I read this...

http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freewill.html

...a long while back...enjoyed it...think it might be relevant here (or not).

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:38 pm

Hell if I know exactly what I am (not exactly 'free', not exactly 'determined, not exactly the initiator of causal chains, not entirely mired in causal chains).

What I do know: it's not as simple (black and white) as "choice or determinism".
Well, not "Hell," I hope. :) I would wish better for you.

Seriously, though, I agree. I don't find Determism convincing. And if it were convincing, I'd no longer have a reason to care, since I'd be predetermined anyway.

More importantly, I don't believe in pure Materialism. It's pig-headed and reductional. We all know we have nebulous things like a "self" or "soul" of some kind. We all believe in "consciousness," or why are we philosophers? We all think and act as if our decisions and choices matter, because we actually believe they do. Many of us are even convicted that a thing called "morality" is real. We all experience subjectivity. Yet all of those things are beyond Materialism's powers to describe.

I think Nagel's right: if the current scientific paradigm premised on pure Materialism is failing to describe convincingly large and important areas of reality that many of us intuitively and strongly sense exist, then we ought to stop blaming reality for not fitting the paradigm and start revising the paradigm instead. A more inclusive, realistic paradigm is needed today. Materialism has run it's course.

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:48 pm

"Materialism has run it's course."

It occurs to me Boeree wrote sumthin' on this as well (that -- like piece I linked up-thread -- aligns with my own thinkin').

I'll have to hunt it down (or give you my own dreary synopsis).

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