Choice or Determinism

So what's really going on?

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henry quirk
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Post by henry quirk » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:50 pm

"We all know we have nebulous things like a "self" or "soul" of some kind"

I 'am' a self (nuthin' nebulous about 'me'), but I ain't got no soul.

3Sum
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by 3Sum » Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:28 pm

I agree with henry quirk, and that's a nice example with hunger and feeding. I'm a compatibilist, though I put much more emphasis on determination than free will and I understand free will in a very narrow sense. I find the criticism of determinism here truly ridiculous, as most of you simply demonstrate your ignorance of it and it's also remarkable how people ignore the problems with free will. As henry said, it's not all black and white.
So what is your choice, choice or determinism?
Do you really think that's a valid criticism? Do you really think you have a choice in believing in determinism vs believing in free will? Well, I don't know about you, but what I believe in is based on my observations and experiences. I don't base my beliefs on what I want to be true because I care about ACTUAL truth. I can only believe something that convinces me. F.e. if you showed me you have a pen I can't "choose" not to believe that a pen exists. I don't have a choice in that matter. Determinists can just simply say that the fact that you can believe both is also predetermined, since us humans are very different.
We're philosophizing, but the (Determinist) truth of the matter is that we cannot change our minds anyway!
That's not what determinism says. You, as a few others here, completely misunderstand it. Determinism simply claims that everything is predetermined by natural laws and whether you will change your mind or not is also predetermined and everything you said and will (or will not) say is predetermined. Although, I do find determinism to apply much better to animals and inanimate objects than humans.

Free will has enough problems with humans as it is, and it doesn't even address animals and the outside world.
But Materialism? No, I can't save it from Determinism. If it's suppositions are true, then Determinism seems inevitably to follow.
Depends on your definition of determinism. I, for one, would disagree. Materialism is true and yet I'm a compatibilist, not a determinist. It's true that everything which occurs, occurs due to natural laws and not according to our will. Can you "will" yourself to start flying when you jump from a window? If you are saying that something breaks natural laws that's an extraordinary claims which requires (extraordinary) evidence.

Even the chemical reactions in our brain from which our consciousness emerges are a result of natural laws acting upon atoms. Such consciousness still acts by natural laws and only has VERY limited free will.

We can choose to eat a cake or a sandwich. We'll probably choose cake if we ate something salty before or didn't eat anything sweet for a long time. We can't, however, survive f.e. only by eating oil or trying to eat something our body can't digest, like wood. And if we want to survive we can't choose not to provide nutrition for our body because we're going to die. For fucks sake, we can't even choose when to be sexually aroused! Some people get sexually aroused even when they don't want to, others CAN'T get sexually aroused even when they want to! We can't choose our blood type, our body type, our sexual orientation, our IQ, some of our preferences etc. etc.
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.
The concept of a "self" isn't contradictory with materialism, the concept of a "soul" might be. Depending on your definition of it. I agree with self, no evidence for anything such as a "soul" though, and all the evidence we have suggests no such thing exists.

It's not up to materialism to describe literally EVERYTHING. F.e. evolution and psychology studying it reveal why humans are moral and why we think our choices matter etc.

Subjectivity? We're not all the same, so we won't experience everything the same and have exactly same thoughts about it. I don't see how that is in any way contradictory with materialism.

Besides, what do you suggest instead of materialism? Idealism/Spiritualism? They just assert the answers and don't support them with any evidence whatsoever and are often too unrealistic and logically fallacious, just a lot of verbal diarrhea. Dualism? A modern version of it I can understand and maybe even accept. But it still doesn't explain anything, just says that there is something more than our senses.

aiddon
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:46 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
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.
I think the philosophical definition of dterminism is being lost in this discussion. Determinism is not predestination. We are not somehow destined to be on this thread, sitting at our computers a this precise time, having just eaten a nice hot dog for our supper at precisely 8:12 on a wet (at least where I am) Thursday evening. Determinism is much simpler than that - it basically states that every event is determined by an antecedent event...cause and effect. A causal chain, random and non-random, lead up to me sitting here right now typing these words. This moment was not fated to happen - that is ultra-calvinism, which no one besides the insane take to be true.

As I have stated previously stated, I don'thave a hard line on this, which most contributors here seem to have. I would simply like to discuss both sides of the coin, as it were without being so self-righteous as to actually know. How can anyone possibly know? Neurologists don't know. Theologians and kings don't know. Speculating is simply enjoyable.

My one spanner in the deteminism argument (on which side I place myself - marginally) is the notion of responsibility. Does responsibility diminish as a result of deteminism? Can a murderer plead innocence because it was in his nature, his genes and his environmental influences to pull the trigger? This is something I grapple with, and I hope others can too.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by John K » Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:08 am

Kick a determinist philosopher in the shin and see if he takes you to court.

3Sum
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by 3Sum » Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:33 am

aiddon and John K. And you don't see the problem free will has with both of these?
Does responsibility diminish as a result of deteminism? Can a murderer plead innocence because it was in his nature, his genes and his environmental influences to pull the trigger?
A good point. A judge could say that it's in his nature, genes and environmental influences to punish people for murdering, though :wink: . But the murderer can also plead that he was just executing his free will.
Kick a determinist philosopher in the shin and see if he takes you to court.
Getting violent I see. I guess he wouldn't take you to court, instead he'd take a machete and decapitate you. Cause he has the free will to do so :)

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by John K » Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:41 am

3Sum wrote: Getting violent I see. I guess he wouldn't take you to court, instead he'd take a machete and decapitate you. Cause he has the free will to do so :)
I was hoping he see that I had no choice in the matter.

3Sum
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by 3Sum » Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:54 am

John K but he was hoping you'd recognize that he has free will.

aiddon
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:48 am

Why is it that belief in God is usually associated with free will? And vice versa, why is determinism incompatible with God? There is no good reason why such an alignment should be?

Just a question, if anyone would like to offer an answer.

QMan
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by QMan » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:04 am

aiddon wrote:Why is it that belief in God is usually associated with free will? And vice versa, why is determinism incompatible with God? There is no good reason why such an alignment should be?

Just a question, if anyone would like to offer an answer.
Here is a question.

If I had a really advanced powerful supercomputer and tremendous programming abilities and could program (simply for the joy of artistic creation) artificial intelligences (a la Tron) that I plan on eventually having relate to me, then, how would I prefer them to be? Would I give them awareness of me and how? Given the possibility that I can imbue them with my own essence and the fact that I could love my handiwork immensely? What would my preferred course of action be?


http://www.conscious-robots.com/es/maqu ... e-alb.html

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:20 pm

Depends on your definition of determinism. I, for one, would disagree. Materialism is true and yet I'm a compatibilist, not a determinist.
You seem unsettled over the fact that we are not, so far, putting much weight on Compatibilitism or treating it as a live option. I can't speak for others, but it seems to me unnecessary to struggle with it long, and I share the general assessment of the field that Compatibilism is so far unsuccessful in solving the problem.

Why do I say so? Well, because Compatibilists (at least non-Theistic ones) are often simply Materialist-Determinists who have realized (to their horror) the logical implications of Hard Determinism. Realizing they've created a problem by positing Materialism in the first place, and thus in entailing Determinism, they set out to "solve" their self-created problem. Having come up with what looks to them like a "solution" that allows some sort of palid conception of "free will" to return to the universe. They are elated: with their solution in hand, they think they can remain Determinists, but never have to pay the logical price of their Determinism. They call for celebration of their achievement.

I remain unimpressed.

The sort of solution Compatibilism usually posits is as follows: it seeks to get around Determinism by doing things like moving the word "free" from referring to "will" to referring to "action." Or it supposes that there is "freedom of will" when there is still no option for the "free" agent to do otherwise-than-he/she-did. But at root, Compatibilism always presupposes that Hard Determinism is the deep truth, and "freedom" is nothing but a shallower appearance glossed over the deep fact of Determinism. It doesn't really save "freedom" at all: it just explains how we can have an *illusion* of freedom, whereas in fact we have none.

The problem is that Materialism is untrue, a Reductionist construct ordinarily favoured by peole who are either naive about Science or viscerally committed to Materialism for some personal reason, such as avoiding struggling with hard problems of consciousness, of moral objectivism, or of other metaphysics. I think they know darn well that they are bluffing, and that they are simply ignoring things like selfhood and consciousness, which are after all affirmed by very widespread and compelling intuition: an intuition so strong that even Hard Determinists find it necessary to live as if their own beliefs were false. Thus the Materialists alleged "gain" in eliminating these problems is bought not by reasoning or solving anything, but rather by foreshortening the scope of their own investigations to the material world, thus cutting reality off, and arbitrarily banishing those parts of "the Real" that Materialism itself finds difficult.

Metaphorically speaking, they solve the problem of what haircut is best by cutting off the head.

But if one does not presuppose mere materials are the total story of existence, then Determinism (whether "Hard" or "Compatibilist") simply does not folllow. Instead, some things are predetermined by previous causes, and some thing are genuine actions of free will. My birth was predestined by my parents, and arguably, before that by the universe or God; but my choice to write this is my own...if not in total, then at least in substantial part. And the fact that I cannot *prove* that by material description is not an impediment for me, since I don't believe that Materialst descriptions are comprehensive ones.

Materialism is untrue. Thus, Determinism is not logically necessary. Thus (from my view) Compatibilists are posing a solution to a problem they have invented, and if they succeed they have achieved precisely nothing. The root error is in their ontology, and that is why they end up solving an ersatz problem.

I would no more worry over their inability to solve their problem than I would worry if someone asked "How do I get the unicorn out of my turnip patch?" It's not a problem produced by a realistic view of the world, and so it is not a "real" problem either.

Compatibilism is not a serious solution because Determinism isn't rational, because Materialism isn't true.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by 3Sum » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:56 pm

Immanuel Can you disappoint me once again. You completely ignore every argument against free will that has been made and you made a strawman of compatibilism and determinism.
Well, because Compatibilists (at least non-Theistic ones) are often simply Materialist-Determinists who have realized (to their horror) the logical implications of Hard Determinism.
Any evidence to support such a claim? When I was first presented with the 3 theories after studying about them I selected compatibilism. I also know few people who were for free will until shown how wrong it is.
Realizing they've created a problem by positing Materialism in the first place, and thus in entailing Determinism, they set out to "solve" their self-created problem. Having come up with what looks to them like a "solution" that allows some sort of palid conception of "free will" to return to the universe. They are elated: with their solution in hand, they think they can remain Determinists, but never have to pay the logical price of their Determinism. They call for celebration of their achievement.
Too much bullshit, no distinctive substance or arguments. I'm sure you know the thought processes of every individual on the planet. I think you meant to say "pallid" and yes, we do have a pallid free will because our free will is extremely limited. Determinism at its core is true - every atom in our brain from which consciousness ultimately emerges will act according to natural laws. Us humans are also limited to same natural laws, but we have a consciousness and the ability to choose in certain aspects of our life.
avoiding struggling with hard problems of consciousness, of moral objectivism, or of other metaphysics.
I don't avoid arguing consciousness or morality. Although I do find some of metaphysics... ridiculous at best.
My birth was predestined by my parents, and arguably, before that by the universe or God; but my choice to write this is my own...if not in total, then at least in substantial part. And the fact that I cannot *prove* that by material description is not an impediment for me, since I don't believe that Materialst descriptions are comprehensive ones.
Why would we use "Materialistic" description to prove something like that? In the end, the choices which led to you being born developed in the brains of your parents by natural laws acting upon matter. That much we can know from science. And you accuse others of being scientifically illiterate...
Materialism is untrue.
You still have yet to prove that, though. Materialistic worldview is the most cold and impersonal, but also the most realistic one.

You just make a lot of generalizations, bold claims and analogies but you don't back them up with arguments or evidence. I'm not impressed either. At all.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:28 pm

Determinism at its core is true - every atom in our brain from which consciousness ultimately emerges will act according to natural laws. Us humans are also limited to same natural laws, but we have a consciousness and the ability to choose in certain aspects of our life.
In the end, the choices which led to you being born developed in the brains of your parents by natural laws acting upon matter. That much we can know from science.
Here you sputter, you get angry, become uncivil, but then you confirm what I said. You're identifying yourself as a Materalist Determinist. Then, as Compatibilism inevitably does, you tack on the directly contradictory claim that somehow "free will" applies to "certain aspects," though you cannot really justify that addendum.
I don't avoid arguing consciousness or morality.
Oh, you? Probably not. But a good many Determinists refuse both. Since they cannot make a coherent account of either, they simply either a) try to reduce them to material terms, or b) deny their real existence altogether. But does your willingness to continue discussing them signal that they are coherent within a Materialist paradigm, or does it just show that while you personally are decent, moral and interested in consciousness, you are not embracing the logic of Materialism consistently? I would suggest the latter.
And you accuse others of being scientifically illiterate...
I can't recall quite saying that...however, I would argue that a good many people -- even some who are fully-qualified scientists themselves -- are woefully ignorant of the epistemological dimension of their craft, and have limited acumen when it comes to the rational implications of their findings. (The same, by the way, is often true in other compartments of knowledge, such as, say Education or Medicine.) But even philosophers of science will tell you that is true, so it's hardly controversial. It's epistemology, not technical skill, that they lack.

As for "science," contrary to your assumption, it is not wedded to Materialism. Materialism tends to be an often-chosen option among scientists because it seems to make, at least in principle, all matters of knowledge subject to the methods of the physical sciences. But the need for going beyond this has long been recognized -- hence the attempts by other departments, such as "Political Science" or "Human Sciences" to get into the ballgame. But Materialism is, itself, only one ontological option on offer: and I would suggest it's not the best one.

I have already offered in evidence of this two things: 1) the incredibly widespread human intuition that areas of importance such as morality, consciousness etc. are being overlooked by Materialist methodology, and 2) the inability of physical scientists themselves to live as strict Materialists. And that's not a slight to them as persons: I would say that their excuse for inconsistency is at hand: Materialism itself is faulty.

Admittedly, that conclusion is inductive and adductive, not deductive. But deductive findings are only applicable to statements arranged by pure logic, whereas science itself is induction. So that hardly seems a fault.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Arising_uk » Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:46 pm

aiddon,
aiddon wrote:Why is it that belief in God is usually associated with free will? And vice versa, why is determinism incompatible with God? There is no good reason why such an alignment should be?

Just a question, if anyone would like to offer an answer.
It's an historical problem first raised by the theologians or maybe the scholastics, the problem was that if its all 'God's' 'will' then how can we say we have a 'free will', basically 'God' is the determinant, i.e. if everything is done according to 'God's' 'will' then everything I do cannot in a very real sense be of my own free-will. So determinism in this sense is not incompatible with a 'God'. It got updated with the advent of scientific explanations for things and the recognition and formulation of natural laws which describe how things work and predict them very effectively, so the question becomes, material things obey natural laws, I'm a material thing so am I not determined by these natural laws. The opposition to a 'God' falls out of a different matter, i.e. those who believe in a 'God' want this 'God' to not have to obey natural law so they are opposed to any idea that things can be or are explained by such laws and also think that such a determination means predestination so no 'free-will' and they need this 'free-will' for their ethical and moral system to work, it's a bit ironic really as when they discuss this 'God's' attributes and powers 'its' pretty much exactly the determinant they deny. Materialists don't really think about 'free-will'(as there isn't any) just free choice, although this is a bit sticky as they would have to say that one was determined to choose that thing but I think thats fair enough as you can be determined between two or more pleasurable or painful options but its still ones choice.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by aiddon » Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:24 am

Arising_uk wrote:aiddon,
aiddon wrote:Why is it that belief in God is usually associated with free will? And vice versa, why is determinism incompatible with God? There is no good reason why such an alignment should be?

Just a question, if anyone would like to offer an answer.
It's an historical problem first raised by the theologians or maybe the scholastics, the problem was that if its all 'God's' 'will' then how can we say we have a 'free will', basically 'God' is the determinant, i.e. if everything is done according to 'God's' 'will' then everything I do cannot in a very real sense be of my own free-will. So determinism in this sense is not incompatible with a 'God'. It got updated with the advent of scientific explanations for things and the recognition and formulation of natural laws which describe how things work and predict them very effectively, so the question becomes, material things obey natural laws, I'm a material thing so am I not determined by these natural laws. The opposition to a 'God' falls out of a different matter, i.e. those who believe in a 'God' want this 'God' to not have to obey natural law so they are opposed to any idea that things can be or are explained by such laws and also think that such a determination means predestination so no 'free-will' and they need this 'free-will' for their ethical and moral system to work, it's a bit ironic really as when they discuss this 'God's' attributes and powers 'its' pretty much exactly the determinant they deny. Materialists don't really think about 'free-will'(as there isn't any) just free choice, although this is a bit sticky as they would have to say that one was determined to choose that thing but I think thats fair enough as you can be determined between two or more pleasurable or painful options but its still ones choice.

Hope this helps.
It does, Arising, many thanks.

What I find perplexing on the part of libertarianism - the notion that we have untethered free will - is the notion that free will is a suitable explanation of consciousness and morality (the spooky stuff, as IC said). But materialists (and by extension, determinists, it seems) can offer an equally valid explanation of these attributes, and one that does not require any spookiness - the brain. The human brain, as I hope all sides of this argument can agree on, is perhaps the most intricate machine on display anywhere in the cosmos. Its neurological networks make any supercomputer wiring seem paltry. The business of consciousness has been adequately explained in terms of neurology and biology. Awesome yes, but mysterious, hardly.

Morality is viewed by the "free willer" and thus, it seems, the theist, as something formless and non-materalistic imbued by God. The first bit I agree with - yes, morality is nothing. There is no substance or spookiness to it. Just like the law isn't something, just like freedom isn't something. It is abstract, a human construction. Morality is a set of highly subjective codes (subjective in that it varies with culture, history, technology etc.) that have been formulated so that society can function. It means something to some people - other people don't require a concept such as morality - they just function within the confines of what it is to be himan: call it morality if you like, it doesn't really change anything. So in this way, materialism is perfectly comaptible with consciousness and morality.

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Choice or Determinism

Post by Immanuel Can » Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:25 am

...consciousness and morality (the spooky stuff, as IC said). But materialists (and by extension, determinists, it seems) can offer an equally valid explanation of these attributes, and one that does not require any spookiness - the brain. ...
But here's a point that I find Materialists have a hard time grasping, and it's the reason why the "valid explanation" to the effect that the meaning of "consciousness is "brain" is no good at all. How such an answer earns the honorific "valid" I cannot see.

The issue is that pure materials, no matter how much of them there is, or no matter what the nature of the physical arrangement is, do not account for the existence of consciousness.

To make the point, let's try a thought experiment. Materialists insist the brain is composed of nothing but "materials": in specific, we might say something like, it's made up of amino acid molecules. Well okay -- can one amino acid molecule have "consciousness"? Obviously not. Can two? Obviously not. How about three? No. What if the three were arranged in a triangle? No, there's no reason to think that would make a difference. Four, arranged in a square? No....

Well, at what point would there by enough molecules in number, or in what pattern of arrangement? There's no reason to think that any number, or any pattern of arrangement of pure materials is privileged in such a way as to suddenly produce consciousness where no consciousness existed with a marginally lower number or a slightly different arrangement.

How is it that out of nothing but "materials" the strange property of consciousness suddenly emerges? What sort of magic produces it? What privileges one number or arrangement over another, in this respect? No one knows. In fact, no one knows that it has anything to do with number of pure material molecules or of their particular arrangement.

In short, we know that brains DO work in this regard, but we don't know WHY they work -- and if they are nothing but an assemblage of material molecules, its hugely surprising that they work at all for the production of this weird "other" thing called "consciousness" or "selfhood" or "awareness" or whatever. Moreover, we have no way at all of telling how this thing called "consciousness" relates to the materials we call "brain." That there is some overlap we know; but we also know the two are not coextensive. People with a reduced amount of brain material do not automatically exhibit lower intelligence. People with damaged brains show a phenomenon known as "plasticity," whereby new areas of the brain take over for old ones. And unlike the brain itself, "consciousness" is an indivisible quality, just as Descartes argued, whereas the brain can be sectioned off and mapped.

There's much that's mysterious here, even for a brain scientist. Consciousness does not correspond in some neat way to material properties: and material properties (i.e. "brain") clearly do not provide all we need to know about consciousness. Only an immodest and credulous Materialism could hold otherwise. Due reflection suggest we know much about the "machine", but nothing much about the "ghost in the machine," to borrow Gilbert Ryle's expression.

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