Is free will possible in a deterministic universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Sarkus, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    If you claim that your hypothetical classical domain doesn't even include classical wave dynamics, you're so far in the weeds that you're not making any point at all about our reality. Just pointless navel-gazing. Hell, you're even essentially denying contributing factors. Good luck with your little fantasy argument.
    No, physical, causal determinism allows for probabilistic and distributed causes. You're trying to have it both ways. Weasel your way out of begging the question while retaining every element that make it begging the question. No dice.
    Again, causal determinism allows for probabilistic causation, just as smoking does not always cause death in a deterministic sense.
    You keep arguing that you definitely don't want to hear arguments about probabilistic/indeterministic causes, but apparently you want to make unchallenged stabs at it anyway. That's intellectually dishonest. If you want that argument, we'll finally have it. If not, don't try to have it both ways, where you argue against something you demand no one can support.
    The only practical difference between philosophical and causal determinism is the former presuming free will cannot exist and the latter not excluding real-world dynamics like probability. If A must always cause B, smoking and war do not cause death. That's the fantasy world your arguing, and it can only exist by presuming philosophical determinism.
    You've yet to show how your disingenuous avoidance of philosophical determinism avoids the elements that beg the question.
    Probabilistic causation is entailed in deterministic causality.
    Wow, you didn't even get that simple syllogism right. It's:
    Socrates is a man
    Men are mortal
    Thus Socrates is mortal
    Two premises that work to test the conclusion, where either being false makes the conclusion false. You only propose one premise, with no test of the conclusion whereby a false premise would allow a false conclusion. You simply assert determinism, which by definition precludes your pretense of a second, testing premise, and conclude determinism.
    And? Every honest person should be able to agree which is more genuinely free, and which is an explicit concession to the presumption of determinism.
    Yep, begging the question to arrive at a foregone conclusion. Yawn.
    I have, but you must have missed it.
    The "ability to do otherwise" being defined in such a way that it is illusory or cannot "will what is wills" means that the first premise is nothing but a superficial pretense to make the syllogism seem valid. Compatibilists agree with philosophical determinism. Otherwise they wouldn't try so hard to make concessions for it.

    And it's dishonest to allow for the redefinition of the first premise, to suit the second, but not allow the inverse. That literally means the second premise is privileged...because you insist on arriving at your preferred conclusion.
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  3. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    So you want free will without the "will"? Begging the question.
    Who even implied any nonsense about math having a will?!
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  5. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I am including everything and anything as long as it is deterministic.

    I provided a link as to what a deterministic system is.
    No probabilistic causation.
    If you can't accept the notion of a deterministic system for what it is, not my fault.
    And we are talking about a deterministic universe.
    As in a system that is deterministic.
    No probabilistic causation.

    You are confused: I have no issue with discussing anything as long as it is aimed at answering the question posed in the title.
    Since the question is not about simply whether freewill exists, or exists in an indeterministic universe, but whether it is possible in a deterministic universe, introducing anything about our universe being indeterministic, or how freewill may (or may not) exist in our universe, is irrelevant.
    If one's assertion is that freewill requires an indeterministic aspect then that is relevant, as it therefore speaks to the view of being not possible in a deterministic universe.

    1. We're talking about a deterministic system (the universe) which does not allow probabilistic causation.
    2. With your examples of war and smoking you can only ever talk of perceived probability rather than inherent probability within probabilistic causation.
    By that I mean that even in a deterministic system, absent sufficient knowledge one can end with a subjective perception of something being probabilistic.
    If you restrict your analysis to the level of perception then you're not really talking of reality at all, just subjective appearance.
    Nothing disingenuous about it.
    I'm sorry that my positioning isn't what you want it to be.
    I have always, across the numerous threads of this discussion, been quite clear in what I have taken things to mean, the notions and definitions I have used.
    But not in a deterministic system.
    And referring to a deterministic universe is to assert the universe a deterministic system.
    I made no effort to state it, merely reference it.
    You really haven't been following the thread, have you?
    I don't assert philosophical determinism, or causal determinism.
    I assert two premises: the universe is deterministic (i.e. it is a deterministic system), and that freedom is the ability to do otherwise.
    There is no begging the question.
    But from those premises one can reach a conclusion that neither of those premises alone can provide.
    Then I suggest you share your wisdom with those you consider dishonest for holding such views.
    Not necessarily.
    Both sides accept the notion of "ability to do otherwise", yet come to different conclusions.
    Therein lies the discussion.
    As long as one doesn't define it with the intent of reaching a specific already-held conclusion, I see no issue.
    Will different notions lead to different conclusions?
    Must have.
    Feel free to take it up with those people.
    An interesting view, and one I'm sure they'll be able to answer should you ever consider raising it with them.
    Off-topic, but I've heard similar by theists claiming that atheists know God exists but are simply in denial.
    An interesting similarity, but not for this thread.
    The deterministic universe (system) was agreed from the outset of this discussion when in a previous thread, from which this was hived.
    The understanding of what it means to be able to do otherwise... not so agreed upon.
    Not dishonest, though.
    Just an understanding that this is where the difference predominantly lies, and thus where the discussion focusses.
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    As noted: your premises now (they have changed slightly) are that
    1)A deterministic universe excludes the supernatural
    2) freedom is wholly supernatural.
    From that you "conclude" that a deterministic universe excludes freedom of will.
    Of course, so would any universe in which everything abides by physical law or cause/effect sequences, if 2 holds.

    Assumption 1 was granted - formally stipulated to. Assumption 2 was not granted. It was instead argued against, with examples and observations and so forth.

    So far we have no argument for assumption 2. But we haven't been able to get past it.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There is no harm in allowing such a universe - the mechanism of causation does not affect your argument. And the universe we live in does appear to incorporate probabilistic causation - probability may be the fundamental source of cause and effect in the real world. So that would provide a gain in apparent realism and applicability.
  9. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Question; Would that include the "uncertainty principle"?

    If so, why are we talking about determinism? Is this an example of "incomplete knowledge"?

  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I believe a "mathematical function" is analogous to an "expression of will".

    Law of Inertia: "An object in motion tends to stay in motion". i.e. it acquires a will of momentum. Try to stop a run-away train. IT WILL NOT STOP!........

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    Of course it isn't free will, it's generated in the mathematics of momentum.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  11. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    Of course there will be only one outcome from any action, even if it’s imagined to be in the form of a choice. Any time you posit choice you imply the existence of alternatives, as in alternative outcomes. In a determined system, all futures are already determined by the initial state of the system. Every aspect of any event described can only happen the way it occurred. There are no possibilities or alternatives, only a set series of determined events.
    Let’s translate the above example deterministically. The driver will arrive at the light, the driver is observed to have a determined set of qualities, and it's been determined that the driver will stop when the light turns red. It’s also been determined that an observer will document this action as it occurs. That’s how the determined system works, a series of predetermined actions being expressed over time.
    It doesn’t invalidate the description, it enhances the resolution of the action to a degree that eliminates the illusion of choice. When you invoke choice, possibilities and alternatives in a deterministic system, you demonstrate that your elemental description is incomplete.
    We’re not ignoring or altering your presentation, we’re simply noting the factual errors of the presentation as described. In a determined system a choice is functionally equivalent to an accident, neither of which are compatible with such a system. And the inclusion of possibilities and alternatives are likewise incompatible with a predetermined system.
    I don’t possess remote control of your keyboard, so the only projecting regarding this statement is on you. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a professional practitioner of QM who would agree with your above statement.
    That’s pretty much the rub regarding QM in general, that its underlying nature is a matter of assumption and interpretation. Based on aggregate probabilistic calculation and measurement, quantum states do exhibit a high degree of deterministic behavior, and if they didn’t, QM wouldn’t have the level of practical applicability that it demonstrates. So empirically, the apparent determined aspects of QM are more significant than the apparent indetermined variety.
    The empirical evidence is that you can’t accurately measure a quantum state, therefore the measurements can be said to be indeterminate, not the actual dynamics of the state itself. This condition is why many physicist do not subscribe to the notion of indeterminate quantum dynamics.
    If all effects are preceded by causes in a sequential global fashion as they observationally appear to be, then the wholly determined reality would be the more likely.
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You made radical changes. Read the damn posts - my presentation is one sentence long, sometimes two, and does not include the decision or the light color or the car doing anything except maybe roll down the road a few feet - or maybe not, I don't say.

    Yours is a frigging paragraph, and includes the color of the light and the behavior of the car and the aftermath of the decision and Uncle Tom Cobbley and All. And your reply hinges on all that extra stuff, without even acknowledging my post.

    So does every other naive materialist's concocted version, which they then "reply" to as if I had posted it. It's a strange thing to read, if you're me - what 's going on? This is becoming slapstick.
    Look at this latest swing-and-hit-the-umpire:
    It's already deterministic. You don't have to change a single letter, no "translation" is indicated - and you have been warned, explicitly, against making changes and then trying to pass them off as the original. The central point of my post was that none of you guys had ever dealt with that example as posted. So what were you thinking when you decided to "translate" the thing?
    That is completely and fundamentally different from my post. None of that stuff appears in my post. Not one single word there is a "translation" of what I posted. The new situation you describe is different in a half dozen key and basic and fundamental details, altering exactly the aspects my post asserted were the central matters of discussion.
    No action appears in my posted example. Including an action is a radical change, and you have made several others as well - I warned you not to make changes, because I knew you would once again screw up the example and post irrelevant bs. You did.

    Why do you suppose you guys never respond to the example as it is written? Is my request that you try responding without first changing things somehow not worth even acknowledging? Difficult to comprehend? In need of "translation"?

    1) The ability to choose I make visible is an observed and machine recordable physical constituent of the driver, a physical reality that is no more an "illusion" than the driver's foot or the motion of the car.
    2) The moment I describe is prior to any choice being made, any color of the light being visible, any change whatsoever in the behavior of the car or the driver.
    3) The observation I indicate can be made is machine level - no imagination or even awareness on the part of any human is necessarily involved. The driver may not know about even the existence of the light - knowledge of the future is not relevant.
    4) No prediction appears in my example - nothing about the future is relevant, including knowledge of it by any observer. Whether or not the driver "will" continue, "will" see the light, "will" respond as expected, etc, is not included in my example and is not relevant to the observation of the driver's current state. Any discussion of this example must allow for - say - the driver having a heart attack in five seconds and never actually reaching the light at all.

    And so forth. This is of course completely and radically different from your "translation", which is a worthless irrelevancy from which nothing bearing on that example can be deduced or understood.

    The post remains, and I'm going to sharpen the point: Are you guys, any of you, even capable of discussing that simple example as it is written? It looks straightforward - but not one of you has even made an attempt.
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I think I'm starting to see what iceaura has been trying to express about "supernatural" free will.

    No definition of free will can violate the laws of physics without somehow being supernatural in origin. That's pretty much a truism. Free will lives within the confines of our physically-ordered world of atoms that react with each other in a limited number of ways - at least at the atomic level.

    It seems to me that that leaves free will to be the equivalent of "having dominion over one's own actions".

    In other words, I can sit in a closed room with no external stimuli and *decide* to go sit over in that corner, for no other reason than because I want to. 2 hours later, my environment hasn't changed, but I can *choose* to jog in a circle.

    By comparison, a flatworm doesn't really have that option - it reacts to external stimuli, and acts according to hunger, reproduction, and environment. Given the same external environment, I think it will react the same way, again and again.
    Quantum Quack likes this.
  14. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Sure, but the issue then is whether you define it in the knowledge that it can not exist in the domain you are considering.
    If you do then, as Vociferous has said, it is begging the question, because you have the hidden assumption (or explicit if you define it so) that it does not exist, and then conclude it does not exist.
    And in doing so, in assuming that it does not exist, you are indeed assuming it to be supernatural.
    No issue with any of that.
    But I have not made any such assumption that it does not exist, nor I imagine have you.
    It simply happens to be the phrase that the debate between compatibilism and incompatibilism uses, and the understanding I have of it is what seems most sensible to me.
    But I have not come to that understanding by assuming that free will does not exist.
    And again, nor I suspect have you.

    Ultimately, to conclude that something does not exist does not mean that one has assumed that it is supernatural, or assumed that it does not exist.
    And to then seek to dismiss as out of scope any notion that concludes "no" (to the question asked) really is to beg the question, as explained.
    But hey, I've explained this numerous times, and it has fallen on ears unwilling to hear.
    I don't expect it to fare any different this time.
    You can, but were you actually able to do otherwise each time?
    A robot can do pretty much the same thing as you suggest: one moment do one thing, one moment do another, all with no external stimuli.
    Only the process that we have used for one is "programming", and for the other it is "will".
    Why should one be considered free and the other not?
    Even in your example you are reacting to stimuli.
    Maybe not external, but stimuli nonetheless.
    Stimuli that were set in place from the dawn of time in the deterministic system.
    And those stimuli, if identically applied to a system in an identical state, will, in a deterministic system, lead to exactly the same outcome each time.
    All we have is, due to complexity, a wider range of states in which our system might find itself in, depending on the inputs to that system, and the state of the system at the time.
    cluelusshusbund likes this.
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    You have yet to provide a proper explanation of how there is only one path way with out using a hindsight fallacy.
    There is no reason to forbid multiple (infinite) predetermined potential pathways.
    There is no reason to limit determinism to not predetermining the evolution of humans capable of learning how to predetermine in co-operation with the universe. None. ( aka Co-determinism)

    Until you address these and a few other major concerns your arbitrarily limited version of determinism is ineffective in addressing reality and must remain a inadequate abstraction that survives only due to it "Begging the question" and being allowed to so do so.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'm afraid I was unable to follow that.

    I return to my statement: "No definition of free will can violate the laws of physics without somehow being supernatural in origin. "

    Frankly, it applies to anything, not just free will. If X requires violating the laws of physics to operate, then X must be supernatural. (Since supernatural literally mans 'above the laws of nature').
    (Note: This says nothing about whether or not X exists or doesn't exist.)

    While true, I don't see the relevance. I wasn't doing that.

    Yes. My point was that free will is not anything magical; it is the ability (often through memory of previous states) to have dominion over one's body. One's body includes internal states such as memories.
  17. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    Don't see why such a proposed situation can claim a "free will title"

    I would contend the uncertainty principle is nothing to do with free will.

    It is a observation that you cannot take two measurements of a moving object and BOTH of them be correct (know speed and position at any particular moment)
    • cannot know speed if object stationery
    • cannot know position if moving
    Depending on what degree of accuracy required both can be calculated

    Free will not in the picture

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  18. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Will is not a process.

    Nonsupernatural freedom would of course emerge or exist in degrees, like any other natural phenomenon of the kind - there would be more or less of it, and different manifestations of course expected at different logical levels.
    The analogy with shoe size, the initial introduction by way of observation of drug addicts etc, the use of simple examples, pick that knot.
    You go back and forth between external and internal, without noticing. But internal vs external motivation, "stimulus", etc, are central to nonsupernatural freedom. That is not something one can overlook or ignore.
    Internal "stimuli" are not "applied to a system" - they are constituent parts of the systems we name "human being", "human mind", etc.
    If perfect and eternal accuracy is required, neither one can be calculated - in theory or in practice.
    Thirty or forty times now, that one.
  19. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    What part of
    is not understood?
    Is NOT NOT NOT a degree of accuracy

    That goes by the name PERFECTION and agree unobtainable

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  20. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    No worries.
    First, bear in mind that the argument here is not whether something has been concluded as being supernatural, but whether it has been assumed to be.
    If one doesn’t know whether the definition used is one that violates the laws of physics, one is not assuming that it is.
    One is not assuming that Socrates is mortal by defining him as a man.
    It is only when the definition (Socrates is a man) is coupled with the second assumption (all men are mortal) that one can conclude that Socrates is mortal.

    For example, let’s consider the scenario where we define freedom as “ability to do otherwise”, and now consider it within an indeterministic universe, one where thought creates a brand new causal chain.
    Is the definition of freedom now assuming that it is supernatural?

    Yet it is the same definition used in both scenarios.
    Where the accusation of assuming the supernatural comes from is by taking the conclusion with regard its existence in the deterministic universe and stating that the conclusion is assumed within the definition itself.
    When quite clearly it is not.
    And iceaura is utterly unable to show how it does assume the supernatural without referencing the second premise.

    Now, as I was saying before, if we know up front what universe we are considering, and we want to reach a specific conclusion, and then define freedom in such a way as to be impossible, then, and only then, are we assuming that what we have defined is supernatural.
    That is indeed the conclusion that can be reached, although to be supernatural i would say that it must be claimed to exist.
    Otherwise everything that is impossible must be considered supernatural, which just makes a mockery of language.
    Is a square circle supernatural?
    Or just an impossibility?
    If one claims it exists, sure, I’d say that the only way it can exist is if it is supernatural.
    But that’s rather different than simply concluding that it doesn’t exist.

    But that is a minor issue compared to the main one: the difference between concluding something as being supernatural (to exist) and actually assuming it to be supernatural from the outset.
    To assume from the outset that it can only exist by being supernatural one must already know that it does not otherwise exist.
    I did not define it so as to reach a specific conclusion, but rather followed the definition where it led.
    No up front knowledge that it doesn’t exist, thus no assumption that it is supernatural.
    Just a conclusion.
    Nor was I, or Sarkus.
    But it is the accusation levelled at us by iceaura, and has been from the outset.
    Against, the issue is not whether we have concluded something to not be possible (and therefore to exist it must be supernatural), but whether we have assumed it to be supernatural.
    And as you say, you weren’t doing that, nor was I.
    Yes, but I’m not seeing how this offers an “ability to do otherwise”?
    The issue is that it has no genuine freedom, as argued previously (counterfactuals et al), and no actual ability to do anything other than was deterministically mandated at the start of time.
    At least in the deterministic system of the universe that is under consideration.
    We just don’t know what that mandated action is.
    And that lack of knowledge of the future, or even the current state, leads to us creating imagined possibilities, and from that the sense that we can genuinely pick from between them.
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  21. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    The logic of it has been explained to you ad nauseam.
    Which you then claim is “an appeal to authority” as if somehow you are above logic, when actually it is that you either don’t want to accept the conclusion, or don’t understand the logic.
    There is no hindsight fallacy involved, as explained the last few times you raised that idiotic criticism.
    Sure, before the initial state of a deterministic system are known there could be any number of potential pathways.
    Alas, once the deterministic system starts, once the initial state is set, there is but one potential path, and it is predetermined from the time of the initial state.
    This, as explained to you many times, comes from the logic.
    You know, that thing that you don’t like “appealing to”.
    There is no cooperation, there is simply a localised concentration of interactions within the deterministic whole.
    Aka cog in a watch.
    Which you haven’t addressed even in the thread you specifically set up to discuss your garbled and confused mess of a notion.
    You are so cute when you try to hang on the coat tails of other people’s criticisms, while it is patently clear their actual argument flies straight over your head.
    As it is you have offered nothing in this post of yours that has not already been covered and responded to elsewhere.
  22. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    The only response you offer is what you have just posted... nada..
    again you have not addressed why only one path...
    and simply repeat what you have posted ad nauseum...
    You have to explain why there can only be one path as the logic you are using is insufficient when dealing with living and learning human beings...

    begging the question will not achieve anything...
    all you are doing is exposing your own inability to offer rational discussion because you consistently assume the conclusion as valid when in fact you have not argued it to be so.
  23. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    The traffic light event that you present can be described in narrowly with limited detail, or it can be described completely with extreme detail. When you describe the limited version, there is no way to exhibit the totality of the determined action that completely describes it. I didn’t add anything to the event that isn’t inherently connected to it.
    No, your translation of the event is not deterministic when you assume that the driver has alternatives to a predetermined future.
    It’s a version of the same event. The version I used was that the universe had the driver stopping at a light that turns red, another version would be that the universe determined that the driver didn’t stop for a green light. I could list many more universally determined versions for this event, and they would all depend on different complete states of the universe in order to occur. When you say consider the capabilities of the driver to do one thing or another, those aren’t options available to the driver in a determined universe. The only way to have the driver act differently is to change the initial state of the universe.
    It sure seems to appear in the one below.
    For an example that contains no reference to action, how is it that this non existent action is described being observed and recorded?
    We do respond to your examples as written, with our own responses as written. How else do you propose we do it?
    There is no ability to choose in a determined system. The driver is only observed to act as determined by the universe. The driver’s action is as rigidly determined as the number of toes on the driver’s foot.
    It doesn’t matter if you describe a moment before, during, or after the change of the light, because each of those moments have already been determined by the initial state of the universe. The driver is never in a position to change any of it.
    Every aspect of the example, the driver, the car, the light, the observer, and everything else in the universe are acting out their determined roles to define the observed action. The past, present, and future of all those aspects have already been determined by the universal history.
    Any example you propose in a determined universe already has a determined past , present and future. When you ask to consider the capabilities of driver to act in a given situation, you are either considering what the driver has done or will do in the future, so to describe either case involves complete knowledge to expose its determined nature.
    If all of your actions have been determined by the historical state of the universe, then your actions are actually a statement by the universe rather than yourself.
    To exist implies a connection to external stimuli, and being subject to continual change.
    cluelusshusbund likes this.

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