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Objectivism and determinism

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Very well; According to your understanding of Objectivism (directed at anyone reading this), can an identity of something be random?
That's a misunderstanding of the concepts "identity" and "random", as Olex points out. A "random" effect is one that is uncaused. The identity of entities causes a particular effect. The internal / external distinction is irrelevant. Edited by DavidOdden

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That's what is the trick here. (Already described by previous posts.)

Law of Identity is axiomatic. Determinism is not. Just because physical laws have been found to be determinist does not mean everything is determinist (since everything is based on some physical aspect in some way).

So there needs to be a stronger argument from a determinist. An argument of showing causal chain between some physical events: a->b->c-> .. doesn't mean all events in the universe are determined.

When it comes to the analysis of a brain a determinist must show the entire chain of brain function to be determinist. He can start with "the brain is physical," but then he must either (1) show that all physical objects are determinist OR (2) that all brain elements and systems are determinist.

(1) has not been proven ever. So far we only have a set of physical laws in current science. Quantum Mechanics is proposing some weird stuff, though. I don't think that QM in its modern representation is correct. But it might present a problem to a determinist who accepts modern view of QM. (It would make the brain random, though, not indeterminate.)

(2) has a better "chance." Neurons and all such stuff are shown to be determinist. However, that still leaves to show that a system of neurons will ALWAYS remain determinist as a whole.

(This isn't asking for a proof of negative. This is so, b/c there is introspective evidence that shows an ability to make a choice among alternatives. A claim that a reversal of time would show the same outcome is based on assumption that ALL physical events are determinist (1), which remains to be proven.)

I've never seen a theory actually that states "a system can only exhibit properties that its elements poses." In fact, there are plenty of examples where systems exhibit qualities that none of its parts poses. A living being is one such example, since its body is composed of non-living elements.

So, a determinist can't even win if one "restricts" the conversation to physics only.

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Nice post Olex. But you did not reply to my main points.

(2) has a better "chance." Neurons and all such stuff are shown to be determinist. However, that still leaves to show that a system of neurons will ALWAYS remain determinist as a whole.

It has to be (that a system composed of determinist-type elements will be deterministic), unless we are unaware of additional factors that influence neurons, that somehow come to existence in a neural network, but not in individual neuron.

If ALL the factors influencing an entity are known, and it is also known that the entity reacts in only one way to each factor influencing it, then the system is necessarily deterministic, otherwise its behavior contradicts what we know of the nature of the units.

there is introspective evidence that shows an ability to make a choice among alternatives.

The fact that you made a choice is fine, but I disagree that this observation also suggests that it could have happened differently if time was reversed. I also don't think that the observation proves that it had to have happened the same way.

In fact I don't think there is a proof that the mind is deterministic, but I do think there is no proof that it is "free", while there is evidence suggesting that it is deterministic (suggesting, but not proving).

I've never seen a theory actually that states "a system can only exhibit properties that its elements poses." In fact, there are plenty of examples where systems exhibit qualities that none of its parts poses. A living being is one such example, since its body is composed of non-living elements.

I don't see the point here - almost everything is composed of some smaller building-blocks that have different characteristics by themselves, and the building-blocks do not have the properties of what they compose (for example, my computer is made out of atoms - but none of the atoms has the ability to run programs).

The nature of the computer does not contradict the nature of its components, just like a living entity's nature does not contradict its components. A living thing, physically, is a bunch of molecules in a highly complex chain of changes and reactions. But physically, it is nothing more than a bunch of moving, changing, chemically reacting molecules. This particular manner of arrangement of molecules is what we call life - but the organism's properties do not contradict the nature of its elements.

However, if neurons are deterministic, then the brain must also be, otherwise it would contradict its components.

Actually, this is not what Law of Identity means.

That's a misunderstanding of the concepts "identity" and "random", as Olex points out.

Actually, guys, I was only asking, not making a statement.

see here:

Very well; According to your understanding of Objectivism (directed at anyone reading this), can an identity of something be random?

Just to your attention... :)

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Ifat, I don't think that Objectivism holds that free will means random will. In fact it allows that your will is determined, but emphasizes that it is you who determines it. In other threads I have posited my understanding in an attempt to flesh this out - to say that the will is free you've got to have some proper contextual understanding of what it is free from. In my view, which I think is compatible with Objectivism, it is sufficient to note (by introspection) that your choice of whether or not to vary your level of focus at a given point in time is free 1. of external control (which means: nothing outside your observed mind controls it) and 2. of internal prior restraint (meaning that you cannot bind your future choices). Both of these are incontestible, provided that you accept (which I believe you have) the validity of introspection as a means of knowing one's own mind. Naturally, your choice could have been otherwise, in the sense that it would have been otherwise had you so chosen. In a philosophical context - and let us not forget that it is a matter of philosophy that we are discussing, not physics - this is sufficient to demonstrate that free will is axiomatic. Given that, the burden on contrary arguments arising from the sciences is not merely high, it is insurmountable. All of the scientific brain scans in the world will not be able to negate that philosophical free will is axiomatic no matter how comprehensive they may be.

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I've been trying to make that point this whole time.
So, you agree with Seeker, when he says that the "choice of whether or not to vary your level of focus at a given point in time is free ... of internal prior restraint .." and that "... , your choice could have been otherwise...".

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So, you agree with Seeker, when he says that the "choice of whether or not to vary your level of focus at a given point in time is free ... of internal prior restraint .." and that "... , your choice could have been otherwise...".

That's not all he said. The rest of the sentence was:

Naturally, your choice could have been otherwise, in the sense that it would have been otherwise had you so chosen.

But of course, it isn't otherwise because it was not the choice. I'm not sure if that's what he meant, but that's what I understood.

As long as you accept that your Deterministic brain process is what makes you and your will, then idea makes sense.

And something else that's really nice from what he said:

your choice of whether or not to vary your level of focus at a given point in time is free 1. of external control (which means: nothing outside your observed mind controls it) and 2. of internal prior restraint (meaning that you cannot bind your future choices).

This defines Free Will as something that is free external processes, not free from Determinism. That makes Determinism and Free Will compatable like Seeker said:

In fact it allows that your will is determined,

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Well, I won't speak for Seeker here. The way I see it, his notion of having chosen implies that one could have acted differently, which is the opposite of the way you think of "chosen". Your notion of chosen is something that does not have a choice to choose. When one presses on the end of a lever, in your system, it chooses to move. I assumed Seeker was using the term differently.

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Very well; According to your understanding of Objectivism (directed at anyone reading this), can an identity of something be random?

i.e. the identity of this object is that it reacts in one of 3 ways, such that there is no external factor influencing it to react in any one of those ways?

No, and I think Olex and David have explained why.

I disagree that you have any evidence that your ability to think, learn, decide and choose is "free". I don't disagree that you can think, learn, decide, and choose. Just with your additional interpretation of what you observe.

Ignoring the implication that you're an automaton for the moment, I disagree that you have any evidence whatsoever of my will not being free, of all of my choices and actions being determined. I argue that you could never give one instance of my chosen actions actually resulting from a determinist chain of causes and influences.

But there's something more fundamental going on here: I've shown that Objectivism doesn't consider free will to be a violation of cause-and-effect, your statements notwithstanding. If a free choice exists, the Objectivist law of causality would say, then it is caused and necessitated by the entity which engages in said choice. Since you still argue that free will is a violation of cause-and-effect, the question that must be answered is: just what is your view of causality, since it obviously isn't Objectivism's? To this effect, I'll add something at the end of this post.

Your conclusion that your observations (both from introspection and from observing other people) suggest that human will is non-deterministic is the arbitrary one, from my point of view.

I've argued that Determinism gives a faulty account of causality, and therefore is an invalid position, whatever its conclusions on human will. Neither Martian nor yourself have yet to demonstrate why this is not so. I've given arguments on free will and its axiomatic status; how about you guys argue for your position now?

If you drop a rock and it falls to the ground, and someone comes and tells you "a different outcome could have happened, under exact same circumstances", you would ask him to explain how come the rock could have reacted differently under exact same circumstances, right?

So this is what I ask you now.

This is not what Objectivism states; that "could have been otherwise" applies to all things in existence, conscious or not, alive or not. "Could have been otherwise" only applies to the higher-level actions of a volitional consciousness--it is these actions which are not necessitated by antecedent factors. Antecedent factors can be causally relevant--they can be influential in making a particular choice as opposed to another (or multiple others)--but such factors are not sufficient to bring about a specific choice. What cannot be otherwise is the choice as such to focus or not; this choice is sufficient to bring about a specific choice, whether focus or non-focus, but which one is chosen by the actor--whereas higher-level choices (thinking, acting) cannot be sufficiently brought about by the choice to focus or not--choosing to focus doesn't necessitate that one think, or (physically) act, it simply makes sufficient the action of raising one's awareness.

Now, to Rand's Razor: Ifatart: what are your axioms?

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The fact that you made a choice is fine, but I disagree that this observation also suggests that it could have happened differently if time was reversed. I also don't think that the observation proves that it had to have happened the same way.

That is the crucial point. We may think that our choice might have been different, but that doesn't prove that it is so. Before we make our choice we cannot predict which choice we'll make and therefore all the possibilities seem still to be open. But in fact the decision process may be completely determined: we may weigh the merits of the different options, reasoning what the consequences of each choice will be. This weighing process will be influenced by our experience, memory, feelings, genetic constitution, current input via the senses, etc. Sometimes the process will be rather straightforward, while all factors strongly favor one particular outcome. In other cases the arguments and factors will be more balanced so that the choice is more difficult. Especially in the latter case we'll have a strong feeling that different options are possible. But this all is not in contradiction with the notion that the whole thinking process, including making a choice, is in fact a deterministic process. We cannot observe the inevitability of our thinking process, as observing is itself a thinking process and you'd have to observe that process too, etc., leading to an infinite regress. We can only reason about what we can consciously observe, and at that level the determinism is necessarily invisible, so a final choice may seem to appear out of the blue, while it is in fact determined by the processes of myriads of firing neurons.

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In fact I don't think there is a proof that the mind is deterministic, but I do think there is no proof that it is "free", while there is evidence suggesting that it is deterministic (suggesting, but not proving).

So why are you arguing with us? If you don't have a proof that Determinism is true, then why bother arguing?

I've given a validation of free will and its axiomatic status, and what it entails, but you're basically saying that you're not convinced that your own position is correct (there's merely evidence suggesting, you say).

If you're going to argue, could you please have a definite position for something, not just against free will?

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That is the crucial point. We may think that our choice might have been different, but that doesn't prove that it is so.

Again, Objectivism does not attempt to prove the reality of free will and choices being different; free will is an axiomatic concept, an implication of the consciousness axiom and the base of conceptual cognition. It is validated, not proved, through introspective experience, through observing one's ability to raise or lower one's focus at one's will, realizing that this process of focus never becomes automatic or determined: it takes the same fundamental effort to bring oneself into a state of focus, and this effort does not determine other moments; the next instant one can choose not to expend effort and lower one's focus back into a mental haze.

This is because there cannot be an infinite regress of things being proved; some ideas have to be the basis for proof, and Objectivism argues that free will is one such base.

My objections to Ifatart and Martian apply to you as well. Objectivism regards Determinism as a false theory and rejects it, along with its view of causality. This includes Incompatibilism (Hard Determinism) and Compatibilism (Soft Determinism). Arguing for Soft Determinism doesn't somehow make it compatible with Objectivism, so I don't see the point of the thread anymore, unless it is now a general Free Will/Determinism thread, but I'm sure these last comments will go ignored like they were when I said them earlier.

Also, Tensorman: What are your axioms?

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That is the crucial point. We may think that our choice might have been different, but that doesn't prove that it is so. Before we make our choice we cannot predict which choice we'll make and therefore all the possibilities seem still to be open. But in fact the decision process may be completely determined: we may weigh the merits of the different options, reasoning what the consequences of each choice will be. This weighing process will be influenced by our experience, memory, feelings, genetic constitution, current input via the senses, etc. Sometimes the process will be rather straightforward, while all factors strongly favor one particular outcome. In other cases the arguments and factors will be more balanced so that the choice is more difficult. Especially in the latter case we'll have a strong feeling that different options are possible. But this all is not in contradiction with the notion that the whole thinking process, including making a choice, is in fact a deterministic process. We cannot observe the inevitability of our thinking process, as observing is itself a thinking process and you'd have to observe that process too, etc., leading to an infinite regress. We can only reason about what we can consciously observe, and at that level the determinism is necessarily invisible, so a final choice may seem to appear out of the blue, while it is in fact determined by the processes of myriads of firing neurons.

Everyone, listen to this guy. He understands the idea and explains it well.

If my posts didn't make sense to you, then perhaps it was because I explained it badly.

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Everyone, listen to this guy. He understands the idea and explains it well.

If my posts didn't make sense to you, then perhaps it was because I explained it badly.

Do you accept introspection as a valid means of understanding one's own consciousness?

I understand your posts quite well because I understand the Soft-Determinism argument; I regard it as false, but I understand it.

And what is the purpose of your posts now? If it's still trying to reconcile Objectivism and Determinism, please tell me so that I can stop posting--I've given plenty of reasons why this is impossible and do not wish to run around in circles.

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We may think that our choice might have been different, but that doesn't prove that it is so.
Equally, you may think that you would do the same thing if "time were reversed", but that doesn't make it so.
But in fact the decision process may be completely determined: we may weigh the merits of the different options, reasoning what the consequences of each choice will be
Uh-huh, and I may freely choose to focus on this fact and set aside that fact, which means that my final choice will vary. To the extent that I choose to be rational, to the extent that my knowledge doesn't expand (that is to say, "to no extent") and the world doesn't change, my choices will tend to go in one direction.
We can only reason about what we can consciously observe, and at that level the determinism is necessarily invisible, so a final choice may seem to appear out of the blue, while it is in fact determined by the processes of myriads of firing neurons.
So if this determinism is invisible, why do you claim it exists? You have the self-evident fact of free will, and the invisible, unproven and unsupportable claim of determinism, so I'm having a hard time understanding why anybody could support the invisible over the obvious.

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But of course, it isn't otherwise because it was not the choice. I'm not sure if that's what he meant, but that's what I understood.

Well no, I did not intend to reduce the matter to a truism - I was simply trying to emphasize once again that it is you who chooses, at the moment at which you choose, and you could have chosen differently. I think the salient difference in our positions arises from the following:

This defines Free Will as something that is free external processes, not free from Determinism. That makes Determinism and Free Will compatable like Seeker said:

You left out the part about being free from internal prior restraint, and especially, the validity of introspection as a means of knowing. For when one argues in favor of deterministic processes of myriads of firing neurons as controlling the will, one has discarded the validity of introspection for (as must be acknowledged) such processes are invisible to introspection. As I said, free will is axiomatic as a matter of philosophy; no amount of neurological science can disprove it.

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So why are you arguing with us? If you don't have a proof that Determinism is true, then why bother arguing?

Everything, acts Deterministically: gravity remains constant, each time you throw a ball, it moves according to the laws of physics, each time you cook breakfast, the egg's molecules interact under the same naturalistic order as everything else, including the brain.

If you poke a person in the leg, and they don't respond the same way every time you try this, you assume that there is a magical thing called Free Will that makes things fall up, balls dart in arbitrary directions, and your breakfast egg to cook or not. The process is not that simple where you can just assume there is a Free Will force that makes it happen differently (a person reacting differently). There are a lot of things going on in a person's brain (being over 100 billion cells), and to make an axiom without understanding its process is silly. It's a gross oversimplification. That's why I made the connection between the stone age man believing that spirits controlled nature and the people who accept Free Will, that is free from Determinism. They are making the same assumptions. The ancient man thought the world was flat, that the weather was controlled by the emotional state of a spirit. The person in support of Free Will that contradicts Determinism is doing the exact same thing as the stone age man who says that there is a spirit behind the seemingly free will of the weather and the Free Will of a person. Nature has yet to violate its consistency, and to say that it does so only in the brain (where we can't look at without messing it up) of a human is beyond silly. If you still hold this position then you are just being difficult.

Now, this is whole discussion is dependent on how you define "person". That's why I asked David Odden "what is a man?" (to no serious reply). I'm still not sure how someone, who supports the Free Will force, would define it. But I know how I would. My definition of a person is their Deterministic brain process. That is who I am, and who you are. It's what makes you, you and me, me. The person, is the brain's functionality under the rules of the universe. This provides a base for its will, interests, and desires, so that they aren't arbitrary, but logically connected. Under this definition, to say that the Deterministic process picked the choice for me and I had no input in the matter, is nonsense. That is because you are saying, in other words, that you picked the choice for yourself because that's the way you are and you had no input. I've said this before (I think more than once) and no one has addressed it. Could you do so now?

Edited by Martian

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Now, this is whole discussion is dependent on how you define "person".
That's a mistake. This is a person (by accident, that's also his name), this is a dog. I don't see how there is any serious confusion over which is which. Are there entities out there that you think might be people, and you're just not sure? It is completely unnecessary to "define" a man; what you need to be able to do it identify one. This talk about definitions is really a waste of time.

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Do you accept introspection as a valid means of understanding one's own consciousness?

Well, it could be a clue understanding consciousness, but I definitely wouldn't be able to tell if my particles are violating the concept of Determinism based on that. The best way to determine this is through objective examination of the brain or reasonable inference (everything we have seen follows its order, therefore the brain, which is made of the same particles, follow the same order). Even though it may seem that you could have chosen differently, your one choice was what your Deterministic brain process made, given your brain state.

And what is the purpose of your posts now? If it's still trying to reconcile Objectivism and Determinism, please tell me so that I can stop posting--I've given plenty of reasons why this is impossible and do not wish to run around in circles.

Whew! We've come a long way since my original quandary about why Objectivists deny Determinism, but the current discussion does relate.

I asked the question because I couldn't deny the fact that nature follows an order. I liked what I read about Objectivism, but to reject the natural order seemed anti-reality (I don't understand why some continue to deny this). Because I didn't believe this was so, I pondered the concept of Free Will (yes rational biker, I was able to think about it). And I had an epiphany. I was able to define the concepts and get a consistent idea that matched reality and didn't conflict with everything else science has discovered (Occam's razor applies to the Free Will axiom?). Before this, most of the posters in this topic said they denied Determinism because it meant that the Free Will force axiom didn't exist. I showed a general model on how we can have a rational mind and Deterministic properties (I still can't the other idea of Free Will to work). Everything works together beautifully. The current discussion is about this, and I hope to explain it better (Objectivism would be one less axiom).

Though, I think you guys believe that I probably don't know what I'm talking about and assume my argument without fully reading my posts (either that, or I'm not expressing my ideas in words correctly).

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If you poke a person in the leg, and they don't respond the same way every time you try this, you assume that there is a magical thing called Free Will that makes things fall up, balls dart in arbitrary directions, and your breakfast egg to cook or not. The process is not that simple where you can just assume there is a Free Will force that makes it happen differently (a person reacting differently).

Now, this is whole discussion is dependent on how you define "person". That's why I asked David Odden "what is a man?" (to no serious reply). I'm still not sure how someone, who supports the Free Will force, would define it.

What? Freewill only pertains to volital beings, and is only in issues where one can either make this choice or that choice. It has nothing to do with inanimate objects violating the law of identity (A is A; "things are what they are"). There's no "force" about it; it's all contained within the brain.

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Equally, you may think that you would do the same thing if "time were reversed", but that doesn't make it so.

So, you're saying if we did the exact same experiment we would get a different result?

Uh-huh, and I may freely choose to focus on this fact and set aside that fact, which means that my final choice will vary. To the extent that I choose to be rational, to the extent that my knowledge doesn't expand (that is to say, "to no extent") and the world doesn't change, my choices will tend to go in one direction.

But, in that exact brain state, the process that the particles follow will lead to the ONE action, not "tend to go in one direction".

So if this determinism is invisible, why do you claim it exists? You have the self-evident fact of free will, and the invisible, unproven and unsupportable claim of determinism, so I'm having a hard time understanding why anybody could support the invisible over the obvious.

He meant invisible for all practical reasons. For the longest time, the cell was invisible, that was until an apparatus was made that assisted the eye. The activities of the brain particles themselves are not able to be viewed in their natural process.

I agree with Free Will, I just disagree that it contradicts a natural order.

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"Picked a choice"? You keep using terms that imply choice. Does water pick a choice of flowing downhill rather than up?

In that case, I was using "choice" to be synonymous with "outcome of a logical process" (logical process meaning calculations in the brain).

Also, is that all the criticism you have for my post? You're not arguing against my main idea yet.

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So, you're saying if we did the exact same experiment we would get a different result?
No, I'm saying that you can't do "the exact same experiment". If you do a similar experiment, it's not the same experiment, and the facts will be different.
But, in that exact brain state, the process that the particles follow will lead to the ONE action, not "tend to go in one direction".
You mean, if I choose to do X, then I choose to do X? Yes, I agree. The question is whether I choose to do X.

This discussion which presupposes that we have knowledge of how subatomic particles in the skull result in consciousness and choice suffers from one fundamental flaw, that we don't know the physical basis of the mind, and especially how men choose. If you can show even one piece of concrete scientific evidence that proves that the human mind is determined by the equations of particle physics, you will have advanced your cause substantialy. But of course you can't, because there is no such evidence.

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