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Rand's argument against determinism

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If you're saying some physical systems are not determined by their initial conditions, then I'm interested and I'd like to learn more. Please talk about (or link to) some examples which clearly illustrate your point.

Consider a turbulent fluid flow such as earth's weather system. On the microscale it is completely deterministic yet sensitive to variations to initial conditions. Here is a short and incomplete list of conditions that contribute to the weather: position and momentum of every atom on earth (gas and water molecules, the mountins and trees that affect airflow, butterfly wings), position and momentum of every atom beneath the earth due to potential volcanism and the geomagnetic field), position and momentum of every atom on the moon to account for tidal effects and eclipses, position and momentum of every particle on every planet to account for the progressive shifting of the earth's orbit and distance from the sun over geologic time scales due to gravitational influences, position and momentum of every particle on the sun and all of the electric, magnetic and nuclear energies at play in the sun to account for periodic short and long variability of the sun's outputs (including flares and coronal mass ejections), position and momentum of every asteroid and the objects of the Oort Cloud so as to account for the occasional impacts upon the earth, an accounting of the sources of galactic cosmic rays which can affect cloud formation in the earth's atmosphere.... and on and on and on because everything in the universe affects every other thing. The idea of initial conditions necessarily expands to require an inventory of the universe. Then there is the problem of the precision of measurement. Infinitely precise measurements are impossible because infinities are impossible and the limitations of the Uncertainty Principle.

Causality is properly understood as things that exist acting across time. What actions are possible are determined by the identities of the entities acting. If initial conditions include a complete accounting of the identities of the entities acting then the statement "physical systems are determined by their initial conditions" gains truth while surrendering predictability at the expense of requiring omniscience for any real insight. Usually initial conditions refer to an impoverished, censored version of conditions in the past, a half-remembered schematic of reality which is at least computable. Even that version makes a mistake in reifying the past over the present.

Consider any system described by a sinusoid such as f=sin(t). It is completely deterministic yet the initial condition does not determine the value of f(t) the value of t does. Physically, if t is time then the value of f(t) in the system is determined by the initial condition (its current identity) and when it is interacted with and measured. It is not the past that matters but the present. The future is imagined and the past is remembered; only the present is metaphysically real. All physical systems are their present conditions.

The formulaic expression of the axioms of existence and identity is "A is A" not "A was A".

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Consider a turbulent fluid flow such as earth's weather system...

Causality is properly understood as things that exist acting across time. What actions are possible are determined by the identities of the entities acting. If initial conditions include a complete accounting of the identities of the entities acting then the statement "physical systems are determined by their initial conditions" gains truth while surrendering predictability at the expense of requiring omniscience for any real insight. Usually initial conditions refer to an impoverished, censored version of conditions in the past, a half-remembered schematic of reality which is at least computable. Even that version makes a mistake in reifying the past over the present.

The formulaic expression of the axioms of existence and identity is "A is A" not "A was A".

Ok, I agree with everything you've said here, but all you've argued is that we will never be able to amass all the data required to figure out what exactly will happen to this very large and complex physical system at some later point in time. By your own argument, the system is still determined-- i.e. its (massively unknowable set of) conditions at any point in time still completely determines its state at any later point in time. Your own argument supports the determinist position.

I'm not even actually trying to advocate for the determinist position-- I'm trying to work out the paradox I illustrated at the outset of this discussion. Your last post sounded like you had examples of physical systems which were not completely determined by their conditions at a particular instant in time, but unless I misunderstand your argument here, you seem to be making precisely the opposite contention.

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Ok, I agree with everything you've said here, but all you've argued is that we will never be able to amass all the data required to figure out what exactly will happen to this very large and complex physical system at some later point in time. By your own argument, the system is still determined-- i.e. its (massively unknowable set of) conditions at any point in time still completely determines its state at any later point in time. Your own argument supports the determinist position.

I'm not even actually trying to advocate for the determinist position-- I'm trying to work out the paradox I illustrated at the outset of this discussion. Your last post sounded like you had examples of physical systems which were not completely determined by their conditions at a particular instant in time, but unless I misunderstand your argument here, you seem to be making precisely the opposite contention.

First to Grames: Your explanations are by far the most satisfying of any I have heard on this forum or, for that matter, in any discussion on this subject. Generally, people who believe in free will/volition are not able to articulate any possible cause or root of it and just fall into "I feel it" or "If its not true, what's the point?"

Prospective Objectivist: I think what Grames is trying to say is that the determinist position, while "true" in that nothing can break the laws of physics, it is useless on all meaningful scales. For one, it may very well be impossible to actually create a supreme mathematical construction of consciousness from the basic laws of physics. Might we recreate a brain in another medium, like a computer? Sure, but we won't be able to construct a mathematical model that will predict its behavior as a function of time, it will have to be computed and approximated laboriously at all times. Unlike, for example, an atom, whose wavefunction can be calculated without much difficulty (well, relatively speaking), it may never be possible (we don't know) for that to be done with the brain, we may end up with an undefined wavefunction, something mathematics cannot simplify beyond brute force modeling of the system.

Beyond even the fact we won't be able to simply create a single unique wavefunction for a conscious entity's "brain", if we were to try to model its behavior with perfect accuracy, we would never be able to do so, since our measurements are restricted by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and we would have to take in to account all of the behavior of every object in the universe. Since the universe can only model itself at the same rate it is going now (for obvious reasons), determinism gives us nothing of value. Dictating that one must do the impossible, or assume it, renders the point meaningless. Essentially, the point is that while determinism in the most wide sense possible, that nothing disobeys the laws of physics (whatever they happen to be), is obviously true, that does not really have any meaning when we are talking about conscious entities and their process of making decisions, since you can never, ever, ever, know what that entity will do before it does it (since doing so changes the conditions, even in the most minute of ways; and you'd have to have knowledge beyond any being's capacity to gain). Just because a given system (the ENTIRE universe) will work out in some particular way (stochastically even), it has no real relevance when talking about volition in the sense that Objectivists use it. Given whatever information we have (even an astounding, yet finite, amount of information) one can always say that I may have made a different decision given the initial conditions (even that it may have turned out with different odds of happening that it turned out to), and so we have volition in the only sense that it is meaningful to speak of it.

Now, do forgive me Grames if that is not your point. It is only my best understanding of it, and to be honest, it has allowed me to reconcile my issues with volition in my mind. If incorrect, correct me, for both my own and Prospective Objectivist's understanding.

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Ok, I agree with everything you've said here, but all you've argued is that we will never be able to amass all the data required to figure out what exactly will happen to this very large and complex physical system at some later point in time. By your own argument, the system is still determined-- i.e. its (massively unknowable set of) conditions at any point in time still completely determines its state at any later point in time. Your own argument supports the determinist position.

I'm not even actually trying to advocate for the determinist position-- I'm trying to work out the paradox I illustrated at the outset of this discussion. Your last post sounded like you had examples of physical systems which were not completely determined by their conditions at a particular instant in time, but unless I misunderstand your argument here, you seem to be making precisely the opposite contention.

You misunderstand the nature of my argument, but I didn't emphasize it enough. Determinism abuses concepts of time.

There is no metaphysical past, there is no metaphysical future, therefore determinism has no metaphysical meaning. All physical systems are their present conditions. To say the past determines the future makes the error of reifying the past. To say the present determines the future still makes the error of reifying the future. To say the present determines the present is true but is not determinism.

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Given whatever information we have (even an astounding, yet finite, amount of information) one can always say that I may have made a different decision given the initial conditions (even that it may have turned out with different odds of happening that it turned out to), and so we have volition in the only sense that it is meaningful to speak of it.

This is where your explanation goes wrong-- if the universe is determined, then you can't ever say that you may have made a different decision. (Or you could, but you'd be wrong.) Ever since the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle became cannon, no legitimate determinist has argued that we will ever be able to model the universe in a way which will predict what is going to happen to very complex systems with precision. That is not the determinist position. Hence I agree that even if determinism is true, it doesn't really help us with our day-to-day lives because it adds no element of predictability or guidance. (This is what Mr. Movias failed to understand about the determinist position earlier in the discussion.) But I'm not ready to concede that it would have absolutely no philosophical consequences-- that's a discussion for another thread, though.

You misunderstand the nature of my argument, but I didn't emphasize it enough. Determinism abuses concepts of time.

There is no metaphysical past, there is no metaphysical future, therefore determinism has no metaphysical meaning. All physical systems are their present conditions. To say the past determines the future makes the error of reifying the past. To say the present determines the future still makes the error of reifying the future. To say the present determines the present is true but is not determinism.

Please clarify this point. Are you talking about special relativity, i.e. the "present" is only arbitrarily defined across different inertial frames? If so, you may have a point. But I'm not sure that's what you're saying.

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I'm trying to work out the paradox I illustrated at the outset of this discussion.
we will never be able to amass all the data required to figure out what exactly will happen to this very large and complex physical system at some later point in time.
How could this paradox come into being if we are never able to amass all of the data necessary to make the following conclusion?
if modern science shows that everything in the universe is ruled by natural laws and that every effect has a cause, then...

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Those of you who want to start at the level of atoms or sub-atomic particles are starting at the wrong place, which is what leads to all of your confusions. The place to start is what you directly observe, and you directly observe that you make choices. And you had to understand how to operate your own mind before you could begin to understand modern physics -- that is, you had to learn how to focus your own mind, concentrate on a topic, develop proper study methods, and learn logic. The existence of your own mind as validated by introspection had to come before you could begin to study any topic; and the nature of your own mind as given by introspection is that you have control over it, which is free will.

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Please clarify this point. Are you talking about special relativity, i.e. the "present" is only arbitrarily defined across different inertial frames? If so, you may have a point. But I'm not sure that's what you're saying.

No, there is no appeal here to relativity just the understanding of causality. Something that does not exist cannot be a causal influence except through some intermediary that does continue to exist. The past does not exist, it is not a location in space-time to which you can time travel. Just as all causation is local in space and not "spooky action at a distance" all causation is local in time and does not reach from the past or into the future.

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It is also no coincidence that the posters most frequently picking fights on this issue are teenagers and college students.

The answer is the a priori conceptual framework you bring to the issue. In the first lecture of Dr. Peikoff's Art of Thinking course he identifies the problem of Clashing Contexts. You have learned and automatized the perspective of a solver of physics problems so well you cannot conceive of causality in any terms other than the one-way open-loop entropy increasing collisions of billiard balls in the elementary Newtonian/Cartesian way. No matter what your difficulties of comprehension are, there is no contradiction of physics involved in causation that works top-down in addition to bottom-up in some systems. Those special systems are physical manifestations of recursion, examples of which are living creatures, conceptual consciousness, and attractors in non-linear dynamic systems. None of these topics are covered in AP physics classes or freshman physics, so naturally your own understanding of causality omits them.

Claiming any correspondence between what you think is real and what is real would be fundamentally impossible if you were completely determined because there is no special reference frame that makes you an exception to the general rule of determinism, meaning you only believe determinism because you are forced to do so, which means determinism refutes itself as a claim to truth.

Go chew on On The Physical Meaning of Volition by Ronald E. Merrill. If you can understand it, it will help pry open your mind.

I really liked the thoughts by Merrill. Finally some new approach, but I did have some problems following his argumentation. I really liked him saying that simply saying "I have volition because I can feel it" (or variations that are given here all the time) is not a good argument at all.

Firstly he also referred to the argument, that the statement "The universe is deterministic" requires knowledge, which requires independent "checking" with reality. A determinist might say "If you define knowledge that way, then we simply don't have knowledge" and further "I don't see evidence that humans gain 'knowledge' independently".

I still feel that the general argument that knowledge requires free will tries to smuggle in volition by defining knowledge with the intention to prove volition that way. Sort of a circle argument.

Secondly he states that "a more fruitful approach argues that systems which can model some portion of the world and thus make predictions can evade the deterministic limitations of physics". I can find no argument in the text why this can be the case even though he says that this would not help much.

Every prediction of the future must be based on observations of the past and I don't see why "feeding itself information about the future" changes anything.

Thirdly and maybe most importantly: Why is the answer to the question "What may we expect if the subject in the isolation booth is volitional?" that the answers will never converge to a number?

In a sense he say that volition is "more random than random" or a kind of randomness that can't even be described by stochastic, but he still fails to explain what volition means. How does the subject in the box make a single decision?

It seems to me that volition must be that way, since volition must differ fundamentally from randomness and determinism and a sequence that doesn't converge to a certain number is the only sequence of answers that is fundamentally different from other sequences. That still is sort of an "anti-argument" and fails to show that volition exists and what it is. Since he does not really say what volition is the point he makes, that volition must be fundamentally different to randomness and determinism seems arbitrary to me.

His central point seems to be the Gödel's theorem applies to physics and that therefore a volitional being can be possible, because physics may never be complete and therefore there will be systems that can never be predicted.

I see a lot of problems there. Firstly: I think he fails to properly conclude that Gödel's theorem in fact applies to physics.

There is for example an axiomatic system of real numbers that is complete and consistent, because natural number can not be picked as a subset with the set of axioms. So he must show that natural number actually "exist" in physics.

Even assuming that Gödel's theorem applies to physics (which causes all whole set of other problems by the way), I don't see why it follows that a volitional being can exist the way he describes it. If I understood it correctly, Gödel's theorem does not say that _any_ arithmetic statement can not be proven, just that there can be _certain_ statements that can't be.

Now he does not say anything about why the problem of volition must be one of those statements.

It sort of seems that he claims that nothing in physics can be proven or rendered impossible if Gödel's theorem applies.

Lastly he didn't prove volition. Even without all those problems with his argumentation he merely said that volition is not impossible, but you could apply his argumentation to other propositions too (god?) and conclude that they might be possible.

You misunderstand the nature of my argument, but I didn't emphasize it enough. Determinism abuses concepts of time.

There is no metaphysical past, there is no metaphysical future, therefore determinism has no metaphysical meaning. All physical systems are their present conditions. To say the past determines the future makes the error of reifying the past. To say the present determines the future still makes the error of reifying the future. To say the present determines the present is true but is not determinism.

Causation needs two points in time and therefore, without a metaphysical past, there can be not causation. Observation itself requires two points in time to be describe as a valid concept. The existence of the past can truly be proven by introspection.

Those of you who want to start at the level of atoms or sub-atomic particles are starting at the wrong place, which is what leads to all of your confusions. The place to start is what you directly observe, and you directly observe that you make choices. And you had to understand how to operate your own mind before you could begin to understand modern physics -- that is, you had to learn how to focus your own mind, concentrate on a topic, develop proper study methods, and learn logic. The existence of your own mind as validated by introspection had to come before you could begin to study any topic; and the nature of your own mind as given by introspection is that you have control over it, which is free will.

You are repeating your position over and over again although it has been shown several times that free will can not be proven by introspection.

Again: Free will means that you can make different "choices" (choice implies free will, therefore the exclamation marks) in the same condition. You can _never_ recreate the same conditions.

Also the statement "Free will is an illusion" does not get refuted by:

I am in control of my mind. Why?

I am volitional. Why?

I could have picked a different option. How is that?

I just know.

Introspection has limits and proving volition is one of them. A man who hears a voice inside his head claiming to be god can not properly claim that god exists.

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Please clarify this point. Are you talking about special relativity, i.e. the "present" is only arbitrarily defined across different inertial frames? If so, you may have a point. But I'm not sure that's what you're saying.

No, there is no appeal here to relativity just the understanding of causality. Something that does not exist cannot be a causal influence except through some intermediary that does continue to exist. The past does not exist, it is not a location in space-time to which you can time travel. Just as all causation is local in space and not "spooky action at a distance" all causation is local in time and does not reach from the past or into the future.

I don't see a connection between saying "The past does not exist" to "The past has no influence".

If I throw a Ball in the air and wait 5 seconds, the ball in mid-air was very well influence by an event in the past. If you deny any influence of the past to the present, how can you even use the concept of causation?

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I have been struggling with this argument against determinism for some time, and I'm not sure it actually holds. Input one way or another would be appreciated. (Also: if it wasn't Ayn Rand's argument originally, whose was it?)

Epicurus, item 40 in the Vatican Sayings

"He who says that all things happen by necessity can hardly find fault with the one who denies that all happens by necessity; for on his own theory this very argument is voiced by necessity."

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Those of you who want to start at the level of atoms or sub-atomic particles are starting at the wrong place, which is what leads to all of your confusions. The place to start is what you directly observe, and you directly observe that you make choices. And you had to understand how to operate your own mind before you could begin to understand modern physics -- that is, you had to learn how to focus your own mind, concentrate on a topic, develop proper study methods, and learn logic. The existence of your own mind as validated by introspection had to come before you could begin to study any topic; and the nature of your own mind as given by introspection is that you have control over it, which is free will.

Amen, to that!

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I don't see a connection between saying "The past does not exist" to "The past has no influence".

If I throw a Ball in the air and wait 5 seconds, the ball in mid-air was very well influence by an event in the past. If you deny any influence of the past to the present, how can you even use the concept of causation?

Causation is identity in action. The throw of the ball altered the identity of the ball by adding a certain energy of motion to it. The ball has no concept of the past nor does it plot its trajectory into the future; it simply does what it must moment by moment. Concepts of past and future are valid but epistemological not metaphysical. The referents of the concepts are ideas, memories and imaginings respectively.

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I really liked the thoughts by Merrill. Finally some new approach, but I did have some problems following his argumentation. I really liked him saying that simply saying "I have volition because I can feel it" (or variations that are given here all the time) is not a good argument at all.

** That is not actually his position. "I have volition because I can feel it" is a perfectly fine for demonstrating the reality of volition, but it doesn't solve the problem of integrating knowledge.

Firstly he also referred to the argument, that the statement "The universe is deterministic" requires knowledge, which requires independent "checking" with reality. A determinist might say "If you define knowledge that way, then we simply don't have knowledge" and further "I don't see evidence that humans gain 'knowledge' independently".

I still feel that the general argument that knowledge requires free will tries to smuggle in volition by defining knowledge with the intention to prove volition that way. Sort of a circle argument.

** If knowledge is impossible why are you bothering people with your pet theories? You may as well talk to a wall for all the good it will do. But you do continue, because you don't really believe this theory.

Secondly he states that "a more fruitful approach argues that systems which can model some portion of the world and thus make predictions can evade the deterministic limitations of physics". I can find no argument in the text why this can be the case even though he says that this would not help much.

Every prediction of the future must be based on observations of the past and I don't see why "feeding itself information about the future" changes anything.

** Because by definition causality works in only one direction and information from the future would trivially violate causality and determinism. Although potentially more "fruitful" (a wild understatement applied to a potential violation of causality), the approach fails because model-based guesses or calculations about the future are not actually from the future so causality is preserved.

Thirdly and maybe most importantly: Why is the answer to the question "What may we expect if the subject in the isolation booth is volitional?" that the answers will never converge to a number?...It seems to me that volition must be that way, since volition must differ fundamentally from randomness and determinism and a sequence that doesn't converge to a certain number is the only sequence of answers that is fundamentally different from other sequences. That still is sort of an "anti-argument" and fails to show that volition exists and what it is. Since he does not really say what volition is the point he makes, that volition must be fundamentally different to randomness and determinism seems arbitrary to me.

** You answered your own question. The whole point of the article is to refute the idea that an ultimate set of "laws of physics" makes volition impossible, not to present a theory of volition.

His central point seems to be the Gödel's theorem applies to physics and that therefore a volitional being can be possible, because physics may never be complete and therefore there will be systems that can never be predicted.

I see a lot of problems there. Firstly: I think he fails to properly conclude that Gödel's theorem in fact applies to physics.

There is for example an axiomatic system of real numbers that is complete and consistent, because natural number can not be picked as a subset with the set of axioms. So he must show that natural number actually "exist" in physics.

** His central point is that Gödel's theorem would apply to a computable set of laws of physics applied to the task of prediction, not the application of Gödel's theorem directly to reality. What could be more natural than counting physical objects, such as electrons bound to an atom.

Even assuming that Gödel's theorem applies to physics (which causes all whole set of other problems by the way), I don't see why it follows that a volitional being can exist the way he describes it. If I understood it correctly, Gödel's theorem does not say that _any_ arithmetic statement can not be proven, just that there can be _certain_ statements that can't be.

Now he does not say anything about why the problem of volition must be one of those statements.

It sort of seems that he claims that nothing in physics can be proven or rendered impossible if Gödel's theorem applies.

** That is not the case. Consistency is enforced, contradictions are not physically possible. And Merrill himself writes that this is no argument for the necessity of volition.

And what is this "It sort of seems that" bullshit? This is lazy writing. Either he claims or does not, or he implies or does not. No one cares what it seems like to you. So make up your mind and specifically cite the problem with a quote or remain silent.

Lastly he didn't prove volition. Even without all those problems with his argumentation he merely said that volition is not impossible, but you could apply his argumentation to other propositions too (god?) and conclude that they might be possible.

** Proving volition is not necessary, introspection demonstrates it. And contradictions are still not possible, God is not possible.

Causation needs two points in time and therefore, without a metaphysical past, there can be not causation. Observation itself requires two points in time to be describe as a valid concept. The existence of the past can truly be proven by introspection.

** Causality, an entity acting in accordance with its nature, doesn't require two points in time but human theories about it do. You can't point to the past or kick it or throw rocks at it, so it doesn't exist metaphysically. The past is a justified epistemological concept, because perceptions and memories of perceptions are valid means of knowing reality. Observation of causality requires two measurements but at least one will always be in the form of a memory because only one measurement is possible in the present.

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Causation is identity in action. The throw of the ball altered the identity of the ball by adding a certain energy of motion to it. The ball has no concept of the past nor does it plot its trajectory into the future; it simply does what it must moment by moment. Concepts of past and future are valid but epistemological not metaphysical. The referents of the concepts are ideas, memories and imaginings respectively.

So why couldn't determinism follow from the epistemological concepts of past and future?

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Amen, to that!

You're just accepting the same unsupported assertion. A determinist would argue something like this: "the fact that we had to learn to use the brain to understand its true nature does not imply that we fully understood how the brain works when we were learning to use it. It is entirely possible that we can use our minds to discover that our cognition is fully determined; no contradiction follows." (Of course, the paradox I illustrated still presents problems, and Grames has been the only possibly-effective challenger of the determinist position so far.)

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Thomas M. Miovas your arguments and remarks (while often funny) aren't helping much. We all recognize we feel that we have a choice, what myself and some others are asking is how that can be reconciled with physics. After all, humans are just an assemblage of particles (since our minds are no different from our bodies and our bodies are physical things whose most basic components act in accordance with the laws of physics, whatever they may turn out to be in the end). So, how is it that a nondeterministic system (neither uniquely determined or stochastically determined) can arise from that root? Saying "well it must because we see it does" does not give an answer to how it is possible, which is what many many people have trouble understanding.

Now, you can say "well that's a scientific question" but so what if it is? Science is our means of gaining knowledge about physical reality, we are a part of that reality, so science must be applied to us as well. Our knowledge has to form a single noncontradictory whole, and as a result an answer to "how" is crucially important. If it seems impossible, then either physics is crippled and science undermined as legitimate or the philosophy of Objectivism has a flaw somewhere. Since neither of those are desirable options the discussion of how a nondeterministic system can arise from determinist roots needs to be carried out. That's why this discussion is important and why it comes up so often.

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Thomas M. Miovas your arguments and remarks (while often funny) aren't helping much. We all recognize we feel that we have a choice, what myself and some others are asking is how that can be reconciled with physics.

Well, physics is the study of nature (of matter, if you will), while epistemology is the study of the human mind. Physics is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrated those observations into a non-contradictory whole; epistemology is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrating those observations into a non-contradictory whole. Any apparent contradiction between the two must be resolved, but that doesn't mean that it can be done at any given level of human knowledge in the scientific details. However, the way to integrate these two fields in the abstract is to realize that an entity is what it is and has the capability to do what it does because it is what it is. Man is what he is and has certain capabilities -- if you don't like the term "free will" then call it cognitive self-regulation -- but a given man does have the capability of directing, controlling, and guiding his own mind. What makes that possible on the biological / neurological / physics level is unknown at this time; but that doesn't mean that one can simply ignore the observations of the nature of one's own mind.

The reason I'm being somewhat of a smart ass regarding some of my comments is that if you don't like the way I am arguing and request that I change the methodology of my own mind, then you are conceding that I do have the capability of cognitive self-regulation, even while claiming that I don't. This is such an obvious contradiction that it is amusing that you would hold onto it so fervently.

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The reason I'm being somewhat of a smart ass regarding some of my comments is that if you don't like the way I am arguing and request that I change the methodology of my own mind, then you are conceding that I do have the capability of cognitive self-regulation, even while claiming that I don't. This is such an obvious contradiction that it is amusing that you would hold onto it so fervently.

But that's just it: it isn't a contradiction. In the language of free will, we hope you will change the methodology of your own thinking, and every time you choose not do so and make one of your "smart ass" remarks, you only demonstrate your own failure to understand the complexity of the question at hand. In the language of determinism, we hope your cognition has been determined such that you will recognize the errors in your previous method of (determined) argument, and every time that appears not to be the case, we are disappointed. To claim an "obvious contradiction" is to showcase your unfortunate lack of understanding over and over again.

Of course, picking on you isn't fair. Contentions ought to be treated according to presentations of their best arguments, not according to presentations evidently lacking in understanding. Grames has a better grasp of what's going on, and we've been having a more productive discussion. You're welcome to join us at any time.

Edited by Prospectivist_Objectivist

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** That is not actually his position. "I have volition because I can feel it" is a perfectly fine for demonstrating the reality of volition, but it doesn't solve the problem of integrating knowledge.

Sadly, you are right there. I failed to but that phrase in the context of the first paragraph.

** If knowledge is impossible why are you bothering people with your pet theories? You may as well talk to a wall for all the good it will do. But you do continue, because you don't really believe this theory.

If you are using the "common" definition of knowledge, then of course we do have knowledge. I said it remains questionable if we posses knowledge when defining it with the requirement to check it _independently_ against reality, since we don't know if we in fact check facts against reality independently.

Let's take a robot in a deterministic universe again. Give him a certain set of simple rules (IE logic, self-preservation) to act and collect information. When faced with a problem that is unsolvable to him (IE collected information that violates one of his implemented rules of acting), he will change his rules with a random generator (doesn't need to be a "real" random generator) until his set of rules causes no more contradictions with the information he gathered. With enough time he will find a working set of rules, when the problem is solvable (or can be described by rules)

I think this robot has the ability to acquire knowledge.

** You answered your own question. The whole point of the article is to refute the idea that an ultimate set of "laws of physics" makes volition impossible, not to present a theory of volition.

That does not answer why he concludes that volition must be observed as a sequence that does not convert to a certain number.

I don't see how this description of observable volition follows the ability for a volitional being to acquire knowledge, when a machine that follows stochastic rules can not acquire knowledge (with the requirement for independent checking with reality).

His description of volition as a physical phenomenon is one that is practically untestable even with the given conditions because proving that the sequence follows no pattern requires an infinite amount of tests. But I doubt that this described phenomenon fullfills the (illusionary) experience that we identify as free will.

I certainly don't feel(!) that I make decisions based on indescribable randomness and with such a notion the statement that one is in control of ones mind is hard to follow.

And what is this "It sort of seems that" bullshit? This is lazy writing. Either he claims or does not, or he implies or does not. No one cares what it seems like to you. So make up your mind and specifically cite the problem with a quote or remain silent.

He gives no explanation why his example of a volitional being and the sequence of answers must be a problem that can not be proven or predicted because of the Gödel theorem. Therefore he implies that all thinkable but yet unseen physical system can't be predicted or solved.

Gödel's theorem only applies to specific problems though and as far as I know, there are no physical problems yet that are certain to be one of those.

Lastly he didn't prove volition. Even without all those problems with his argumentation he merely said that volition is not impossible, but you could apply his argumentation to other propositions too (god?) and conclude that they might be possible.

** Proving volition is not necessary, introspection demonstrates it. And contradictions are still not possible, God is not possible.

No it is not demonstrable (how can a finding via introspection be demonstrable anyways?) or provable through introspection. A prove of volition requires experiments that are not possible in reality.

** Causality, an entity acting in accordance with its nature, doesn't require two points in time but human theories about it do. You can't point to the past or kick it or throw rocks at it, so it doesn't exist metaphysically. The past is a justified epistemological concept, because perceptions and memories of perceptions are valid means of knowing reality. Observation of causality requires two measurements but at least one will always be in the form of a memory because only one measurement is possible in the present.

I misunderstood you, but still. An entity _acting_ requires two points in time because acting requires a change of something, which is more or less the definition of time.

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Well, physics is the study of nature (of matter, if you will), while epistemology is the study of the human mind. Physics is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrated those observations into a non-contradictory whole; epistemology is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrating those observations into a non-contradictory whole.

Really big oops I'm choosing to correct!

Physics, of course, is an integrated study of what is available extrospectively with our usual senses -- seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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So why couldn't determinism follow from the epistemological concepts of past and future?

The epistemological level is where volition functions. If determinism is there and does the same things what then is the difference?

Volition vs. Determinism is then described as:

Mind control of my own mind via internally held ideas versus mind control of my own mind via internally held ideas.

"Mental entities" in the form of percepts, concepts, memories, emotions, imaginings, calculations etc. can themselves be causal agents because they are material and natural, not supernatural. Ultimately they are made of the same electrons, protons and neutrons as the rest of the universe so their ability to participate in a causal interaction is not an exception to causality (or even determinism on the particle level) but an just another instance of it.

Edited by Grames

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Well, physics is the study of nature (of matter, if you will), while epistemology is the study of the human mind. Physics is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrated those observations into a non-contradictory whole; epistemology is accomplished by making observations introspectively and integrating those observations into a non-contradictory whole. Any apparent contradiction between the two must be resolved, but that doesn't mean that it can be done at any given level of human knowledge in the scientific details. However, the way to integrate these two fields in the abstract is to realize that an entity is what it is and has the capability to do what it does because it is what it is. Man is what he is and has certain capabilities -- if you don't like the term "free will" then call it cognitive self-regulation -- but a given man does have the capability of directing, controlling, and guiding his own mind. What makes that possible on the biological / neurological / physics level is unknown at this time; but that doesn't mean that one can simply ignore the observations of the nature of one's own mind.

The reason I'm being somewhat of a smart ass regarding some of my comments is that if you don't like the way I am arguing and request that I change the methodology of my own mind, then you are conceding that I do have the capability of cognitive self-regulation, even while claiming that I don't. This is such an obvious contradiction that it is amusing that you would hold onto it so fervently.

I do in fact like the term cognitive self-regulation far more than free will, it if it is a more exact way of saying what you mean. My main issue with the implication, and the thing I've never gotten my head wrapped around, is what that really implies about the workings of my mind. It seems like, in order to "self-regulate" my mind or to have "volition" there has to be a part of my mind that is somehow outside the rest, and that part has to make "self-caused" decisions or actions. Now, in this context self-caused seems the same as uncaused, in that context does not determine what happens, just some sort of magic occurs that makes something happen. I don't mean to be snippy or degrade the idea, but it just seems like it would have to be supernatural or something in order to exist.

Causation is identity applied to action. Now, the actions of an entity are a result of the context it is in and its nature. The idea that man's consciousness can do something that is not a result of the external environment or the context of its own memories, beliefs, ideas, emotions, etc. but rather just happens without a prior "cause" is impossible for me to integrate into my understanding of reality. I know you wouldn't say that volition means that something "just happens" without a cause, but rather that it is self-causation. But for me, they seem the same. An action taken by an entity in a given context which is not determined by the context implies, in my mind, some sort of magic involved. I recognize that volition or cognitive self-regulation or free will is limited to the choice to focus or not to focus, and that choice cannot be tracked back in our minds any further. But it is unsatisfying and goes against my entire view of the world to just say that that decision happened without an actual cause, some prior thing or context which made it turn out that way. Science requires an explanation, and something just happening isn't a real explanation.

My major issue, I think, is that I see no fundamental difference between humans and anything else, particularly other living entities, and particularly other higher mammals with fairly developed brains. Everything else in the universe does things in without volition as far as we can tell, and the idea that there is only one single example of a self-caused action in the universe just seems impossible to believe. It seems to necessitate a soul of some sort in order to explain the difference.

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Suppose science one day does explain cognition in purely physical terms; it would therefore follow that volition is an illusion. But...
there is _no_ way [the determinist] can, somehow, know that determinism is true, while he also knows that he has no reason to believe that anything is (objectively) true
...for the above reasons, we can't draw that conclusion definitively; but neither can we ignore scientific findings.

#67the paradox I illustrated still presents problems
Whom are you referring to by "we?"

If an Objectivist can't draw a particular conclusion definitively, then he certainly can ignore it. And a determinist can ignore scientific findings precisely because he can't draw any conclusion definitively.

May I rewrite this paradox?

Suppose science one day someone does explain cognition in purely physical terms; it would therefore follow that volition is an illusion. But the
determinist
can't know whether this is true or he simply is determined to believe it is true, and the
volitionist
can't ignore objective scientific findings.

The paradox does not present problems for volition. If science could and did prove volition was false, then it's false. You meant that there is a paradox for determinism?

What myself and some others are asking is how [volition] can be reconciled with physics.
With what scientific evidence are you reconciling human determinism with physics???

The argument is that
  1. if everything in the mind is reducible to physical processes, and
  2. since we know all physical processes depend entirely on the initial conditions of a physical system, then
  3. the mind also must be such a physical system, so
  4. [the mind] must be determined by its initial conditions just like any physical system.

1 and 2 do not imply 3, let alone 4.

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