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Is there any Objectivist literature reconciling free will with physics?

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4 hours ago, Boydstun said:

“We do not need and should not want to have an openness in the flow of reality that consists in the possibility of our making decisions for which we can imagine no conceivable rationale. We do not therefore need the (incompatibilistically construed) power, in respect to each decision made, to have made the opposite decision. But we do need, if there is to be such a thing as agency at all, the general capacity to organize, order, and direct our lives in such a way that we thereby settle the particular details of what happens in those lives at the time at which we act (or decide to do something—for I take it that deciding is a species of acting). Moreover, I maintain, we cannot have this capacity if an action is merely the inevitable event-consequence of some set of antecedent events and states. In that case, there would then be nothing left for anyone to do, for there would be nothing left for anyone to settle at the time of action. Doings would become a mere part of the maelstrom of mere happenings, and agents would disappear from the world, their efficacy ceded to deterministically evolving series of events and states. Actions (including decisions) must be things, therefore, whose occurrence is always non-necessary relative to the totality of their antecedents. What this implies is that they must be exercises of a power that need not have been exercised at the moment or in the precise way that it was in fact exercised. The power to act, as many philosophers have remarked, is a two-way power that: to act or to refrain from acting. That is what makes it special. All sorts of objects have powers, e.g. . . . my heart has the power to pump blood around my body. But none of these things . . . has at the same time, the power not to exercise these other powers, once conditions for their realization are present (for this reason indeed, it is much more natural to speak of these one-way powers being realized than it is to speak of them being exercised). . . . My heart cannot help pumping my blood around my body provided it is working properly. In contrast, the power to act that animals possess is associated essentially and constantly, so I would insist, with a simultaniously-possessed power of refrainment. More will need to be said about this power of refrainment, for its precise characterization is not an easy matter. In particular, it will be essential to avoid any characterization of refrainment according to which it has itself to be a deliberate act; what I shall mean by the power to refrain is something much weaker than this.” (155–56)

Let me see now—the power to focus mind or to refrain from focus.

I wonder, if the "power" of refrainment is not "deliberate" in what sense is it willed or free?

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SL,

I understand her to be saying that such power of refrainment that is had by some of the nonhuman animals is not deliberate and is not free. So the problem she sets for herself within the rest of the book is to draft a conception of all those refrainments and to set the human genre of them as alone being deliberate and free refrainments.

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9 hours ago, Boydstun said:

SL,

I understand her to be saying that such power of refrainment that is had by some of the nonhuman animals is not deliberate and is not free. So the problem she sets for herself within the rest of the book is to draft a conception of all those refrainments and to set the human genre of them as alone being deliberate and free refrainments.

I see.  Well now I am in suspense.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/6/2018 at 6:51 PM, Grames said:

Flat no.  No author of 'Objectivist literature' would see the need, it is literally a blind spot.  By 'the need' I mean a purely pedagogical need to address those who first come to understand math and physics and only later Objectivism or philosophy in general, and so fall into a common and near unavoidable trap in their thinking. 

For example here is Peikoff in OPAR

This is a rationalist argumentation style, it does not address the premises that lead one to believe that the determinism of nature directly and naively applies to man.  That volition is axiomatic, that axioms cannot be coherently contradicted is all well and good as a shortcut for those of us who have cleared the hurdle of understanding and accepting what Rand considered axiomatic but most people that are determinists have not cleared that hurdle and so any version of that shortcut is incomprehensible or deeply unsatisfying.
 

This is an irrefutable presuppositionalist (or, transcendental) argument against determinism, but it is not an attempt to reconcile physics with free will, as the OP requested.

You can find my own such attempt here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/4EbnT8uTcJKGDwNj4/philosophical-theory-with-an-empirical-prediction

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is nothing to reconcile.   Even if the world is totally deterministic, because of the phenomena of chaos (ie any lack of knowledge of initial conditions, no matter how small, will always grow, so eventually any prediction made is wrong), it means there is no way to make use of that determinism.

You may want to argue - that is just a practical objection - I am speaking of matters of principle. It is often said QM is fundamentally probabilistic.   That it must be is incorrect - the DBB interpretation is perfectly deterministic - but because the laws of QM do not allow knowledge of all initial conditions (the Heisenberg uncertainty relations still hold) that determinism in principle is of no value .   It is an example of a deterministic system that in principle, not just in practice, is effectively not deterministic.

Thanks

Bill

 

Edited by William Hobba
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On 9/28/2020 at 11:27 AM, intrinsicist said:

Interesting view.   We do not know if the laws that govern the world are simple or not, but modern physics has shown the importance of symmetry.   This is part of the work of a very remarkable woman, IMHO as remarkable as Ayn Rand was, whose story is not as well known as it should be:

https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/how-mathematician-emmy-noethers-theorem-changed-physics.

She fought against terrible misogeny, but her genius could not be denied, and is generally considered one of the top 20 mathematicians of all time - quite possibly top ten.   She was not even allowed to study mathematics at university - but that did not stop her.   Now 42%, and rising, of all math majors are women.   Surprisingly, and for reasons I do not understand, in physics it is just 20% - go figure - obviously it can't be the math.  I know Ayn Rand in her youth was advised to study math - but did not. From Barbra Brandon's biography:

'The subject [Rand] most enjoyed during her high school years, the one subject of which she never tired, was mathematics. 'My mathematics teacher was delighted with me. When I graduated, he said, "It will be a crime if you don't go into mathematics." I said only, "That's not enough of a career." I felt that it was too abstract, it had nothing to do with real life. I loved it, but I didn't intend to be an engineer or to go into any applied profession, and to study mathematics as such seemed too ivory tower, too purposeless—and I would say so today.' Mathematics, she thought, was a method. Like logic, it was an invaluable tool, but it was a means to an end, not an end in itself.'

I often wonder how things would have turned out if she studied it under Noether like the philosopher Grete Herman did.

Sorry for the double post - something funny happened.

Thanks

Bill

 

Edited by William Hobba
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4 hours ago, William Hobba said:

There is nothing to reconcile.   Even if the world is totally deterministic, because of the phenomena of chaos (ie any lack of knowledge of initial conditions, no matter how small, will always grow, so eventually any prediction made is wrong), it means there is no way to make use of that determinism.

You may want to argue - that is just a practical objection - I am speaking of matters of principle. It is often said QM is fundamentally probabilistic.   That it must be is incorrect - the DBB interpretation is perfectly deterministic - but because the laws of QM do not allow knowledge of all initial conditions (the Heisenberg uncertainty relations still hold) that determinism in principle is of no value .   It is an example of a deterministic system that in principle, not just in practice, is effectively not deterministic.

Thanks

Bill

 

If we acted deterministically (or at random), there would be no free will. It would not matter whether the deterministic (or random) elements forcing us to act as we do could ever be isolated by scientists. Moral principles would have no authority in the counterfactual scenario you are proposing.

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5 hours ago, William O said:

If we acted deterministically (or at random), there would be no free will. It would not matter whether the deterministic (or random) elements forcing us to act as we do could ever be isolated by scientists. Moral principles would have no authority in the counterfactual scenario you are proposing.

Good point.   I had not thought of that.

Thanks

Bill

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On 10/6/2020 at 6:54 AM, William O said:

If we acted deterministically (or at random), there would be no free will. It would not matter whether the deterministic (or random) elements forcing us to act as we do could ever be isolated by scientists. Moral principles would have no authority in the counterfactual scenario you are proposing.

I am curious about your definition of what constitutes Free Will for you to reject both "determinism" and "random" elements constituting the complex system which is you, as contributing to or collectively causing "free will".

 

DETERMINISM

A complex system Y which exhibits determinism transforming from time T1 and later time T2 in some respect generally looks like this (the state E represents the state of everything external to a natural complex system Y including impinging influences and "inputs" to Y):

Determinism.thumb.jpg.4802e6fb38ef826eda63b19f86db3257.jpg

Subscripts signify these states at times T1 and T2.  The boundary of the circle separating Y and E is not crucial to the figure, but should encapsulate the behavior at issue ... E + Y constitutes the entirety of existence.

Here, only a single state at time T2 after time T1 is possible and inevitable as the outcome (other possibilities such as Y3 are not possible), it is completely determined by the antecedent states, which is why we call it determinism.  Y at time two, has an identity different in at least some respect, which different attribute or property or state can exhibit some new or differing influence or output.

 

RANDOMNESS

A complex system Y which exhibits randomness transforming from time T1 and later time T2 in some respect generally looks like this:

Randomness.thumb.jpg.82d2e2a2ddbee1e82e25585300c41754.jpg

Here, multiple states are possible, although only one obtains.  For it to be undetermined, the outcomes could have been otherwise, (A or B ) with identical initial states Y1 and E1.  The letter a and b in the subscript differentiate between the two possible states of E and Y at time 2.  Defining randomness as requiring the "fork taken" to be undetermined by anything in existence (none of E1 or Y1), we allow the possibility that the probability of A and B (adding up to 1) are dependent upon the identity of the antecedent states E1 and Y1... for example, given particular E1 and Y1 the probability of A is  30%  and B is 70%, but which fork will actually taken is undetermined by anything in existence (otherwise we would be taking about determinism).

 

FREE WILL

Without getting into details, a complex natural system exhibiting Free Will transforming from time T1 and later time T2 in some respect INCLUDES something like this (i.e. the following is necessary but not sufficient to define Free Will):

FreeWill.thumb.jpg.b34ddc7bdbc196835617d0ef38d8618a.jpg

Here, multiple states are possible, although only one obtains. 

For it to be "free", the outcomes could have been otherwise, (A or B ) with identical initial states Y1 and E1.  

For it not to be completely arbitrary, some element of Y1, the identity of the "choosing" system, influences the choice (which fork of the outcome is taken).

In order to be natural (as opposed to supernatural) nothing outside of E+Y can account for the operation of free will.

 

Again, with reference to these processes, I am curious about your definition of what constitutes Free Will and what kinds of elements could constitute the complex system which is you, and each contribute to and collectively cause "free will".

 

In particular why do you feel this cannot be constituted by some combination of deterministic and random elements?  What part of your definition of Free Will would be violated by the inclusion of anything determined or random within its workings?

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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