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On Determinism

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posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 06:54 PM
Undoubtedly, most people believe themselves to have some sort of free will. Perhaps fate intervenes on occasion, or destiny forces us into a situation, but by and large we are in control of our lives. After recently delving into the question of ‘How much freewill do I have?’ I have come to a conclusion that startles me.

We have no freewill. Not even an ounce.

Please bear with me and attempt to stop yourself from outright rejecting the above notion, as I will try and explain what has lead me to this conclusion.

First and foremost, we must become familiar with the concept of Laplace’s Demon. The original quote, according to Wikipedia, is as follows.

“We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.”

In simpler terms, ‘If we know everything about any given moment, we can then know everything about every subsequent moment.’ This demonstrates the basis of ‘causal determinism.’

If the above is true, then I have no freewill at all. Each decision that I am making now is nothing more than a sum of the decisions I have made before and the things I have experienced.

We can see this explicitly if we consider how one trains a dog. Assume you want to potty-train a puppy. When the puppy urinates inside the house, you rub their nose in it and toss them outside. When the puppy urinates outside you give it a treat and basically throw a ‘potty-party.’ In little time at all, the dog understands that if it urinates outside, the outcome is good and soon stops urinating inside altogether. The dog’s ‘decision’ where to urinate becomes nothing more than the conditioning it is subject to.

Thus far, several people have blatantly refuted the existence of Laplace’s Demon. However, they always do so in a way that merely eliminates the possibly for the machine to exist. For example, claiming that the “entire computational power of the Universe in insufficient to create the Demon.” While the existence of a machine that can precisely predict the future may be infeasible, this does not discount in any way the principle behind Laplace’s Demon, that being ‘causal determinism.’

The world being based on causal determinism is not at all outlandish when one begins to take a step back and look at it. For example, humans make predictions about the future all of the time, albeit with differing degrees of accuracy.

A tall guy sees a short guy and makes the prediction, ‘That guy is short; I could beat him in basketball.’ This is a prediction people have often made based on past experience, tall people having an inherent advantage in that game. However, if before making that prediction the tall guy was aware that the short guy was a professional player, he may well change his prediction.

The point is, the more information one has about a set of circumstances, the more precisely they can predict how those circumstances will end. If one knew everything about a set of circumstances, they could absolutely predict how those circumstances will end.

If one asserts the above statement to the universe, we have proven causal determinism.

And you have no freewill.

I will see if any interest exists here for this kind of talk before punching out refutations for the “First Cause” and “Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.”

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:00 PM
Isn't it impossible to have all the information. It would still end up as a coin flip to predict someones next move every time, like he may choose to do what he always does or X.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:15 PM
But, if one had all of the information on an atomic level, then they would see how the atoms interact and be able to follow the electrons as the fire across neurons and know exactly what the mans response would be.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:17 PM
This is somthing ive only recently realized and understood. Infinity veiwed from outside of time would have a pattern, or design. That design would be god. My personality... my very thoughts are shaped by the pattern of infinty that i am living in. I am a sum result of my expreiances and thoughts, which are in turn the sum result of the design of infinity. I used to veiw myself as a person with everything grown by myself on the inside, but now i see myself as a sum result of everything givin from the outside. Not an image or an item... but an outline that can expand beyond myself and into infinity.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:28 PM
Well if will isnt free, how much does it cost?

Actually, will is lasting a way for a life-time season.

What you will do when the moment presents itself, you will do anyway no matter when that moment presents itself. Your will will not do what it will not. No excaping it either. And will is a lasting that is not whole, but whole only some. Wholely, if your will do all it will do at once, then your will isn't in its some experience standing. In whole experience, it is one undivided moment. In some experience, it is some divided moments for your will which make it seem like you have more to see and experience that you will or will not do.

Face it, if a guy puts a gun to your head during a certain moment, then you will do a certain thing how your will will only act during that moment in which a gun is put to you.

The some experience allows you to feel more free-willed which the whole experience doesn't. In another sense, what you will do is what you are yet made for favoring.

It's like a bunch of choices presented you long ago, where you picked your favorite choices to what was only presented, to where when you finally gotten to fulfill those previous choices, how you already chosen them for a living some experience, it dawns on you that even though seeming without free-will the current moment, you been freely choose what you will do during previously which means this is, in a sense, free-will based on a favored lock in.

You can be yet living out your past free-will choices. And currently you're not free from your previously freely choice of will (what you will do during certain moments which may present themselves during a some experience era on earth).

[edit on 28-11-2008 by Mabus]

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:31 PM
Yes - not to be arrogant, but IMO it is impossible/highly unlikely for any mortal man on this planet anyway - to ever even create such a devise or model or experiment that can coincide with laplace's demon.
You see what we are talking about is knowing the absolute future of any given event to the finest detail.

For starters lets just take the thought experiment of a super powerful computer that is capable of this. As farfetched as it sounds, the computer will be in an Ad infinitum of calculations, because it would have to take in all relative information of the past and present including the computer itself. That would mean calculating calculations - you see the impossibility/ unlikeliness?

IMO the determinism question is completely hypothetical and not theoretical.
I won't get into quantum or particle physics because I'm no physicist and that stuff really confuses me. But we are only certain of probabilities in predictions.

Now if you can ask, is every action a re-action? and that no man has a self that makes decisions, is he only the product of his environment? that is just too hard to say for me. although I believe in free-will, even if I have very little control of my environment that does shape my beliefs whether I like it or not. - very hard to answer, given what we believe we know about the physical universe.

The fact is: we must act. In an ever streaming life of causation, if you will, It is like asking where your desires come from...but then you ask where did the first desire for a desire come from? and then things get strange, for you might look at yourself as just an unfolding inevitable puppet held up with the strings of physical causation.

2 related threads:

[edit on 28-11-2008 by juveous]

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 07:59 PM
Thanks for the replies thus far, I have enjoyed them.

If we treat Laplace's Demon as a thought experiment I do agree that we reach an infinite regression. And while this does refute the machine it in no way refutes causal determinism.

When I take an objective look at the human body and mind, it appears to me that we exist as little more than experience machines. Can you imagine a color not created from the 3 primary hues?

If the answer to this is no, then we must generally accept that the mind is completely incapable of creation. The mind is a very complex computer processor. The body sends inputs to this processor and we react according to the equations that the processor has put forth.

Freewill to me seems to be nothing more than an illusion created by a lack of all significant inputs to the processor.

I understand and appreciate the consequences that could occur from this if most people believed it. Mass apathy and disregard for the self are nasty things.

However, my belief in causal determinism has not waned my desire for life and after working hard through school and college I am now reaping the rewards of being studious, hard working and disciplined.

On occasion though, when I stop to think about it, I find a quiet tranquility in realizing that I am watching the movie of my life unfold before me. And it has been a beautiful one to this point.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 08:16 PM
I agree It is hard to get you mind around. I feel like the movie unfolds every time I have deja vu, which I always treat as inevitable. I would also ask, if you come into the belief of not having a self-causing free will, would you still blame people for their actions? would you still praise people for their actions? they are only re-acting as necessary with no real will to do otherwise per the incident. It then turns into a responsibility dilemma.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 08:30 PM
The eternal question

My current view is that perhaps we do have complete free will to experience a predetermined universe. As if reality is one single, dense moment that has the ability to view itself subjectively in an infinite variety of ways - freely - through us. The mind as creative chaos against the balanced background of the void.

[edit on 28-11-2008 by Nox Vulpes]

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 08:49 PM
Nobody has taken determinism seriously since the discovery of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. There are certain types of knowledge that cannot be known precisely, for example you cannot know position perfectly, and also know momentum perfectly. It is a provable scientific fact.

To be able to predict future events precisely, you would need to know (among many other things) both the position of everything, and also the momentum of everything. Since you can't know both of these things, you cannot precisely predict the future.

That pretty much ends the discussion about determinism, from a scientific viewpoint, unless you want to overturn the most basic principles of quantum mechanics. Good luck with that!

You cannot ponder the Hiesenberg Uncertainty principle without realizing it is purely proof that free-will exists, the future in unknown, and shaped by some factor (specifically our conscious minds) in a very mysterious way.

It is as if the future has been purposely obscured to us by whatever has created us. I personally think it is proof that God exists.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 08:50 PM
Why does no one go to quantum and the uncertainty principle in these arguments?

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 08:57 PM
I used to think the exact same thing, Aquin, but then I came to see this as an incorrect assumption:

Originally posted by Aquin
‘If we know everything about any given moment, we can then know everything about every subsequent moment.’

I have come to believe the universe is not so straight-forward, but is regenerated from nothingness in its entirety at every single instant on the most absolutely small and fundamental level. The "continuity" that links everything together and causes the associations that science studies are a very strong force of habit, imo, but not much else.

I admit this is only my opinion, but technically the assumption I quoted above can't possibly be proven until we know every piece of information about every given "moment," and know that we know every piece of information, and know that we know that we know... lol.. etc.

Speaking of determinism, there is such a thing as "indeterminism," even in mathematics, the most rigid and no-nonsense science of all. And indeterminism quite frankly is an apparent contradiction that you cannot resolve "logically," or at least from within calculus or whatever system it may be that produced this contradiction. The contradiction says, "this theorem is not a theorem," very similar to "This statement is false." And like I said, it cannot be resolved from within the system it is created in.

I entertain the belief that real-world "artifacts" of this mathematical anomaly (Godel's indeterminacy theorem) are real "points" at which choices simply have to be asserted and explored from a level inaccessible to our physical senses. Not only that, but every possible choice is explored, not just the set of choices were are currently living out, so there is a tie-in with the concept in quantum physics of infinite universes catering to infinite expression. It may seem like an odd belief, but I feel it has just as much, if not more, going for it.

I've always thought discussions of "free will" were all hopelessly linear and don't properly consider the popular idea in physics that "lower" dimensions can be manipulated from "higher" dimensions, especially in ways that can't be accomplished just from the lower ones. For example, time is sometimes said to be the "4th dimension." At any rate, Einstein and many others have imagined time as ultimately having a shape, not just being a transcendental "flow" to things. Time can be manipulated from "higher levels" just as a 2D surface can be folded so that the ends touch and so that direction seems to go on "forever," but from 3D it's simply a loop in the paper, and has a finite shape. If time goes on "forever" then it probably also has a loop or circular quality to it that can be "seen" from the 4th or 5th dimensions, if you had eyes that worked on those levels. From those same levels you could theoretically tinker with any single point in space and time that you would want, without having to bother to change "before" or "after" that point.

But I digress. I'm only saying that arguments about "free will" go too deep too fast, with far too little information or understanding available. The linear reasoning doesn't impress me with such a transcendental issue. Time doesn't always flow, so there aren't always causal, "before & after" relationships.

[edit on 28-11-2008 by bsbray11]

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 09:13 PM

Originally posted by redled
Why does no one go to quantum and the uncertainty principle in these arguments?

I know exactly what you're thinking, but I don't know it well enough to put it into words, let alone make a strong argument.

Aquin talked earlier about being able to predict/read the neurons firing across someones mind to predict their physical behavior. The neurons that fire, start at a certain place (or places?) in the brain and then spider-web out in an intensely complicated sequence of electrical exchanges between neurons that become the fully-manifested thought. The very initial signal is simply amplified and elaborated upon by the other neurons. What causes and determines the "initial signal" is still not well understood, but it may very well have to do with sub-atomic quantum processes, and our brains would essentially be (or could act as) extremely sensitive quantum receivers that then build and transmit physical thoughts electrically. It is well-known that quantum mechanics experiments already suggest very bizarre things about our reality that we hadn't expected, like time having a shape to it that can be manipulated, that all particles have been entangled since the "big bang" and all contain information about every other particle within themselves, etc. There is a lot more going on than anyone has suspected before.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 09:18 PM

Originally posted by redled
Why does no one go to quantum and the uncertainty principle in these arguments?

because they are too technical - quantum mechanics = someone that probably doesn't know what they are talking about on ATS. maybe philosophize about the theories but explaining the concept = over most peeps heads

Originally posted by bsbray11
But I digress. I'm only saying that arguments about "free will" go too deep too fast, with far too little information or understanding available. The linear reasoning doesn't impress me with such a transcendental issue.

and that's really the issue, these topics almost inevitably end up transcending modern thought of what we know. Like I said it mostly becomes hypothetical, because we just aren't there yet in terms of defining relative nature.

posted on Nov, 28 2008 @ 09:58 PM
Alright, as someone mentioned Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle I shall share my thoughts on the subject.

When studying the Uncertainty Principle one should note that, after the Principle itself is stated, it is nearly always followed with something resembling the following quotation -

"This is not a statement about the limitations of a researcher's ability to measure particular quantities of a system, but rather about the nature of the system itself."

What the above is saying is that the system with which all current quantum mechanics are operated within causes the Uncertainty Principle. If you want to measure the momentum of an electron, you must alter its position. If you want to measure the position of an electron, you must alter its momentum.

So the researchers ability to measure the particle is limited by the system which we are currently using. The uncertainty would not exist assuming we did not measure or alter the particle in the first place.

Taken in context of the current discussion, we do not have to measure anything. It is merely the fact that these particles behave regularly, with no uncertainty, that is important. Because the follow predictable paths, they do not discount causal determinism in the slightest.

Thus, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is useless in debunking causal determinism.

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