Is free will possible in a deterministic universe?

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

  1. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

    Oh? Am I witnessing a fine example of evolutionary strategy playing out - one where words evolve to seemingly advantage an individuals image? Could be. Do carry on. This sub-forum is not my preferred niche.
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Sure, it’s an effect but not the actual effect of the cause. You are stopping too soon in the analysis between cause and effect. That is very much your error. Just read up on it, for Pete’s sake. Any quick Google or the difference between probabilistic and deterministic should alleviate you of your ailment in this regard.
    We have not assumed our physical universe! We have assumed a deterministic one. I’m sorry if you thought that we were assuming our physical universe, one which is probabilistic. But we weren’t. We were quite clear throughout: deterministic universe.
    Now it seems you didn’t fully appreciate what that meant. Ah, well.
    Yes. Very much so, if the best they can do is give you the probability, no matter how accurate their assessment of the probability function is, then the system is indeterministic.
    We did. And now it seems you didn’t fully appreciate just what that means.
    There is on confusion here, iceaura. The argument was specifically with regard to the deterministic universe: the nature of the universe that is at the core of the discussion between compatibilists and Incompatibilists. There is no confusion as to what probability and QM brings to that discussion, as many incompatibilists (i.e. those who think that freewill is incompatible with a deterministic universe) see probability and QM as a way out: they say that QM shows the universe to not be deterministic and thus opens the door for free will.
    The premise of the deterministic universe was hoped to focus minds on the simplest of universes to deal with, before seeing what any indeterminism could subsequently bring to the table, but because you accepted the premise and think that free will is compatible, we never got that far.

    We haven’t even begun to discuss QM, or the probabilistic universe. Remember, I at least am still working under the premise of the deterministic universe in this discussion. As, I thought, were you. But now it seems you didn’t appreciate what that actually meant. And somehow all of that is my fault.
    Seriously, I at least thought you would have grasped the basics. Ah, well. I guess thinking that was indeed my mistake.

    So, knowing what you now do about what a deterministic universe actually means (i.e. not probabilistic, no QM etc], do you still think our universe is deterministic (when viewed in isolation to any possible multiverse), and do you still hold that free will is compatible with such a universe?
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  5. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    One doesn’t need to validate it, as we’ve assumed it.
    Nor does validation alter whether it is true or not, and this argument begins with the assumption that it is true.

    Now, what do you understand the word “predetermine” to mean?
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    To be fair, we have only ever assumed determinism to be true. The “hard determinism”, if any, would stem from the definition of freedom used. This contrasts with “soft determinism” which holds that freewill exists when it is defined as the capacity to act according to one’s nature.
    But yeah, with regard determinism, we have assumed it. Couple that with the definition of freedom used and Bob’s your Auntie’s brother. I do draw the line, though, at the introduction of “hard” determinism into the equation as that presupposes one’s view on moral responsibility.
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  8. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Good point.
    I was erroneously referring to just determinism, not the hard determinism he slipped in.
    As such his position seems to be a straw man, given no one has previously talked about hard determinism.
    Agreed, but it need not lead to such a hard form, as some don’t see an issue with moral responsibility stemming from a deterministic universe.
    Just as a thermostat can be said to be operating freely when it is working according to its manufacturer’s specification.

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  9. TabbyStar Registered Member

    I get confused pondering the thermostat example. I think I also read it elsewhere. Anyway, I always mentally insert, "Chaos theory" into the exercise. Not sure if I should or not but personally it makes it easier for me. Some butterfly, in Argentina, flapped it's wings causing global airstream currents to be affected. Thus, changing local temperature at my thermostat...triggering movement.

    I appreciate all the dialogues on this topic. Mostly I lurk but do enjoy adding my silly 2 cents sometimes.
  10. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Different analogy entirely.

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    The butterfly effect is, as you say, to do with chaos theory, the sensitivity of outcomes to small changes in input.
    The thermostat is used as an example of a process that has within it a rather trivial notion of freedom, sometimes referred to as a "degree of freedom".
    The thermostat, in a deterministic universe, simply reacts to its input in the only way it can.
    Some here argue that our will is free because it has degrees of freedom in what it can do.
    But they have yet to show how the will is in essence doing anything more than a thermostat does: simply reacting to inputs in the only way it can.
    And to me, and others, that doesn't seem free at all.
    Ah, but collect enough of those and you can buy a coffee!
    Nothing silly about that!

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  11. river

    What evaluates the inputs ?
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  12. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    I don't have to. If the atom exists in a gravity field it is being effected by that gravitational field. I have no need to know the detail nor explain it if I did. The fact that it is decaying is in it self a non-random factor yes?
    • Assumption: All matter exists in a gravity field and is therefore effected by that gravity field.
    If it is gravitation-ally effected, it and it's outputs can no longer be considered as purely random.
    Even if you consider gravity only as dimensional collapse, because Gravity is a not random, it's non random influence prevails.
    "It only takes one universal constant to evolve order from the chaos" ~ZPT
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    But they are, in any physical example obedient to physical law.

    You appear to be overlooking - still - the essential role of nonlinear feedback in generating our universe. When one crosses a logical level - such as by establishing a nonlinear feedback loop - one must take that into account in analysis.

    Your attempted approach here- excluding any sufficiently complex feedback system from the category "deterministic" - is drastic and counterintuitive (it excludes coin flips as "indeterministic", for example), and eliminates any possibility of a deterministic universe. Are we discarding determinism, 48 pages into the fourth or fifth thread of its assumption? That is unnecessary, at best. Nonsupernatural freedom requires no such limiting of analysis.

    As the coin flip example illustrates, distribution of outcomes according to a probability function has nothing to do with whether or not each individual outcome was produced in alignment with physical law and conditions ( i.e. determined) - let alone the collective shape of them, which is what one describes via mathematical functions and uses for prediction.

    In our case - the assumed deterministic universe - the conditions are completely determining the outcome just as they would be in producing any other physical pattern - the probability functions describe the shape or form of the outcomes, playing the same role as other functions used in physical analysis play (such as a function that describes the physical production of a straight line, or a hexagon, or a parabolic curve,

    or Richard's logistic (which can produce chaos within a deterministic system, another example of the deterministic but individually unpredictable in theory or practice) -

    or Mandelbrot's Set - which likewise describes individual event unpredictability, even with perfect knowledge: completely deterministic outcomes that are individually unpredictable in theory or practice.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    While the notion that it will decay is not random, the timing of the decay is random. But you’re still going to have support the assertion that simply being affected (e.g. by a gravity field) precludes something from being random.
    While things may be governed by a probability function, the actual output from that function can be purely random. Being random doesn’t mean “can be anything at all”. It simply means that the specific output is unpredictable even with full knowledge of the initial state and the governing laws.
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps another thread....that includes a full thrash out of the definition of word "absolute".
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Being obedient to physical law does not necessarily make it deterministic. If the physical law is one of inherent indeterminism then they are obedient to that inherent indeterminism. And probability is inherently indeterministic.
    We assumed a deterministic universe, not ours. Deal with the one we assumed, please.
    Only if you can show that, in a deterministic universe, it offers an actual ability to do otherwise. And none of your examples thus far have shown that.
    I am excluding anything that is simply you pointing at something at going “ooh, look, complexity!” If you think a sufficiently complex feedback system within a deterministic universe offers the ability to do otherwise, feel free to actually provide something more than examples that don’t show it, and subsequent appeals to complexity.
    I am also not excluding such things from being deterministic. I am simply waiting for you to put, what, an actual argument together?
    The example of the coin toss was analogous, not an example, where one starts with the assumption that the result is probabilistic. But you choose to ignore that.
    Nor do I eliminate any possibility of a deterministic universe. For Pete’s sake we have assumed that the universe we are discussing is deterministic. Don’t hold me at fault for your woeful misunderstanding of what that entails.
    Of course we’re not discarding it! It is the fundamental premise of this, and the previous, discussions. Your meandering into probabilistic notions, however, can be discarded for being irrelevant to the deterministic universe.
    Being produced according to physical law does not per se make something deterministic. You need to understand this so that you stop making the same mistake. Peeing produced according to physical law would make the philosophy physicalist, or materialist, but not necessarily deterministic. Probabilistic systems are not deterministic.
    The probability function only gets you as far as the probability of the outcome, but not the actual specific outcome. That is where it stops being deterministic. If the specific outcome that you actually end up with can not be completely determined by the causes then it is not deterministic. With probabilistic systems you can get to the probability function but since two examples of the same cause can lead to two different outcomes, this is simply contradictory to determinism.
    Chaos is not equatable to theoretical unpredictability but to practical unpredictability based on inaccuracy of knowledge of starting conditions. It is about how small changes in initial conditions can have significant impacts on the future state. It is how the practical unpredictability (due to inaccuracy of knowledge of starting conditions) of chaotic systems increases (exponentially) the further foreword you try to predict. But theoretically, in a deterministic system if one knew the starting conditions and knew the process then one would be able to predict the future perfectly.
    As soon as you add probability into the mix you change the system from a deterministic one to indeterministic, though, and it becomes irrelevant to the discussion where a deterministic universe has been assumed.
    Nonsense. Every single point on the Mandelbrot set can theoretically be calculated, and is thus theoretically predictable. For any given starting point you can calculate the output. The unpredictability comes when you only have an approximation of the starting conditions, in which case the predictability of the output for chaotic systems worsens exponentially the further forward you try to predict.
    You may want to brush up on the these basics, along with your understanding of what a deterministic system is.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Your evasion and unwillingness to support your ridiculous claims is noted.
  18. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    The subsequent process that lies between input and output, with the evaluation performed according to the laws that govern that deterministic system.
  19. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    We are discussing a deterministic universe, the one that was agreed as being discussed.
    Not a probabilistic one that is inherently indeterministic, for example.
    We are discussing a deterministic universe, the one that was agreed as being assumed.
  20. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    ”Degrees of freedom” is a technical term (statistics, chemistry, engineering etc) and can be found in a thermostat, for example.
    If input is X, output is A.
    If input is Y, output is B.
    There is no ability to do otherwise: if the input is X it must do A, if the input is Y then it must do B.
    But it has a “degree of freedom” because that is a different notion, and I have never disputed the existence of that notion.
    I just find it trivial, given that it can be found in a thermostat.

    As has been stated from the beginning, if you use a different notion of freedom you can reach a different conclusion.
    So there is no contradiction, one simply needs to comprehend that “degrees of freedom” uses a different notion of freedom than is concluded to not exist.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The probabilistic universe described by quantum theory is inherently deterministic, according to the definitions used to exclude supernatural freedom of will here on this forum. Causes determine effects, nothing can act in any way other than it must, every event can be traced to its determining conditions/causes, and the chains of cause and effect traced through mathematical equations. Nothing supernatural occurs in it - no freedom as defined by Baldee and Sarkus and the entire cadre of materialists here can exist in it.

    The laws of probability are as firmly deterministic as anything we have. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, for example, is {based on/described by/codified in} those laws - and it is a cornerstone of mathematically described physical cause and effect, part of the bedrock of mathematical analysis we present as demonstrating a physically deterministic universe. In the physical world we have, cause and effect runs on chance.

    We don't need anything fancy to see this: The fortunes made by casinos are direct "proof" (scientific meaning - overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence) of the inviolability of the laws of chance and the inevitability of the effects produced by that named and described cause.
    That has also been denied from the beginning - Baldee and Sarkus and the rest have emphasized, loudly and repeatedly and with much insult, that their notion of freedom is a conclusion of their arguments rather than an assumption/premise/definition.
    Which significant comprehension everyone here except possibly QQ has been trying to get through to Baldee et al for a very long time now - with the responses visible here and everywhere.

    The assumption that only the supernatural can have freedom cripples.
    That underestimation of the material world involved is medieval.
    A world without the logical levels produced by nested feedback loops, say, hasn't been an adequate basis for analysis since Newton's time.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I would suggest you revisit your understanding of what it means to be deterministic.
    So we have nothing deterministic in the deterministic universe we've been assuming, then? Ooookay.
    For the last time, we didn't assume "the physical world we have" but a deterministic universe! Deal with it! And try to understand that a probabilistic universe that is inherently deterministic is an oxymoron.
    Wow, now you're putting casinos forward as evidence?? Good grief! They don't work on due to the probabilistic nature of the universe, but on perceived probability due to our subjective lack of knowledge of the initial conditions and the system governing the result. Seriously, your understanding here is woeful. And I am genuinely shocked at how much so.
    Because it is. Demonstrably. And every effort you have made to assert or show otherwise has simply supported our view.
    Both Baldeee, and I, and others have acknowledged that from the outset. If you think you have been "trying to get through to" us on that then that would only evidence that you haven't really been following the discussion.
    We're still currently talking about a deterministic universe, remember. And not the contradictory version that you seem to have concocted.
    And yet on that all you have thus far is your appeal to complexity to support that the notion of freedom is anything more than that found in a thermostat. And despite every opportunity to put your case forward on that matter to those who would care to listen, you seem to prefer making fallacious claims of the incompatibilist position argued, and now, it seems, in displaying your ignorance of what determinism entails.
  23. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    You're saying that casino games of chance don't rely on the "probabilistic nature of the universe"?

    Do you think a coin toss is "unpropabilistic"? I suppose you would hold that when we say "the coin might land heads or tails, with equal probability" that is just a "perception" or an "illusion". You would say that at the moment the coin is tossed, the coin is not "free" to land heads or tails. You would say that it is destined to land heads or tails depending on the initial conditions of the toss, etc. True "freedom", in your view, would require the coin to break the laws of physics - i.e. the coin would need to have supernatural freedom for it to be random.

    Is it nonsensical, in your view, to talk about "games of chance", then?

    It's amazing how many aspects of the natural behaviour of systems must be relegated to the realm of perception or illusion when you adopt the supernatural assumption. As you dig a deeper and deeper hole for yourself, you are forced to adopt a more and more absurd stance about the nature of the world in which you live.
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