Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hard Determinism

The hard determinist doesn't say we don't make choices, but they just say that we don't know the causes of our actions, and if we knew them, we would realize that the ultimate reason why we did this and not that had to do not so much with a choice of our own, but instead has to do with a series of events going back to, say, the Big Bang. Once the Big Bang banged, whatever happened after that had to happen, given the laws of physics. If that is really true, are people still responsible for their actions? 

23 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

There is no such thing as morality or agency if hard determinism is true. No one is rational or irrational. No one is good or bad. Whether one is a Nazi or an atheist or a scientist or a murderer or an astrologist is utterly beyond our control.

Those who believe in hard determinism and yet mock and condemn others are highly irrational, but then I guess they can't help it can they?

bmiller said...

Yes they can! (This is a recorded message)

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Those who believe in hard determinism and yet mock and condemn others are highly irrational, but then I guess they can't help it can they?

Hard determinists still believe that people respond to their environment. That includes responding to mockery.

Legion of Logic said...

Hard determinists still believe that people respond to their environment. That includes responding to mockery.

Yes stimulus response is still a thing, but pretending that what separates you from your target is that you are rational while your target isn't, is a pretty self-defeating stance for a hard determinist to take.

Perhaps they should be mocked for it? I'll have to decide later.

Jeremy Pate said...

Hard determinism has never struck me as a very useful idea, as far as free will and moral responsibility goes; in fact, I regard it as little better than Calvinism in atheist clothing - certainly, both schools of thought have similar beliefs regarding predestination; the hard determinist merely replaces "God in eternity" with "the Big Bang".

The problem (as far as free will goes) is, how would a sane and rational person act differently if they had free will, as opposed to being the organic machine the hard determinists believe we are? After all, a person with free will still acts according to causes; to act without regard for the world around you is generally regarded as insanity, not free will. So where is the difference? Let the hard determinist determine how things would be different with or without free will, before they dismiss the idea! Without any way to test it, such a theory is not scientific, as it pretends, but merely speculative pseudo-philosophy.

bmiller said...

The problem with hard determinism is that most people think they are really making choices and act accordingly. They must be convinced that this internal perception is, in fact, just an illusion.

But if you've convinced yourself that what you perceive is an illusion, then why trust any of your perceptions at all. Additionally, if you're suffering under an illusion that what you perceive is unreal, then perhaps your perception that you're suffering under an illusion is also an illusion.

Starhopper said...

"Hard determinism [is] Calvinism in atheist clothing"

Brilliant!

I have always held to Free Will as one of the bedrock doctrines of the Faith. Absent a "fanatical" adherence to free will, everything (quite literally EVERYTHING) becomes absolute nonsense, bereft of any meaning whatsoever.

And by the way, if I had to choose between Calvinism and atheism, I would unhesitatingly choose atheism.

Legion of Logic said...

And by the way, if I had to choose between Calvinism and atheism, I would unhesitatingly choose atheism.

I will give you credit for consistency, you boldly phrase and state your opinions!

Starhopper said...

Calvin's "god" is nothing short of a monster, creating self aware human beings with no ability to affect their predetermined fate. I do not believe in such an entity, and even if I did, I certainly would not worship it.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Yes stimulus response is still a thing, but pretending that what separates you from your target is that you are rational while your target isn't, is a pretty self-defeating stance for a hard determinist to take.

I agree. That's why I am to be skeptical, not rational.

One Brow said...

Jeremy Pate said...
The problem (as far as free will goes) is, how would a sane and rational person act differently if they had free will, as opposed to being the organic machine the hard determinists believe we are? After all, a person with free will still acts according to causes; to act without regard for the world around you is generally regarded as insanity, not free will. So where is the difference?

I largely agree. Free will seems to add nothing to the understanding of the human condition.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
The problem with hard determinism is that most people think they are really making choices and act accordingly. They must be convinced that this internal perception is, in fact, just an illusion.

Computers make choices, and no one thinks they have free will. Hard determinism is not about whether you can make choices.

Legion of Logic said...

Calvin's "god" is nothing short of a monster

I've not spent too much time dwelling on Calvinism beyond its doctrinal claims, but I suppose you're right at that.

Starhopper said...

The Calvinist idea that God creates some people predestined for eternal damnation solely for the purpose of demonstrating God's "glory" is quite possibly the worst thing ever conceived of by the mind of Man.

Legion of Logic said...

I agree. That's why I am to be skeptical, not rational.

Only if you are fortunate enough for your particular combination of supernova remnants to allow skepticism!

Like objective morality, the belief in free will is not provable but is rather the result of a prior belief, ie theism vs atheism. So I don't find it to be the most compelling of topics beyond the circular exercise of mocking atheists for mocking Christians, neither of whom chose their beliefs.

bmiller said...

I suppose the hard determinist would just say he's justified in mocking anyone he likes just because that's the way it is. Being a hard determinist means never having to say you're sorry.

Starhopper said...

"Being a hard determinist means never having to say you're sorry."

bmiller, I never realized that you were an Al Gore fan!

oozzielionel said...

Starhopper,
You said, "Calvin's "god" is nothing short of a monster, creating self aware human beings with no ability to affect their predetermined fate. I do not believe in such an entity, and even if I did, I certainly would not worship it."

Does it help if God creates human beings who have the freedom to choose their path but apart from the intervention of grace lack the ability, and in their own effort inevitably fail to affect their fate?

bmiller said...

bmiller, I never realized that you were an Al Gore fan!

Ali Macgraw. Can't help it if Al likes her too.

bmiller said...

Hard determinism makes for bad neighbors.

Laypersons’ belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable. Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be linked
with decreased helping and increased aggression. In Experiment 1, induced disbelief in free will reduced willingness to help others. Experiment 2 showed that chronic disbelief in free will was associated with reduced helping behavior. In Experiment 3, participants induced disbelief in free will caused participants to act more aggressively than others. Although the findings do not speak to the existence of free will, the current results suggest that disbelief in free will reduces helping and increases aggression.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
"There is no such thing as morality"
Yes there is, but it is not absolute, rather personal, relative, and by convention.

"or agency"
Yes there is, but it is not ultimately free, however, it is so complex as to be impossible for humans to analyze deterministically and thus has the appearance of being free.

"if hard determinism is true. No one is rational or irrational."
Yes we are, it's just that the irrational deterministically fail to reason rationally.

"No one is good or bad."
Yes they are, but not absolutely, only relatively and personally and by convention.

"Whether one is a Nazi or an atheist or a scientist or a murderer or an astrologist is utterly beyond our control."
Not true, but that control is not ultimately free, only appearing to be free because of complexity.

"Those who believe in hard determinism and yet mock and condemn others are highly irrational, "
It is perfectly rational to mock and condemn others who display harmful irrationality, because those are mechanisms by which deterministic beings influence each other.

Your view morality and human interaction on atheistic determinism is very shallow and superficial.

Legion of Logic said...

Yes there is, but it is not absolute, rather personal, relative, and by convention.

Which makes it meaningless and dictated by majority rule.


Yes there is, but it is not ultimately free

Contradiction.


Yes we are, it's just that the irrational deterministically fail to reason rationally.


Everyone is a mix, so whether one happens to be "rational" on a given subject is due to pure luck and is certainly nothing to brag about.


Yes they are, but not absolutely, only relatively and personally and by convention.

Making it a matter of opinion and thus meaningless.


Not true, but that control is not ultimately free, only appearing to be free because of complexity.

Contradiction.


It is perfectly rational to mock and condemn others who display harmful irrationality, because those are mechanisms by which deterministic beings influence each other.

It's not rational at all, because whether one is rational or irrational is beyond his control. That's like mocking someone with a nasal voice so they won't speak as much. Nothing but mean-spirited bullying, and hypocritical on top of it, because everyone is irrational to an extent. And if someone cannot be swayed from an irrational position, then it isn't their fault, is it?


Your view morality and human interaction on atheistic determinism is very shallow and superficial.

Or it contains fewer rationalizations.





StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"Which makes it meaningless and dictated by majority rule."
"Making it a matter of opinion and thus meaningless."
So you say laws are meaningless, ethical standards are meaningless, codes of conduct are meaningless, wedding vows are meaningless, interpersonal fairness is meaningless.

I repeat, your view morality and human interaction on atheistic determinism is very shallow and superficial.

"Contradiction"
Your view of agency is also shallow and simplistic. Complex deterministic devices learn and act. We don't need free will to do so or to be judged according to our actions or to be held accountable for those actions, irrespective of the fact (if it is a fact) that at the lowest level of submicroscopic interaction the universe is deterministic.

A social species lives and acts and interacts in vastly complex processes irrespective of whether there is an element of randomness in the universe or not.

" That's like mocking someone with a nasal voice so they won't speak as much"
Other methods of influencing the behavior of a deterministic system are generally considered more socially appropriate in that case.

Mocking philosophical beliefs is a form of argumentum ad absurdum, and has a useful and appropriate place in countering the more egregious and dangerous forms of philosophical absurdity, such as theism.

"everyone is irrational to an extent"
Right, and part of influencing others who claim to be arguing rationally when they are not is to highlight that irrationality.

"And if someone cannot be swayed from an irrational position, then it isn't their fault, is it?"
To the extent that anybody is ever at fault for anything, then yes it is. Irrespective of fault finding a ridicule-ous position can be the appropriate target of ridicule.