Saturday, November 28, 2020

Determinism is determinism

Determinism is determinism. There is only one kind of determinism. It is not the case that hards believe in outside forces and softs believe in inner states. No, both affirm that a causal chain going back before the agent was born is causally responsible for every action. The difference is whether that is relevant in determinism moral responsibility. Hard determinists say that this causal chain means people are not free and not morally responsible for their actions. For soft determinists the causal chain is real, but irrelevant to moral responsibility. Same determinism, different implications of determinism.

28 comments:

JBsptfn said...

Mark Passio from whatonearthishappening.com did a show that covered this and how Atheism is destroying human freedom:

What on Earth is Happening: Episode #203-The Religion of Atheism & How It's Destroying Human Freedom

David Brightly said...

There is only one kind of determinism.

This is not obvious in my view. Indeed, our fuzzy intuitions regarding determinism contribute much to the puzzle. Is the world of the manifest image including us and our apparent free will deterministic? Arguably not. Take coin-tossing, say, or Geiger-counter clicks. Are there deterministic laws governing the motions of macroscopic bodies such as animals and ourselves? It doesn't look like it---at least, not without crossing into the scientific image to seek understanding and explanation. What about the scientific image itself? Well, classical physics is deterministic, though even some very simple systems exhibit exquisite sensitivity to initial conditions. Quantum physics is indeterministic but deterministic behaviour can emerge in large aggregates of particles. So it's not clear to me just what The world is deterministic would mean. Having said that, the intuition that has taken root in my mind is that the world goes the way it will and it carries me along as part of it in its flux. If an idea occurs to me that maybe I should or shouldn't do something then that too is part of the flux. Sometimes I am grateful for the thought. That also, it seems, part of the flux. So perhaps I see the world's 'indifference' to me as a kind of determinism. On the other hand, I have free will. I have options, I can choose, and I know this, and I know some options would be right and some wrong. While of sound mind I am responsible for what I do despite (or maybe because of) my being in some sense an artifact of the world (of the right sort). Hence I am a compatibilist.

bmiller said...

David,

You and I have no choice about being subject to gravity just like bowling pins. However, when a bowling ball is rolling full speed toward a bowling pin, the bowling pin cannot move out of the way on it's own but you and I can.

That is why I consider the 'scientific image' and the 'manifest image' dichotomy a false dilemma. The 'scientific image' disregards agency period. The the 'manifest image' comprehends agency but "apparently" does not comprehend the physical laws.

There is only one ultimate image that includes animate and inanimate objects and it is a mistake to think that by ignoring agency one is creating a separate and distinct comprehensive 'image' any more than thinking that math is an 'image'.

David Brightly said...

Sellars's account is epistemological and historical. He is saying that by the mid-twentieth century our knowledge and understanding had evolved into two distinct spheres or conceptual frameworks, each with its own vocabulary. Interestingly, he contrasts the contemporary manifest image with a much older 'original image', now lost, in which all objects are persons or agents, and which gradually transformed into the manifest conceptual framework. Sellars is offering not an account of how the world is, but rather a description of the state of our knowledge of it.

bmiller said...

Sellars is offering not an account of how the world is, but rather a description of the state of our knowledge of it.

I'm not sure I'd call it knowledge of the world but rather just the Cartesian picture of the world.

David Brightly said...

Fair enough. Substitute understanding for knowledge. Sellars is more concerned with networks of inter-related concepts than the facts that might be expressed through them. Example: in the 'original image' the concept tree falls under the concept person. Not so in the manifest image.

bmiller said...

David,

I know you're a fan of Sellars but I haven't read his work.

Is his 'original image' just Aristotlean philosophy?

David Brightly said...

No, it's much more, er, primitive than Aristotle! Not philosophy at all. Best to read Sellars's lecture.

bmiller said...

After reading the first part of the essay, it seems that he considers the 'original image' just a less refined/developed version of the 'manifest image'. The development being less and less things were considered persons.

I wonder what material he is basing his 'original image' on. It seems he is saying that the ancients were all animists like some isolated Amazon tribes are reported to be. I don't think that's accurate from what I've read about ANE cultures.

I suppose that one could look at the ancient Greeks with their talk about how objects sought their place and think they were attributing a soul to them, but I think that is a stretch.

David Brightly said...

Mmmm, he doesn't say. Just the claim,

From this point of view the refinement of the 'original' image into the manifest image, is the gradual depersonalization' of objects other than persons. That something like this has occurred with the advance of civilization is a familiar fact.

I imagine there must be hints of this in the very oldest myths that have come down to us. I'm no expert. But I get the impression that he would say that by the time of classical Greece, say, the manifest image has fully emerged from the original.

bmiller said...

From this point of view the refinement of the 'original' image into the manifest image, is the gradual depersonalization' of objects other than persons. That something like this has occurred with the advance of civilization is a familiar fact.

Perhaps he was relying on outdated anthropology like the old 'caveman' speculations about what may have happened before civilizations developed (who would know?). I don't remember people claiming that trees were persons in any of the ancient myths I've read.

David Brightly said...

Dunno. You get it in literature. Tolkien with the Ents and Old Man Willow who gets a good talking to from Tom Bombadil. And in Lem's Solaris where the entire planet is a person. The Green Man myth perhaps. In Greek myth Daphne and the Hesperides turn into trees.

bmiller said...

Right. Some myths depict gods or fairies turning into trees, but that is different from saying that all trees are persons.

I found this essay while searching for Sellar's reason. I found that it expressed some of the same misgivings I have wrt to the 2 images.

David Brightly said...

Interesting. A critique of Sellars from an anti-realist, decidedly postmodern perspective. But I don't think it detracts from what I have been trying to say. Van Fraassen will allow I think that the manifest image has a conception of cause that we use in our everyday dealings with the world and that can be used as Victor does in formulating a determinism. And that the scientific image has a concept of law-governedness that can also give rise to a notion of determinism. These are distinct conceptions, but we as scientifically educated moderns tend to flip-flop around between them. Hence my objection to Victor's bold claim that there is only one kind of determinism.

Just as an aside, I do find rather disconcerting vF's shoulder-shrugging, so what? attitude to what seems to me something of a puzzle, and an important one at that. But I guess that he has travelled the postmodern path longer than I have. He is a Catholic convert, by the way.

bmiller said...

This is what Victor originally said:

"There is only one kind of determinism. It is not the case that hards believe in outside forces and softs believe in inner states. No, both affirm that a causal chain going back before the agent was born is causally responsible for every action."

He was just making the point that both hard determinists and soft determinists both agree to the part in bold font. I don't think he had the 2 images in mind.

bmiller said...

Just as an aside, I do find rather disconcerting vF's shoulder-shrugging, so what? attitude to what seems to me something of a puzzle, and an important one at that.

He made the point that radios work the same whether we believe in aether or not. Ptolemaic epicycles were the most accurate way to predict planetary motion for 1500 years. So I think his point is that science, as we know it today, is in the business of doing practical things in the best possible manner and is not necessarily in the business of philosophy.

David Brightly said...

Sure. I'm suggesting that there are alternative ways of formulating determinism that don't involve 'causal chains'.

Yes, van F has a rather deflationary view of science. I suspect that many people, myself included, are attracted to science because they think it brings them in contact with the reality behind the appearances. We may well be deluded.

bmiller said...

I suspect that many people, myself included, are attracted to science because they think it brings them in contact with the reality behind the appearances.

Saying there is a different reality behind the appearances sounds kind of Gnostic to me. Some commenters here have stated that what we experience as humans is not the 'real' reality and that the 'quantum world' is the 'real' world but that is a problematic view.

First the 'quantum world' is a theory derived from observations we humans make from human 'reality'. If human 'reality' is wrong to begin with then why trust the theory....garbage in, garbage out.

Second, if one is convinced that what we experience every day is an illusion, then, since your experiences are the same as everyone else's you must be suffering under the illusion too. So how would you know that your new 'enlightenment' is not just another part of the illusion?

For my part, I like science because I get to learn how things work and so can help mankind.

David Brightly said...

The word 'illusion' often comes up in this context and sets us off on the wrong foot. An illusion is a false appearance. What we ordinarily experience is true appearance. There is nothing 'wrong' about it. The question is, How does appearance come about? What is it about reality that makes appearance possible? We sense the light of the sun with our eyes and feel the heat of its rays on our skin. The classical electromagnetism of the 19C suggests that these appearances are mediated by a single feature of reality. Nothing Gnostic here. No need for insight into the divine, though a leap of the imagination often helps. And we can understand a good deal without bringing in quantum mechanics. I think of it as a kind of exploration. We start close to home in the familiar and gradually venture further and further afield. We never give up the familiar. Rather we try to see its place in a widening vision.

bmiller said...

If you're saying it's a deeper or more detailed exploration of reality rather than a different mystical realm then I agree.

Really, the goal science today is more like continuous improvement of technology just like it was at the beginning of the 'scientific revolution'.

David Brightly said...

Maybe Bacon didn't foresee where what he was recommending would take us.

A nice book which touches on some of this is Simon Blackburn's Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed. He devotes much of a chapter to discussing van F and his 'constructive empiricism'. His chapter opening quotations are all from the Novum Organum.

Might then a deeper or more detailed exploration of reality give rise to an alternative conception of determinism?

Hal said...

Victor wrote:
"Determinism is determinism. There is only one kind of determinism."

A rose is a rose. Yet there are many kinds of roses.
If there are 'hard determinists' and 'soft determinists' then there are at least two conceptions of determinism: hard determinism and soft determinism.

Also, since there are differeng conceptions of 'cause' and of 'will' it is not at all surprising that there are differing conceptions of determinism and its relationship with the agential capacities of humans. The Stoics who believed in determinism did not have our concept of 'event causation'. The concept of will you believe in, 'free will', was a creation of Augustine and was not shared by the Stoics or other ancient Greeks.

We do not choose our parents, place of birth, the culture we are born into, the time of our birth, our early education, etc. Nor do we choose our corporeal or mental powers. All of which impacts our decision making processes and our actions in this world. None of that negates the fact that we are still free agents with the power to act and refrain from acting.

For some reason you appear to think that because changes in this world are a result of causes that we lose our capacity to be agents in this world. The only way that makes sense to me is if you think determinism entails necessity.
I disagree: it is only in a deterministic setting that we would be capable of making the choices we make. In my view determinism is an enabling process not a restrictive process. Nor does it entail necessity.

Hal said...

David:
I'm suggesting that there are alternative ways of formulating determinism that don't involve 'causal chains'.

Seems like a reasonable approach. Much of philosophy is concerned with disputes over our concepts. Victor is free to hold to his conception, however, he certainly cannot dictate that others accept it.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me, though that the debate between soft determinists and hard determinists concerns what determinism entails with respect to freedom and moral responsibility. They don't really differ on how our actions are determined.

Hal said...

They don't really differ on how our actions are determined.

Am not sure I understand your point here.
I certainly don't believe that what happens at the microlevel determines my actions. What determines my actions is what occurs at the macro (or the phenomenal) level. And that is where one can reasonably expect to find an explanation for one's free actions.

A reductionist is going to have a different conception of how her actions are determined. She will look for an explanation for her actions at the microlevel.

Victor Reppert said...

But some determinists are going to draw the "hard" implications regardless of whether reductionism is true.

Second, a central doctrine of non-reductive materialism is that given the physical, the higher levels cannot be other than what they actually are. That is the thesis of that everything supervenes on the physical, and is determined by the physical. So, even on those theories, it is the microphysical that does the work. Otherwise you get events that are, strictly speaking, miracles at the physical level.

Hal said...

Victor,

Yes, I think your observations regarding differences among determinists and materialists is spot on. But isn't that true of any philosophical or metaphysical "-ism"? And it is certainly true of religious beliefs too. Look at the vast variety of Christian or Muslim beliefs found in those two great religious systems.

Even though the phenomenal level would not exist without the microlevel I fail to see why that entails the belief that it is the "microphysical that does the work".

It is interesting, I think we both agree that materialism is basically a bankrupt metaphysical system. Yet we disagree over what that implies.

David Brightly said...

VR, two comments above: That is the thesis that everything supervenes on the physical, and is determined by the physical. This is to use determined in a different way. Usually we require that if A determines B then A occurs or exists prior to B's occurring or existing. The past determines the present, say, in some causal sense. But if B supervenes on A then they are synchronic. B isn't caused by A. Rather B is A but under a different, coarser descriptive vocabulary.

So I concur with Hal, three comments above: I certainly don't believe that what happens at the microlevel determines my actions. Rather it constitutes my actions.