Saturday, April 13, 2024

Cause and effect

If determinism is  true, the cause has to guarantee the effect. We often use the word "cause" to refer to things that influence,

but do not guarantee the effect, If determinism is true there are causes going back before you were born

that guarantee what you do now.

Anscombe Essay on causality and determination.

476 comments:

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StardustyPsyche said...

"If determinism is true, The cause has to guarantee the effect. We often use the work "cause" to refer to things that influenced, but do not guarantee the effect, If determinism is true there are causes going back before you were born that guarantee what you do now."

Interesting topic, was there a link, Victor? Just wondering, my browser went a little goofy on this one, the text did not wrap for some reason, so I used copy and paste to capture what I think is your whole post here, wait, duh, I can click "Show Original Post" and that gives me the plain text.

To be continued...

StardustyPsyche said...

Perhaps "the" definitive working this subject
https://www.hist-analytic.com/Russellcause.pdf

On The Notion Of Cause, With Applications To The Free-Will Problem

Does anybody have something more modern in mind?

Now, pointing out into the distance and saying "go read X book" is a rather lame rhetorical device commonly employed on blogs, so, I am not going to leave it a just that, but I have found it can be useful to have a reference or a couple references as an anchor to a discussion.

You may recall, Victor, some years ago you posted a link to David Haines, who had used the work of Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, a post that went on for thousands of comments.

But to the point of the OP, yes, people use the term "cause" in various colloquial senses. Conflating those common language notions of cause with the narrow assertion of fundamental determinism is likely to be mere equivocation.

StardustyPsyche said...

Ok, I see a link now, if it was there previously my browser did not show it.

But, clicking the link results in a "blocked" message...hmmm.

Well, here is what I get when I copy the hyperlink
chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://iweb.langara.ca/rjohns/files/2016/09/anscombe_causality.pdf

Chrome has an annoying habit of adding junk when you copy from the address bar.

So, stripping off the junk, this URL works.
https://iweb.langara.ca/rjohns/files/2016/09/anscombe_causality.pdf

StardustyPsyche said...

OP,
"I conclude that we have no ground for calling the path of the ball
determined –"
Thus the core error of Anscombe. Not surprising.

Causation occurs in the present moment and can perhaps be best described with differential expressions, or differential transfer functions. Russell expressed this in On the Notion of Cause".

A differential expression can be transformed, ideally, into integral form, so that the effect of these differential causal processes can be summed over time.

The path of the ball is determined by initial conditions and the sum of all the infinitesimal (using that word somewhat colloquially) differential transformations.

The path of the ball is necessary at any moment.

StardustyPsyche said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StardustyPsyche said...

After meandering about Anscombe eventually ends with " Even a philosopher
acute enough to be conscious of this, such as Davidson, will say,
without offering any reason at all for saying it, that a singular
causal statement implies that there is such a true universal
proposition – though perhaps we can never have knowledge of it.
Such a thesis needs some reason for believing it! ‘Regularities in
nature’: that is not a reason. … "

Anscombe, like all others who are skeptics of determinism I have yet encountered, offers no intelligible alternative to determinism, just a vague and vacuous expression of doubt.

The alternative to determinism is randomness.

Being good Thomists, those of you who are, surely you hold to the principle of sufficient reason. Crudely put, stuff happens for reasons sufficient to account for the way that stuff happened.

Determinism satisfies the principle of sufficient reason.

Randomness is the notion that stuff just pops off any old which way for no reason at all, much less a sufficient reason. Thus, randomness violates the principle of sufficient reasons.

Those are your 2 choices, no philosopher I have encountered has offered a third alternative, Anscombe clearly did not.

Conclude determinism is the case thus retain the principle of sufficient reason.
or
Conclude randomness is the case thus abandon and deny the principle of sufficient reason.

Which is it then?

SteveK said...

You really are dumb

StardustyPsyche said...

"You really are dumb"
Thank you for your enlightening evaluation.

I suppose that implies that you consider yourself to be not dumb, or at least less dumb, although, of course, you could potentially consider us both to be equally dumb.

Maybe you can figure out what Anscombe is even driving at? It seems like more of a brief survey of opinions with no actual argument presented. Or was there an argument? If so, can you point it out?
https://iweb.langara.ca/rjohns/files/2016/09/anscombe_causality.pdf

Did Anscombe provide an alternative to the determinism/randomness dichotomy?

Did Anscombe provide an argument against determinism?

Did Anscombe provide an argument for randomness?

StardustyPsyche said...

Anscombe would have done better to include Russell in her survey list, a person who actually studied causation in detail, argued in detail, and came to definite positions via his arguments. The work of Russell was decades old and well known at that time. Perhaps Anscombe found it preferable to merely mention the low hanging fruit of Kant and others from centuries past.

Russell used the example of gravity, which he pointed out can be described with differential expressions. He pointed out in great detail many of the misconceptions and irrationalities of past and present accounts of causality.

His proposal was to get rid of the word "cause" altogether, since in his view it had become so polluted with nonsense notions that it was hopelessly damaged as a term.

I prefer a more modest proposal, to use the term "causation", understanding that all causation is mutual and multilateral, in the present moment (in the limit of t as t approaches zero), best described with differential expressions, and deterministic.

If you read On The Notion Of Cause with that description in mind you will find that is what Russell was driving at, notwithstanding our modest difference of opinion as to the most suitable terminology to employ.



StardustyPsyche said...

Aristotle and Aquinas had some ideas of cause and effect, very wrong ideas that seem superficially reasonable. Many wrong ideas seem reasonable, until they are demonstrated to have been wrong all along.

"The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes."
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/03/second-way-in-syllogistic-format.html

"Agency or Efficiency: an efficient cause consists of things apart from the thing being changed, which interact so as to be an agency of the change."
https://www.mun.ca/biology/scarr/4270_Aristotelian_Causes.html#:~:text=Agency%20or%20Efficiency%3A%20an%20efficient,a%20child%20is%20a%20father.

A core error of A-T is the notion of a hierarchical, or linearly ordered series of causes, the notion that an efficient cause is a causal thing outside from the affected thing that causes the affected thing to be changed by the external causal thing.

"There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself" - Aquinas
Untrue. A rocket, a star, and you, each, considered as a whole single system, changes itself.

Further, as I described above, this A-T assertion neglects a clear additional case, that of mutual causality. Suppose you are on skates at arms length from another skater, and you pull each other toward each other, who changed who?

Did you change the other? Did the other change you? Did you change yourself? Did the other change herself? The distinction between changer and changed or self changed is arbitrary and therefore meaningless, there is only the mutuality of change.

Hence the famous quote from On the Notion of Cause:
"In the motions of mutually gravitating bodies, there is nothing that can be called a cause,
and nothing that can be called an effect; there is merely a formula."



SteveK said...

Did the moving car damage the brick wall or did the brick wall damage the moving car?
It's all so arbitrary and meaningless.

This is how dumb people talk.

Go work for an insurance company or a law firm and see if you can get anyone to agree that the owner of the brick wall should pay for the damage to the car.

StardustyPsyche said...

"It's all so arbitrary and meaningless."
Indeed, now you are starting to get it.

The cosmos does not care about what we call the brick wall or what we call the car. You and I assign value arbitrarily relative to the cosmos as a whole.

Relative to our subjectively defined objective standards of value there is value in what we call a car having nearly the same shape as it had when manufactured.

"Go work for an insurance company or a law firm and see if you can get anyone to agree that the owner of the brick wall should pay for the damage to the car."
There are no cosmic insurance companies or lawyers. If a flood washes away your home it just does, that's all, there is no payment due to you by the storm clouds or the river or anything else.

In particular, which is mover and which is moved, a molecule in the brick or a molecule in the car? Perhaps you say the car is moving and the brick is stationary, but is that true? In what frame of reference?

Supposing the car seems to be driving West when it hits the wall. From a cosmic perspective the car is simply traveling East a little more slowly than the wall is traveling East, and it is the wall that slams into the car, thus making the wall at "fault".

Dumb people? Really? Try expanding your mind beyond your little local tunnel vision view of existence, or are you too dumb to do that?

SteveK said...

Meanwhile, here on planet Earth, no sane person would attempt to argue that the owner of the brick wall is equally at fault for the damage. There isn't a PhD physicist anywhere that would sit as an expert witness in court and say the things you are saying. Only dumb 'educated' people on the internet do that - namely you.

Kevin said...

What if the builder of the brick wall built it in a vehicle lane? Eh?

SteveK said...

My experience, which is derived mostly from Saturday morning documentaries, is that the builder of the wall in vehicle lanes always loses to the Road Runner

*beep* *beep*

StardustyPsyche said...

"Meanwhile, here on planet Earth"
That is why you presently have no demonstrated ability to comprehend the subject of the OP.

Your perception is limited to here on this planet, among human beings, at your intermediate level of perception. That is why you have demonstrated such an inability to grasp the subject of the OP.

The human society on the surface of this planet constitutes an extremely small portion of the cosmos as a whole. The vastness of reality extends in the other direction by vast orders of magnitude as well, to the submicroscopic.

Reality is composed of an enormous collection of the submicroscopic so vast as to account for the entire cosmos that dwarfs our little planetary biosphere.

You, and I, and we all, inhabit that thinnest of slivers along the vast spectrum of scale and expanse from the very smallest to the very largest.

A manifest difference between us is that you revel in your tunnel vision, while I, and millions of like minded thinkers, have an expanded view of existence you seem to think is somehow insane.

Do you have any capacity at all to analyze causality, the 2nd way of Aquinas, On the Notion of Cause, the linked article by Anscombe, the difference between determinism and randomness, or any of the related aspects of the OP?

SteveK said...

"Supposing the car seems to be driving West when it hits the wall. From a cosmic perspective the car is simply traveling East a little more slowly than the wall is traveling East, and it is the wall that slams into the car, thus making the wall at "fault".

Whatever this cosmic perspective is, it isn't the correct one. From the perspective of the bullet leaving a shooters gun, the sleeping man lying in bed moved toward it rapidy but no expert, no PhD physicist, no sane person on Earth, will testify in court that the sleeping man took part in causing his own death by bullet. Why is that?

But go ahead and be the first person to hire an expert to argue in court from the cosmic perspective the next time your car crashes into a stationary object and see where that gets you. Laughed at and ridiculed, most likely.


Martin said...

>Untrue. A rocket, a star, and you, each, considered as a whole single system, changes itself.

It amazes me how someone can claim to be read up on A-T philosophy and then not seem to understand it whatsoever.

In the cases you cited, each thing is changed by a part of itself. For example, the rocket body is propelled by the thruster. This is not a case of a thing changing itself; it's a case of one thing (body) being propelled by another thing (thruster).

Same goes for your body: your torso being propelled by your legs. Your legs are being propelled by muscles. Muscles propelled by motoneurons. Your torso is not your legs. Your torso cannot move itself; another thing has to move your torso.

This is what is meant in A-T philosophy. A thing cannot change itself because to be changed means being in a state of potentiality, whereas a thing causes change only insofar as it is actual. But a thing cannot at once be both potential and actual in the same way and in the same respect: you can't have a glass that is simultaneously potentially cold and actually cold.

SteveK said...

Martin
SP has some very strange views about reality and a complete inability to understand AT philosophy. In one notable exchange with bmiller, SP said that deceased people are instrumental in causing sticks to move. See link below and enjoy.

https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/07/taking-aquinas-seriously.html?showComment=1500473660068#c1982227893018669639

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"In the cases you cited, each thing is changed by a part of itself."
Indeed, but Aquinas used examples such as hand, staff, and fire in his arguments. He argued that such things do not move themselves, that the staff is only moved by the hand.

He was wrong. Objects at that level of organization do move themselves.

"This is what is meant in A-T philosophy."
False, as Aquinas told us directly in the First Way, by using examples of macro scale objects such as wood, fire, and a body part. Examples of objects at that scale that move themselves abound, making Aquinas immediately wrong by false premise.

"A thing cannot change itself because to be changed means being in a state of potentiality, whereas a thing causes change only insofar as it is actual."
Those are pointless gibberish words that are unrelated to how causality progresses in the cosmos.

" you can't have a glass that is simultaneously potentially cold and actually cold."
That is more pointless crude gibberish. That which we perceive of as cold can be even colder, or that which is hot can be even hotter.

There is no such thing as "cold" or "hot" as real existent features of the cosmos. What we perceive as heat is a sensation related to molecular motion. At the molecular, or atomic, or subatomic level all change in mutual wherein the distinction between mover, moved, moving the other, or self moving is arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

If you wish to account for the self moving of macro objects by regressing to motions of its parts then that regression analysis terminates finitely with mutual causation, again showing that Aquinas got it wrong.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
To understand causality you would do well to first flush out of your thoughts the nonsense terminology employed by Aquinas.

As I noted above, probably the best known classical work on this subject is over 100 years old.
https://www.hist-analytic.com/Russellcause.pdf

The very notion of a hierarchical causal series, and old notions such as a supposed difference between an accidental series versus an essential series, the supposed act-pot analysis, linear causation, one way causation...all those ancient attempts to understand causality turn out to break down and be useless upon closer examination.

You are on the right path when you say that a macro scale object moves itself due to its parts. Yes.

You move yourself because at base submicroscopic objects move each other.

That is the key to understand, the terminus of a realistic casual regress analysis is fundamentally mutual causal processes.

All causality is mutual at base.
There is no such thing as a one-way cause and effect at base.

All causality is in the present moment.
The language of describing the present moment can vary, perhaps you think of infinitesimal time in the present, or the limit of t as t approaches zero.

All causality is multilateral.
This is in connection with the mutuality of causation. In an ideal case we can consider a 2 body problem, but in reality there are no 2 body problems, really, there are always vast numbers of entities all interacting mutually in the present moment.

Our most insightful descriptions of causality are differential expressions or differential equations.
You might be familiar with an expression such as "the integral of f(t) dt". The portion "f(t) dt" expresses the function with respect to time in the present moment, the present moment being represented by "dt".

"the rocket body is propelled by the thruster. This is not a case of a thing changing itself; it's a case of one thing (body) being propelled by another thing (thruster)."
No, the rocket acceleration is a case of mutual causation at base, as all acceleration is.

The rocket body changes the exhaust gas just as much as the exhaust gas changes the rocket body. Newton explained this in the Principia, wherein he pointed out that when a horse drags a rock by a rope the rock impedes the horse equally to the horse moving the rock. The rock changes the horse just as much as the horse changes the rock.

SteveK said...

”All causality is mutual at base”

Translation: “The sleeping man mutually caused his death when he collided with the bullet”

New Atheism strikes again lol

SteveK said...

” a horse drags a rock by a rope”

How is this different than what Martin said about a thruster propelling a rocket? Nobody is denying the opposing reaction but you said Martin’s statement was wrong. It’s not wrong just like Newton’s statement isn’t wrong.

SteveK said...

Note that Newton’s statement is one-way: the horse drags the rock. Newton’s next statement is also one-way: the rock impedes the horse. Cause -> Effect.

Shouting “mutual causation at base” doesn’t change the fact that both statements are true.

Martin said...

>Objects at that level of organization do move themselves.

No, they do not. A staff only moves if it's moved by something else. You are incorrect.

>Those are pointless gibberish words

No, they are not gibberish words. "Potential" means "has the ability to be" and "actual" means "is." If you've ever planned lunch with friends, you were potentially but not yet eating. Then, later, you were actually eating. You make use of these concepts all the time without even thinking about them, even if you don't use the technical A-T terms for them.

>That which we perceive of as cold can be even colder

You see what I mean? "..can be" is another word for the A-T term "potentiality." You implicitly use these concepts all the time, thus affirming their truth.

>What we perceive as heat is a sensation related to molecular motion.

Which is what we call "hot" and "cold," which you affirm here are real features of the universe.

>the distinction between mover, moved, moving the other, or self moving is arbitrary

No, the distinction is not even slightly arbitrary. If an electron is attracted to an atom, the atom is the cause and the electron's motion is the effect. It's not arbitrary.

Martin said...

>difference between an accidental series versus an essential series, the supposed act-pot analysis, linear causation, one way causation...all those ancient attempts to understand causality turn out to break down and be useless upon closer examination.

No, they do not break down and in fact have become part of your very conception of the world that you unconsciously make use of without realizing it. If you really did not believe in essentially ordered series then you would be just fine plugging a lamp in to an outlet that is a dead end and expecting it to light up. But of course, you don't expect that because you know very well that the lamp depends on a power source in order to light up. That's an essentially ordered series, even if you never use the technical term for it.

>fundamentally mutual causal processes.

Sure, mutual causation is perfectly fine and expected in A-T thought.

>All causality is mutual at base.

Incorrect.

>There is no such thing as a one-way cause and effect at base.

Of course there is. It's idiotic to say something like this. Atom causes electron to attach to it. The quantum vacuum causes virtual particles.

>All causality is in the present moment.

Incorrect.

>All causality is multilateral.

No problem on A-T.

>the rocket acceleration is a case of mutual causation at base

Nope. The rocket body does not propel the thruster. The thruster does propel the rocket body.

>The rocket body changes the exhaust gas just as much as the exhaust gas changes the rocket body.

Of course the body changes the thruster and A-T would not only NOT say otherwise, but would in fact predict something like this!

You see how little you understand something you claim to have studied. You have created this fictious version of A-T in your own fevered imagination and are "refuting" the strawman, then patting yourself on the back about how smart you are.

Kevin said...

I'm not a Thomist and don't really care about A-T philosophy one way or another, but I'm curious how "mutual causation" is supposed to be a defeater. Do Thomists deny Newton's Third Law?

SteveK said...

It’s not a defeater Kevin. AT doesn’t disagree with Newton. In SPs imagination it’s a knockout punch, which is why she keeps saying it.

Martin said...

>Do Thomists deny Newton's Third Law?

Of course not. In A-T there are principles like "in order for A to cause B, A must have the ability to cause B."

But the only place where the principle "if A causes B then B cannot in any sense affect A" exists is in SDP's imagination, not in A-T philosophy.

Kevin said...

That's what even my simplistic understanding of A-T philosophy made me think, that mutual causation did absolutely nothing to disprove Aquinas on even a superficial level. But I didn't want to assert it myself.

StardustyPsyche said...

"No, they do not. A staff only moves if it's moved by something else. You are incorrect."
I didn't say a staff moves itself, I said objects at that level can and do move themselves.

Rockets, animals, and smaller natural self moving objects the size and mass of a staff do in fact move themselves.

Aquinas is immediately wrong when he cites examples of macro scale objects and claims they do not move themselves.

Objects with many parts, even many fewer parts than the examples Aquinas used, do in fact move themselves.

Aquinas was a failure almost immediately, and very obviously.

StardustyPsyche said...

"No, the distinction is not even slightly arbitrary. If an electron is attracted to an atom, the atom is the cause and the electron's motion is the effect. It's not arbitrary."
The electron changes the atom just as much as the atom changes the electron.

The distinction between mover, moved, self moving, and moving the other is entirely arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

There is only the mutual interaction between the electron and the atom.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"I'm not a Thomist and don't really care about A-T philosophy one way or another, but I'm curious how "mutual causation" is supposed to be a defeater."
There are many fatal errors in Aristotelian physics and the arguments made by Aquinas.

Mutual causality shows that the First Way suffers from false dichotomy, that of posing either and infinite linear causal regress, or a finite linear causal regress.

Mutual causation terminates the regress finitely, and is a missing third case, thus showing that Aquinas used invalid logic.

Scotus sought to patch up this glaring invalid logic of Aquinas. Scotus attempted to show that circular causation is impossible. Thus, Scotus realized the defect of the First Way in that it very obviously neglected the third case. However, Scotus used a one-way causal analysis to show that a circle of one-way causes is impossible.

It would be like claiming to move yourself off your spot by reaching around an pushing on your own back, it doesn't work. Real causation is not like that either, however.

Real causation is always mutual, once could use the metaphor of a circle, but a bi-directional circle in the idealized 2 body case.

Real causation is multilateral and mutual at base, as Newton showed. That is the underlying message of the Principia that was so revolutionary, as it completely debunked and made invalid the previous arguments of Aristotle and Aquinas.

StardustyPsyche said...

The first mover, or first cause, argument asks
What moved Z? Y.
What moved Y? X.
What moved X? W.
Ok, but this cannot go to infinity.
Therefore there must be an unmoved mover, G.
G is declared ad hoc to simply not require a mover.
G is said to terminate this linear, unidirectional, causal regress analysis.

Modern physics answers differently, and quite simply.
What moved Z? Y.
What moved Y? X.
What moved X? Y.
Done.

X and Y move each other mutually.
To call either X or Y the mover, or the moved, or self moving, or moving the other is just a matter of arbitrary labeling.
There is only the mutuality of X and Y moving each other.

Y by itself cannot move itself.
X by itself cannot move itself.
X and Y together can each both move themselves and move each other.
X cannot change Y without changing itself, or being equally changed by Y, the distinction being arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

X and Y change each other mutually, that is all there is, that is the core causal process at the base of all apparent causality.

Whatever apparent causality we observe at our macro level, if we apply a realistic causal regress analysis we will always terminate our causal regress finitely with mutual causation at base.

Mutual causation makes a first mover, an unmoved mover, that case of special pleading for an imaginary being with fantastic super powers, unnecessary.

We don't need a first mover, an unmoved mover, at base because at base everything moves everything else.

Traditional human level analysis considers a linear, unidirectional, causal regress.
Real causation is, in some metaphorical sense, circular, as well as clearly multilateral and multidirectional, making a first unmoved mover unnecessary.



SteveK said...

"X and Y move each other mutually."

Nonsense. Force vectors that are equal and opposite result in no motion, no change. Unequal force vectors result in motion. The answer to the question, "what caused the inequality of forces to appear?" cannot be both X and Y at the same time.

What made the rock move? The horse. The rock impeded the horse, yes, but only because the horse created the inequality of force to appear.

bmiller said...

SteveK,

Don't get too frustrated trying to explain physics to someone who doesn't have the tools or inclination to try to understand on top of telling you that she thinks she is hallucinating anyway.

I think this person has bored everyone into silence in real life and can only get a rise out of strangers on the internet.

Martin said...

>Aquinas is immediately wrong when he cites examples of macro scale objects and claims they do not move themselves.

Aquinas is immediately correct, because no macro or micro objects move themselves. Very obviously correct.

>The electron changes the atom just as much as the atom changes the electron.

And there is no principle in A-T philosophy that says "if object A affects object B, B cannot affect object A." That is a principle you made up and attributed to A-T.

>Mutual causation terminates the regress finitely

No, it doesn't do that.

>defect of the First Way in that it very obviously neglected the third case.

It very obviously doesn't do this and Aquinas even addresses this point.

>Modern physics answers differently, and quite simply.
>What moved Z? Y.
>What moved Y? X.
W>hat moved X? Y.

Modern physics does not in any sense say that a mountain is composed of molecules which are composed of atoms which are composed of quarks which are composed of mountains.

>We don't need a first mover

You do need a first mover and materialists even have one: matter. Matter is the fundamental bottom of nature.

SteveK said...

Bmiller, good to see you again. Your advice is appreciated. I often wonder if SP is pranking everyone, but I think she is just protecting her turf at any cost. Her big tell is that she never - and I mean never- says she might be wrong or adjusted her position when corrected. She just doubles down, repeating the same statements that have been shown to be false.

“Ignore the troll” is good advice.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"Aquinas is immediately correct, because no macro or micro objects move themselves."
You are a macro object. You move yourself.
A rocket is a macro object. A rocket moves itself.

Taking the word "move" in the more general sense of change, then yes, then macro objects change themselves.
A rock, just floating in space all by itself, can cool, and thus change itself.

Oh, look, I have an interesting rock, it is getting hotter, all on its own, not absorbing energy from the environment at all, just changing itself by getting itself hotter. (extra bonus points if you know what kind of rock that is)

Self moving of a macro object is due to mutual causation at base. You cannot name a counterexample.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"You do need a first mover and materialists even have one: matter. Matter is the fundamental bottom of nature."
In that case there is no need for god to explain motion.

Martin said...

>You are a macro object. You move yourself.

As I explained above, I do not move myself. My legs move my torso. Muscles move my legs. Motoneurons move my muscles. At no point are any of these things self-movers. Each of these things are moved by something else.

>A rock, just floating in space all by itself, can cool, and thus change itself.

A rock in space is being cooled by space. It isn't cooling itself.

>In that case there is no need for god to explain motion.

Notice the flip flop. So, now you reverse your position that there is no need for a first mover? You now agree that the argument is sound and there is a need for one, you just think it's matter? Or...wait...no, I'm sure you'll flip flop again in three, two, one...

SteveK said...

Some general thoughts on causality and the strange beliefs that some people hold onto.

Some people believe only accidental causal series exist. Essential causal series don't exist they say. What does that mean? Well, it means your birth is one cause, among many, that explains why you are moving a stick in the present moment. Your birth also explains, in the causal sense of explaining activity, why you are playing a perfectly timed Beethoven symphony on the cello right now. Your birth also explains, in part, why your grandchild is kicking a soccer ball right now - and when you die, your birth also explains, in part, that same activity.

Honestly, this is a very weird belief. In physics we draw free body diagrams to help us identify the proximal cause of some motion. Never do the force equations include a term that represents a birth. How much does a birth force contribute to the overall force? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. How can we test that idea? Science has done the work.

We can compare a non-human event with a human event of the same kind and see how much the birth force contributes to the F=mA equation. Have a human rapidly lifts a weight vs. a machine doing the same thing and measure the forces. As you would expect, there's no difference in the two forces. The birth force component is zero or so small it cannot be detected. In other words, it's irrelevant to the physics question of why the weight is in motion right now.

It's a pity that some people choose to believe what science has proven otherwise.

StardustyPsyche said...

"Honestly, this is a very weird belief. In physics we draw free body diagrams to help us identify the proximal cause of some motion"
No, in physics we draw free body diagrams to describe the mutual interaction wherein the distinction between mover, moved, self moving, and moving the other is arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

There is only the mutual interaction.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
" I do not move myself."
Of course you do, to the extent that you are an object. The reason you move yourself is that at base parts of you move each other mutually, see the sliding filament theory, which at base is accounted for with mutual electrostatic forces.

"At no point are any of these things self-movers. Each of these things are moved by something else."
You are a self mover to the extent that you are a singular object.

At base there is no case of a unidirectional movement of X by Y. At base X and Y move each other mutually with the distinction of mover or moved being arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

It is that base of mutual interaction that disproves the necessity of an unmoved first mover to account for observed motion.

"A rock in space is being cooled by space. It isn't cooling itself."
Space, ideally, is a perfect insulator by conduction. Space does not add or subtract energy from an object.

If you hold a rock in your bare hand, then if you could transfer that rock to totally black space, space with no contact to the rock and no radiation irradiating the rock, then the rock will cool itself.

The mechanism for this sort of self change is radiation. The rock will radiate energy away by itself and cool itself and thus change itself.

"Notice the flip flop. So, now you reverse your position that there is no need for a first mover?"
It's a matter of semantics. If you want to call everything that exists "first", you can say that. In that case there is no need for god to account for "first" if you choose to use "first" in that sense.

At base everything moves everything else, so in that sense everything is "first", or you can say there is no "first" because "first" implies a second, and there is no second because everything is "first".

Call it what you wish. In popular language a First Mover is typically expressed as an unmoved mover at the terminus of a causal regress. Using "first" in that sense means there is no need for such a first.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"My legs move my torso. Muscles move my legs. Motoneurons move my muscles"
Ok, that is a good start, but why stop so soon?

What makes your muscles move? What makes your neurons fire?

How far can you apply this regress of movers? Is it a finite number? How many atoms are in your body? How many subatomic particles? Is that infinite or finite?

What do we arrive at when we keep going, not merely a few steps like you did, but on and on and on?

The First Unmoved Mover assertion depends on stopping the regress, much as you did, after just a few iterations. Is that a sound analytical technique?

I invite you continue your regress, ideally, a trillion trillion trillion times. What do you find in that case, ideally?

You will find that at the base of such a thorough regress analysis is mutual causality.

At the based, at the bottom, after regressing again and again and again you will find that you get to entities that only interact with each other mutually, wherein the distinction between mover and moved is arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

Kevin said...

The First Unmoved Mover assertion depends on stopping the regress, much as you did, after just a few iterations.

This is contrary to everything I have seen from Thomists. All they say is it can't be an infinite series of causes, not that the chain itself has to be small or can't include fundamental forces, subatomic particles, quantum mechanics, etc.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"This is contrary to everything I have seen from Thomists."
Every regress analysis performed by every Thomist always stops prematurely, typically after about 3 iterations.

"All they say is it can't be an infinite series of causes"
False, they use shallow examples that come nowhere close to regressing to infinity.

"not that the chain itself has to be small or can't include fundamental forces, subatomic particles, quantum mechanics, etc."
No actual Thomist actually presents an argument that regresses to subatomic particles, because the notion of a one-way linear regress of causes clearly breaks down under the formulation of interacting particles.

Consider, for example, 2 interacting electrons, say, eX and eY.

Is eX the mover of eY and eY therefore is the moved?
Or is eY the mover of eX and therefore eX is the moved?
Or did eY move itself from eX?
Or did eX move itself from eY?

The distinction of mover or moved or self moving or moving the other is arbitrary and therefore meaningless.

There is only the fact that eY and eX interact mutually such that they move away from each other mutually.

That mutuality terminates the causal regress analysis finitely without any need to further consider an infinite regress. There is no need to consider an unmoved mover to terminate an otherwise infinite regress because mutual causation terminates such a regress finitely without an unmoved mover.

To revisit your claim " All they say is it can't be an infinite series of causes"
No, they say a great deal more than that.
They claim there are only 2 choices
1.Infinite regress.
2.Finite termination of the regress by an unmoved mover.

Thus, Thomists claim a causal dichotomy.
Since that claimed dichotomy is false their arguments are logically invalid, suffering from the fallacy of false dichotomy.

In fact, all the formulations we have for causal processes at the subatomic level are formulated as the third case Thomists fail to address.
3.Finite termination of the regress by mutual movers.

Kevin said...

From Ed Feser:

But pointing out that an E-series must have a first member, and illustrating the idea with the stick example, is by no means the whole of a First Cause argument for God’s existence. It is only part of a much larger line of argument. For one thing, while a person who moves a stone with a stick is a first cause relative to that particular series, it does not follow that he is a first cause absolutely, full stop. Indeed, relative to other E-series, he will himself be an effect. For example, his existence at any moment depends upon the existence and proper configuration of his micro-level material parts. And in a metaphysically more fundamental way, it depends on his substantial form being conjoined with prime matter, and his essence being conjoined with an act of existence. The regress this entails will be vicious unless it terminates in a cause which is purely actual and thus need not be actualized by anything else.

That was from a brief Google search. I've seen numerous Thomists say similar things. You seem to mistake illustrative examples with comprehensive depictions.

For the rest of what you wrote, I would let others chime in, as I'm not a Thomist. I suspect they would disagree.

bmiller said...

Most people who know how to replace batteries in flashlight understand this but I'll point it out anyway:

Electrons move in an electric circuit from the anode side of the battery to the cathode side through the wires and load of the circuit. They don't "mutually" move each other. This has been known for centuries. Atheism must cause brain damage.

bmiller said...

Kevin,

It's not the first time Stardusty has been shown he/she is misconstruing Thomist claims, so it won't change things by pointing it out again. Similarly, he/she has been shown they are misconstruing physics concepts multiple times and they just pause, wait, and repeat the claims again. It must give them some sort of strange satisfaction to spout nonsense and see who bites. It may just encourage them when they see someone is responding seriously.

Still, it is probably a service to new readers to see their hallucinations meet a dose of reality from time to time.

Martin said...

>You are a self mover to the extent that you are a singular object.

I'm not a self-mover at all, as I illustrated. Since you are obtuse, I'll illustrate again: my torso is moved by my legs, my legs are moved by my muscles, my muscles are moved by motoneurons, etc.

>It is that base of mutual interaction that disproves the necessity of an unmoved first mover to account for observed motion.

But there is a necessity for an unmoved mover, as you yourself agreed. You just believe that it's matter. As long as it's matter, then the argument works. But if it could be anything else, then the argument is invalid or doesn't work. Your examination of the argument is disingenuous.

>At base X and Y move each other mutually

There is no principle in Aristotelian philosophy that says "if A affects B then B cannot affect A." That is a principle you invented and then attributed, falsely, to Aristotle.

>The mechanism for this sort of self change is radiation.

Your misunderstanding of Aristotelian philosophy is not just lacking, it's actually negative. You invent things in your own head and attribute them to Aristotelian philosophy, and then "refute" your imaginary principles.

Aristotelian concepts include energeia, which means "being-at-work," which includes things performing activities natural to them, such as a tree taking in nutrients and growing new leaves, as well as entelechia, which means "being-at-rest", which means resting in stability as the type of thing it is. A rock in space is a being-at-rest: it's doing the things characteristic of a rock in that environment, which includes radiating heat energy. This is not an example of being-at-work, which is change. For a change to occur in what the rock naturally does in a specific environment, such as heating up, an external force is required.

Anyway, this is all irrelevant because you agree the argument works as long as it leads to matter as the unmoved mover.

> If you want to call everything that exists "first",

I don't want to call everything that exists "first." I want to call the most fundamental base, which is either what everything is composed of AND/OR what everything ultimately depends on. If there is some phenomenon that results from an arrangement of matter but is not itself matter (perhaps thoughts, for example, or pictures), then matter is still the base, or ontological first.

> In popular language a First Mover is typically expressed as an unmoved mover at the terminus of a causal regress.

Yes, and the terminus of the causal regress for materialists is matter. It's the base or cause of any other phenomena.

>The First Unmoved Mover assertion depends on stopping the regress, much as you did, after just a few iterations.

Such as at matter, yes.

> mutual causality

There is no principle in Aristotelian philosophy that says "if A affects B then B cannot affect A."

>At the based, at the bottom, after regressing again and again and again you will find that you get to entities that only interact with each other mutually

Oh, so matter, your base, interacts with...what?

>Every regress analysis performed by every Thomist always stops prematurely, typically after about 3 iterations.

No, no Thomist has any such principle. Another strawman. Examples using three elements are just used as intuition pumps to illustrate principles such as "for any effect, there must be a cause capable of producing it."

>No actual Thomist actually presents an argument that regresses to subatomic particles

Of course they do. All the time.

>That mutuality terminates the causal regress analysis finitely

So, again, your unmoved mover is matter. You're saying that matter does not terminate your explanations? And that matter interacts with something that is not matter? So you are a dualist?

SteveK said...

"And in a metaphysically more fundamental way, it depends on his substantial form being conjoined with prime matter, and his essence being conjoined with an act of existence. The regress this entails will be vicious unless it terminates in a cause which is purely actual and thus need not be actualized by anything else"

Kevin's quote from Feser illustrates how SPs misunderstandings fail to address AT philosophy. AT philosophy would say that all of SPs examples haven't gone far enough. See bolded statements above. SP wants to terminate at "mutual causation" but that isn't the end of the regression according to AT philosophy.

You don't have to agree with AT philosophy, but you need to understand it correctly if you want to talk about it.

SteveK said...

Science cannot address the fundamental metaphysical issues that AT philosophy argues for. SP thinks that science can address matters of non-science - ultimately showing that AT philosophy is not correct. SP is a lousy thinker, which is why I often say she is dumb.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"I'm not a self-mover at all, as I illustrated. Since you are obtuse, I'll illustrate again: my torso is moved by my legs, my legs are moved by my muscles, my muscles are moved by motoneurons, etc."
All of which are part of you and result in you moving yourself.

Of course you stop at "etc", because if you continued your regression you would inevitably find yourself as a finite system.

If you do not accept that you are you, that is, if you deny the self in principle, fine, but that is why I said to the extent you are an object then you are an object that moves itself.

SteveK said...

You don't hold yourself together in the form that is you and prevent you from ceasing to exist. That is done by something other than you. AT is arguing for a finite system just not the one you're advocating for.

Martin said...

>All of which are part of you and result in you moving yourself.

I'm not moving myself, though. My legs are moving my torso, my muscles are moving my legs, my motoneurons are moving my muscles. No thing is self-moving.

>because if you continued your regression you would inevitably find yourself as a finite system.

Such as at your first mover, which is matter? You seem to agree with the argument as long as it concludes in matter, but if it doesn't, then you pretend like the argument is invalid. Which of course demonstrates that you are an evangelical creationist Christian, but in reverse. You hold dogmatically to a worldview that you have no evidence for, and then you work backwards into it, supporting any arguments you think get you to it, and rejecting ones that don't.

"New" atheists are mirror images of fundamentalists.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"I'm not moving myself, though. My legs are moving my torso, my muscles are moving my legs, my motoneurons are moving my muscles. No thing is self-moving."
To the extent that you are a thing then you are a thing that moves itself from, say, from X to Y.

Suppose thing you is sitting in chair position X, then thing you gets up, walks to the next room, and sits down in chair position Y. To the extent that you are a thing then thing you moved from X to Y. What moved thing you from X to Y? Answer, thing you moved thing you from X to Y. Your legs and your torso and your muscles are indeed mechanisms in you moving you.

To the extent that macro objects are objects they can and do change and move themselves, as you do.

"Such as at your first mover, which is matter?"
Matter is not an UNMOVED mover.

"You seem to agree with the argument as long as it concludes in matter, but if it doesn't, then you pretend like the argument is invalid."
The invalid argument of A-T is not invalid because it fails to terminate in matter, it is invalid because it presents a false dichotomy.

The dichotomy presented in the the A-T argument for an first mover is
1.An infinite regress of one-way movers.
2.A finite termination of the regress with an unmoved mover.

That false dichotomy neglects the third case
3.A regress of movers that terminates finitely with mutual movers.

"No thing is self-moving."
At base that is true. Macro objects, such as a rocket or an animal, or a star, seem to be self moving, and to the extent a macro object can be soundly considered to be an object it can move itself.

However, at base, you are correct that there are no self movers.

For example, a single electron floating alone in space (ideally) cannot move itself. However, 2 electrons can move each other. Both electrons are both mover and moved, the distinction being arbitrary, and therefore meaningless.

Macro objects seem to move themselves because at base all causation is mutual, not unmoved.

The traditional First Mover is an Unmoved First Mover.

If there are maybe 10^90 particles in the cosmos then all of them are first, if you wish to put a label on them. Designating 10^90 particles as all first seems a bit trivial, sort of like when every kid gets a trophy and they are all the winner. Well, fine, if you want to call it that, I don't really care.

Call them what you wish, all first or all last or all just present, it doesn't much matter, but none of them are unmoved, that is the key point that invalidates the A-T notion of an Unmoved First Mover.

An UNMOVED first mover is unnecessary because at base all movers are also moved.

StardustyPsyche said...

On the topic of the OP

On determinism free will is impossible because you are not the author of your apparent will, the great cosmic clockwork mechanism is the author of your actions.

On randomness free will is impossible because you are not the author of your apparent will, the great cosmic random event generator is the author of your actions.

The determinism/randomness dichotomy is a true dichotomy, therefore free will is necessarily impossible.

SteveK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
""And in a metaphysically more fundamental way, it depends on his substantial form being conjoined with prime matter, and his essence being conjoined with an act of existence. The regress this entails will be vicious unless it terminates in a cause which is purely actual and thus need not be actualized by anything else""
Feser is well noted for his gibberish non-arguments.

In this case he is asserting "act of existence", and "purely actual", which is also known as
"existence itself". Such terms as "pure act" and "existence itself" are incoherent gibberish that I am very well familiar with.

This particular regression Feser is prattling on incoherently about is with respect to existence, not motion. Feser has written acknowledging that in the First Way Aquinas is addressing motion, which Feser generalizes as change, as Feser commits the same fallacious arguments as Aristotle and Aquinas. Feser then tries to construct an argument for a source of existence in a manner similar to which Aquinas argued for a First Unmoved Mover.

It doesn't work.

The whining refrain of Thomists is typically that others somehow do not understand the A-T arguments. Just the opposite is the case. It is incoherent babblers like Feser who do not understand the arguments. I understand A-T vastly better than either Aristotle or Aquinas understood their own arguments, not because I am a genius, but because I have the advantage of being able to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Feser voluntarily refuses to take advantage of centuries of learning that have exposed A-T as nonsense. Feser is one of many who remain willfully ignorant.

But if you wish to change the discussion from the fallacious argument for an Unmoved First Mover to the fallacious argument for a First Sustainer, fine, I can easily show you how absurd those arguments are as well.

Very simply, to use the clunky obsolete vernacular of A-T, there is no call for a First Sustainer to actualize material in its moment to moment existence, because material is already fully actualized in its existence and thus does not require any further actualization to sustain its existence.

Changing from existing to not existing would call for a changer.
Continued existence is no change in the existential aspect of material and therefore does not call for a first changer, or first sustainer.

Feser is so dull witted or willfully ignorant that he fails to understand that simple and obvious fact.

Martin said...

>To the extent that you are a thing then you are a thing that moves itself

But as Aristotle and Aquinas clearly point out, when they argue "nothing can move itself," what they mean is that nothing can move itself primarily, as opposed to one part of it moving another part. From Contra Gentiles I.13:

If something moves itself, it must have within itself the principle of its own motion; otherwise, it is clearly moved by another. Furthermore, it must be primarily moved. This means that it must be moved by reason of itself, and not by reason of a part of itself, as happens when an animal is moved by the motion of its foot. For, in this sense, a whole would not be moved by itself, but a part, and one part would be moved by another.

>Matter is not an UNMOVED mover.

If you're a materialist, matter is absolutely your unmoved mover. You don't think anything more fundamental causes matter to exist, right? So it's uncaused? Wait...you don't...you don't think "moved" in Aristotelianism means "movement from place to place," do you...?! I thought you "studied" Aristotelian/Thomism. If this is what you think, then either you are lying, or you (more likely) read some other atheist's bad interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy.

>A regress of movers that terminates finitely with mutual movers.

Ok, so, the third case if you are a materialist is...what? What non-material thing does matter interact with? Asking you, as a materialist. Since this is what you think the answer is.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
Most of what you "pointed out" to me is already in my previous responses, so I won't bother repeating myself multiple times.

It is often the whining refrain of Thomists that materialists somehow do not understand the Thomist position. Then after the materialist states exactly what the argument says and what the terms mean, the Thomist will typically simply repeat that false claim.

Here is my favorite source for the arguments of Aquinas. Do you have one you consider better?
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

"What non-material thing does matter interact with?"
It doesn't, it interacts with other material.

" Wait...you don't...you don't think "moved" in Aristotelianism means "movement from place to place," do you...?! "
Of course that is a subset of the more generalized notion of "moved". Whatever principle of generalized "moved" must also apply to moving from place to place.

Yes, moved means moved. Aristotle and Aquinas were not illiterate idiots. They could have used other words for "changed" but they used "moved" as a species of "change".

Aristotle thought that continued motion required change, which is a key error of Aristotle. And indeed, it does seem that way, such that to continue motion one must continually change, apparently to the ancients, but not really.

Acceleration is another instance of change we observe as a change of seeming to be at rest, then moving to another place.

"If you're a materialist, matter is absolutely your unmoved mover."
There is no need for any unmoved mover because materials move each other.
Materials change each other.
Materials accelerate each other.

There is no call for an unmoved mover of any sort, or an unchanged changer of any sort, or an unsustained sustainer of any sort, because at base all causation is mutual among materials.

Martin said...

>It is often the whining refrain of Thomists that materialists somehow do not understand the Thomist position.

...you say as you continue to whine that Aristotelian philosophy states "if A causes B, then B cannot affect A," which I explained above three times is not a principle of Aristotelian philosophy, after which you blink and continue to state that principle.

>Yes, moved means moved. Aristotle and Aquinas were not illiterate idiots. They could have used other words for "changed" but they used "moved" as a species of "change".

They didn't use either term, obviously. Aristotle spoke ancient Greek and Thomas spoke Latin.

At any rate, what Aristotle means is "the actualization of a potential." The coming to be of something that had the ability to be. At its most fundamental, it means something being caused to exist.

And as a materialist, you think things like "mind" are caused to exist by certain configurations of matter, but that matter itself is not caused to exist by anything more fundamental. Therefore, for you, matter is the uncaused cause. You absolutely think there is an uncaused cause, and therefore agree with what Aristotle was arguing.

im-skeptical said...

"Therefore, for you, matter is the uncaused cause."

That's begging the question. The uncaused cause is nothing more than a presumption of God on your part. Who say there has to be one and only one ultimate cause? Oh, right - that's what Thomas says. So what reason does one have to accept that? His metaphysics is informed by ancient beliefs that don't agree with more modern observations. Are you aware that current formulations of the laws of physics don't include the word "cause"? Cause isn't a thing. It's just a concept we have about how things work, and it only applies in the macro-level realm. In the quantum arena, there is no discernible cause of events. The laws of quantum physics are stochastic in nature. Everything happens as a matter of probability, and not as a result of some other movement.

SteveK said...

@im-skeptical

"That's begging the question"

I don't see it that way because as I understand it (a) matter is the thing that causes new things to exist (humans, flowers, molecules), which is change and (b) matter's existence is itself not caused. Putting a & b together, matter is the uncaused cause.

im-skeptical said...

Why can't there be other things that are uncaused?

SteveK said...

@im-skeptical
If my a & b are accurately stated then it makes no logical sense to say that matter is an uncaused cause that changes due to mutual causality. It's a contradiction so something isn't right - but what?

im-skeptical said...

@SteveK
I said nothing about your a or b. I was commenting on the phrase "the uncaused cause". You can formulate whatever contradiction you like. But that phrase is problematic in its own right.

Martin said...

> Who say there has to be one and only one ultimate cause?

Uh, materialists say that.

Materialists say that everything that exists, such as mind, is ultimately caused by matter, and that nothing more fundamental causes matter to exist.

The disagreement is, or should be if properly understood, not with the argument for a most fundamental thing, but rather if matter is the stopping point. The argument itself is one materialists themselves use, implicitly.

im-skeptical said...

"Uh, materialists say that."

Not this one. In fact, I believe that the whole idea of one ultimate or most fundamental thing is a religious concept. It's interesting that you talk about materialists not understanding your Thomist philosophy, but you don't seem to understand a materialist philosophy that doesn't assume some ultimate being or entity.

Kevin said...

Not this one.

To be clear, you're a materialist who doesn't believe matter is foundational?

im-skeptical said...

I am a materialist. I'm not sure what you mean by "foundational", exactly. The foundation of something? What is that something?

SteveK said...

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foundational
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fundamental

A religious concept?? I see many non-religious ways to understand the word "fundamental".


Martin said...

>I am a materialist. I'm not sure what you mean by "foundational", exactly.

From Wikipedia, articles on materialism and physicalism:

Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental states and consciousness, are results of material interactions of material things.

In philosophy, physicalism is the view that "everything is physical", that there is "nothing over and above" the physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological monism—a "one substance" view of the nature of reality as opposed to a "two-substance" (mind–body dualism) or "many-substance" (pluralism) view.

im-skeptical said...

Well yes, I understand the definition of foundational. Please don't patronize me. I was questioning what it means to you. And as far as I can tell, you believe that there is a single ultimate foundation of everything that exists. And you project that belief onto materialists. That's the issue. For you, that thing is God. But I don't believe that there is any identifiable entity that is single ultimate foundation of all things. There doesn't have to be a single "stopping point" from which all things emanate. There is the natural world, and nature is characterized by the way it works, which includes the existence or formation of matter, and all the ways material things interact with one another. But it does not include a conscious entity that makes it all happen.

Martin said...

> I don't believe that there is any identifiable entity that is single ultimate foundation of all things

So you’re not a materialist. Got it. So, are you a substance dualist? A pluralist? What is the other thing in addition to matter?

im-skeptical said...

So you don't understand a word I said. Got it. Buh bye.

Martin said...

> So you don't understand a word I said. Got it. Buh bye

My failure to understand your position is the fault of the explainer, not the explainer. Materialism is a type of monism: only one substance exists and everything else is reducible to that one substance. You state that you’re a materialist, but also you state that you don’t believe in one ultimate cause of things. So you’re A) a monist, and B) not a monist. If you mean something different than this, then it is up to you to clarify your position.

The truth is, you and StarDustyPsyche are really bad at engaging in philosophy. You state contradictory positions, you attribute premises to your interlocutors that they do not hold, you continuously poison the well, you start with your conclusions and work backwards from them, and ultimately both of you are inverted fundamentalists: indistinguishable from creationists, aside from being mirror images of them. Attempting to engage with either of you on the topic of philosophy is exactly as maddening as when I attempted to present evidence of evolution to Stan at atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com.

You both REALLY need to get a different hobby. I recently took up cooking, which I think I’m good at, and gardening, which I’m bad at, and putting together these little Robotime miniature kits. Those are fun. I also want to try to get back into playing piano. Why don’t you both run along and find something like that and bow out of a topic you are unable to engage in in good faith.

Martin said...

* correction: “fault of the explainer not the explainEE.”

im-skeptical said...

"My failure to understand your position is the fault of the explainer, not the explainer."

What we have here is an arrogant and obstinate refusal to hear what I'm saying. This discussion started out as a comment on the supposed single ultimate cause of all things. which I still maintain is nothing more than a presupposition of God. And evidently you don't have an answer for that, so you deftly turn the discussion to the definition of materialism, because you think you understand my philosophy better that I do, and you can proclaim for all to see that I'm wrong. So let me explain, and I'll do it slowly. I am a materialist. In my book, that means there is only one kind of substance: physical matter. That's all it means to me, and it is indeed a monism. But I don't claim that matter is some kind of ultimate reality, or the cause of all things. I tried numerous times to tell you that, but rather than listen, you are intent on proving how smart you are, and how stupid those atheists are. It seems you have proven something to the world, but it isn't what you think.

StardustyPsyche said...

" Materialism is a type of monism: only one substance exists and everything else is reducible to that one substance"
That is the old Aristotelian idea of a substantial "cause", not causation in the sense of spatio-temporal processes of materials that interact. You are equivocating on the word "cause".

"You state contradictory positions"
No, you use an ancient and obsolete language of various sorts of "causes" and equivocate those ideas with the modern notion of causation.

One can reason back to there being 1 set of sorts of fundamental materials. Materialism is not monism, necessarily. There can be multiple sorts of irreducible sorts of materials that exist.

Those various sorts of materials are NOT UNMOVED, nor are they unitary in space-time.

The reasoning of A-T attempting to observe ordinary apparent causation and from that concluding a first UNMOVED MOVER is logically invalid as well as unsound for various other defects of argumentation, which because obvious after Newton published the Principia.

It's you, Martin. You don't understand the basics and are hobbled by ancient misconceptions you somehow think are a grand explanation. But, if you want to learn where you are going wrong I can teach you, not because I am a genius, but because it is so simple and obvious to anybody who has had the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants and learn.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"Aristotle means is "the actualization of a potential." The coming to be of something that had the ability to be. At its most fundamental, it means something being caused to exist."

"actualization of a potential" is a trivial and useless term. Sure, you can say that stuff happens that can happen, and stuff that can't happen doesn't happen. Such statements are trivial and useless tautologies.

"something being caused to exist"
Existent material does not require a cause to account for its existence because it already exists. Existential inertia does not need a cause. Blinking out of existence would need a cause. A-T has existential causation backwards, making A-T existential causation one of the most idiotic and asinine ideas in philosophical circulation.

In any case, the First Way of Aquinas (the T in A-T) means move, as in motion, the positional change of place. Move means move. If Aquinas had meant change he could have said change. If you want to correct the translation scholars fluent in Latin by all means, do correct them, you can start here, for example:
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

"Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it"
Note Aquinas said "moves AND changes".
If the word "move" meant "change" then that would mean "changes AND changes".
Obviously, "move" means just that "move".

"as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand."
Again, "move" means "move", because that is what the hand seems to do to the staff, move it from this place to that place.

In The First Way move is to change as square is to rectangle.

All motion is considered to be a species of change.
All motion is considered to require and continuous mover acting upon, and thus continually changing the object being moved.

The argument for an UNMOVED first mover fails for a number of structural reasons, the First Way being a very badly written and utterly worthless argument.

I can show you the many defects in the First Way, but more generally the solution to the question of a first changer is simple:
At base all changers change each other mutually, so there is no call for a first UNCHANGED changer.

All observed change is accounted for finitely with mutual changers at base, eliminating any need for an UNCHANGED changer.








StardustyPsyche said...

Per the subject of the OP

On determinism free will is an illusion (most people understand this)
On randomness free will is an illusion (same basic reason, think about it)
Determinism versus randomness is a true dichotomy
Therefore free will is an illusion

SteveK said...

We'll just have to agree to disagree. I see many incorrect statements about AT philosophy that claim to be accurate, thus showing it as nonsense and full of contradictions with physics, etc. We've discussed these incorrect claims many times and the incorrect statements keep coming back.

Be content with your decision to reject it. Just know that you are making your decision based on incorrect information.

SteveK said...

Kevin
What are your thoughts on the strengths/weaknesses of AT philosophy? I haven't heard your take yet.

Kevin said...

Mine is a surface level understanding, mostly gained from the 1000+ comment thread a few years back. I wouldn't really be able to delve too deeply into strengths and weaknesses per se.

Obviously there were things that Aristotle and Aquinas had absolutely no way of knowing regarding physics, astronomy, subatomic structure, etc, so they will get some specifics wrong. It's also obvious that they established a metaphysical framework of understanding change that physics won't refute, with the only even theoretical exceptions being at the quantum level. I'm also not a physicist, so my commentary on the intersection of quantum physics and AT philosophy would probably make people cry due to its inaccuracies.

I'm not sure how useful AT philosophy is on a practical level, outside of an argument for God, but its take on change being actualized by something outside of itself is pretty obviously accurate.

I would love to see a skeptic who actually understood the argument offer a rebuttal, but alas.

Martin said...

Skeppy,

>What we have here is an arrogant and obstinate refusal to hear what I'm saying

No, what we have here is someone whose position is incoherent, and who has no ability to explain or clarify their own position, and then attributes this failing to the interlocutor instead of to him/herself.

>I still maintain is nothing more than a presupposition of God.

Well, you maintain wrong, then. There isn't anything in the classical arguments that say how many first causes there are. They only state that there must be at least one first cause. In the Summa Theologica, for example, Aquinas argues for a first cause (the famous First Way) in chapter 3, and only in chapter 11 does he get to how many first causes there are. See for yourself.

>you deftly turn the discussion to the definition of materialism, because you think you understand my philosophy better that I do

Because you simultaneously claim monism, and also not monism, but not, but yes, but no, I'm apparently "arrogant" for pointing out your complete and utter incoherence of a position.

>In my book, that means there is only one kind of substance: physical matter.

Ok, good. Monism, then. I'm sure "but not monism" is coming up next.

>I don't claim that matter is some kind of ultimate reality, or the cause of all things.

There it is! So matter is simultaneously the only kind of substance, but, because it's not the cause of all things, then there must be some other kind of substance. But not. But yes. But I'm "arrogant" and "not listening."

>rather than listen, you are intent on proving how smart you are

Oh, believe me, I'm fully listening to your position. It's just that you cannot simultaneously claim materialist monism, and then also that you do not think matter is the cause of all other things. Those two positions are contradictory. You have yet to clarify how you can hold these two contradictory positions in your head at once.

SteveK said...

Like Martin, I too was very confused about what skeptical said:

"I am a materialist. In my book, that means there is only one kind of substance: physical matter. That's all it means to me, and it is indeed a monism. But I don't claim that matter is some kind of ultimate reality, or the cause of all things."

On the face of it, this statement is incoherent and contradictory. Maybe we will get a clarification.

Martin said...

SDP

>That is the old Aristotelian idea of a substantial "cause", not causation in the sense of spatio-temporal processes of materials that interact. You are equivocating on the word "cause".

There is no such thing as "substantial cause." You just can't stop attributing things to Aristotelian philosophy that it doesn't say, can you?

>you use an ancient and obsolete language of various sorts of "causes" and equivocate those ideas with the modern notion of causation.

No, I do not do anything like that.

>There can be multiple sorts of irreducible sorts of materials that exist.

Ah, I see. So you're a dualist? Matter and mind?

>Those various sorts of materials are NOT UNMOVED, nor are they unitary in space-time.

They are absolutely uncaused, if you are a materialist. A materialist maintains that matter is not caused to exist by anything else.

>The reasoning of A-T attempting to observe ordinary apparent causation and from that concluding a first UNMOVED MOVER is logically invalid

Ah, I see. Which formal fallacy is it committing?

>unsound for various other defects of argumentation

Ah, I se. Which informal fallacy is it committing?

>It's you, Martin.

No, it's you. You attribute principles to Aristotelian philosophy that it doesn't hold, and then when pointed out, you just restate them.

Martin said...

>"actualization of a potential" is a trivial and useless term.

No it isn't. It's very non-trivial and useful.

>Existent material does not require a cause to account for its existence because it already exists.

That's the satement of materialism, yes. Which is a type of monism. And it's also the statement that matter is the UNCAUSE cause, which you just claimed matter is not uncaused, and now you do, and then you don't. Completely incoherent, just like skeppy.

>A-T has existential causation backwards

No it doesn't.

> A-T existential causation one of the most idiotic and asinine ideas in philosophical circulation.

If you attribute to it the principles you do, of course. But as has been pointed out to you ad nauseum to no avail, it doesn't hold to those principles.

>In any case, the First Way of Aquinas (the T in A-T) means move, as in motion, the positional change of place.

No, it doesn't mean that at all.

>If Aquinas had meant change he could have said change.

Since he didn't speak English, then no, he could not have said "change." And regardless, he clarifies in other work that he means "actualiziation of a potential," which ultimately means "bringing something into existence which has the ability to exist."

>All motion is considered to require and continuous mover acting upon, and thus continually changing the object being moved.

Also incorrect, and Feser even wrote a whole paper on this.

As SteveK correctly notes, go ahead and reject Aristotelian philosophy, but just know that you are rejecting it due to attributing to it principles it does not hold to.

im-skeptical said...

I'll try stepping in again. I came to discuss, not to fight.

One thing that needs to be cleared up is what the philosophy of materialism entails to modern scientifically-minded people. It is based on modern scientific and metaphysical concepts. It specifically rejects Aristotelian metaphysics. The laws of physics, in particular - conservation of momentum, energy, etc, say that movement (and we can use that word in the Aristotelian sense, meaning change of some sort) is a mutual interaction of several bodies. Movement affects all of the bodies involved in that interaction, and there is no such thing as an unmoved mover. So if someone insists that "If you're a materialist, matter is absolutely your unmoved mover", he is projecting his own A-T metaphysics upon someone who doesn't accept that, and at the same time, revealing his own lack of understanding of modern materialism.

As for the issue of causation, modern metaphysics again parts ways with Aristotelian concepts. Causation is seen as a secondary phenomenon. By that, I mean that physics doesn't depend on causation, but things behave interactively according physical laws. One thing doesn't cause another, but the total state of affairs at one moment results the subsequent state of affairs. Everything contributes to the state of affairs, so it is a misnomer to say that one thing causes another. However, we still talk about causation with the understanding that there may be a major contributor to the state of affairs that influences the movement of something else. That's what we call cause. I should also note that in the world of very small particles, there is no causation at all. Events happen at random, according to a probability distribution, and it is only the aggregation of many random events that brings about predictable movement in the non-quantum world. Of course, Aristotle and Aquinas knew nothing of this.

And that brings me to the topic of Victor's post: "If determinism is true there are causes going back before you were born that guarantee what you do now." That's not true at all. Of course, it depends on what you mean by "determinism". You might say that determinism entails the unfolding of the universe in a Newtonian clockwork manner, in which case, Victor's statement is correct. But determinism can mean something different from that. It can mean that the existing state of affairs (which may include random events) is what you do now. In other words, everything is precisely determined by the laws of physics. But due to randomness, you can't trace causation back to the beginning of the universe.

To give you an example, consider an atomic decay event, which happens at random, and events like this happen all the time. Most of the time, it has no noticeable impact on the course of events in our lives. But one such event produces a particle that strikes a DNA molecule, and alters the state of affairs such that a case of cancer results. So there is a clear outcome that changes the course of someone's life, and is "caused" by a random quantum event, but there is no chain of causation that goes back beyond that. And this is consistent with a modern concept of determinism that many people have today.

im-skeptical said...

Correction: determinism can mean that the existing state of affairs (which may include random events) determines what you do now.

SteveK said...

Truth: the philosophy of materialism isn't compatible with AT philosophy. They disagree.

Lie: the philosophy of materialism easily shows that AT philosophy is false, incoherent, wrong, anti-science, etc.

SP's entire schtick is based on the above lie. Her gimmick is somewhat comical but it also gets boring after about the 10th time, like hearing the same joke told again and again. I want to understand the philosophy of materialism, and sometimes I do decent job of that but sometimes I don't. SP has never demonstrated any hesitation or curiosity. Can't remember her ever asking a question or saying "Let me think about that" or "Okay, now I understand".

StardustyPsyche said...

"There is no such thing as "substantial cause.""
Call it whatever you want, substantial cause, existential cause, material cause. The concept is that there needs to be an ongoing cause for continued existence, which is an idiotic idea that gets continued existence backwards.

*>There can be multiple sorts of irreducible sorts of materials that exist.*
"Ah, I see. So you're a dualist? Matter and mind?"
No.

"They are absolutely uncaused, if you are a materialist. A materialist maintains that matter is not caused to exist by anything else."
Which is irrelevant to the argument for an unmoved first mover, or an unchanged first changer.

Again, you are equivocating on the word "cause"

"Also incorrect, and Feser even wrote a whole paper on this."
Funny. "Feser". Truly hilarious.

" go ahead and reject Aristotelian philosophy, but just know that you are rejecting it due to attributing to it principles it does not hold to."
Oh, the whining refrain of "you don't understand" again.

Just read the words, for example here:
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

Or do you think that translation is inaccurate? Is so, which translation do you prefer? Can you provide a link?


StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
" I should also note that in the world of very small particles, there is no causation at all. Events happen at random, according to a probability distribution, and it is only the aggregation of many random events that brings about predictable movement in the non-quantum world."
How can there be a probability distribution if there is no cause at all? Makes no sense.

A probability distribution arises when statistical methods are applied to a chaotic deterministic process.

If there is no cause, that is, if stuff just pops off any old which way for no reason at all, just poof, then what gives rise to a particular probability distribution? Makes no sense.


" But determinism can mean something different from that. It can mean that the existing state of affairs (which may include random events) is what you do now. In other words, everything is precisely determined by the laws of physics. But due to randomness, you can't trace causation back to the beginning of the universe."
Self-contradictory. I suggest you re-read and re-think.

If "everything is precisely determined by the laws of physics" then there cannot be anything "due to randomness". You can't have it both ways.

If there is an element of randomness in the progressions of material processes through time then they cannot be precisely determined by laws of physics.

There is no precise determination in randomness, the two notions being mutually exclusive of each other.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Can't remember her ever asking a question or saying "Let me think about that" or "Okay, now I understand"."
Nobody here ever expresses views that educate me in a fundamental conceptual or reasoning manner. Yes, I do learn some new links, or details of what some particular author wrote, but invariably, I already understand that material, so there is no opportunity for fundamental learning for me in such references provided here thus far.

But, hope springs eternal, maybe some day you will provide a sound argument I have not considered already. Got one?

How about a link to a better analysis of Aquinas than this?
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

I keep asking Martin for a better translation but so far he has not provided one. In that translation "move" means "move", clearly, but the fact that "move and change" would be redundant if "move" already meant "change". Also, "move" means "move" in that translation because there the hand "moves" the staff, and we all know what a hand does to the staff, the hand moves the staff from this place to that place. So again, "move" means "move" in that translation.

But by all means, please do exhibit your superior Latin translation skills and point out how Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo wrote the translation incorrectly.

Consider the correction of the translation of Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo regarding these quotes an opportunity for me to say "now I understand"
"and thereby moves and changes it."
" as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand."

Note the word "moves" in conjunction with "changes". Would it make sense to say "changes and changes it"?

Note that the staff "moves" because it is "put in motion" by the hand. In your experience what does a hand do to a staff? In my observation a hand seems to move the staff from this place to that place, correct?

But, again, by all means, do provide a better translation that shows Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo got it all wrong in his translation.

im-skeptical said...

"How can there be a probability distribution if there is no cause at all? Makes no sense."
- Quantum mechanics is strange. The distribution describes the temporal-spatial occurrence of events. It doesn't make them happen. There is no triggering event that causes quantum events to happen.

"If there is no cause, that is, if stuff just pops off any old which way for no reason at all, just poof, then what gives rise to a particular probability distribution? Makes no sense."
- It's not any old which way. It goes according to a mathematical formula, which is a probability distribution. What gives rise to that? Nothing. That's just how nature works.

"Self-contradictory. I suggest you re-read and re-think."
- When I said everything, I was referring to classical physics that describes things wee see in our macro-level world, like the motion of billiard balls and the function of the brain. That is, non-quantum events. I should have said that. My mistake.

"There is no precise determination in randomness, the two notions being mutually exclusive of each other. "
- Here's an example. Consider an electric circuit with a light bulb wired to a battery. When we attach the wires, we can be (reasonably) certain that the light will turn on because the battery produces an electric field that causes electrons to move through the wire and through the light bulb. It is very predictable. But what about those electrons? Their individual movements are quite random. But the electric field skews the probability distribution so that on average they move thorough the wire from the negative pole to the positive. There are lots of them, but all we observe (normally) is the aggregate motion, which is precisely determined. Does that help?


SteveK said...

"Got one?"
Would you agree with a philosophy can be internally consistent and logical as defined by the terms it uses? I would. That doesn't mean it's true or that everyone will understand or accept it. The argument that AT philosophy is making is internally consistent on its own terms, and thus coherent and logical. I think the same is also true about materialism - I just don't think it accurately describes reality, so I reject it.

"better translation"
You think the original AT philosophy has problems? Okay then how about the modern version that Feser argues for or someone else that has a slightly different take on the original? Not all materialists read from the same sacred philosophical textbook so why can't AT philosophy engage in that? We are standing on the shoulders of giants right?

SteveK said...

*CAN BE true about materialism

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"There is no triggering event that causes quantum events to happen."
How do you know that?

"It's not any old which way. It goes according to a mathematical formula, which is a probability distribution. What gives rise to that? Nothing. That's just how nature works."
Self contradictory. If it is not any old which way and it goes according to a mathematical formula then what drives the events to follow that formula, as opposed to an even distribution?

"What gives rise to that? Nothing."
Just poof? A never ending sequence of natural magic?

"That's just how nature works."
If "nature works" in a particular that is a mechanism in process. If there is nothing to work then nothing works.

"Their individual movements are quite random."
How do you know that? One can do a statistical analysis of a deterministic process that is too complex or too small or too big for human being to analyze precisely. Human ignorance does not equate to intrinsic randomness.

"Does that help?"
Depends what you mean by "help". It helps me understand that you continue to make self contradictory assertions, is that what you mean?

It helps me understand that you are asserting as a matter of fact that at base there is just poof, or events that occur for no reason at all, actions that just pop out of nothing. It helps me understand that you are proposing nonsensical assertions.

To recap, you are proposing that at base events occur by no mechanism, yet they do not follow an even probability distribution. Somehow, you propose, events that occur out of nothing for no reason and by no cause and by no mechanism follow a particular non-linear mathematical description. And that makes sense to you?

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Would you agree with a philosophy can be internally consistent and logical as defined by the terms it uses?"
In principle one is free to invent a hypothetical world, sort of a game world where hypothetical rules are self consistent within that hypothetical world. Sure.

" The argument that AT philosophy is making is internally consistent on its own terms, and thus coherent and logical."
That doesn't work for the 5 Ways of Aquinas.

For example:
"The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion."

A-T immediately references the real world, and what is manifest to us of the real world, not a hypothetical world. Thus, Aquinas immediately engages in the real world, and he is manifestly wrong about the real world, and his arguments are thus not self consistent because part of the self of the argument is what is manifest to us in the real world, which Aquinas is demonstrably wrong about.

"how about the modern version that Feser argues for"
Feser makes the same core arguments that contain the same core errors. His argument for a first unsustained sustainer of existence is particularly absurd.

"We are standing on the shoulders of giants right?"
We who? If your foundation is A-T then you are millennia out of date. A very great deal has been learned since then.

For myself, this is my favorite study site:
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

David Haines (Bethlehem College and Seminary) was referenced by Victor a number of years ago. He did his own translation and arrived at the same wording as Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo. Both men are Christian PhDs who are fluent in multiple languages including Latin and are well qualified to translate Aquinas.

If you are not satisfied with their translation of the words "moves" and "motion" as opposed to "changes", fine, what Latin words did they mistranslate? Can you provide a link to a more reliable or more accurate translation?

im-skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

"How do you know that?"
- I have studied physics.

"Self contradictory."
- You sound like Martin.

"If it is not any old which way and it goes according to a mathematical formula then what drives the events to follow that formula, as opposed to an even distribution?"
- I don't know what an "even distribution" is. Do you? What I'm saying is that particles behave in a random manner. You can't predict where or when a quantum event will occur, and when it does happen, there is nothing there that makes it happen. It just happens. But if you take a huge number of such events and average them all out, the behavior is very predictable. That behavior is the "distribution" of events.

"Just poof? A never ending sequence of natural magic?"
- It's what we observe. And it's funny you should speak of a never-ending sequence, because if you insist that an event must be triggered by another event, that implies the sequence you speak of. If you believe in God, you can say that God is the terminus of the sequence. That's what Thomists say. But physicists say that quantum events occur with no trigger. They just happen. Actually, some think there must be a hidden trigger of some kind, perhaps in another dimension that we can't see. Maybe that's the case, but there is no evidence for it.

"If "nature works" in a particular that is a mechanism in process. If there is nothing to work then nothing works."
- That's meaningless.

"How do you know that? One can do a statistical analysis of a deterministic process that is too complex or too small or too big for human being to analyze precisely. Human ignorance does not equate to intrinsic randomness."
- It's physics. We have equations that describe these probability distributions. Unfortunately, they become very complex when many particles are involved. We must turn to classical physics to describe aggregate (not particle-level) behaviors. And you need to be aware of the difference between quantum and classical physics.

"It helps me understand that you continue to make self contradictory assertions"
- I'm sorry if I haven't explained well enough. It takes years of study to get a decent grasp of how things work in the sub-atomic arena. It doesn't hurt to admit that you don't understand quantum physics. But you would hear a similar explanation from any physicist.


One further note: I usually avoid discussions of quantum physics in a forum like this for the very reason we are seeing here. I brought it up in this discussion because it is necessary to understand how there is no fully deterministic chain of causality going back to the start of time. There really are random events that impact what will happen later. The more usual way of defending non-determinism (and particularly free will) is to claim, as religious people do, that there is some kind of magic by which immaterial things influence what happens in the physical world.

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
*"How do you know that?"*
"- I have studied physics."
There is nothing in physics that demonstrates that quantum events are uncaused, or come out of nothing, or are intrinsically random, or anything of the sort.

The wavefunction itself is deterministic, but individual events are analyzed using probabilistic or statistical methods.

*"Self contradictory."*
"- You sound like Martin."
I have used your exact words and pointed out specifically where you are contradicting yourself. I have not noticed in Martin a displayed capacity to employ that process.

"- I don't know what an "even distribution" is. Do you?"
Yes. It is a distribution where all observed outcomes are equally likely, that is, the outcomes are distributed evenly, as in other sorts of even distributions, meaning each receives equal shares. You are not familiar with the use of the term "even" in this context?

" What I'm saying is that particles behave in a random manner."
If that were true then the distribution would be even, that is, represented by a flat line, not concentrated more so in certain regions of the distribution space.

Do you prefer the term isotropic? That is what one would expect if there were no underlying mechanism.

A non-isotropic distribution of event outcomes indicates an underlying non-linear mechanism.

"there is nothing there that makes it happen. It just happens."
There is nothing in modern physics to support that assertion. I have studied physics and I have a collection of physics books on my self at home. They are devoid of any support for that statement.

The study of physics is largely a search for the underlying mechanisms, not a denial of them.

StardustyPsyche said...

"But if you take a huge number of such events and average them all out, the behavior is very predictable. That behavior is the "distribution" of events."
That analytical and experimental process is indicative of using statistical methods to analyze a chaotic deterministic system.

"But physicists say that quantum events occur with no trigger. They just happen."
There is nothing in modern physics to support that assertion.

There are a number of people who confuse human "measurement" with underlying reality. That is a common defect of reasoning well known on the list of cognitive biases.

It is common to confuse the model with the thing itself, which is what you are apparently doing on this subject.

"They just happen. Actually, some think there must be a hidden trigger of some kind, perhaps in another dimension that we can't see. Maybe that's the case, but there is no evidence for it."
More self-contradiction.
1.They just happen.
2.There must be a hidden trigger.

"there is no evidence for it."
Wrong. The fact that there is a complex function for the probability distribution makes 1. a rather absurd statement and 2. a virtual certainty.

"- It's physics. We have equations that describe these probability distributions."
Which tells us there is an underlying mechanism, as opposed to a purely stochastic process, which would yield an isotropic (even) distribution.

"- I'm sorry if I haven't explained well enough."
Don't feel bad, it is impossible to sensibly explain assertions that make no sense.

" It doesn't hurt to admit that you don't understand quantum physics."
You understand the basics of the number crunching part, but you do not yet understand what that indicates regarding the nature of the underlying existential reality. That's pretty typical because the nature of the underlying existential reality is generally not covered in university physics courses, and average physicists are not particularly insightful in that arena of analysis.

"One further note: I usually avoid discussions of quantum physics in a forum like this for the very reason we are seeing here."
Yes, that reason being that you do not understand the difference between the application of statistical methods to a chaotic deterministic system as opposed to the isotropic distribution one would expect from a purely stochastic process.

Perhaps this exchange will motivate you to inquire more deeply.

im-skeptical said...

SP, you have no idea what you're talking about. That's one thing Martin gets right.

bmiller said...

Wish there was a pause button for this thread so I could run to the store for more popcorn.

im-skeptical said...

I apologize. I was hoping there might be some fruitful discussion here. I was wrong.

SteveK said...

SP doesn’t know how to have a fruitful discussion.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"SP doesn’t know how to have a fruitful discussion."
I am still waiting for a link to a more accurate translation of the First Way, as opposed to the one provided by Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo.

That would be a translation that shows Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo mistranslated to "moves" and "motion" as opposed to "changes".

Can you provide such a correction translation from Latin to English?

Martin said...

You want a more accurate version of the First Way?

Think about how materialism states that mind is caused by matter (in certain configurations). Mind does not stand apart from matter, mind is caused by matter. But materialism is also the view that nothing causes matter. Matter just is, full stop. It always existed, and it doesn't depend on something else for its existence.

In other words, P is caused by Q, but Q is not caused by anything else.

That's the exact same reasoning behind the First Way.

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptica,
"I apologize. I was hoping there might be some fruitful discussion here. I was wrong."
That's ok, don't feel too bad, apologizing and admitting you are wrong is a good start.

You know a bit about Ernest Rutherford, Hans Geiger, and Ernest Marsden, I assume.

They got a probability distribution out of an experiment that yielded otherwise apparently random events. They fired alpha particles at a gold foil and got a probability distribution of the angle of deflection, mostly near zero (straight through) but also at various other angles, unpredictably per event, yet the results over many trials yielded a highly repeatable probability distribution.

So of course they wrote a paper stating that the probability distribution of these random events is uncaused. They said there is no mechanism at work, that this probability distribution is just the way nature works. No causal mechanism. Just random events that exhibit this probability distribution for no reason and by no cause simply because that is the way nature works, end of story. For that explanation they were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

JK, they reasoned that because there was a particular probability distribution then there must be an underlying mechanism that accounts for that distribution of seemingly random events. They dug deeper using what they knew about mass, charge, dimensions, and mathematical models and from that the derived that the prevailing model of the atom was wrong, and they estimated the size of the nucellus of gold.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherford_scattering

For some reason, that great tradition in physics research, finding a probability distribution and then modeling an underlying mechanism to account for it, has been turned off in your mind, very evidently.

For whatever reason, you and a great many others of similar views, just stopped thinking any deeper in that great tradition, the tradition of investigating the underlying mechanism that gives rise to the observed probability distribution.

It seems to be the physics equivalent of goddunnit.

StardustyPsyche said...

Martin,
"You want a more accurate version of the First Way?"
Only if there is one available. I have no good reason to think so. You are the one who claimed that when I read "moves" and "motion" as opposed to "changes" those words somehow do not mean what they mean in the context of the translation provided by Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

I was hoping you could point to the Latin words that got mistranslated, and provide a link to an accurate translation of the First Way to English.

Martin said...

I don't know why you need a translation. I just gave you the First Way, right there. P is caused by Q, but Q is not caused by anything else. It can be used as an argument for materialism as well, in a way.

im-skeptical said...

"After all my detailed explanations all you can do is respond with "you don't know what you are talking about"."

- Ok. let's talk about probability distributions. You refer to an "even distribution", by which I presume you mean uniform distribution, and it means that all possible outcomes have equal probability. It is not the same as isomorphic, which means the profile is the same in all directions from the center point. A gravity field is isomorphic but not uniform. And you evidently didn't know that.

Now, You seem to think that randomness implies a uniform distribution. It doesn't. Any probability distribution applies to random events, and uniform is only one of many different kinds of distribution. Have you ever heard of a bell curve? That's a probability distribution, and it isn't uniform. What it means is that there is some factor that influences the random sample to make some outcomes more likely than others, and the probability peaks at the center. There aren't many things in nature that have a uniform distribution.

For some reason, that great tradition in physics research, finding a probability distribution and then modeling an underlying mechanism to account for it, has been turned off in your mind, very evidently.

- You don't even know what I said. You are confused between a spontaneous event and the probability distribution for outcomes. Spontaneous events happen without any apparent cause. And I did mention earlier about skewing a distribution, which is what happens when something influences the outcome of a large sample of events. Yes, that is causation. But you can't keep those two things separate in your mind, and so you fail to comprehend what I was talking about.

It is clear that you are neither a statistician nor a physicist.

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"Have you ever heard of a bell curve?"
Yes, also known as a Gaussian distribution. It occurs due to an underlying mechanism.

"You don't even know what I said"
Here are some things you said:
"They just happen"
"events occur with no trigger"
"there is nothing there that makes it happen"
"What gives rise to that? Nothing"
"That's just how nature works"

Here is an example of how you are contradicting yourself:
"What it means is that there is some factor that influences the random sample to make some outcomes more likely than others"

Which is it? Is there "nothing that makes it happen" or "is there some factor that influences"?

You can't have it both ways. If there is nothing that gives rise to the event, and there is nothing that makes the event happen, then there can't be a factor that influences those events to have certain outcomes more likely than others.

For example, grading of papers is often compared to a Gaussian distribution. But that is just a trend line drawn for analysis. The fact that there is a non-uniform (if you prefer that term) distribution means there must be an underlying mechanism giving rise to the normal, or Gaussian, or bell shaped distribution. In this case the underlying mechanism is the particular grade that each student got.

"Any probability distribution applies to random events, and uniform is only one of many different kinds of distribution."
You are again contradicting yourself and confusing the model for the thing itself.

A random variable with a defined probability distribution is just an analytical abstraction, not the thing itself.

If the incoherent notion of intrinsic randomness could somehow be the case it would have to have a uniform (if you prefer that term) distribution. Else, what would cause the distribution to be non-uniform? Nothing? Nothing causes something? You are not making sense.

At least the Thomist has the sense to adhere to the principle of sufficient reason. Your version of non-uniform distributions for events such that
"They just happen"
"events occur with no trigger"
"there is nothing there that makes it happen"
"What gives rise to that? Nothing"
"That's just how nature works"
...well, that sort of "reasoning" puts you at the level of goddunnit.

im-skeptical said...

"Which is it? Is there "nothing that makes it happen" or "is there some factor that influences"?"
- Both. You're talking about two different things, as I explained you. But you don't get that because you don't know what you're talking about.

"At least the Thomist has the sense to adhere to the principle of sufficient reason."
- Right. So what causes an atomic decay event? The Thomist says God did it. I see no evidence of that.

StardustyPsyche said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StardustyPsyche said...

The folks at thomistica.net have studied the literature of translating the Latin and know full well that in the First Way "move" means "move".

Their error is in bold below, that is, the statement in bold is false.

They recognize that on inertial motion there is no need for an unmoved first mover unless there are losses in material interactions. Their mistake is in thinking material interactions can be inelastic, which they are not. This is perhaps easier for some to realize at the submicroscopic level where there is no such thing as friction as, say, atoms bounce off each other.

In truth, all material interactions are net lossless, and are only apparently inelastic. Thus, unwittingly, these Thomistic scholars prove that the First Way of Aquinas is false, that is, unsound, more specifically, a worthless argument for an unmoved first mover.


“Aquinas’s motion proof depends upon his view that motion cannot continue undiminished for an indefinite amount of time without an external agent” (185). He opens with a brief historical recapitulation of the fate of Aristotle’s distinction between the natural motion of heavy bodies and the violent motion of projectiles. The common principles behind both of these—unbeknownst to Aristotle, Aquinas, and even those ancients and medievals who rejected the Aristotelian account of projectile motion or the cosmological account of angelically-moved spheres—was inertia and gravitational force. Shields leans heavily into a defense of the reality of inertia against certain competing Thomistic interpretations, claiming that the reality of inertia is revealed to the senses (197; to which I return below). Yet the reality of inertia seems to threaten the motion proof: there is no need for a first unmoved mover to sustain a potentially sempiternal motion if all bodies move inertially. However, there is no conservation of an absolute quantity of motion among bodies in the cosmos: “Since no real-world bodies are perfectly elastic, some motion is lost in any collision” (206). As a result of this cosmic loss of the quantity of motion, Shields argues that Isaac Newton’s own defense of the necessity of God as a first mover (in Opticks, Query 31) corroborates Aquinas’s motion proof (207). Over a potentially endless sequence of motions in the universe, God is required to sustain a motion that would otherwise “wind down”
https://thomistica.net/essays/https/thomisticanet/quaestiones-url/shields-nature-natures-god

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
*""Which is it? Is there "nothing that makes it happen" or "is there some factor that influences"?"*
"- Both. "
Hence, your self contradiction, you want mutually exclusive notions to both be simultaneously the case.

By your lights there are events that happen for no reason, by no cause, by no mechanism, yet an aspect of no-mechanism influences the distribution of the event outcomes. Clearly, you are contradicting yourself.

Now, perhaps you are imagining a 2 stage, or multiple stage process. Is that it? Perhaps you imagine that first events occur for no reason, by no cause, by no mechanism, and then they are acted upon by a mechanism that in some sense filters, or alters, or changes, those "random" events to conform to a non-uniform distribution.

Well, you can imagine that if you wish, but that only demonstrates my point, that the non-uniformity requires an underlying mechanism.

"So what causes an atomic decay event?"
An underlying mechanism.

What triggers an evaporation event? Chaotic motions of, say, water molecules such that when a few of them smack together one of them gains escape level kinetic energy.

Google returns a couple quick statements:
How can radioactive decay just happen with nothing triggering it?
Category: Physics Published: August 11, 2022
By: Christopher S. Baird, author of The Top 50 Science Questions with Surprising Answers and Associate Professor of Physics at West Texas A&M University

Although a radioactive decay event seems spontaneous and is unpredictable, it is indeed triggered by a physical agent. That physical agent is a vacuum fluctuation. Due to the quantum nature of the universe, a vacuum always contains vacuum fluctuations.
https://www.wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2022/08/11/how-can-radioactive-decay-just-happen-with-nothing-triggering-it/


"The Thomist says God did it. I see no evidence of that."
Your assertion simply substitutes "poof" for "god". At least the Thomist asserts a placeholder mechanism, labeled "god".

You notion is entirely nonsensical, that nothing causes something.

im-skeptical said...

"You notion is entirely nonsensical, that nothing causes something."

So what is this quantum vacuum? Answer: nothing. It is a theoretical construct, a placeholder, just like dark energy. It has no substance. It can't be detected. These fluctuations occur in space that is utterly empty.

Next question: What makes the vacuum fluctuate? Answer: nothing. Read it in the article you cited.

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"So what is this quantum vacuum? Answer: nothing. It is a theoretical construct, a placeholder, just like dark energy."
More self contradiction, something that is nothing.

Dark energy is indeed a name for something that we know very little about, not nothing.

"These fluctuations occur in space that is utterly empty."
Yet more self contradiction.

You assert "fluctuations of nothing". Makes no sense.

"What makes the vacuum fluctuate? Answer: nothing. Read it in the article you cited."
Even more self contradiction. A fluctuation of nothing that is caused by nothing. How absurd.

Indeed, the author of the article participates in your sort of nonsense, in the end. The rot goes deep.

A few decades ago it was popular to answer the question, what came before the big bang, with the answer that the question is invalid, like asking what is North of the North pole. Otherwise serious physicists actually proclaimed such assertions.

Back in the early days of QM there were physicists who seriously asserted that physics was complete. The hubris was outlandish, but common.

You persist in your nonsensical assertions, that somehow nothing causes something. How absurd.

"So what is this quantum vacuum? Answer: nothing."
Except for the vacuum energy, which is something.

" nothing. It is a theoretical construct, a placeholder, just like dark energy. "
Except for the dark energy having been calculated to be some 68% of all energy in the cosmos. That's a lot of "nothing". It is true that not much is known about dark energy or dark matter, but their effects have been measured. That is one of the things that is so exciting about science.

Now, perhaps, one day, it will be found that it was the measurements that were wrong, or that there are actually presently unknown properties of ordinary materials that account for measurements. That would be terrific, because, if that turns out to be the case then the underlying mechanisms will have been identified.

There is a long tradition in science that when effects are measured we go looking for mechanisms to explain and account for those observed effects.

You very evidently do not value that approach. Manifestly, when provided with evidence of effects you say that somehow it is nothing that is causing those effects.

Nothing causes something, in your topsy turvy mindset.

StardustyPsyche said...

On the subject of the OP, free will is impossible.

This goes by various terms or names, such as impossiblism or incompatiblism.

Galen Strawson presents another interesting proof at about 3 minutes into this video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMJjf-PrJf8
Free will is a necessary illusion | Galen Strawson | IAI

Since the notion of free will is linked to moral responsibility for actions Strawson argues against what he calls ultimate moral responsibility.

1.You do what you do because of the way you are.
2.To be ultimately responsible for what you do you would have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are.
3.You cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are because in that case you would would have to be there already to set yourself up in the way you are, leading to an infinite regress, which is irrational.
4.Therefore you have no ultimate responsibility for what you do.

im-skeptical said...

SP, the concept of causation is a metaphysical issue. It was espoused by Aristotle, and it was always held to be true, and even regarded as a law of nature, because it was consistent with what we observe. And then there was quantum physics, which upset some apple carts. It is no longer consistent with what we observe in the quantum arena. Yet many people still insist it must be a law. They have to come up with causal-based explanations for what is observed that doesn't seem to fit with any law of causality. I'm not saying they're wrong. But in the spirit of scientific investigation, I try to keep an open mind, and follow where the evidence leads. And the evidence isn't looking good for causality. Did you know that recent experiments apparently show event B causing event A, where event A comes before event B? It's true. That throws a monkey wrench in our notion of causality. You can stomp your feet and scream at me, but I'm keeping an open mind on this topic. And my beliefs are based on the observed evidence. So prove me wrong. But keep in mind that I know a thing or two about physics. I have post-graduate education (in physics), and a full career in developing electronics and electronic devices (ie. semiconductors), which involves quantum physics. I am not so easily fooled by people who only pretend to know what they're talking about.

SteveK said...

Below: ChatGPT on intertia as it relates to the First Way. Maybe SP can learn something. Probably not because she’s not here to learn. Prove me wrong.

———————

Inertia, as described by Newton's First Law of Motion, does not inherently present a problem for Aquinas's First Way argument.

The concept of inertia, as described by Newton's First Law of Motion, does not eliminate the need for an unmoved mover in Aquinas's First Way argument.

Aquinas's argument starts from the observation that objects are in motion and posits that whatever is in motion is put in motion by something else. This chain of motion cannot regress infinitely, so there must be a First Mover, which is God. In this context, the "mover" isn't just any force that sets things in motion, but rather an uncaused cause, something that initiates motion without itself being in motion.

Inertia, on the other hand, is a property of matter described by Newton's First Law of Motion, stating that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. While inertia explains why objects persist in their state of motion or rest, it doesn't address the question of what initially set them in motion or why they have the tendency to remain in motion or at rest in the absence of external forces.

Aquinas's argument is more concerned with the ultimate cause of motion and change, whereas inertia is a description of how objects behave once they are already in motion or at rest. So while inertia is a fundamental concept in physics, it doesn't directly fulfill the role of the unmoved mover in Aquinas's argument.

SteveK said...

More from ChatGPT below. Translation: metaphysical/philosophical arguments are not defeated by science. The philosophy of Materialism proves that to be true again and again. For some reason materialists, perhaps blinded by their love for all things science, often forget that.
—————

It's important to note that Aquinas's argument is based on metaphysical and theological premises rather than empirical observations alone. Even in a universe where material interactions are lossless, one could still argue for the existence of a transcendent First Mover on philosophical grounds, independent of the mechanics of material interactions.

im-skeptical said...

"Even in a universe where material interactions are lossless, one could still argue for the existence of a transcendent First Mover on philosophical grounds"

I suppose that's true. But then that negates your previous argument, which basically says that the unmoved mover establishes the initial conditions for the world. And the implication of that is that the unmoved mover would then remain uninvolved, because any subsequent change of motion would still entail a violation of the laws of motion. But if you defend it on purely philosophical grounds, and laws of motion don't apply to the unmoved mover, then the earlier argument is pointless.

SteveK said...

Not sure what you’re trying to say and where the problem is.

SteveK said...

This may address your question. It was part of the AI response that I left out because the statement I quoted concludes that your complaint isn’t a true problem.
—————

If all material interactions are truly lossless and inelasticity is only apparent, then it could be argued that the motion observed in the universe could persist indefinitely without the need for an external mover. In such a scenario, the need for a First Mover to initiate or sustain motion might seem less compelling, as the motion could be self-sustaining within the system due to the conservation of energy.

im-skeptical said...

SteveK,

So you are talking about a first mover and not about an unmoved mover, which is the way I was seeing it (and is consistent with Thomists philosophy). The unmoved mover is problematic for the laws of motion, because conservation of momentum requires that when something is moved, the summation of changes in momentum for all bodies involved in the interaction must be zero. If an unmoved mover changes the momentum of something else, that implies a non-zero sum, and conservation of momentum is violated.

SteveK said...

The reason an unmoved mover is necessary, rather than a first mover, is to account for the metaphysical principle of causality and the principle of act and potency. The terminus has no potential and is therefore unchanging.

SteveK said...

The metaphysics don’t get into conservation of energy so any perceived problems come from a philosophy that is outside of AT philosophy. Like I said above, a different philosophy doesn’t invalidate AT. AT doesn’t invalidate materialism either so it works both ways.

im-skeptical said...

OK. It seems to me that the unmoved mover is not physical (since it isn't bound by the physical laws of motion). But that can't be compatible with materialism (since that is a substance monism saying that physical matter is the only kind of stuff).

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"Did you know that recent experiments apparently show event B causing event A, where event A comes before event B? It's true."
No, and a key word here is "apparent". This sounds like clickbait from a woo site, possibly based on some tentative experiments. Cold fusion is true too, dontchyaknow?

"You can stomp your feet and scream at me, but I'm keeping an open mind on this topic. "
Nope, you flatly stated something from nothing. You claimed that nothing causes something, or that something happens for no cause at all. That is not keeping an open mind, that is expressing nonsense.

"And my beliefs are based on the observed evidence."
False, your beliefs are based on a lack of understanding. Science looks for mechanisms to explain the unknown. You have chosen to end that tradition.

What makes the sun shine? Nothing, it just happens.
What causes cancer? Nothing, it just happens.
What causes thunder? Nothing, it just happens.
What causes fire? Nothing, it just happens.
What causes radioactive decay? Nothing, it just happens.
What causes a quantum fluctuation? Nothing, it just happens.

You are not basing your beliefs on evidence, rather, ignorance.

"I have post-graduate education (in physics),"
I'm not surprised. It has become fashionable to declare "nothing, it just happens", then plug and chug to get engineering results that are statistically close enough to build practical working devices.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Yet the reality of inertia seems to threaten the motion proof: there is no need for a first unmoved mover to sustain a potentially sempiternal motion if all bodies move inertially. However, there is no conservation of an absolute quantity of motion among bodies in the cosmos: “Since no real-world bodies are perfectly elastic, some motion is lost in any collision” (206). As a result of this cosmic loss of the quantity of motion, Shields argues that Isaac Newton’s own defense of the necessity of God as a first mover (in Opticks, Query 31) corroborates Aquinas’s motion proof (207). Over a potentially endless sequence of motions in the universe, God is required to sustain a motion that would otherwise “wind down”"
https://thomistica.net/essays/https/thomisticanet/quaestiones-url/shields-nature-natures-god

"Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other;"
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

"It is NECESSARY"
Thomas Aquinas

If SteveK or Martin or Feser have other arguments, fine, we can call those SteveKism and Martinism and Feserism. You guys are free to make up your own philosophies and your own arguments, OK, fair enough.

But Thomism is what Thomas Aquinas argued, and he argued for NECESSITY, based on observations of motion.

The folks cited at thomistica above were wrong about inelastic collisions. All collisions are ultimately perfectly elastic, that is, all collisions are net lossless, only apparently inelastic. What seems to be lost motion in an apparently inelastic collision is not actually lost, only transferred or transformed in ways that are not visible to the unaided human, such as molecular motion we sense as heat.

These facts of modern science invalidate Thomism. They might not invalidate some other argument made by SteveK or made by Martin or made by Feser, and that's fine, those guys are free to make whatever arguments they want, but these factors decisively invalidate The First Way by Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas asserted:
A first unmoved mover to account for observed motion.
That first unmoved mover is necessary.

We now know some scientific principles that invalidate those claims of Aquinas:
Inertia
Conservation of matter/energy
Mutuality of causal processes

It is true that even on the above scientific principles Feser and others can still claim compatibility, but compatibility is insufficient for necessity.

Compatibility is a much weaker claim one can apply to fairies, leprechauns, ghosts, or whatever speculation you wish to throw out.

Yes, you can assert that little fairies nudge every particle along moment to moment and that is compatible, as is god, god being as valuable as fairies for explaining motion.

SteveK said...

Per the metaphysics as they are defined and per the argument as it is layed out, the conclusion is necessary.

SteveK said...

Inertia, as described by Newton's First Law of Motion, does not inherently present a problem for Aquinas's First Way argument.

The concept of inertia, as described by Newton's First Law of Motion, does not eliminate the need for an unmoved mover in Aquinas's First Way argument.

SteveK said...

The reason an unmoved mover is necessary is to account for the metaphysical principles of causality and act and potency. Without those principles in place, the argument would not succeed. You'll need to invalidate the metaphysics in order to invalidate the argument. Good luck.

im-skeptical said...

"Nope, you flatly stated something from nothing. You claimed that nothing causes something, or that something happens for no cause at all."

And I still say that, because it's true. Just to clear things up, I should comment on nothingness. What is it? Empty space. It's what we call a vacuum. It's what you have when you remove everything. And things happen in a vacuum. Particles pop into and out of existence, so it's never really empty. And "fluctuations" occur that can disturb things that enter this vacuum. So is it really a vacuum? It's what we call a quantum vacuum. But what is this quantum vacuum made of? Nothing. What causes those fluctuations? Nothing. There is no energy or force entering into the vacuum to cause a disturbance. People are uncomfortable saying that something can come from nothing, so they say it comes from the quantum vacuum, and that makes them feel better, but there's no difference. It's just a matter of semantics. How does one define nothingness? You might want to use a philosophical definition that says it's a void where nothing exists and nothing happens. OK, but in our world, there is no such thing. When I speak of nothingness, I am referring to the physical reality of our world. It's the substrate of physical space-time, where things do happen, even though there's nothing there, and nothing to make them happen.

SteveK said...

@bmiller
Did you manage to get more popcorn? :-)

im-skeptical said...

I can hear all the theists saying "Ooh, ooh! I know what makes quantum events happen!"

Kevin said...

I can hear all the theists saying "Ooh, ooh! I know what makes quantum events happen!"

I can't. Can you point me where they are? So far Martin and Stardusty and you are the only ones who have addressed this, and two of you are atheists. Looks to me like it's atheists more inclined to "ooh ooh", and you don't even agree with each other. Or was that meant to be playful?

Also, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You claim something comes from literal nothing, not an energy potential, not some field we haven't detected yet, not even some sort of interaction with a theoretical multiverse. Literal nothing generating something from literal nothing for no reason whatsoever.

Other than mathematical models, which aren't synonymous with what actually exists, what's the evidence this is true? (I will happily accept links, not asking for a full physics breakdown on a blog comment.) I find all sorts of physics articles disputing this claim. Also, out of curiosity, how can you accept that view but somehow find the concept of a creator unpalatable? Something from literally nothing is one of the most extraordinary claims out there.

im-skeptical said...

"You claim something comes from literal nothing, not an energy potential, not some field we haven't detected yet, not even some sort of interaction with a theoretical multiverse. Literal nothing generating something from literal nothing for no reason whatsoever. ... what's the evidence this is true?"

Good question. Maybe there is something that hasn't been detected. Something unknown to us. I alluded to that already (go back and see what I said). But the fact is that we have zero evidence that there is something there. When I see that evidence, I will adjust my belief accordingly.


Michael S. Pearl said...

im-skeptical said:
It's just a matter of semantics. ... When I speak of nothingness, I am referring to the physical reality of our world. It's the substrate of physical space-time, where things do happen, even though there's nothing there, and nothing to make them happen.

The nothingness statement/position is provocative; however, the best provocative statements/thoughts ultimately give way to the more mundane - explications which actually provide more details (even if not more utility). For instance, it is reasonable to question whether "nothingness" ever refers "to the physical reality of our world." Is there any part of physical reality that is not subject to fields or energy, for example? After all, the effect of a physical field or energy would be sufficient to render semantically incoherent the reference to "nothingness". Is that just a matter of semantics? Or is cognitive/conceptual coherence most commonly a semantic matter at base?

As Mark Vuletic notes, "some physicists argue that if we think of empty space as nothing, then there is no such thing as nothing, because space never is empty—it is always filled with virtual particles." He goes on to say that "if we follow most people in thinking of empty space as nothing, then we have at least one pervasive example of something that can come from nothing"; however, that would be a colloquial rather than a scientific "nothing". A (more) scientific rather than colloquial statement would be the Morris remark cited by Vuletic which describes virtual particles as deriving “from uncertainties in energy” rather than from nothing.

Another matter worth appreciating from the Vuletic reference to Tryon is that even a net energy of zero is not (sufficient for there being) nothing.

im-skeptical said...

"Is there any part of physical reality that is not subject to fields or energy, for example?"
- You are talking about an external intrusion into a space. That may indeed account for some phenomena we observe. But there are still things that happen in the absence of any such external influence.

"Or is cognitive/conceptual coherence most commonly a semantic matter at base?"
- Cognitive/conceptual coherence is always an issue (not necessarily semantic). It's easy to question the rationality of someone who doubts our typical notions of causality. There are people here who would question the sanity of someone who doesn't accept A-T metaphysics. Belief in God is deeply ingrained in our culture, as is a traditional notion of causality. Must we accept that any deeply ingrained concept must necessarily be true?

"A (more) scientific rather than colloquial statement would be the Morris remark cited by Vuletic which describes virtual particles as deriving “from uncertainties in energy” rather than from nothing."
- Interesting. A cognitive uncertainty then becomes a "something" capable of producing virtual particles. I'm not sure that statement is coherent.

"even a net energy of zero is not (sufficient for there being) nothing."
- This appears to be just an assertion that the quantum vacuum is a something rather than a nothing. But I need to point out once again that it really is a semantic question. It's a question of what we call the substrate of physical reality.

Michael S. Pearl said...

im-skeptical said:
A cognitive uncertainty then becomes a "something" capable of producing virtual particles. I'm not sure that statement is coherent.

If it is the case that "the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems", and if that uncertainty is cognitive, then it is apt to wonder whether physics ever refers to anything other than the cognitive. Of course, if virtual particles actually do derive in accord with the alleged/presumed and fundamental uncertainties in energy, then there is a something which produces virtual particles - making the statement clearly coherent. In any event, what is most immediately interesting in the cited reference to "a fundamental property of quantum systems" is the word systems; another way to consider systems is as context, but, regardless of the chosen terminology, the point that might ought to be appreciated is that no dimensionless speculation will ever actually describe "the substrate of physical reality."

im-skeptical said:
This appears to be just an assertion that the quantum vacuum is a something rather than a nothing.

How is it "just an assertion"? What was referenced regards a net zero energy derived from gravitational energy and the energy of matter; since gravitational energy cannot be regarded intelligibly as nothing, and since the energy of matter cannot be regarded intelligibly as nothing, even if those energies together produce an energy of zero from or in which a quantum vacuum fluctuation could occur, that fluctuation is not from or in nothing. Furthermore, it does not necessarily follow from the notion of a gravitational-matter net zero energy fluctuation-inducing condition that the zero energy of actual nothing - meaning without the energies of gravity and matter - would produce something. So, is it actually "just an assertion"? Or does it actually follow from the cited explanations?

im-skeptical said...

"it is apt to wonder whether physics ever refers to anything other than the cognitive."
- Physics is our understanding of how nature works. Of course, physics refers to nature and how it works.

"if virtual particles actually do derive in accord with the alleged/presumed and fundamental uncertainties in energy, then there is a something which produces virtual particles"
- Perhaps there is something, but uncertainty is not what produces particles (which is what your original statement said). I don't take issue with the uncertainty principle, but it is part of our understanding of nature - not nature itself.

"the point that might ought to be appreciated is that no dimensionless speculation will ever actually describe "the substrate of physical reality.""
- That was never my claim.

"gravitational energy cannot be regarded intelligibly as nothing"
- I didn't say it was. This brings up an issue that I encounter all too often. People conflate the quantum vacuum with the things that arise from it. Particles are produced with a net energy of zero, and they are not nothing. I get that. Actually, it's the whole point.

bmiller said...

Did you manage to get more popcorn? :-)

I came back and now everyone is talking about nothing. Someone changed the channel to Seinfeld!

Michael S. Pearl said...

im-skeptical said:
uncertainty is not what produces particles (which is what your original statement said). I don't take issue with the uncertainty principle, but it is part of our understanding of nature - not nature itself.

What you call my original statement was actually a quote; the author of that quoted statement likely thought that "uncertainties" would be understood in terms of "the uncertainty principle". Then there is the referenced claim that "the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property"; by your own reckoning, the uncertainty principle described as a fundamental property "refers to nature and how it works." So, are we talking about our understanding alone, or are we talking about nature? In either case or in both cases, there is no basis for claiming/stating nothing as foundation or substrate. Accordingly, quantum fluctuation or some such similar terminology is superior to expression in terms of nothing. Do you think your position stands or falls on nothing?

im-skeptical said...

"What you call my original statement was actually a quote"
- It was out of context. I was not involved in the discussion it was taken from.

"by your own reckoning, the uncertainty principle described as a fundamental property "refers to nature and how it works." So, are we talking about our understanding alone, or are we talking about nature?"
- The uncertainty principle describes an aspect of nature.

"there is no basis for claiming/stating nothing as foundation or substrate."
- There is no basis in evidence for claiming that it is any kind of "thing" other than nature itself.

"Do you think your position stands or falls on nothing?"
- I understand it is controversial. I am not alone in my position. You can call it whatever you like. But you can't tell me what it consists of.

im-skeptical said...

"I came back and now everyone is talking about nothing. Someone changed the channel to Seinfeld!"
- We're talking about whether there is a deterministic chain of causality that goes back to "creation". Because random events happen in the quantum vacuum that have no cause but alter the course of events in the world.

bmiller said...

Except it's funnier than Seinfeld.

im-skeptical said...

What was the topic of this post again?

bmiller said...

Nothing

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"The reason an unmoved mover is necessary is to account for the metaphysical principles of causality and act and potency. Without those principles in place, the argument would not succeed. You'll need to invalidate the metaphysics in order to invalidate the argument. Good luck."
Yes, that is what the combination of these findings does:
Inertial motion
Perfectly elastic collisions
Mutual causation

The folks referenced above from thomistica.net understand that because they have studied the arguments in detail. And I don't mean skim through them playing blogosphere linguistic whack-a-mole with bits and pieces of the words you remember at any moment. I mean really analyze the details of the structure of the argument.

From that they recognized that on inertia The First Way requires inelastic collisions for there to be a necessity to prevent the motion of of the cosmos from winding down. What the folks referenced in the thomistica piece failed to understand is that all collisions are net lossless, and there is thus no winding down of motion that needs to be accounted for, and therefore no necessity for an Unmoved First Mover.

StardustyPsyche said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"And I still say that, because it's true. Just to clear things up, I should comment on nothingness. What is it? Empty space. It's what we call a vacuum. It's what you have when you remove everything. And things happen in a vacuum. Particles pop into and out of existence, so it's never really empty. And "fluctuations" occur that can disturb things that enter this vacuum. So is it really a vacuum? It's what we call a quantum vacuum. But what is this quantum vacuum made of? Nothing. What causes those fluctuations? Nothing. "
Truly idiotic words. But, such unabashed self-contradiction sells books

And you were going to kindly help educate me? ROTFLMAO.

"How does one define nothingness? You might want to use a philosophical definition that says it's a void where nothing exists and nothing happens. OK, but in our world, there is no such thing."
Right. In our world there is no such thing as nothing.

" When I speak of nothingness, I am referring to the physical reality of our world. "
So, when you say nothing, you are talking about something.
That is the stupidity and dishonesty that sells books to the gullible.

"It's the substrate of physical space-time, where things do happen, even though there's nothing (which is something) there, and nothing (which is something) to make them happen."

There we have it folks, laid bare. The incoherent dishonesty of the woo meisters who attempt to pass themselves off as experts as a setup to spew self-contradictory gibberish.

Nothing equals Something, dontchyaknow? And here, have a sip of this nice tasty Kool-Aid.

im-skeptical said...

Nothing to talk about here, folks. Move on.

SteveK said...

SP
You and thomistica are wrong.

Aquinas's argument is based on metaphysical and theological premises rather than empirical observations alone. Even in a universe where material interactions are lossless, one can still argue for the existence of a transcendent First Mover on philosophical grounds, independent of the mechanics of material interactions.

Per the metaphysics as they are defined the concept of inertia, as described by Newton's First Law of Motion, does not eliminate the need for an unmoved mover in Aquinas's First Way argument.

Per the metaphysics as they are defined and per the argument as it is layed out, the conclusion is necessary.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to get some more popcorn.

SteveK said...

@im-skeptical
SP believes that every perception is a literal hallucination. Take this fact into consideration when she's mocking you for drinking the Kool-Aid. She's been drinking it for decades.

bmiller said...

Is space nothing?

Chatgpt says:


Space is often described as a vacuum, meaning it contains very low pressure and density of particles. However, it's not "nothing" in the sense of absence. It's filled with various forms of energy, including electromagnetic radiation like light and cosmic background radiation. Additionally, there are quantum fluctuations happening at extremely small scales. So, while space may seem empty compared to the dense matter we're used to on Earth, it's far from a true void.

bmiller said...

Since the link Victor provided didn't work for me here is a link to the Anscombe essay.

We can often tell what causes an effect even if the same cause does not always result in the same effect.

im-skeptical said...

Anscombe speaks of two types of indetermination. One is the quantum indeterminacy that I was speaking of. The example she gives is a bomb triggered by a Geiger counter if the counter registers in a particular way, which is purely a matter of probability. There is no way to predict whether the bomb goes off. The other is the Galton board, which is a matter of having precise knowledge if the starting condition. It may be impossible, as a practical matter, to have such detailed knowledge. But if we could, then it would be possible to calculate the result. This is the situation that faces us in life, all the time. We can't know what the outcome will be because the situation (the full state of affairs, as I have called it) is far too complex to make any accurate calculation achievable. And this is what we see with human behavior. It appears to be free will.

bmiller said...

I think if you read pages 8 and 9 carefully you will see her claim that it is not any more possible to accurately predict the path of the ball dropped in the Galton board than to accurately predict the path of a quantum particle (since that level of accuracy would take you into the quantum realm that itself is indeterministic). So indeterminism is not only present at quantum levels.

She rejects Broad's use of this physical indeterminism as an explanation of human free will. It seems she regards it as a category mistake.

im-skeptical said...

"(since that level of accuracy would take you into the quantum realm that itself is indeterministic)"
- That's actually not correct. This is deterministic Newtonian physics at play. The problem is that a tiny variation in the initial condition is sufficient to alter the outcome. It's not quantum level, but it is small. Small enough to be practically invisible or unknown when the ball is dropped.

"She rejects Broad's use of this physical indeterminism as an explanation of human free will."
- In my opinion, it's not an explanation of free will because free will is an illusion.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Even in a universe where material interactions are lossless, one can still argue for the existence of a transcendent First Mover on philosophical grounds, independent of the mechanics of material interactions."
One can argue that fairies nudge every particle along.

The First Way is not merely an argument for such compatibility, it is an argument that claims NECESSITY.

These aspects of the real world make an unmoved first mover UNECESSARY.
Inertial motion
Perfectly elastic collisions
Mutual causation

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,
"a Geiger counter if the counter registers in a particular way, which is purely a matter of probability."
Wrong, the Geiger counter is triggered by mechanisms. You have zero evidence that the Geiger counter is triggered by some imagined aspect of the cosmos you call "pure probability".

What you have is an abstraction, a mathematical model, that is abstractly purely probabilistic. You have then committed the fallacy of confusing the model for the thing itself.

"The other is the Galton board, which is a matter of having precise knowledge if the starting condition. It may be impossible, as a practical matter, to have such detailed knowledge. But if we could, then it would be possible to calculate the result."
More self contradiction. There is no fundamental difference between the Geiger counter and the Galton board.

Both depend on submicroscopic mechanisms far too minute and complex for human beings to precisely characterize.

Both exhibit particular distributions of outcomes over many trials, demonstrating the action of an underlying mechanism that accounts for those observed distributions.

bmiller said...

That's actually not correct.

It's what she wrote.

However, so long as you believed the classical mechanics you
might also think there could be no such thing as a figure for a
difference that had no meaning. Then you would think that though
it was not feasible for us to find the necessary path of the ball
because our margins of error are too great, yet there was a
9
necessary path, which could be assigned a sufficient probability for
firm acceptance of it, by anyone (not one of us) capable of
reducing his limits of accuracy in measurement to a sufficiently
small compass. Admittedly, so small a compass that he’d be down
among the submicroscopic particles and no longer concerned with
the measurements, say, of the ball. And now we can say: with
certain degrees of smallness we get to a region for which Newton's
mechanics is no longer believed. …


In my opinion, it's not an explanation of free will because free will is an illusion.

Anscombe doesn't think Broad's theory explains free will either. Her essay is a criticism of the assumption that all causation is deterministic and her purpose is to show that all effects do not necessarily follow from the same causes. Free will involves people doing things that they intend to do or try to do. This is common knowledge and people who claim to deny it don't act like they believe their own denial. Like Broad's theory it is a category mistake to apply the idea of Newtonian physical determinism to cases it was never even intended to address, aside from argument she makes against Newtonian determinism.

StardustyPsyche said...

im-skeptical,

"One group found that the alpha emitter polonium-210, when placed in a copper container at 12 degrees Kelvin had a half-life that was six percent shorter than at room temperature. Another report claimed that the half-life of the beta(-) emitter, gold -198, was 3.6 percent longer at 12 degrees Kelvin than at room temperature. And yet another group showed that the half-life of beryllium-7, which decays by electron capture, depends on the material in which it is placed, increasing by 0.9 percent in palladium at 12 degrees Kelvin and at 0.7 percent in indium at 12 degrees Kelvin. There is even a theory to explain what is going on: that a temperature-dependent screening effect inside metallic containers influences electron capture. "
https://www.technologyreview.com/2009/10/27/208571/do-nuclear-decay-rates-depend-on-temperature/

Particular probability distributions indicate an underlying mechanism.

Note, nobody (at least no scientist of note to the author of the article) is saying "nothing causes this decay distribution function", or "that's just the way nature is".

When a scientist observes a probability distribution the rational thing to do is seek an understanding of the underlying mechanism that accounts for that particular distribution.

"purely a matter of probability" is nothing better than a woo abandonment of the scientific method.

im-skeptical said...

"It's what she wrote."
- I get that. I have much respect for Anscombe as a philosopher, but she is no expert in physics.

"Her essay is a criticism of the assumption that all causation is deterministic and her purpose is to show that all effects do not necessarily follow from the same causes."
- She is on the right track, but she does get some things wrong. She is bound by religious ideology to believe in the concept of free will. Science simply does not support that.

On the issue of Newtonian vs. quantum mechanics, one must understand the difference in what they cover. Quantum mechanics is particle physics. It works on the scale of subatomic particles, where movement is described by probability functions. Newtonian physics is essentially deterministic, and it works on a larger scale. The balls on a Galton board fall into this category. How do you decide where the dividing line is? Well, there isn't one. But for larger the bodies, the probability functions become tighter and tighter, to the point where they are essentially deterministic for things that we encounter in everyday life. There is still a minute possibility of motion that does not follow the Newtonian functions, but that probability is so small that behavior like that just doesn't happen in our experience.

SteveK said...

"These aspects of the real world make an unmoved first mover UNECESSARY"

This is ONLY true within the framework of a MATERIALISTIC philosophy of the real world. It's not true within the framework of AT philosophy of the real world.

Try learning something for once. Just once.

Martin said...

>These aspects of the real world make an unmoved first mover UNECESSARY

No they don't. Not even close. A palm tree is sustained in existence from moment to moment by molecular forces, gravity, oxygen, carbon, etc. Each of those things are sustained in existence from moment to moment by yet more fundamental things, for example atoms, which are sustained in existence by quarks and gluons, and so forth. At bottom is: materialists say matter, theists say pure actuality.

EITHER WAY, both parties are arguing to a most fundamental aspect of reality. Inertia doesn't come into play for arguing for a most fundamental aspect of reality.

im-skeptical said...

SP, nobody says that quantum probability functions aren't influenced by external factors. I said it myself earlier. So what's your point? A Geiger counter still counts random events, and there is still no way to predict exactly when or how many such events will occur. Nor is there any causal mechanism we can point to that produces the atomic decay event. So you might be correct that there is always a cause, but you can't prove it. As far as we are able to determine, things do happen without a cause.

SteveK said...

"She is bound by religious ideology to believe in the concept of free will. Science simply does not support that"

Both are driven by a philosophy. One says that a person can have direct knowledge of their own free will. The other says only science can give you that knowledge. The problem with the latter is science cannot test for an ability to do otherwise.

im-skeptical said...

Yes, we all have our philosophy. I don't consider myself a warrior with the goal of defeating or disproving others. I explain things the way I understand them. And the thing that brings me to a site like this is the desire to share understanding. That goes both ways.

SteveK said...

Any comment related to the fact that science cannot, in principle, come up with an experiment that demonstrates a clear ability to do otherwise?

im-skeptical said...

By the "ability to do otherwise", I am assuming that you mean the ability to make choice A or choice B given the exact same causal conditions. If that's not what you mean, I need further explanation.

So in principal, I'd say it should be demonstrable. You have a case with causal state (call it case CA) where a decision (call it decision DA) is made. And then you have the another case CB where decision DB is made. And CA is identical to CB, but if DA ever turns out to be different from DB, then the ability to do otherwise is proven.

But creating the brain's causal state of affairs is problematic. In fact, I'd say that it is literally impossible to produce a state of affairs that is identical in all ways. First, the brain making a decision must be the same brain, because the physical structure is part of the causal state, and it has to be the same, right down to the molecular level, including DNA. In addition to that, learning and experience must be the same. Metabolic conditions must be the same. Second, given the same brain, there can be one and only one moment in time at which all the physical conditions are in one particular state. Cells age and change, metabolism occurs, experience happens, etc. What I'm saying here is that the causal state of affairs can never be exactly duplicated between CA and CB. And for that reason, I don't think we could ever make an experiment that settles the question once and for all.

SteveK said...

"I don't think we could ever make an experiment that settles the question once and for all"

I think that's what I said. Given the situation, why on earth are people deferring to science for the answer when they HAVE the answer in the form of direct access? I mean, seriously, we have direct access to the content of our thoughts - so this is a LEGIT way to get information without needing to defer to some experiment.

im-skeptical said...

"we have direct access to the content of our thoughts "
- We have the experience of our conscious thoughts. But what do we really know of what's going on in the brain? Did you ever drive to work while thinking about something, and then realize the process of driving was not in your conscious stream at all? The fact is that the brain is doing lots of things and making decisions all the time without any conscious knowledge of it. What happens behind the scenes (which is most of what the brain does) is not part of our awareness. And that goes for our decision-making processes. So to say we have direct access is an overstatement at best.

SteveK said...

"So to say we have direct access is an overstatement at best"

Huh?? Do you know the content of your thoughts when you are consciously thinking about them? Yes. You don't need to know what's going on with your brain to have this knowledge.

Similarly, do you know that you are, at times, consciously CHOOSING specific words to type on the computer? Yes.

You cannot deny the knowledge of choosing any more than you can deny the knowledge of thinking.

bmiller said...

She is bound by religious ideology to believe in the concept of free will. Science simply does not support that.

The first statement is ad hominem besides missing the point. Everyone even atheists live their lives as if they believe in free will regardless of what they tell people. The second statement is a non sequitur since science (I assume you mean physics) does not address the issue of intentional action at all.

Regarding the Galton board. It would be helpful if you were to distinguish between what an author wrote and your own opinion. It seemed to me that you misread her.

Yet no one could have deduced the resting place of the ball because of the indeterminateness that you get even in the Newtonian mechanics, arising from the finite accuracy of measurements.

If you disagree with this, then we should be able to measure accurately enough to predict each of the balls path, no?

im-skeptical said...

I think you can deny the knowledge of choosing. You may be aware of a choice that you have made. But it may be the case that the real decision occurs before we "think" of it. And there is experimental evidence for this.

SteveK said...

The same is true about thinking but nobody ever says that. Your thoughts, your logic, are not your own because they were put there before we "think" of them. If you can deny one, you can deny the other - but you don't. Why?

im-skeptical said...

"Your thoughts, your logic, are not your own because they were put there before we "think" of them."
- They weren't "put there". They are the product of our brain and its logical processes. But as I was trying to say, most of our mental processes occur without conscious awareness. Many cognitive scientists believe that conscious awareness is rather like tapping into a view of the mental process. This gives rise to the illusion that conscious thinking is how we make decisions.

SteveK said...

In conclusion: We don't consciously think. It's an illusion. Just think about what this means. Oh, wait. Dammit!!

Reason #386 why I don't take materialism seriously.

bmiller said...

I don't think so.

Of course it is ad hominem. You should look up what that means. Her belief system is irrelevant to the argument she is making and bringing it into the discussion is a distraction.

We all act as if there is free will, even if we don't believe that.

If people actually didn't believe it they would act on their belief. And if one actually did act like they didn't believe in free will they would be dead or institutionalized in short order.

And when I say science doesn't support something, I mean there isn't sufficient empirical evidence to make such a conclusion.

Well, science can't prove or disprove something that it is not equipped to study in the first place. It sounds like some sort of Scientistic foundational belief that science is all there is to know. it seems you are assuming a point that is in issue.

It's a matter of our ability to know those conditions.

Yes, that's what she said. The initial conditions within acceptable tolerance limits for 100% accuracy along with the same for each collision along the way. Maybe the tolerances are within the Heisenberg limit.

bmiller said...

SteveK,

In conclusion: We don't consciously think. It's an illusion.

To be fair, its cognitive scientists claiming that they aren't thinking. Not you and me.

SteveK said...

@bmiller
It's also those that agree with the philosophy that the cognitive scientists adhere to.

im-skeptical said...

"Her belief system is irrelevant to the argument she is making and bringing it into the discussion is a distraction."
- As I said, I wasn't using that to discredit her argument in any way.

"If people actually didn't believe it they would act on their belief."
- As I said, I believe in a kind of compatibilism.

"Well, science can't prove or disprove something that it is not equipped to study in the first place."
- I never said it could. But there still things that are not supported by science.

"Yes, that's what she said."
- But it's now what Anscombe was saying.

"To be fair, its cognitive scientists claiming that they aren't thinking. Not you and me."
- To be fair, it's about a different idea of what actually constitutes thinking.

SteveK said...

The idea of unconscious thinking is like unconscious focusing or unconscious listening. They are all incoherent ideas.

Is my conscious awareness used in the process of the brain activity called "thinking"? Not all of the time - like when i walk across the room without thinking about it - but some of the time, like when I think about a math problem. If so, then thinking is not an unconscious process. If my conscious awareness is not used - ever - then consciously paying attention wouldn't have any effect on getting better at math - but it does, so I'm inclined to conclude that we consciously think.

bmiller said...

im-skeptical,

As I said, I wasn't using that to discredit her argument in any way.

I don't think you understand much of what I write. Probably won't address you too much more.

bmiller said...

SteveK,

It's also those that agree with the philosophy that the cognitive scientists adhere to.

I should have put a smiley emoticon with my reply.

I think it's pretty funny that these "cognitive" scientists, after years of study and experimental design and execution of those experiments arrive at the conclusion that their field of study doesn't exist. It's all an illusion! They better hope whoever is funding their research doesn't find out :-)

SteveK said...

@bmiller
One day some scientists will claim to have discovered evidence that they don’t actually exist, and all the trained seals will clap and cheer in amazement.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK said...
*"These aspects of the real world make an unmoved first mover UNECESSARY"*

"This is ONLY true within the framework of a MATERIALISTIC philosophy of the real world. It's not true within the framework of AT philosophy of the real world.

Try learning something for once. Just once."
Right, if you invent a fantasy cosmos that does not exhibit inertial motion, and does not exhibit mutual causation, and does not exhibit net lossless interactions then in that fantasy cosmos, yes, the First Way makes sense.

One can make up as many fantasies as one wishes. As an argument for the necessity of an unmoved first mover in our real world such fantasies are worthless, making the First Way a worthless argument.

StardustyPsyche said...

"One day some scientists will claim to have discovered evidence that they don’t actually exist, and all the trained seals will clap and cheer in amazement."
Yes, woo sells, both to the gullible religious and the gullible secular consumers of woo, such as the Bible, stories about intrinsic randomness, Chopra, Hovind, Krauss, and all the rest.

"they don’t actually exist"
The major problem with this statement is that it is entirely defensible on one definition of "exist", and silly on another definition of "exist".

What exists, in general? How would you define "exist"? Can you give a general rule or set of properties to things or processes or phenomena that either do or do not exist?

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"I mean, seriously, we have direct access to the content of our thoughts"
That is a mistake most people make. The vast majority of of what your brain does is not accessible to you directly.

The brain simply lacks the internal feedback and monitoring connections in order to be directly conscious of anything more than a razor thin veneer on the vast processing going on under the hood, or behind the scenes, or behind the curtain, as it were.

Mostly you are like an ant, or a lizard with a sensory processing and bodily regulating device that works without you being aware of what those inner workings are.

SteveK said...

One can make up as many fantasies as one wishes.

Yes, we know about that very well.

-Mutual causation
-Matter moving itself
-Perceptions are hallucinations
-Deceased people causing sticks to move
-Matter in motion is logical
-Causation isn't directional
-Computers are equally as natural as trees

im-skeptical said...

"If my conscious awareness is not used - ever - then consciously paying attention wouldn't have any effect on getting better at math"
- I didn't say conscious involvement can't be part of the thinking process.

"I don't think you understand much of what I write. Probably won't address you too much more."
- Sorry to hear that. Honestly, I don't think you grasp much of what I say.

"these "cognitive" scientists, after years of study and experimental design and execution of those experiments arrive at the conclusion that their field of study doesn't exist. It's all an illusion!"
- Yeah, that's funny. So, shall we conclude that you have no interest in trying to understand what I'm talking about?

SteveK said...

@im-skeptical

You: "I didn't say conscious involvement can't be part of the thinking process"
You: "This gives rise to the illusion that conscious thinking is how we make decisions"
You: "But it may be the case that the real decision occurs before we "think" of it"

Make it make sense.

im-skeptical said...

OK. We're talking about something that is far more complex than "God makes me think". This is a major difference between science and religious belief. You never have to explain the processes and mechanisms involved. You trust in a philosophy that puts everything in a nice, neat package with a bow on it, while glossing over the details. But science isn't like that. I'll be the first to admit that science doesn't have all the answers. The moment we think we do, then science becomes a religion.

It's very often the case that when scientific investigation digs into processes and mechanisms, it discovers things that are surprising. Things that don't work that way we always thought they did. This happens again and again. And many things that we have some understanding of today would have garnered ridicule, hatred, excommunication, or worse, in times past.

On the subject of mind and cognition, there certainly is much that remains unknown, and much to be learned. But we been able to gain some insights into what's happening in the brain. I think the best way to view consciousness and conscious thought is to imagine a notepad or a slate upon which things can be written or depicted. We know that there are many different cognitive functions that occur at once within the brain. Language processing, visual and auditory processing, managing muscular activities, etc. We can't possibly be aware of all these things, but some of then are vying for our attention. There is a filtering function that selects a mental activity that seems to be most important at the moment, and directs that to the slate of our awareness. What's on the slate may change from moment to moment. But that's essentially what makes up our stream of consciousness.

If we are deciding what to do, there is a process in the brain making that calculation. And most of the time (actually, almost all the time), that process never shows up on the slate. But there may be a need to take that process out of automatic mode and and give it conscious consideration. So it enters the stream of consciousness, and this gives us the ability to provide some intentional direction to the thought process. Conscious awareness is a mental activity in its own right, and it can provide feedback to our thinking. But awareness isn't the thing that makes the decision as to what we will do. When a decision is finally made, that too is presented to the slate of our awareness, and we might believe that the stream of consciousness is where the decision is made, because that's what it seems like. But that's a naive understanding. What shows up in that conscious stream is only a tiny fraction of what actually goes into the decision-making process. And when I said before we "think" of it, I meant before it is part of our conscious stream. That's why I used quotes. Of course, I expected you to understand that.

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