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Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Taliesin

    Taliesin Puttin' on the Ritz

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    Have you encountered the movement that calls itself Radical Orthodoxy? I'm generally suspicious of anything that marches under the po-mo standard, and its founders do use more big Latinate words than seems strictly necessary, but it looks on cursory inspection as though it might not be flaky. Is it intellectually forceful, in your own opinion? Can you recommend any particular book as an introduction for the interested layman?
     
  2. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    That would be Esther and Song of Solomon (or whatever the standard accepted title is) right? Are any of the Apocrypha in this category?
     
  3. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I'm afraid I don't know anything about them. My old room-mate from university did his doctoral thesis on them (I think!) but I haven't spoken to him for ages so I can't enlighten you any further!

    That's right. I don't think any of the deuterocanonical books fall into this category - even the Greek version of Esther does mention God more than once.
     
  4. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    I guess I'm just not spiritual enough if I don't find this terribly important. ;) I find it interesting in a vaguely intellectual way, but it doesn't seem like something that should break churches apart, or anything. But different viewpoints, different cultures....

    I agree that no act (At least a human act - I can't speak for God's acts, although I'd say He is constrained, in that He has to act according to His nature....which He could change. Or maybe not. I don't know) is completely free. However, by saying that an act is inevitable, I don't understand how you can say that it is not therefore free of choice.

    Doesn't choice imply multiple possible outcomes? If I must take a book off the bookshelf, but I only have one book on the shelf, can it truly be said that I "chose" to take the book off the shelf? It seems to me that if everything is determined by previous actions, then there is no such thing as free will, or even any sort of will at all - just causality. If everything I do happens because of previous events in my life, and everything that happened in my life happened because of previous events in others lives, and so on and so forth, then everything can be traced back to an initial starting point, and the universe, and with it all human history and interaction, is nothing more than cause and effect. God says "Let there be light", and there is light; Elrohir reads The Republic, and becomes interested in philosophy. If there is nothing more to human "choice" than cause and effect, no matter how complex it is, then why even say that we have a "will" at all? We don't, we're no different from any natural phenomena that works itself out according to set rules.

    But free will doesn't imply being able to change what exists. My free will is not compromised by my inability to fly - I can decide to want to levitate, and I can even try and make up my mind that I will, but I can't change reality to make it so I actually can. Nor can the prisoner make the prison walls go away through exercise of his free will - but he can want them to, or he can choose to not want them to. (Despite the fact that most would indeed want them to go away) I don't think that choice necessarily implies the ability to effect the desired result. It just implies that you can choose what result you desire.

    Everyone seems to be concerned that I'm somehow confusing fatalism and determinism, but I still can't grasp the difference. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to grasp it, I don't know, but I don't see how they are substantially different.

    C is the result. A is the starting point, which leads to B, which ultimately results in C. Determinism says that A happens, therefore B happens, and therefore C happens, correct? If I am "fated" to change my mind because of what you say, then you will say it if determinism is true. If I am fated to not change my mind because you don't say it, then you won't say it, if determinism is true.

    The thing I don't understand is why you say fatalism says that C will happen "despite the events that lead up to it". There's no despite. If A is determined, and B is determined, and C comes naturally and inevitably from B, then C is determined as well, and nothing could happen which could change that. It's like saying, in the simplistic bookshelf example I used earlier, that you chose to read Common Sense despite the fact that there were no other books on the bookshelf. Huh? It was the only book on the bookshelf, and since you had to choose one, you were "fated" to choose it. Both fatalism and determinism would say that the end result is inevitable because of previous things (C is inevitable because of B) and those things are inevitable because of the things before those (B is inevitable because of A), correct? Ultimately everything works towards an inevitable and unchanging end, so I don't see a difference between the two.



    Sorry if that wasn't completely coherent, just disregard any bits that you don't understand.
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course God is traditionally thought to have perfect freedom: this is one of the divine perfections. And this is traditionally thought to mean that he acts in perfect conformity with his nature. The fact that everything God does is determined by his goodness, his wisdom, his knowledge, etc is what makes him truly free.

    Yes, choice implies multiple possible outcomes, but "possible" is ambiguous. Consider the following two meanings of "possible"

    (1) A (future) event is possible (from our perspective now) if, for all we know, it might happen.

    (2) An event is possible if its occurrence is consistent with everything else that occurs (ie, compossible with all existents).

    Note that these are not by any means the only meanings of "possible" - I've completely left out modal possibility, which is the one that philosophers, or at least metaphysicians, normally talk about.

    Now the point here is that when you say "A free choice must involve choosing between a number of possible outcomes", which kind of "possible" are you talking about? I'd say that normally we'd think it means (1). This is why your example of the book fails the test. If I have only one book, then I can't meaningfully choose which book to read, because (assuming I'm going to read something at all) the only outcome that is on the cards, so to speak, is that book. If I have lots of books, then I have a wide range of possible options, in this sense of possible.

    Your argument, however, assumes that possibility of type (2) is required for real choice. But I deny that. Suppose I have a large library of books to choose from. And suppose that determinism is true, and my various internal desires are acting upon me to determine that I will in fact choose Common sense. Now in such a case, I do indeed have only one possible way of choosing, in sense (2) of "possible". But I still have a very wide range of possible ways of choosing, in sense (1) of "possible". And it seems to me, at least, that that's all I need for it to be a meaningful choice. After all, when I choose Common sense, it's my choice - it hasn't been imposed upon me by forces outside my control, such as a fierce librarian insisting that I may read only that book. I choose it because I want it!

    But what needs to be shown is why a "will" must operate outside the system of cause and effect in order to be meaningful or free. I don't see why it should. Look at it like this: suppose that, as a matter of fact, determinism is true, and everything we do is wholly determined by preceding events. And now imagine another universe which is identical to ours in every way, except that determinism is false, and people's actions there are not wholly determined. The two universes are observationally identical: everyone makes the same choices in each, and precisely the same events occur in each. Now would there really be any reason to prefer to live in one universe rather than the other? Exactly the same things happen in each one. People make the same decisions, and when questioned about them, they give the same answers. When asked whether they live in a deterministic universe or not, some people in each universe think they do and others in each universe think they do not. And in reality, we do live in one of these universes - but no-one knows which one!

    The point is that determinism and contra-causal free will are both, in a sense, null hypotheses. Each is completely consistent with all the evidence and they are observationally identical. Whichever one is true (or even if neither is), we can't tell, because it makes no practical or observational difference. That is not to say that they are identical hypotheses, of course; they are very different. But it makes no practical difference which is true, and therefore, I would say, no difference to morality.

    We don't normally take such matters into consideration when thinking about moral responsibility in real life. Imagine a jury trying a defendant who obviously committed the crime. Will some members of the jury, who believe in determinism, argue that the defendant should be acquitted because his actions were wholly determined? And will others, who believe in contra-causal free will, argue that he should be convicted because they were not wholly determined? Of course not - the argument will turn on whether the defendant intended to commit the crime, whether he knew what he was doing, whether he was forced to do it by someone else, and so on. And those matters aren't altered in the slightest by which of two fairly obscure metaphysical hypotheses is true.

    I think that this is really a matter of terminology. It is true that you can will something, in the sense of desire it, without being able to bring it about. But we would normally say that the freedom to do something requires at least the ability to do it.


    The simple answer is that you don't have to be a determinist to be a fatalist. Say that Oedipus is fated to marry Jocasta, because the gods have willed it. Whatever Oedipus does, the gods intervene to ensure that it brings him one step closer to marrying Jocasta, and eventually he does. Now that doesn't presuppose determinism; all it presupposes is that there is something that, no matter what else happens, will bring it about that Oedipus marries Jocasta. But that could be simply another very powerful agent (the gods) which intervenes to ensure that what it wants is brought about. You don't need a metaphysical theory about the nature of causation to explain this.

    Now if Oedipus is fated to marry Jocasta, it is impossible that he doesn't. Similarly, if determinism is true, then it is also impossible that Oedipus doesn't marry Jocasta (assuming he does), but in a different sense of "impossible". Basically, if Oedipus is fated to marry Jocasta, this means that he marries her in every possible world. Say that Oedipus moves to Athens. The gods (or whatever is intervening to ensure that he meets his fate) intervene to bring Jocasta to Athens too. In another possible world, Oedipus moves to Sparta. In that possible world, the gods intervene to bring Jocasta there. In every possible world, whatever Oedipus does, the gods see to it that it eventually results in his marriage to Jocasta. But on the other hand, if Oedipus is determined to marry Jocasta, but not fated, that means only that it is inevitable in this possible world, because the marriage is brought about (in part) by the actions that Oedipus actually takes. Suppose that, as a matter of fact, Oedipus meets Jocasta in Thebes and they get married. Their marriage is caused, in part, by Oedipus' earlier action in going to Thebes. Had Oedipus not gone to Thebes, he wouldn't have met Jocasta and they wouldn't have got married at all. On the determinist hypothesis, there are thus many possible worlds in which Oedipus doesn't marry Jocasta - in contrast to the fatalist hypothesis, according to which there is none.

    So if determinism is true, then doing otherwise than as you do is a physical impossibility (in a broad sense of "physical"). If fatalism is true, then doing otherwise than as you do is a modal impossibility.

    This is why I said that, according to determinism, what happens does so because (and only because) of what comes before. Had there been a different chain of preceding events, there would have been different outcomes. But according to fatalism, what happens does so despite what comes before. Had there been a different chain of preceding events, there would still have been the same outcome.
     
  6. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    For someone who doesn't claim to be a philosopher, you sure make a good one. :goodjob:

    Nitpick: what's true if determinism is true is

    Inevitably, given the initial state then the later events happen

    but it doesn't follow that

    Given the initial state, then the later events are inevitable

    and I don't think the latter statement is true even if determinism is true. Inevitability or evitability is about whether our actions matter to the outcome, and they do.

    Like I said, good philosophical instincts.
     
  7. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    After typing a lot of this, I realized I was using a lot of different metaphors. Sorry about that, but it's hard to stick with just one.

    The traditional view is that God is perfectly free, but He acts in accordance with His divine nature - loving, merciful, just, etc, correct?

    But if He is truly ominpotent, then He should be able to change His nature. This strikes me as sort of a contradiction - either He can change his nature (For example, to make Himself unjust or indifferent to human existence) in which case He is free, but He isn't "constrained" or his actions determined in any sense at all, or He cannot change His nature, in which case I would argue He is not omnipotent in a strict sense.* It's like saying you have to follow all the rules whether you like it or not, but you get to decide what rules exist, and how to phrase them - and ultimately meaningless distinction.

    *I'm sort of leaning towards this view, actually. Ultimately I'm not sure that this matters - just because God could change His nature does not mean that He will - but it's interesting nonetheless.

    It seems to me that "sense" 1 is what I am really talking about when I talk about possibility in choice. Because perspective does not always follow reality, but that does not negate choice. Consider: If I hold a pill which I believe contains enough poison that it will kill me if I swallow it, I am confronted with a moral choice - do I take the pill, or do I not? Even if it just a placebo, and there are no physically harmful effects to taking the pill (Besides psychosomatic effects, of course - I might feel sick because I believe that I'm going to die, but I wouldn't actually die) I would still argue that I had a "choice" here.

    I guess what I'm saying is, choice requires multiple outcomes that are possible from the choosers point of view. But if determinism is true, the while there may appear to be multiple possibilities, because everything is predetermined there is really only one. I know, those two statements seem to contradict each other, but I don't think they do, and here's why: if I have two doors that I believe each lead into a particular room, but in reality one of them just has a blank wall behind it, I think that I could still choose which door to open, if determinism is false. Whether I'm mistaken or not as to whether the door I choose actually opens into a room or not doesn't matter, what matters is that there are two available options before me, and I can choose which one to take. But in a deterministic universe, whether only one door, or both lead into rooms or blank walls it doesn't matter - whichever door I am "fated" to open, I will open, without any actual choice involved.

    In essence, even where there is only one actually available door for me to take, there can be choice involved if I believe that I can make a choice about what to do. But if my action is determined, and I have no free will to make any choice whatsoever, then there is only one possibility - even if both doors lead into rooms, instead of just one. There are more doors that lead into rooms, but since I can only take the one determined for me to take, it has the effect of there only being the one door.

    Does that make sense?

    I'm not saying a will must act entirely outside of cause and effect in order to be free, as obviously what we do and learn does have an impact on how we make decisions. (Example - I am sitting in a library, typing this. When I was little, my Mother always taught me to be quiet in the library. The cause is my Mother telling me to be quiet in the library, the effect is that I don't make much noise while I am in the library. BUT, I still can choose to if I want to, it is just less likely because of an influence that was made on me while I was younger) Our wills are not free in a strict, absolute sense, but I definitely do think they are free in the sense that they are separate from cause and effect and can override the effects of other causes when it wants to.

    I suppose it's arguable exactly how much is "free", and how much comes from still other effects - do I override previous influences based on other previous influences that I am unconscious of? - but ultimately I do believe that there has to be something beyond simple cause and effect.

    While I agree that we can't "tell the difference", at least not by trying to prove it scientifically or anecdotally, I would still say that it does make a different to morality, simply because choice is required for morality.

    But I would argue that we should.* If I truly believe a man did something because he was "fated" or "determined" to do it, why should I convict him of a crime? He is no more immoral than a rock that through natural forces falls free of a mountain, rolls down the hill and crashes into a car, killing two people. We can be angry that this disaster happened - but we can we really, truly say that the rock is a murderer?

    Now practically, I realize that if determinism is true then I would vote to convict the criminal because I was "determined" to do so. But morally, I would say that we shouldn't, simply because if it was determined that he would do so, then he had no choice, and was therefore not morally responsible for his actions.


    *Not necessarily debate this in the jury room, but if we truly believed that determinism was true, then we should act like it. But then, we could just be determined to not act like it, just like I could be determined to not believe in determinism.....;)

    But the ability to do something is largely dependent upon physical effects or physical reality. I can't fly because I am heaver than air and gravity keeps me firmly planted on the ground, not because I don't want to. As I see it, the issue of free will is rather separate from the actual ability to perform an action, because free will is not constrained by the same things as our physical reality is.

    OK, to a certain extent, I understand that, and that was very well explained, I see that determinism is not necessary for fatalism. However, wouldn't it be accurate to say that while not all fatalists are determinists, all determinists are indeed fatalist? If not, why not?
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Thanks!

    That would be true if the word in question were "necessary" (I think Aquinas was the first to make this point, and he was quite right to do so). But I'm not sure it applies given that I said "inevitable", which is a bit vaguer. I think that determinism is indeed the claim that, given X, Y inevitably follows. In fact I think that if the following is true:

    Necessarily, given X, Y follows.

    Then the following is also true:

    Given X, Y inevitably follows.

    That's because "inevitable" doesn't mean the same thing as "necessary".

    I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at there.

    There's actually some debate over this, although I can't remember who was involved in the debate and when. However, the mainstream view would certainly be that God cannot change his own nature, because God possesses the properties he does necessarily. His perfections are not accidents (that is, properties he could gain or lose) but necessary qualities of a perfect being. He could not lose them without becoming imperfect. And God is necessarily perfect.

    In other words, it is a logical impossibility that God lose any of his perfections. So there's no problem with saying that God is omnipotent and yet cannot cause himself to lose a perfection, because omnipotence means being able to do anything that is logically possible.

    I must admit that I'm not entirely sure that it does, but then I'm not entirely sure exactly what you're saying! You say that if determinism is true then there is only one possible outcome of my choice. But my point is that that is true on only one reading of "possible". In my sense (1), there are plenty of possibilities.

    That makes sense. Clearly, even with contra-causal free will, we couldn't do absolutely anything.

    The problem is that it seems hard to accept that two universes that are utterly identical in every observable way could be so different morally. In each universe, people not only behave in the same way but for the same reasons and motives. Does it really make sense to say that the inhabitants of one are morally significant and those of the other are not? Ultimately this question can't really be settled, since I suppose you'll just say "Yes!" and I'll say "No!" but then that's the problem with ethics - it all comes down to intuition in the end. But I think that everyday practice is on my side. Suppose that metaphysicians found some proof that determinism is, in fact, true. Would morality break down? Would the law courts fall silent? Of course not. Life would carry on precisely as it had before, and people would plead their cases in precisely the same way - by talking about motives, choices, and so on. In other words, we act as if we're free irrespective of whether determinism is true or not. There are therefore two possibilities: either everyone is guilty of intellectual inconsistency at some level, or the truth or falsity of determinism really has no bearing on whether we are free or not. It seems to me that the latter is the more probable.

    Your analogy isn't apt, though, because you're ignoring the compatibilist definition of free will that I gave before. On that definition, we can distinguish between a free act and an unfree one by appealing to internal causation. My acts are free inasmuch as they are determined by me. That's why a rock doesn't act freely, because a rock doesn't act at all: it is a completely passive thing that is, as it were, enslaved to circumstances. If the rock is hit by another rock, it will move in such-and-such a way because the other rock determines it to do so. There is a world of difference between that and me acting in a certain way because I decide to do so. The difference lies in the fact that I exercise choice over the matter: the impulse to move comes from within me, not from things outside me. And my point is that we can make this distinction, and it can be perfectly meaningful, without having to appeal to obscure metaphysical theories about causation.

    Not at all. He had a choice!

    I think the point you're overlooking is that, on a compatibilist understanding of free will, a free act may be wholly determined but the agent's choice is one of the determining factors. Your examples suggest that you're interpreting determinism as saying that people's actions are wholly determined by factors outside themselves, as if they were puppets. But of course determinism doesn't say any such thing, and compatibilists certainly don't say any such thing (at least if they believe that compatibilist free will actually exists). There is a difference between me doing something because I have decided to do so, and me doing something because I am forced to do so. In the former case, one of the causes of my action is my own choice. In the latter case, my own choice is neither here nor there. It is the presence or absence of my choice in the causal series that distinguishes between free and unfree acts, not the nature of causation in that series as a whole.

    Let me put it like this. Suppose a mad scientist designs an exotic machine that, when activated, causes people to do completely random things. When he presses a button, your brainwaves are "reset" in a truly random way - such that, were time to be rolled back and the situation replayed, they would be reset in a different way. So he presses the button and your arm unexpectedly flies out and punches someone. Then he presses the button and you jump up and down in the air. And so on. Now your actions are undetermined. Are they, for all that, free? Surely most people would say that they are not free at all. Yet they conform to your definition of freedom - though not mine.

    I'll put it differently. What is the difference between a determined event and a random one? This is what the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy says:

    And so we can say that a given event is determined if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, that event is fixed as a matter of natural law. Thus it could be the case that some events are determined in this way and other events are not determined. Now it seems to me that an event that is not determined in this way is (genuinely) random. The only definition I can think of for a genuinely random event is one that is not fully determined by preceding events. They may determine it to some extent, by limiting the possibilities, but they do not limit the possibilities to only one. Perhaps, when such a situation arises, one of three things could happen, but there is nothing about the preceding events to determine which of those three it is. You could replay the situation exactly, and get a different outcome.

    Now the problem for those who defend the contra-causal definition of freedom is that you are basically saying that acts are free inasmuch as they are random. Yet how is a random act any more free than a determined one? If actions performed under the influence of the random action machine are not free, why not? What is the difference between a "free" act (on this definition) and a random one? I don't see any conceptual space for such a thing.

    If you claim that we really have contra-causal freedom, you need to be aware of what you're saying. You're saying that events occur for which there is no reason. You're saying that when I perform a free act, I am doing something which cannot be explained. If nothing determines my decision to do X rather than not-X, then my decision to do X occurs for no reason at all. It's just spontaneous, random, alarmingly quantum. And if you think that that can happen, then you are at the very least denying the principle of sufficient reason - something which philosophers certainly aren't agreed holds universally (I don't see any reason to suppose it does) but which most people, philosophers or not, take for granted at some level of everyday life. I mean, if you allow the existence of actions that happen for no reason at all, then you're allowing the possibility of pretty much anything.

    No, because as I explained, fatalism involves the claim that a certain event occurs in every possible world (or at least in all those possible worlds where the individual in question exists). But determinism involves the claim that it occurs only in those possible worlds which have precisely the same preceding events. The reason is that a determinist believes that each event is fully caused by those events that come before. Change the prior causes, and you will (almost certainly) change the subsequent effects. (Note: it's compatible with determinism to hold that two different sets of prior causes could result in exactly the same effect, but even if that's possible, such cases would surely be extremely rare.) Thus, if determinism is true, then my sitting here typing is fully explained by the events that preceded it, including my decision to come home and start typing. If I hadn't decided to do that, then I wouldn't be doing it. But on a fatalist outlook, my typing this would have happened no matter what I had decided. In other words, a determinist says that event X must happen given prior situation Y. A fatalist says that event X must happen given ANY prior situation. Clearly a determinist is not committed to that.
     
  9. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    I don't think so. Maybe this stems from our different perspectives, yours being theological, mine being about the (lack of) moral implications of deterministic physical theories.

    To me, determinism means necessary connection. Necessarily (if A then B), where A is an earlier state of the universe and B a later one. (Actually, typically, deterministic theories state A iff B - they are bidirectional - but that isn't relevant to the usual definition of "determinism".)

    Whereas, to me, "inevitability" smacks of fatalism.

    Something's inevitable only if the outcome doesn't depend on your actions. If you're pushed off the top of the Empire State Building and find yourself in free-fall, your imminent death is inevitable. If you start to cross the street and notice a big truck that's two seconds away from hitting you, your death on that occasion is evitable. You can jump back and be safe.
     
  10. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Is there anything particularly interesting I should look out for while reading (or at least trying to read) St. Augustine's Confessions?
     
  11. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    Wretched I was, having read that crap. :crazyeye:

    Seriously, it is a bright and sunny page turner if you are fond of rediculous and pathetic self-abasement and self-wretchedness.:lol:
     
  12. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    But isn't omnipotence defined as being able to do literally anything imaginable?

    Sorry if that wasn't clear, I'll try again.

    If determinism is true, then given X, Y inevitably follows. If the non-deterministic view that I'm suggesting is true (I'm not quite sure what to call it, I'm not up on my technical philosophical terms) then given X, Y may follow, as may Z, or V, or whatever. With multiple possibilities that can take place, free will exists. Without multiple possibilities, there can be no free will. I'll expound on this more below.

    Exactly. Free will does not equal omnipotence.

    But it being hard to accept doesn't necessarily make it wrong! I know that it doesn't make it right, either, but it being hard to accept doesn't necessarily say anything about how things actually work. (If you know anything about quantum mechanics - even as little as I do, which is very little - then you know that an awful lot of things aren't intuitive about how things really work out. That doesn't mean they're wrong, though)

    You asked whether proof that determinism is true would cause morality and life to break down. The answer is "we don't know", but probably not, because our reactions would still be determined by previous causes. (Still assuming that determinism is true in this hypothetical case) Previous causes like moral upbringing and fear of the law would have the effect of keeping most people in their places. That says absolutely nothing about whether determinism is true, though.

    But again, how can you have freedom where there is no choice? And how can you have choice without multiple possibilities which actually could come to pass? You're building a tall logical tower, but you haven't solidified the base yet.

    But if everything is simply cause and effect, how are we any more free than the rock?

    You say a free act can be determined by "appealing to internal causation", and they are "free inasmuch as they are determined by me". But if determinism is true, then nothing is actually determined by you! Everything was determined in the beginning, (By God, or the Big Bang, or whatever you want to insert in here) and from that each phase of the universe has inevitably followed. Given X, Y follows. If cause and effect is the only thing going on here, then everything can be traced back to a single root cause. You say your acts are free because they are determined by you - but if everything is cause and effect, then rather everything that you are, everything that makes you up - physically, mentally, spiritually, whatever - is simply the effect of previous causes. And those causes were the effects of previous causes, and so on and so forth all the way back to the First Cause. If every effect inevitably and necessarily follows from each cause, then every cause, including the choices you make, inevitably and necessarily follow from that First Cause, and you have determined nothing - only the one who determined the First Cause determined anything at all.

    But if the agents choice is determined by previous causes, then it isn't any different from any other factor which has been predetermined!

    Not at all. Free will does not require that an event be different from what it would be if it were determined - it merely requires that the event must be chosen. I would not say that he person in your scenario had free will, just because his actions were undetermined - on the contrary, I would say that they were determined, in a way, by the machine. And because they were determined by the machine and not the man, then the man had no free will, and was thus not responsible for his actions.

    But if you accept that everything is determined by previous causes (Given X, then Y) then you must accept that once given the initial cause, everything that follows was inevitable, as is the end of the chain of events - or if they are without end, then every step along the process through infinity.

    If I say I am destined to die on January 12, 2027 when hit by a taxi because God has decreed it, and this will happen no matter what, you would say that is fatalistic, right? Well, how is it substantially different if I say that I am going to die from being hit by a taxi on January 12, 2027 because previous effects have become causes that will inevitably have the effect of of my being killed?

    As far as I can tell, fatalists believe that human beings have more free will than determinists, because at least under their system, you can do what you want in the meantime, while only the end is determined. Under determinism, every step is determined and leads inevitably to the end, and you have no freedom at all.
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    If the Universe were deterministic (which it isn't), events would progress along an already pre-defined path.

    People couldn't decide to start breaking laws, unless they were already predestined to have done so before the discovery that the Universe is deterministic.
     
  14. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    Exactly. I agree, but I don't know if that was clear in my post. (I apologize to everyone if my posts aren't coherent. I don't do this for a living, unfortunately) If determinism is true, then people would react in the way that we would be predetermined to react - either by running amuck, or continuing our lives normally.
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Then you're just using "inevitable" in a different sense from me. I don't see why we can't say that an event is inevitable given my choice; but if you don't like to use the word in such a way, that's fine.

    Try to keep track of his girlfriends!

    The first part of the Confessions is great fun, although the second part is more important philosophically. It can give you rather a warped view of Augustine if you read only this book, though; you get a more balanced sense of his worldview from The city of God. But that's much longer and more tedious.

    No, it's normally defined as the ability to do anything logically possible. Of course, if you accept the view that the logically impossible is unimaginable, this comes down to the same thing.

    Descartes is generally attributed with the view that God could do quite literally anything, and that (for example) necessary truths are true only subject to his will. Peter Damian is sometimes attributed with the same view, unreasonably in my opinion. But the vast majority of Christian philosophers (at least) have rejected it, since it makes God fundamentally irrational.

    But why wouldn't our reactions be also determined by more recent causes? I mean, if we were to discover that determinism is true, that discovery would itself be one of the causes determining our reaction to it.

    To change metaphors, we can bat it back and forth for ever, but I don't think we'll agree! I just don't see why you need multiple possibilities which actually could come to pass in order to have a choice. In ordinary, normal, everyday thinking, we know exactly what the difference is between having a choice and not having a choice. I have a choice, broadly, if it is within my power to determine what happens. And I don't have a choice if I don't. When I make a choice, I think about what I want to do, and when I've decided what it is, I do it. That is how we ordinarily think of the matter. And it's got nothing to do with whether there are multiple possibilities which actually could come to pass. It's entirely to do with the role that my wishes have in bringing about what does come to pass.


    Because freedom isn't about being outside the system of cause and effect. It's about which causes you're subject to, not whether you're subject to causes at all.

    Certainly, if determinism is true, then everything that happens can ultimately be traced back to an initial cause or set of causes that determine all subsequent events. But it doesn't follow from that that there are no other causes. To take the traditional example, Abraham is the father of Isaac, who is the father of Jacob. Now Abraham is the cause of Isaac, and Isaac is the cause of Jacob. Because causation is transitive (if X causes Y, and Y causes Z, then X causes Z), we can say that Abraham is the cause of Jacob. But it doesn't follow from that that Isaac isn't the cause of Jacob, too. It's simply that Isaac is the immediate cause of Jacob.

    Similarly, say that my action is caused by my decision. And my decision is caused by my preceding brain state. And my preceding brain state is caused by... and so on. Clearly, before very long you will find that there are at least some causes which lie outside me. And if you go back far enough you'll find that all the causes lie outside me, because there was a time before I existed. But that doesn't mean there are no causes in me, only that they are not at the beginning of the causal chain. All we need is to say that an agent acts freely if and only if the immediate causes of his or her action lie within the agent. We don't have to say that all the causes do so, or that the causes of those causes do so, and so on.

    It is different, because it is itself a cause, not simply an effect. You seem to be presupposing that if my decision is (wholly) determined then it's completely inert and is itself not a determining factor. But that's where you're going wrong. Consider the following causal chain, where each element causes the one that comes after it:

    A -> B -> C -> D -> E

    In this chain, B, C, D, and E are all effects of A. C, D, and E are all effects of A and B. And so on. In a determinist setting, given A, we can, in theory, predict B to E perfectly. Now consider D. D is the effect of C, and it is the cause of E. The fact that D is caused by C doesn't prevent it being the cause of E. Why should it? C couldn't cause E directly; it needs D to come first. D has just as much causal power (as it were) as any of the preceding elements. It's just that it is an effect as well as a cause.

    Now if my action is wholly caused by my decision, and my decision is wholly caused by preceding things, that doesn't stop my decision being a cause. It just means that it is a cause which is itself caused.

    Well, in my scenario, the mad scientist determines that the victim will do something, but he doesn't determine what that thing is. So the victim's action is not fully determined, which means it's random. The question is what makes a random action like that different from a "free" act in the contra-causal sense, and I've never seen any explanation of this at all from any defender of the definition. I don't believe that one is possible, and I think that this is the fatal flaw of this view - because a random act is clearly no freer than a determined act, and arguably a lot less.

    It's no different at all as far as you are concerned, or as far as anything in this universe is concerned. But then, equally, it's no different at all if in fact you weren't determined or fated to die in that way, but you do anyway. Because, as I said, these theories are observationally identical. It may be that your death is fated; it may be that it is determined; it may be that it is neither. But it makes absolutely no difference to you or to anyone else which of these things is true; all that matters is whether it actually happens or not. The difference between these theories is wholly modal - concerning what happens in non-actual possible worlds. Fatalism holds that if you do X, you do X in every possible world in which you exist. Determinism holds that if you do X, you do X in every possible world which has precisely the same antecedent conditions - namely, the actual world. They agree that you do it in the actual world, and since the actual world is the only one we can observe, we can't tell which theory - if any - is the true one. And that is why I argued that free will has got nothing to do with any of these theories, because they make no difference to the actual world, whereas free will does.

    Aha - you say that you have free will if "you can do what you want". But that's precisely my view. I do what I want exactly when my actions are determined by me rather than by someone else. That's perfectly compatible with determinism being true.
     
  16. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    Do you have any suggestions when it comes to reading Erasmus?
     
  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't think I've ever actually read anything by Erasmus at all, only things about him. So, unfortunately, no!
     
  18. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    Hmm...

    How about commentaries?
     
  19. mankongo

    mankongo Chieftain

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    I have a few questions that may be more historical than theological

    What is the difference between Plato's Logos and the one in the Gospel of John?

    Maybe drifting too far from Christianity, but when did the Jews become monotheists? Were they even monotheists at the time of Jesus or more like henotheists? How influencial were Greco-Roman/Egyptian/Syrio-Palestinian paganism and magic on early Christianity? What about Neo-Platonism? Philo of Alexandria?

    Also, what were some of the regional differences in early Christianity, between Rome, Alexandria, Asia Minor, and Syria?

    Sorry I realize these questions may be more historical than philosophical or theological
     
  20. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    How do you find the New American Bible?
     
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