Wednesday 17 May 2023

Neither Determinism Nor Free Will: Some Clarifications.

I have made a playlist of videos on this topic that most people seem to find very profound and mysterious, but that I (for whatever reason) find very plain and simple.

I can only surmise that determinism is a kind of modern religious dogma that is not perceived as religious by the people who believe in it —whether they are secular or members of any number of faiths.

And I will say further that this dogma has a peculiar effect on the ego, as atheists take pride in believing it, feeling that it somehow distinguishes them from the hoi polloi, and (in my direct experience) they seem to be humiliated in having their faith in it challenged.

Linked to above: The Critique of Categorical Reasoning (not just Determinism vs Free Will)

[Manan Goenka:]

I use a very simple argument that uses the same language that determinists use (but which is also consistent with what you're saying but approaches the issue from the opposite end): That everything is determined is a claim of existential fact that hinges on the logic of causality (chains of cause and effect) being *true*. Therefore, you need to prove 'the logic of causality' to be an existential fact (which it is not, it is a logical tool, a way of looking at things, an explanation, like you described) to establish determinism. seeing everything as chains of cause and effects is a way we look at things for certain purposes, to do certain things with that explanation, but there is no evidence that things as a matter of existential fact operate through chains of cause and effect. The mistake is, like you described, treating a conceptual tool as being more real than reality

[Eisel Mazard / à-bas-le-ciel:]

You say this is "a very simple argument".  I would bet that nine out of ten people you explain it to can't understand it —even if they partly "can't" because they won't really make an effort to do so.  I'd be surprised if you could whittle it down to eight out of ten.

[Manan Goenka:]

@à-bas-le-ciel  when retorting I'd just say "Prove to me that causality is true/is a fact". A couple people have understood it but yeah i take your point, those people were already highly motivated to think about the question.

[Beer Boots:]

I agree that causality is not an existential fact in so far as nothing can be known to be 'true'. But doesn't this mean that all philosophy is pointless? All arguments are made from cause and effect. Not knowing with certainty that cause and effect are an all-determining law of reality completely undermines any idea about anything. A person can make all sorts of insane arguments when causality is thrown out the window as an underlying presupposition. And they can't be disagreed with, because without causality ALL possibilities are feasible. 

So categories, while limiting and reductive in a sense, seem like a necessary evil for us humans with confined frameworks for observing, understanding and debating reality. As long as we can include the acknowledgement of existential limitation in small text beneath our arguments, isn't it the best we can do to assume that causality is a necessary point of reference to argue from?

[Manan Goenka:]

@Beer Boots  Just because a rock helps me break open a coconut doesn't mean I ought to worship the rock. There is no 'necessary evil' needed here.

@Beer Boots  can you prove to me that causality is real in the same way that you can prove to me that Eizel is real?

[Beer Boots:]

@Manan Goenka  I'm sorry, I think my response was unclear. I agree that the assistance a rock provides in opening a coconut does not justify the leap to a completely unrelated conclusion. I agree that I cannot prove to you that causality is an existential fact in terms of being a law of reality. But I can prove that causality functions in the physical universe according to scientific measures of 'proof' (observe, predict, repeatability) and by logical conclusion - outcomes without effect have no basis for occurring. As soon as they do, that basis is definitionally speaking, a 'cause'.

But we can only observe outcomes from a human-centric perspective, within the sandbox of the physical universe. So logic may not be a category that all things are limited to outside of that sandbox, or even inside it (given how little of it we have explored). 

The problem I am trying to bring up is that if we can't accept logic as an existential necessity, then arguments have no value. Philosophy becomes pointless because it's all about presupposing the value of logic to justify conclusions.

The solution I am trying to suggest is that we accept the limitations we have as a species and agree to work with the best information we have. For example, the idea that the category of logic is probably an existential fact. What follows from this is that logical conclusions such as causality are also probably an existential fact. If we cannot presuppose those concepts to be 'fact', then how do we argue anything? 

[Manan Goenka:]

@Beer Boots  Just Because I refuse to be beholden to/worship the rock that breaks open a coconut, does not mean that I stop using it to break open coconuts. 

What is the point of philosophy? Why do you think philosophy is important? 

[Beer Boots:]

@Manan Goenka  If I understand correctly, this rock is the category we refer to as causality. But what specifically are the coconuts?

Philosophy is important because it is an integral part of our experience. We understand and critique our experience of reality through the lenses of philosophy, whether we intend to or not. Thus, the point of philosophy is to enhance our experience by means of understanding it and actioning that understanding to affect changes to our experience. 

[Eisel Mazard / à-bas-le-ciel:]

You're both too dim to handle the argument: the attribution of cause and effect is an analytical judgement, just like the attribution of beauty and ugliness, which is to say, it exists in the eye of the beholder and is subjective —thus I experience indigestion and can only speculate as to what caused it, etc.  The point here is neither to prove "causality exists" nor that "causality does not exist", just as we do not need to prove "beauty exists" nor that "beauty does not exist"; the nature of the thing we are describing is a subjective judgement only —and so it exists in this limited sense.  To combine the examples: we can never say that a man falls in love with a woman because of her perceived beauty (perhaps he loved her for her wit, perhaps for her money, or perhaps he prefers fat women and doesn't perceive her as beautiful in the same way that you do, etc.) —in that sense, causality is an absurdity.  And it is indeed absurd, likewise, to claim that what we see in dreams "is determined" with a billiard-ball-like causality, and it is even more absurd to claim that we are mindless automatons when we "dream" (while awake) of what we will do in the future, and innovate, and come up with new plans, new solutions, etc., as if this were the effect and result of some compulsion (like one billiard ball impelling another forward).

[Again: to me the problem is neither mysterious nor profound.  The solution, for you, may be both.] 

Linked to above: Determism vs. Free Will: Pseudo-Science vs. Pseudo-Philosophy.