A little philosophical argument.

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dissonant
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A little philosophical argument.

Postby dissonant » Tue May 25, 2010 6:52 am UTC

OK. Suppose the existence of a creator of this universe. This creator does not actively participate in the actions of his creations, but (s)he has imbued them with free will.

The universe begins and ends.

Suppose further that our creator has infinite memory or, equivalently, has "recorded" all of the events that occurred during the rise and fall of this universe.

On playing these events back, every creature embodied with free will, obviously does not retain this characteristic, as all events in this playback are predetermined.

So here is what I am getting at. In this universe, there is no observable difference between free will and determinism. There is no experiment that could be done to distinguish between the two. They are essentially equivalent.

What do you think?

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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Osha » Tue May 25, 2010 8:14 am UTC

I think quite a few of the arguments over free will stem from people using different definitions for the concept. Just thought I'd get that out up front as it's a pet peeve of mine.

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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby rigwarl » Tue May 25, 2010 1:05 pm UTC

The creatures from the 2nd universe are unable to "know" that the universe is deterministic because it's a playback of the 1st non-deterministic universe where that "knowledge" would be incorrect.

(Using "know" in the sense that you can't "know" that the Earth is flat even though there are people who claim to "know" that.)

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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Indon » Tue May 25, 2010 2:00 pm UTC

I'm assuming here that you're discussing the arminianist concept of free will.

I would assert that this concept of free will doesn't actually make any sense, and therefore can not exist or even be properly described.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Sourire » Tue May 25, 2010 3:44 pm UTC

Perhaps I'm missing some point of your argument, but well, I don't see its validity.

Let's move this to a smaller scale, where I think we can more easily digest it. If I put a camera in front of my friend and direct him "do or say anything", and follow him for thirty minutes, I have a tape of his actions. Now barring flaws in the recording/playback process, I have a fairly set record of what happened. Do you think this proves he had no free will? Were his actions constrained and deterministic? And, as a "fun" mental game, if his actions were deterministic, I see no logical way mine aren't, and yours aren't. Perhaps we were all "meant" to have this discussion. It's all on file somewhere.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Tue May 25, 2010 4:57 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I would assert that this concept of free will doesn't actually make any sense, and therefore can not exist or even be properly described.


That. If our will isn't determined, but isn't random, well, then, what's left?

Regardless, no philosophical discussion can proceed without first defining your terms.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Aaeriele » Tue May 25, 2010 5:29 pm UTC

David Hume would argue that determinism is necessary for free will, actually. Of course, that also depends on your definition of what free will is, as Osha already mentioned.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Jplus » Tue May 25, 2010 5:59 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:
Indon wrote:I would assert that this concept of free will doesn't actually make any sense, and therefore can not exist or even be properly described.


That. If our will isn't determined, but isn't random, well, then, what's left?

Processes can obey laws without being completely fixed. Consider chaos, complexity and symmetry breaking.

Of course, this again hinges on definitions (what do we mean by "fixed"), but I think you shouldn't directly rule out other options than determinism and randomness.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby tendays » Tue May 25, 2010 6:28 pm UTC

What about consciousness which is more concrete than free will (I know for sure I'm conscious, I don't know for sure I have free will).

There's no observable difference to an external observer but maybe participants in the universe are conscious in the first run but not in the playback? Like in Sourire's experiment, consciousness is almost certainly missing when the videotape is played back but there's no observable difference, in particular the friend can't convince you he is conscious. (Any observable difference is just a technical aspect, maybe in fifty years we'll have TV's that are undistinguishable from boxes that contain actual living beings).
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby You, sir, name? » Tue May 25, 2010 10:35 pm UTC

There are also examples of possible universes that have no more free will than a deterministic universe, but are non-deterministic, that is, universes where you do not have control over the non-deterministic processes that govern it. So free will, to the extent it actually exists, can not depend on whether or not the universe is deterministic.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Tue May 25, 2010 11:33 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:
Cloud Walker wrote:
Indon wrote:I would assert that this concept of free will doesn't actually make any sense, and therefore can not exist or even be properly described.


That. If our will isn't determined, but isn't random, well, then, what's left?


Consider chaos, complexity and symmetry breaking.


That just sounds like another way of saying "a very complicated mixture of determined things."
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Jplus » Tue May 25, 2010 11:43 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:
Jplus wrote:Consider chaos, complexity and symmetry breaking.


That just sounds like another way of saying "a very complicated mixture of determined things."

Yes I can imagine it sounds a bit like that, but that's not what I meant.
Imagine that you manage to balance a pencil on its point. You know that at some point it will have to fall after all, because that's the way those things work. It's lawful behaviour (symmetry breaking, in this case). Still, it's not predetermined when it will fall and in which direction. Or at least that's the idea.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Tue May 25, 2010 11:46 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:
Cloud Walker wrote:
Jplus wrote:Consider chaos, complexity and symmetry breaking.


That just sounds like another way of saying "a very complicated mixture of determined things."

Yes I can imagine it sounds a bit like that, but that's not what I meant.
Imagine that you manage to balance a pencil on its point. You know that at some point it will have to fall after all, because that's the way those things work. It's lawful behaviour (symmetry breaking, in this case). Still, it's not predetermined when it will fall and in which direction. Or at least that's the idea.


So... at which point is the falling pencil operating outside (i.e., not determined by) natural laws?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 26, 2010 4:01 am UTC

It need not operate outside of physical laws for it to be probabilistic rather than completely deterministic. For example there could be some random quantum effect somewhere in the area, whose effects propagated through the system in such a way as to make the pencil fall one way instead of another.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Wed May 26, 2010 5:23 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:It need not operate outside of physical laws for it to be probabilistic rather than completely deterministic. For example there could be some random quantum effect somewhere in the area, whose effects propagated through the system in such a way as to make the pencil fall one way instead of another.


Well, for one, that's still nothing other than either determinism or randomness, as per my original post.

For two, and this isn't necessary, given one, but how can you tell if something is random rather than a product of deterministic processes yet to be known or unraveled?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 26, 2010 11:33 am UTC

Bell's theorem.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Wed May 26, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

Wikipedia's Bell's Theorem page didn't give me much to go on regarding this discussion. Could you expand, please?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Indon » Wed May 26, 2010 5:25 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:That. If our will isn't determined, but isn't random, well, then, what's left?

Regardless, no philosophical discussion can proceed without first defining your terms.


You misunderstand. Arminianist free will isn't random either. For instance, behavior randomized by quantum phenomena would not qualify as free will.

The Arminianist concept of free will is the excuse God uses to damn you for eternity for not following the right religion. If people chose their religion based on their environment, that's not free will according to the Arminians because an innocent person could be damned to Hell and God wouldn't do that.

Similarly, if people chose their religion randomly, that's still not free will according to the Arminians because an innocent person could be damned to Hell and God wouldn't do that.

The concept of "Free Will" as it exists in our culture is the equivalent of memetic flotsam. It's complete junk.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Wed May 26, 2010 5:35 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
Cloud Walker wrote:
Indon wrote:I would assert that this concept of free will doesn't actually make any sense, and therefore can not exist or even be properly described.


That. If our will isn't determined, but isn't random, well, then, what's left?

Regardless, no philosophical discussion can proceed without first defining your terms.


You misunderstand. Arminianist free will...


Oh, my bad. I misread the "this" in your post as a "the." I didn't mean to associate at all with Arminianist free will.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Indon » Wed May 26, 2010 5:51 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:Oh, my bad. I misread the "this" in your post as a "the." I didn't mean to associate at all with Arminianist free will.


Well, the problem is that the concept of free will in our society stems from that one. All the other definitions are just attempts to make this ridiculous concept make sense somehow.

As you state right off the bat - imagine people's actions are random. So what? It doesn't matter! If anything, it might be even more absurd than a universe in which people's actions are determined by something - at least if our brains are determining something, then we can be confident that there are actual reasons behind their operation.

The idea of arminianist free will is also associated with a conceptualization of responsibility that doesnt make any logical sense - the idea that a person who does something wrong should be penalized not as a deterrent to keep him or others from doing it again, but as a punishment, something that the individual deserves - specifically because he chose the action freely.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 26, 2010 8:31 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:Wikipedia's Bell's Theorem page didn't give me much to go on regarding this discussion. Could you expand, please?
What you described, that there's some deterministic thing "under the surface" of quantum theory that we just haven't discovered yet, is a hidden variable theory. Bell's theorem says there cannot be any *local* hidden variables involved.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Thu May 27, 2010 5:06 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:What you described, that there's some deterministic thing "under the surface" of quantum theory that we just haven't discovered yet, is a hidden variable theory. Bell's theorem says there cannot be any *local* hidden variables involved.


Therefore, things happen at random? I'm in the process of learning more about Bell's theorem, but, at this point, it doesn't seem to conclude that randomness exists.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu May 27, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:it doesn't seem to conclude that randomness exists.
It concludes that no local deterministic processes can be going on "under the surface" to give the only apparently random results we see. You're the one who already said things can only be either deterministic or random, so I left the next step to you.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Thu May 27, 2010 5:51 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Cloud Walker wrote:it doesn't seem to conclude that randomness exists.
It concludes that no local deterministic processes can be going on "under the surface" to give the only apparently random results we see. You're the one who already said things can only be either deterministic or random, so I left the next step to you.


Huh? You claimed that one can tell if a quantum event is random or not via Bell's Theorem. I've read up on Bell's Theorem, and it says nothing about showing things happening at random. It says a lot about having to abandon locality, though. It seems your claim is incorrect. What's the "next step"?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu May 27, 2010 6:00 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:You claimed that one can tell if a quantum event is random or not via Bell's Theorem.
No, I claimed that one can tell whether there are hidden processes happening "underneath" the probabilistic stuff we see going on.

What's the "next step"?
If there isn't something deterministic happening underneath, then by your own claim farther up this thread, it must be fundamentally random.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Thu May 27, 2010 11:11 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If there isn't something deterministic happening underneath, then by your own claim farther up this thread, it must be fundamentally random.


That's a hypothetical unsupported by Bell's experiment, which, in it's most popular interpretation (Bell's Theorem), has us abandoning locality, not determinism.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri May 28, 2010 12:49 am UTC

Eh? Most things I've read sacrifice determinism before locality, for relativity's sake.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Fri May 28, 2010 5:48 am UTC

Well, what have you read? Here's what I read.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Indon » Fri May 28, 2010 2:29 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:Eh? Most things I've read sacrifice determinism before locality, for relativity's sake.


Don't quantum phenomena such as entanglement imply that locality is not necessarily a principle of the universes' function?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 28, 2010 2:42 pm UTC

Well, no. They imply that either locality is violated or counterfactual definiteness is violated.

Of course, even a nonlocal hidden variables theory doesn't include determinism the way most people like to think determinism in the universe works. Because under those theories (in my understanding) it's still not determined which outcome you will observe. And there's also the problem with what "instantaneous" communication of states between particles would mean, on account of relativity.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Fri May 28, 2010 2:52 pm UTC

dissonant wrote:Suppose further that our creator has infinite memory or, equivalently, has "recorded" all of the events that occurred during the rise and fall of this universe.

Better informed people can help support (or dissolve) my point here, but isn't this impossible? That is, is not the whole point of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle that even a perfect observer, such as God, could not know the exact velocity and position of any particle? Therefore, the recording is bunk, and does not meaningfully reflect what it originally captured. Because if the recording weren't bunk, we could use it to make perfect predictions into the future, given the processing power.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Fri May 28, 2010 4:35 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Of course, even a nonlocal hidden variables theory doesn't include determinism the way most people like to think determinism in the universe works. Because under those theories (in my understanding) it's still not determined which outcome you will observe.


How do most people like to think determinism works, and could point me to some of these theories, please?

Note: there's a difference between what can't be determined and what we can't determine. I've ran into people who think that, for example, because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, determinism cannot be true.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 28, 2010 4:51 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:How do most people like to think determinism works?
"Determinism" usually means that it is possible to derive future observations of a system as long as you know enough about its present state.

Many Worlds is in some sense a "deterministic" interpretation, but it requires that the universe is continually splitting and that you cannot therefore make deterministic predictions about what you'll later observe.

Cloud Walker wrote:I've ran into people who think that, for example, because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, determinism cannot be true.
How do you propose to predict future states if exact information about a particle's position and velocity can't be determined?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Fri May 28, 2010 8:57 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Cloud Walker wrote:How do most people like to think determinism works?
"Determinism" usually means that it is possible to derive future observations of a system as long as you know enough about its present state.

Many Worlds is in some sense a "deterministic" interpretation, but it requires that the universe is continually splitting and that you cannot therefore make deterministic predictions about what you'll later observe.

Cloud Walker wrote:I've ran into people who think that, for example, because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, determinism cannot be true.
How do you propose to predict future states if exact information about a particle's position and velocity can't be determined?


I don't. I'm using a definition of determinism like the one you used above: as long as you know enough about a system's current state, you can derive future observations. We just cannot reach the point where we know enough about a particle to derive it's future state. This fact does not undermime determinism any more than my lack of knowledge in order to derive space shuttle trajectories undermimes determinism.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Fri May 28, 2010 9:12 pm UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:We just cannot reach the point where we know enough about a particle to derive it's future state.
The uncertainty principle doesn't say something that we are merely incapable of doing. It says the particle doesn't have an exact position and an exact momentum at the same time.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Cloud Walker » Sat May 29, 2010 12:26 am UTC

According to the Wiki intro to the Uncertainty Principle (I don't have time to read the whole thing, honestly), I took Heisenberg's interpretation, and you took the "other" interpretation. Interesting; never knew about the difference before.

No matter either way. There's nothing about determinism that necessarily requires exactitude. Or maybe it does. I dunno. This is warping my brain.
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat May 29, 2010 9:56 am UTC

Cloud Walker wrote:According to the Wiki intro to the Uncertainty Principle (I don't have time to read the whole thing, honestly), I took Heisenberg's interpretation, and you took the "other" interpretation. Interesting; never knew about the difference before.

No matter either way. There's nothing about determinism that necessarily requires exactitude. Or maybe it does. I dunno. This is warping my brain.


Heisenberg's & gmalivuk's interpretation are actually closer than you might think. Heisenberg, like many of the other pioneers of QM, was a Positivist. From the Positivist POV, things that cannot be determined operationally don't really exist, so as far as Heisenberg was concerned, there's no difference between saying we can't measure a particle's exact position & momentum simultaneously and saying that the particle doesn't possess a well-determined position & momentum simultaneously.

I will agree that at first sight, Heisenberg's description of the HUP does make it sound like a simple technical issue of not being able to make the necessary measurements, but he does point out that the HUP will still apply, no matter how clever your measuring techniques are.

The more modern approach explains the HUP in terms of the Schrödinger wave function of the particle. If you start with the wave function for the particle's position & perform a Fourier transform on it you will get the particle's momentum wave function. The mathematics of Fourier transforms guarantees that a particle cannot have an exact position & an exact momentum at the same time. I won't go into further detail here; that's a topic for the Science or Mathematics fora.

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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby tendays » Sat May 29, 2010 10:04 am UTC

Uncertainty principle talks about what can be known by observers inside the system. The "creator" in the experiment of the OP would surely be able to know the amplitude distribution (is that the right word?) of the system's state (he still wouldn't know the exact position or speed of particles in the system because those aren't determined, he'd know their distribution in the state space, however). In that experiment, locality is violated (as the creator has global knowledge of the entire system) but the system is by construction deterministic in the "replay" phase.

(Sort of ninja'd - what I called amplitude distribution was what PM 2Ring called wave function)
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby Dark Avorian » Sat May 29, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

Well...forgive me if I'm a complete and utter nincompoop, but i was under the impression that heisenberg merely works because any method of observation influences the system. But since this god is omniscient is it so hard to think that maybe he JUST KNOWS? Is it possible that a creator could just know the position and velocity of a particle?
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Re: A little philosophical argument.

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 29, 2010 4:52 pm UTC

Dark Avorian wrote:i was under the impression that heisenberg merely works because any method of observation influences the system.
Nope, it's a lot more fundamental than that.
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