Determinism Question - possibility of scientific explanations for human behaviour


by Ken Natton
Tags: behaviour, determinism, explanations, human, possibility, scientific
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#37
Aug21-11, 10:49 AM
P: 256
What is the will?

This coming down to he mind body distinction again. But, even if we were to say that the mind is the brain, then that wouldn't explain everything that goes on in the brain.
mathal
mathal is offline
#38
Aug21-11, 01:03 PM
P: 71
Quote Quote by disregardthat View Post
I'm sorry, I deleted the post before I was about to edit it.

Answering your post: A probability is a degree of confidence, but a possibility is an event that could happen. Why is it wrong to say that I could lift my arms in the air? Is this not a possibility even if I choose not to? See that whether my actions are predetermined or not does not come into question. It is a psychological thing.

Again, why is physical causality a constrain on the will? What does it constrain?
First, I would say that if one takes a purely deterministic point of view, the train of thought of a mind is just as determined as any other 'physical' thing. You strongly imply that thought is purely thought, as you put it a psychological thing.
There was an interresting series on BBC a few years ago on conciousness. I just dug up the dvd copy of the vcr I made of the one show I caught, which dates the show to more than 10 years ago.
In it Professor Susan Greenfield, hosting the show was hooked up with a 'cap' of measuring electrical activity in her brain. All she was required to do was make a decision and then follow through with this decision. In this case it was trying to randomly pick one of two keys on the keyboard and then decide the moment to actually press the keyboard. The 'moment' that she pressed the key was over 2 seconds after brain activity indicated preparation for muscular movement. Her 'decision' of when to press the key had already taken place. Dr. Patrick Haggard, University College, London conducted experiments of this type.
In another portion split brain subjects,-radical treatment for epilepsy, saw two different words- one by each eye. Only one set of words was 'seen' but when the subjects were asked to draw a picture of the word they invariably drew a picture that meshed the meaning of both words -for example "glass" was 'seen' but "hour" was 'not seen' but they drew an hourglass. When asked to explain why they drew the hourglass, they made no reference to it 'probably' being conected to the 'unseen' word, instead they explained that they remembered talking recently about time and their watch and the hourglass idea just 'came to mind'. Prof. Michel Gazzaniga, Dartmouth College New Hampshire, conducted these type of experiments.
Conciousness is predominantly just a story teller, making our world-view remain 'consistent' and manageable.
Concious control of actions inevitably get's in the way of any type of performance,be it an athlete, musician for example. The vast majority of our day to day life is predominantly unconcious.
Conciousness is directly asociated with the verbal side of the brain (the left hemisphere). This conversation could be said to involve concious behavior. In the end though, what makes any conversation 'interesting' for each individual are the ideas that 'come to mind'.
mathal
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is online now
#39
Aug21-11, 01:35 PM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by mathal View Post
In it Professor Susan Greenfield, hosting the show was hooked up with a 'cap' of measuring electrical activity in her brain. All she was required to do was make a decision and then follow through with this decision. In this case it was trying to randomly pick one of two keys on the keyboard and then decide the moment to actually press the keyboard. The 'moment' that she pressed the key was over 2 seconds after brain activity indicated preparation for muscular movement. Her 'decision' of when to press the key had already taken place. Dr. Patrick Haggard, University College, London conducted experiments of this type.
This is called the Libert's delay and is an interesting example of epiphenomenalism.
disregardthat
disregardthat is online now
#40
Aug21-11, 04:44 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,687
Yes, I am familiar with the type of experiments which makes the observer capable of predicting behavior before the subject is aware of his choices. But in what sense is this capability of predicting the choice a constraint on the will of the subject? Why do we dismiss it as free? As I see it, the problem is the idea that the will is affected by physical causes. What is affected?

I do insist on that the idea of the will as free is problematic, but not because it is contradicted by physical causality.

The main points are these:
Can we imagine the will as free? Can we give an example of a free willed action? If not, what are we arguing against, and why does determinism matter?
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#41
Aug22-11, 01:40 AM
P: 256
Quote Quote by disregardthat View Post
Can we imagine the will as free? Can we give an example of a free willed action? If not, what are we arguing against, and why does determinism matter?
I don't understand the questions. We act as if we have a free will. Why not assume that it is.
disregardthat
disregardthat is online now
#42
Aug22-11, 02:25 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,687
Quote Quote by Willowz View Post
I don't understand the questions. We act as if we have a free will. Why not assume that it is.
If you believe

1) The mechanisms of the brain is the entire cause of behavior in human beings

and critically

2) This makes free will impossible

then the questions are perfectly valid.

If not, please explain why our will is free (I agree).
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#43
Aug22-11, 10:00 AM
P: 256
Quote Quote by disregardthat View Post
1) The mechanisms of the brain is the entire cause of behavior in human beings

and critically

2) This makes free will impossible

then the questions are perfectly valid.

If not, please explain why our will is free (I agree).
That's a dishonest conclusion. Nobody yet knows the entire mechanisms of the brain. The conclusion is unwarranted.
disregardthat
disregardthat is online now
#44
Aug22-11, 10:40 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,687
Quote Quote by Willowz View Post
That's a dishonest conclusion. Nobody yet knows the entire mechanisms of the brain. The conclusion is unwarranted.
This is not the place to throw out the "we can't know for certain" cliché. We know enough to conclude that it is indeed the mechanisms of the brain that causes all muscular movement for example.
Pythagorean
Pythagorean is online now
#45
Aug23-11, 11:11 AM
PF Gold
Pythagorean's Avatar
P: 4,187
We don't need to know the "entire mehanism" of the brain, we just need to know that every mechanism so far (memory, perception, prediction) has followed the same rational course that every other scientific study has. Big surprise.
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#46
Aug23-11, 05:54 PM
P: 256
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
We don't need to know the "entire mehanism" of the brain, we just need to know that every mechanism so far (memory, perception, prediction) has followed the same rational course that every other scientific study has. Big surprise.
I don't mean to be abrasive, but what do you mean by "rational course", that almost sounds like some scientific dogmatism.
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is online now
#47
Aug24-11, 04:03 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by Willowz View Post
I don't mean to be abrasive, but what do you mean by "rational course", that almost sounds like some scientific dogmatism.
Er...what? Why do you think that rational investigation is dogma
disregardthat
disregardthat is online now
#48
Aug24-11, 06:08 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,687
Let's discuss determinism. And I'd first like an answer for proponents of determinism: What does it mean that something is determined? If an event A happens, why was A determined?
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is online now
#49
Aug24-11, 07:03 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by disregardthat View Post
Let's discuss determinism. And I'd first like an answer for proponents of determinism: What does it mean that something is determined? If an event A happens, why was A determined?
Because of causality. The determinist principle is that cause and effect are absolute. Therefore everything that happens is contingent on the past, in other words every atom of your and your environment's existence is governed by physical laws through time. Considering this the determinist would argue that we have no "free will" because there is no such thing as choice. Instead everything that happens is inevitable. So for a determinist the idea of "choice" is moot.

Compatibilism takes a different stance by saying that even in a deterministic universe free will is still possible. This is because whilst our choices may be inevitable we still make them and we still have the concept of choice. In other words we have the free will to make choices even if the choices we make are ultimately determined.

At the other end of the spectrum is metaphysical libertarianism. There's many schools of thought here but ultimately the argument is that there is something about an intelligent agent that is not subject to the same rules as the everything else. Many metaphysical libertarian idea's stem from the idea that there is something more than the physical world and that having a mind means that human beings are exempt from cause and effect when it comes to free will. Obviously this view is the one most favoured by religionists.
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#50
Aug24-11, 10:00 AM
P: 256
Quote Quote by ryan_m_b View Post
Er...what? Why do you think that rational investigation is dogma
That's not what I meant. But, let me clarify.


Scientists have operated on the principle of sufficient reason as a sort of pragmatic "code of conduct" (no mysticism). I think, people interested in science happen to believe in this blindly (science as some sort of religion). But, the people who actually do science nowadays would know better.

Quote Quote by Leibniz's view
For every entity x, if x exists, then there is a sufficient explanation why x exists.
For every event e, if e occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation why e occurs.
For every proposition p, if p is true, then there is a sufficient explanation why p is true.
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#51
Aug24-11, 10:11 AM
P: 256
Let me go off the deep end here.

Say the mind operated on the quantum level in some respect. So, if quantum mechanics is not deterministic, then so isn't the mind and the resulting will. But, this is just speculation which I suspect won't be taken seriously.
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is online now
#52
Aug24-11, 10:27 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by Willowz View Post
Let me go off the deep end here.

Say the mind operated on the quantum level in some respect. So, if quantum mechanics is not deterministic, then so isn't the mind and the resulting will. But, this is just speculation which I don't suspect to be taken seriously.
Taking into account quantum aspects then determinism changes from strictly deterministic to probabilistic. Either way it doesn't get around the fact that "will" is the result of uncontrolled cause.
Willowz
Willowz is offline
#53
Aug24-11, 10:58 AM
P: 256
Quote Quote by ryan_m_b View Post
Taking into account quantum aspects then determinism changes from strictly deterministic to probabilistic. Either way it doesn't get around the fact that "will" is the result of uncontrolled cause.
The mere existence of a possibility that can be acted upon, gives rise to a free will.
disregardthat
disregardthat is online now
#54
Aug24-11, 11:08 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,687
Quote Quote by ryan_m_b View Post
Because of causality. The determinist principle is that cause and effect are absolute. Therefore everything that happens is contingent on the past, in other words every atom of your and your environment's existence is governed by physical laws through time.
This is the answer I had hoped for.

I believe there is a grave mistake in this type of view.

Causality is the relationship between physical events. But what are such relationships? This can only be answered by referring to physical models. But models are descriptions, with built-in rules for inference. (e.g. Newtons laws of mechanics) The inferences are logical. Thus causality is simply a logical connection between descriptions of events, but has no fundamental connection to the physical world (other than that it is what that is described).

Models need not be mathematical models; the physical models we are familiar with. They can be simple (even primitive) forms of expressing relationships between events.

Just as the only necessity that exists is logical necessity, so too the only impossibility that exists is logical impossibility.
- Wittgenstein

You mention as an explanation (or example) of causality as the interaction between atoms. This is certainly correct, but in the proper manner of in the context of the models we have for atoms. I don't propose that we "just haven't got deep enough in the physics", nor that "causality is found at the "deepest" level of natural laws".

However, it seems to be very clear that what happens is inevitable. But this does not depend on causality. Rather, what is the meaning of the word inevitable? When do we use it, and why? If an event has happened, of course it is inevitable. This is actually a tautology. But can we ever say that an event is inevitable if it has not happened? Not by far. (We can predict the future to a certain degree, but the predictions are interpretations of the logical implications within a model for the phenomena we are describing, not carrying any fundamental connection with the actual physical phenomena).

The use of the word inevitable is misplaced in this context. "Everything that happened was inevitable" is meaningless (unless it is used in the fashion that we expected it to happen with great certainty, which is not what is meant by inevitability here). It is a linguistic error, it seems obvious since it always is obvious whenever used correctly. But a subtle change in the logical place of the word (unnoticably) lead us into believing it with absolute certainty.

Don't interpret this as me saying that everything is random (or worse: stochastic). I'm saying that determinism as a stance is an error of language, not of ontology (and that it is meaningless as an ontological fact).

The only reasonable use of the word deterministic as I can see is "a deterministic model".


Register to reply

Related Discussions
Question regarding determinism Special & General Relativity 6
Human Behaviour & L.O.Thermodynamics General Discussion 0
Use of non-human animals in scientific studies General Discussion 5
the cosmos and human behaviour General Physics 2