Register to reply

Determinism and Free will

by Functor97
Tags: determinism, free
Share this thread:
ThomasT
#19
Jan29-12, 04:24 AM
P: 1,414
Free will, as I think it's usually used, refers to our volitional behavior -- an observation, not an assumption or, necessarily, an illusion. Taken in that sense, free will is compatible with the assumption that our universe is evolving deterministically in accordance with fundamental dynamical laws. So, if free will is taken to refer to our volitional behavior, then there's no problem.

But if free will is taken to mean that we could have done otherwise, then, wrt that connotation, free will refers to an assumption that implies nondeterminism ... and sets up an, imo, unsolvable problem. That is, we're then back to pondering the apparently unanswerable question of whether our universe is evolving deterministically or not (though, imo, determinism is the more reasonable assumption).
Helicobacter
#20
Jan29-12, 04:32 AM
P: 159
i always found it facinating how deep feelings are encoded and how the "i am" irreducible (at least in the psychological sense) consciousness part is encoded in matter...its pretty amazing
Pythagorean
#21
Jan29-12, 04:43 AM
PF Gold
Pythagorean's Avatar
P: 4,287
Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
Except there was nothing in TGlad's post to suggest he did not get the basic claim.

Whereas you seem to say that determinism is an issue to do with "external" cause and effect, when the conventional view is that the difficulty lies with the workings of the brain/mind. And then you equate the stochastic to some kind of total lack of controllability, when most would think that probability is a measure of what actually is predictable.
Not surprisingly, you're putting words in my post that aren't there in effort to stir up controversy that is equally vacant.

External/internal can be taken as one system.
chiro
#22
Jan29-12, 04:50 AM
P: 4,573
Also probability can sometimes help define a system in very specific ways.

Anything that minimizes entropy is a good thing. In a completely deterministic system, you would be able to get an exhaustable number of conditional entropies that had a zero value.

Even if you can't get the above, if you ended up getting a process that had significantly lower entropy than a maximum value, that still gives a lot better constraints for that process than you would get if you just assumed "anything can happen".
Pythagorean
#23
Jan29-12, 04:56 AM
PF Gold
Pythagorean's Avatar
P: 4,287
While were at it, let's destroy the fallacy that taking a probability implies a nondeterministic system. I use probability measures on my deterministic models regularly.
chiro
#24
Jan29-12, 05:02 AM
P: 4,573
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
While were at it, let's destroy the fallacy that taking a probability implies a nondeterministic system. I use probability measures on my deterministic models regularly.
Haha I don't know if people would go that far ;)

The thing is that our pattern matching ability, even with computers is pretty bad. Computers with the right algorithms and the right horsepower can do wonders, but the sad truth is that we are geared to make sense of the world and unfortunately we are not that good at being 'random' ourselves.

Its hard enough for us to see simple deterministic processes like linear recurrence relations let alone something resembling a stock price, natural scientific system or something similar.
ThomasT
#25
Jan29-12, 05:30 AM
P: 1,414
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
While were at it, let's destroy the fallacy that taking a probability implies a nondeterministic system.
I agree. Probabilistic and random experimental results, accidents, chance, etc. are all compatible with the assumption of determinism.
ThomasT
#26
Jan29-12, 05:34 AM
P: 1,414
It should be clear that wrt the view expressed in post #19 that free will can't be said to be an illusion. That is, free will either refers to observations about choice making behavior which are compatible with determinism, or free will refers to an assumption that implies nondeterminism (which is effectively the same as assuming nondeterminism).
apeiron
#27
Jan29-12, 05:47 AM
PF Gold
apeiron's Avatar
P: 2,432
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Free will would evade cause and effect, undermining strong determinism. If an organism can act independent of how it's acted upon, it's evading cause and effect.
The way you write makes it sound as though you think it is the actions of the world upon the organism, rather than the actions that constitute the organism, which are what people are worried about. Or are you perhaps making some dualistic argument where the question is whether the mind can somehow evade even the causality of its own brain activity?

Either way, neither of these would be standard ways of framing the "paradox" of Newtonian mechanical determinism.

Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
In a completely stochastic universe, there's no cause and effect, so free will would be useless; you wouldn't be able to make anything happen, things just happen by chance, not because you caused them to happen by will (it would only appear that way).
Again, your meaning is murky here. If it appears that you are in fact making things happen (such as choosing to move off at a green light, or perhaps instead run a red), then are you really claiming that a standard position in freewill arguments is that this is some kind of elaborate stochastic illusion, a trick the universe is playing on you?

Randomness is more usually invoked in the sense of neural noise or other tiny uncontrolled forces that may have biased some decision that you thought "you" were making. An element of chance deep down in the works would be enough to evade strict mechanical determinism.
Pythagorean
#28
Jan29-12, 01:04 PM
PF Gold
Pythagorean's Avatar
P: 4,287
Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
The way you write makes it sound as though you think it is the actions of the world upon the organism, rather than the actions that constitute the organism, which are what people are worried about. Or are you perhaps making some dualistic argument where the question is whether the mind can somehow evade even the causality of its own brain activity?

Either way, neither of these would be standard ways of framing the "paradox" of Newtonian mechanical determinism.
I am talking about modeling the universe as one N-dimensional super-particle. Every Newtonian particle (whether it's part of what constitutes an organism or not) would have a determined path given by the initial conditions at the beginning of the macroscopic universe.

This is where Laplace's demon arises.

Again, your meaning is murky here. If it appears that you are in fact making things happen (such as choosing to move off at a green light, or perhaps instead run a red), then are you really claiming that a standard position in freewill arguments is that this is some kind of elaborate stochastic illusion, a trick the universe is playing on you?

Randomness is more usually invoked in the sense of neural noise or other tiny uncontrolled forces that may have biased some decision that you thought "you" were making. An element of chance deep down in the works would be enough to evade strict mechanical determinism.
Neural noise is not really random at all though in the non-determinism sense. If you drop a handful of tictacs, they're going to fall different every time and you can add a noise term to model this. What's really happening, of course, is chaos: different initial conditions every time and a high-sensitivity to those differences (even though the eye/hand can't detect the difference in initial conditions).

I was talking about a purely stochastic universe, of course. So if you have a grid of squared and each square has a 50/50 chance to be black or white, you'll usually see noise; but if you wait long enough, patterns and shapes will eventually appear and you can make laws to describe the patterns for a short time. Human existence could simply be a short time in a stochastic universe where patterns just seem to line up.

Of course, these are two ideals generated by the human mind to make sense of the universe and probably neither are true (but they aren't proven wrong, of course) but if you begin to mix them just a little bit, things become too complicated to sum up in a single internet thread. Several whole branches of science have to develop and communicate with each other over a long period of time to even begin to establish a framework in which to test such questions. Whole libraries stacked with volumes of information go into explaining any mixture of these two extremes.

That is the nature of complexity: events can be unpredictable independent of whether they are deterministic or not.
Johninch
#29
Feb23-12, 11:13 AM
P: 96
Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
Incompatibilism states that Free Will and Determinism cannot co-exist, and i agree with this stance.
May I as a beginner in philosophy offer my first thoughts?

Our earthly environment is one of a range of possible outcomes in the universe and I assume that it is unique. The same applies to my personal inheritance. Within these constraints and recognising the application of chaos theory, I exercise my free will. The environment and other people push me in certain directions, so I have to weigh up the consequences when I exercise my free will. I often say, I have to do this or that, but it's not true, particularly when taking risks. I can take this risk or that risk.

If the dog had not run across the road at that moment, I would not now be choosing a new car. That I replace my ruined car in these circumstances is only partly predetermined, as it is influenced by my previous choices of life style etc. I have preferences regarding the model, year, price, etc. but when I go searching on the internet, I can only find what happens to be on offer and I may not get that car because someone else has already bought it, etc. So I am free to exercise my will, but I can't determine the result. That's the same deal for the whole universe and every life form. The result is predermination within certain ranges, but within those ranges there is uncertainty.

My conclusion is that both determinism and free will are present in uncertain and variable proportions. It's not one or the other. Furthermore I would like to point out that our free will is exclusively future orientated. We try to live in the present, but all of our choices refer to future imagined scenarios, which do not actually exist.
.
.
ThomasT
#30
Feb29-12, 04:28 AM
P: 1,414
Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
As of late i have been musing upon the nature of free will. However i disagree with the standard interpretation of the link between Determinism and free will. Incompatibilism states that Free Will and Determinism cannot co-exist, and i agree with this stance.
Free will, in one sense, means that, given a certain decision/action wrt certain conditions, you could have chosen/done other that what you chose/did. Free will in that sense is clearly incompatible with the assumption of determinsim. In another sense, free will refers to the fact that your decisions/actions affect the course of events -- no more, no less. Free will in that sense is compatible with determinism.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
Where i disagree is with the empirical nature of our reality ...
That's a somewhat curious statement, given the definition of the word 'empirical'.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
Quantum mechanics has demonstrated that our universe is (at least at the quantum scale in-deterministic).
That's incorrect.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
In the standard Copenhagen interpretation we must assign probabilities to certain events, and we can never discount a certain event from occurring (such as an electron existing out at Pluto). Now this clearly demolishes the deterministic frame work ...
Or, it's evidence of our ignorance. Take your pick.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
... but what does it say about free will?
Nothing, as far as I can tell.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
... the observer can only calculate the probability of certain actions occurring thereby negating determinism.
This doesn't negate the assumption of determinism. It merely supports the assumption of our relative ignorance wrt the deep reality of things. At least that's one way of looking at it.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
... is it not chance which decides the outcome of the event?
Chance doesn't determine anything. Chance is a word that refers to our inability to make precise predictions.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
The mind cannot be certain of that any action it undertakes will cause a particular event, and thus despite its will, it may not reach the desired result. Is this not a contradiction to the very definition of free will?
If your state of mind is a contributing factor wrt subsequent actions, then no.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
On the other hand, if you subscribe to Everett's Many worlds interpretation (this world is the world in which x occurs and not x'), is not determinism left intact, and thus our free will negated?
Everett's relative state interpretation of quantum theory has nothing to do with free will. Anyway, this interpretation is, afaik, largely disregarded.

Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
I am inclined to agree with Arthur Schopenhauer's belief that free will is an illusion, but i am not totally convinced.
Assuming a certain definition of free will, the one that's compatible with determinism, it's not an illusion, ie., it has subjective referents which are compatible with observed, objective referents. Eg., you made a decision to act in a certain way, and you acted in that way.

Assuming a certain other definition of free will, the one that says you could have chosen/acted differently than you did, then this is an unanswerable question. However, there's no particular reason to assume that you could have chosen/acted other that you did, and it amounts to assuming that the world is evolving indeterministically. And the problem with that assumption is that observations strongly suggest that the world is evolving deterministically.
Johninch
#31
Mar1-12, 04:00 PM
P: 96
Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
However, there's no particular reason to assume that you could have chosen/acted other that you did, and it amounts to assuming that the world is evolving indeterministically. And the problem with that assumption is that observations strongly suggest that the world is evolving deterministically.
There's certainly a reason why I stepped to the left or to the right in order to avoid a puddle, but the chain of events leading to my approaching the puddle at all is extremely complex, is it not? Are you saying that it is predetermined that I stepped to the left at that particular time to avoid that particular puddle? That's ridiculous.

If you would say that it's ridiculous to talk about avoiding puddles, I would mention that some people live on land which is mined.

I agree with your statement "observations strongly suggest that the world is evolving deterministically", but that fact has little influence on most things a person does. We are talking about individual free will, are we not? I would argue that the sum of all individual actions results in the evolution of the world's population, but there is no evidence that every individual action is predetermined. Neither is it necessary.

If it were necessary, we would all have to be preprogrammed like robots and we would have to be living in a computer simulation, in order to make sure that the plan is carried out.
.
Quiksilver421
#32
Mar22-12, 05:02 AM
P: 3
I believe in Free Will.

Yes the previous outcomes of situations have determined the situations you can be or will be presented, but we make our decisions in the now based on what happened in our past (pleasure driven choices included |Gambling, Drugs, Relaxing, Buying a 42" TV instead of a 32" | ).

ex; I thought my families induction stove-top looked cool when it was on high as a young boy, so I touched it and burned my fingers. ---> I will never touch a glowing red metal object again.

If you look at Free Will from the future, then the outcome was meant to be, and nothing else can replaced that choice(since it now is "set in stone").

I'm not sure if analyzing Free Will from the future(the then present now) or the now(the now now) is correct. The "now" perspective has different parameters than the "future" perspective.
eloheim
#33
Mar23-12, 07:53 AM
P: 65
Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
This is where i disagree with the standard interpretation made by the likes of Kaku ... who claim that this demonstrates we have free will.
I'm with you there. Sure you can construe the above as "free will," but by that definition, EVERYTHING has free will, from stars, to stones, to individual particles.
Quote Quote by Functor97 View Post
Compatibalists such as Dennett (see Elbow Room) disagree with my stance, but i believe they are confusing uncertainty from the perspective of an observer and ignoring the uncertainty of the "mind". I cannot find a modern philosopher who agrees with my stance, and this somewhat disturbs me, as i may be missing something crucial.
Once again we think alike. I've read Elbow Room as well, and I think what Dennett is saving is not really the free will we intuitively believe in. To me true "free will" has no father, if you will. Dennett does a good job of showing how complex and subtle and responsive the mechanisms underlying human behavior are, but I think the average man-on-the-street feels something different when they say, "I did that."
Quote Quote by conquest View Post
In my view it doesn't pay to use these concepts in talking about free will. The description of a concept like an electron just doesn't have anything to do with free will.
How does it not apply when all you are is a bunch of electrons (etc.)?

Quote Quote by TGlad View Post
The argument that free will doesn't exist because the underlying laws are deterministic or stochastic is about as sophisticated as claiming chocolate doesn't exist because there are no chocolate atoms, or that happiness doesn't exist because it can't be seen in the laws of physics.
Again with the above. To me chocolate is nothing like free will; it's just a description, whereas free will implies a cause and effect relationship. It's a very mechanical concept; to be "free," it must not (merely) result from a sequence of previous events, which could be described by standard physical laws. To me your objection to looking at, e.g., individual particles, would suggest a 'special place' in the universe for certain collections/systems of particles (i.e. humans). How do the same laws of nature not apply to both the atoms in your body and those outside?
skeptic2
#34
Mar24-12, 10:01 AM
P: 1,814
Let's define a meaningful decision as an action or decision that benefits the organism that makes it. Thus evolutionary survival of the fittest is not a meaningful action but an organism who chooses the best mate among the suitors does make a meaningful decision. Likewise a driver who is obeying traffic laws as he is driving along the highway is making meaningful decisions but he moment he falls asleep at the wheel he stops making meaningful decisions.

If we accept that there exist meaningful decisions, then we have to decide whether the meaning of those decisions was encoded somehow into primordial chaos that existed at the big bang and which has simply played out by pure determinism since then or whether it occurs by free will. The former is very similar to the concept of deism.

Frankly I have no idea how free will could occur but the alternative, that of all our technology, laws and arts existed in some sense at the big bang, is far more difficult to accept.
Quiksilver421
#35
Mar24-12, 02:47 PM
P: 3
Quote Quote by skeptic2 View Post
Let's define a meaningful decision as an action or decision that benefits the organism that makes it. Thus evolutionary survival of the fittest is not a meaningful action but an organism who chooses the best mate among the suitors does make a meaningful decision. Likewise a driver who is obeying traffic laws as he is driving along the highway is making meaningful decisions but he moment he falls asleep at the wheel he stops making meaningful decisions.

If we accept that there exist meaningful decisions, then we have to decide whether the meaning of those decisions was encoded somehow into primordial chaos that existed at the big bang and which has simply played out by pure determinism since then or whether it occurs by free will. The former is very similar to the concept of deism.

Frankly I have no idea how free will could occur but the alternative, that of all our technology, laws and arts existed in some sense at the big bang, is far more difficult to accept.
If you think about it, freewill is only freewill when thinking about it in the present. After the fact it seems more predeterminedishy.

Only after computers are powerful to map out every single particle of mass, predict their past and future paths (just by their current location and trajectory) we will have our answer.

Some believe that when such a computer becomes reality the old saying "if these walls could speak" will become a fact. Ancient Astronaut Theorist believe (LOL JK). The impressions left by matter on your walls could tell what happened.

I think the amount of variables in this problem (freewill or no freewill) is so astronomical that it would be impossible to name one outcome as being fact, (dust=sneeze, sneeze=Atom a shift in x'y'z direction, Atom a= interact w/TV sound-wave, interact=collision, etc....). Instead we will be given a number of "possible outcomes". The whole consciousness thing really throws a fork in the road of time.

It might just be variable specific, with us logging negative variables (smokes, speeds a lot, hates seat belts, eats McD's 3/5 of the time) and positive variables (brushes teeth, wears sunscreen, eats healthy)
Like- If 'condition' == smokes cigs(a -2 value on life) then
'condition'== 68 years of life
But each profile would have to have extensive lifestyle/trait data on the subject. You'd have to chip us all to keep the data current.

A kid walking in the library and deciding to pick up a Anatomy book, only to cure cancer forty years later is just too unpredictable. Consciousness is a "female dog".

Freewill or not, I'm going to go play some Xbox!
skeptic2
#36
Mar24-12, 06:06 PM
P: 1,814
Welcome to Physics Forums even though you haven't officially arrived yet because you still have zero posts.

Think of all the program variations that are possible in writing a game versus the number that would result in a game that will actually run. Now think of the probability that all the instructions for your next game were encoded in the chaos 13.7 billion years ago and that the universe has been unfolding deterministically like a computer program all these billions of years, resulting only now in your producing a computer game.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
Does QM end Free Will/ Determinism debate ? Quantum Physics 5
Free Will vs. Determinism General Discussion 14
Free will & the soul, Or the brain, determinism/probabilism & the free will illusion General Discussion 14
Determinism vs. Free will General Discussion 51