Determinism and the epistemology of boundary

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I am disappointed. This take on determinism comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia:
"Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law. The italicized phrases are elements that require further explanation and investigation, in order for us to gain a clear understanding of the concept of determinism."

PREAMBLE
With or without Stanford's proposed examination of the "italicized phrases", this standard account, and others, won't do. The phrase we need to look at is, in fact, "things". I am disappointed. The article goes on to describe how determinism gets its force from Liebniz'z principle of sufficient reason- that everything has a reason, or "something else has got to do with it". But this isn't the root of determinism.

DISCUSSION
To begin, the problem with any academic account of determinism can be illustrated in this, literary, way:

A
There is no effort in the universe. Causality is itself the principle of effortlessness. Things crash, fall, or get squeezed, effortlessly, right down to creation and the end of all things. We make no effort and encounter no effort. The world is not determined.
B
There is always effort in the universe. Causality is itself the laws of determination. Objects crash, fall, or get squeezed, determinately, right down to creation and the end of all things. We make effort and encounter effort everywhere. The world is determined.

A and B are antinomies: A and B describe the same world. There must be something seriously amiss with the academic treatment of determinism; although, it looks as though the centuries-old "problem" arises through a preference for B, a poetic/literary preference at best.

We can undertake a project to resolve this antimony that overarches the standard discussion. The key is the term "thing". What makes a thing is a boundary, and it is the boundary that sets up the idea of control and limit. Now, determinism is associated with control and limit, yet clearly this association fails in A.

I will end here, for now. What will be needed is a further examination of "thing" and "boundary", for which we might appeal to Wittgenstein's notion of "the totality of facts" (Tractatus 1. ..). Can we consider ourselves a boundary among others and so lay claim to a Wittgensteinian illegitimate "totality of facts"? The answer might bear upon "determinacy" in a way that the standard debate does not.
 
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  • #2
apeiron
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We can undertake a project to resolve this antimony that overarches the standard discussion. The key is the term "thing". What makes a thing is a boundary, and it is the boundary that sets up the idea of control and limit. Now, determinism is associated with control and limit, yet clearly this association fails in A.

I will end here, for now. What will be needed is a further examination of "thing" and "boundary", for which we might appeal to Wittgenstein's notion of "the totality of facts" (Tractatus 1. ..). Can we consider ourselves a boundary among others and so lay claim to a Wittgensteinian illegitimate "totality of facts"? The answer might bear upon "determinacy" in a way that the standard debate does not.

When Stanford says "things", it means a local state of things. The initial conditions. And the future course of things, the dynamics of the state, is determined by global physical laws. Which I would happily agree are in fact boundary conditions. In some sense, the totality of the facts of a system.

As to your claimed antimony of effort and effortless, it seems clear that this is just the difference between inertia and acceleration in Newtonian mechanics. Newtonianism says that inertial dynamics is effortless (the effort has already happened). And it is deterministic (it would require some further effort to change the freely unfolding course of events).

Yes, Newtonism is too simple a view of reality. It does not deal with indeteminancy or creative spontaneity (which we have good reason to believe to be fundamental due to quantum mechanics). And it certainly does not deal with the nature of physical law. It says nothing about how laws exert their (globally constraining) effects. So determinism is deeply flawed.

But the issue does not appear to be an antimony of the effortful and effortless for Newtonian determinism incorporates both. This is the reason for its success as a model of reality. It sharply distinguishes between inertia and acceleration. So it reduces reality to a tale of discrete or local effective causality. You just have local states of things mapping to local states of things according to unplaced laws that are somehow determining things to operate this way.
 
  • #3
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John Jones said:
With or without Stanford's proposed examination of the "italicized phrases", this standard account, and others, won't do.
It "won't do" if you don't agree with it. Why don't you agree with it?

And what do you mean by "no effort" and "There is always effort"?
 
  • #4
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It "won't do" if you don't agree with it. Why don't you agree with it?

And what do you mean by "no effort" and "There is always effort"?


The problem with any academic account of determinism can be illustrated in this, literary, way:

A
There is no effort (that state of affairs needed to accomplish, make, achieve, reach, encounter etc) in the universe. Causality is itself the principle of effortlessness. Things crash, fall, or get squeezed, effortlessly, right down to creation and the end of all things. We make no effort and encounter no effort. The world is not determined.
B
There is always effort in the universe. Causality is itself the laws of determination. Objects crash, fall, or get squeezed, determinately, right down to creation and the end of all things. We make effort and encounter effort everywhere. The world is determined.

A and B are antinomies: A and B describe the same world. There must be something seriously amiss with the academic treatment of determinism; although, it looks as though the centuries-old "problem" arises through a preference for B, a poetic/literary preference at best.

We can undertake a project to resolve this antimony that overarches the standard discussion. The key is the term "thing". What makes a thing is a boundary, and it is the boundary that sets up the idea of control and limit. Now, determinism is associated with control and limit, yet clearly this association fails in A.
 
  • #5
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But claiming that there is effort or no effort already requires a presupposition. I'm wondering what it may be.
 
  • #6
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When Stanford says "things", it means a local state of things. The initial conditions. And the future course of things, the dynamics of the state, is determined by global physical laws. Which I would happily agree are in fact boundary conditions. In some sense, the totality of the facts of a system.

As to your claimed antimony of effort and effortless, it seems clear that this is just the difference between inertia and acceleration in Newtonian mechanics. Newtonianism says that inertial dynamics is effortless (the effort has already happened). And it is deterministic (it would require some further effort to change the freely unfolding course of events).

Yes, Newtonism is too simple a view of reality. It does not deal with indeteminancy or creative spontaneity (which we have good reason to believe to be fundamental due to quantum mechanics). And it certainly does not deal with the nature of physical law. It says nothing about how laws exert their (globally constraining) effects. So determinism is deeply flawed.

But the issue does not appear to be an antimony of the effortful and effortless for Newtonian determinism incorporates both. This is the reason for its success as a model of reality. It sharply distinguishes between inertia and acceleration. So it reduces reality to a tale of discrete or local effective causality. You just have local states of things mapping to local states of things according to unplaced laws that are somehow determining things to operate this way.

Effort and effortlessness may of course default to intertia and acceleration. But that's by the way.

The point is that determinism operates as a physicalist presumption. And on the physics of it, A and B still apply. But you will have to read my post slowly, because I think that I covered some of your points. I talked about laws, for example.
 
  • #7
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But claiming that there is effort or no effort already requires a presupposition. I'm wondering what it may be.

Yes, the presupposition rests on "boundary", and the boundary offers itself as a source of inevitability, viz a viz, cause.
 
  • #8
apeiron
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Effort and effortlessness may of course default to intertia and acceleration. But that's by the way.

The point is that determinism operates as a physicalist presumption. And on the physics of it, A and B still apply. But you will have to read my post slowly, because I think that I covered some of your points. I talked about laws, for example.

You've started off a few post now and each turns pretty fast into a word salad. So I'll await evidence you have any actual point to make about anything.

Again, reference to some specific philosophical or scientific context would help your case. You've been just pulling out general definitions or quotes from popularisations so far to justify your threads. And then when pressed for more serious sources, you are not delivering.
 
  • #9
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You've started off a few post now and each turns pretty fast into a word salad. So I'll await evidence you have any actual point to make about anything.

Again, reference to some specific philosophical or scientific context would help your case. You've been just pulling out general definitions or quotes from popularisations so far to justify your threads. And then when pressed for more serious sources, you are not delivering.

Here's the clarification you asked for. I said:

"The point is that determinism operates as a physicalist presumption. And on the physics of it, A and B still apply. But you will have to read my post slowly, because I think that I covered some of your points. I talked about laws, for example. "

In other words, determinism is a phsyicalist or materialist doctrine. Here is a definition (stanford) Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical.

I agreed with you in that I worked with your own interpretation and then you claimed that you did not know what was being talking about. You imposed a physicalist doctrine on what I said when you equated effort and effortlessness with inertia and acceleration. I cannot see how you were perplexed by your own interpretation.

Determinism - I was talking about determinism. Why don't you re-read my post? I used the Stanford encyclopedia. Do you want a more esoteric source? I thought you did not like word salad.

I gave a "literary" working of the thrust of determinism to show that causality could, and could not, be associatiated with determinism. I gave a reason for the antinomy. The antinomy fell on the use of the term "thing" in the definition given.

This, so far, is good procedure.

I then explored the possibility that the reason why causality is associated with determinism is because of the equivalence in our minds of a thing with a boundary. I used the term "effort" because this term implied the general form of boundary, in that an effort is made against a boundary of some sort.

Again with a reference, I suggested that the discussion could be expanded a la Wittgenstein to consider the fact that a boundary can be considered as a Wittgensteinian thing, subject to the Tractarian treatment of facts and things. In that respect can we speak of a totality of facts and not boundaries/things? ( if we cannot speak of a totality of boundaries/things, then how can we say that the world is determined.)

This was open to view. I suggest (Derridean) close reading might help. Here is a reference to that style of philosophy from Wiki:

The technique as practiced today was pioneered (at least in English) by I.A. Richards and his student William Empson, later developed further by the New Critics of the mid-twentieth century. It is now a fundamental method of modern criticism. Close reading is sometimes called explication de texte, which is the name for the similar tradition of textual interpretation in French literary study, a technique whose chief proponent was Gustave Lanson.
Precisely.

Also pertinent to that technique is the revelation of the privileged binary which, as indicated in my examples A and B, was a flaw in the determinist/non-determinist system. How much of this do you understand? Should I keep things simple? I do not want to invite complaint. Should I use more complex language and esoteric references? I do not want to invite complaint. If you have a happy middle ground, let me help you find it.
 
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  • #10
apeiron
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How much of this do you understand? Should I keep things simple? I do not want to invite complaint. Should I use more complex language and esoteric references? I do not want to invite complaint. If you have a happy middle ground, let me help you find it.

This is very funny stuff. So even more esoteric nonsense please.

Alternatively you could just discuss determinism and its connection to the principle of locality and a reductionist belief in the primacy of efficient cause. Or "things" versus more holistic views of causality.
 
  • #11
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This is very funny stuff. So even more esoteric nonsense please.

Alternatively you could just discuss determinism and its connection to the principle of locality and a reductionist belief in the primacy of efficient cause. Or "things" versus more holistic views of causality.

I could do all of that. You made it up though. The connection between determinism and the principle of locality is that the latter is the metaphysical source of the former. WE can do this without looking at the books.
 
  • #12
The concept of the boundary depends on your dimensional perspective. In a one-dimensional universe, the only sensible notion of the boundary involves zero-dimensional entities (points). But we can see that the first dimension can itself be the boundary of the second dimension. And on and on up the line. We can generalize as such: "logically speaking, the nth dimension is the boundary of the n+1th dimension."

When you speak of your problem with the principle of boundedness, you must realize that it is natural for any n-dimensional being to be skeptical of the n-1-dimensional boundaries that are merely the result of sensual discovery. That is, the apparent interface between subject (the interior) and object (the exterior).

In our language, we can theorize that our 3 dimensions exist as the boundary of a 4-dimensional space. We can thus say that there can be 3-dimensional geometry, and that what we think of as "empty space" is actually a continuum that may bend and flex and therefore give rise to, eg, gravity. The 4th dimension thus takes the place of the former "emptiness" that Newton made so famous in his worldview of corpuscular matter whizzing around in a pure void.

We are given to thinking along these lines because Faraday/Maxwell came along and filled the void with fields, and this was followed in relatively short order by the likes of Riemann, Poincaré, Hilbert, Minkowski, and most famously, by Einstein--all of whom opened our eyes to the possibilities inherent in higher order dimensions.

So I hope I can relieve you of some of your disappointment when I say that our seemingly simplistic notions of causal determinism are merely the result of hanging onto the Cartesian mathematical framework of linear algebra, and its "updating" with the Newtonian/Leibnizian calculus. That is, this framework is itself derived from the kind of one-dimensional universe outlined at the top of this post. One-dimensional universes are indeed wonderful when it comes to solving simplistic logical puzzles (eg, involving trajectories or orbits).

But we obviously live in a universe with more dimensions than that, with the unfortunate result being that the mathematics necessary to describe our universe is bound to be infinitely more complex. There's really no cause for despair, being that the mathematical apparati that must be constructed in order to give rise to models that can truly be called "physically significant" in terms of this 3D universe is so unimaginably complex (or maybe, that is the precise reason for despair ;). Just look at Grigori Perelman's recent proof of the Poincaré conjecture (and Thurston's geometrization conjecture) to see how overwhelming these lines of thought can get. And when you realize how truly far away even this kind of brilliance is from the most tenuous connection to our experienced universe...
 
  • #13
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I am disappointed. This take on determinism comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia:
"Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law. The italicized phrases are elements that require further explanation and investigation, in order for us to gain a clear understanding of the concept of determinism."

IMHO a much better, more accurate and more concise definition of determinism is:

The universe is governed by determinism if and only if the state of the universe at time t2 is nomologically necessitated by the state of the universe at time t1.
 
  • #14
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In other words, determinism is a phsyicalist or materialist doctrine. Here is a definition (stanford) Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical.
Interesting, but I beg to differ. Physicalism is silent on the truth or falsity of determinism. As far as I can see, an indeterministic world could be physicalist, and a deterministic world could be non-physicalist.

I then explored the possibility that the reason why causality is associated with determinism is because of the equivalence in our minds of a thing with a boundary. I used the term "effort" because this term implied the general form of boundary, in that an effort is made against a boundary of some sort.
We talk about causality involved in macroscopic events in everyday language when in fact the actual mechanisms at a microscopic (quantum) level may be indeterministic or probabilistic rather than deterministic. Indeterministic (probabilistic) quantum events can give rise to apparent macroscopic causality. In other words, one cannot safely infer determinism from macroscopic observations of apparent causality.
 

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