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Intelligence and Nomologicalism

  1. Sep 21, 2010 #1
    What is the significance of intelligence in a universe with deterministic laws?

    Your performance on any IQ test is not due to your possessing some property called "intelligence", but rather is an inevitable outcome of the universe's initial conditions and governing causal laws.

    The questions you are asked, the answers you give, the problems you are presented with, the solutions you develop - these were all implicit in the universe's first instant.

    You, and the rest of the universe, are essentially "on rails". The unfolding of events and your experience of them is dictated by the deterministic causal laws.

    Even if time flows (e.g. presentism), the causal structure of the universe is static...events can only transpire one way.

    So, what can be said of intelligence in such a universe? Well...only what the deterministic laws require you to say about it. What can be believed about intelligence in such a universe? Obviously only what the deterministic laws require you to believe.

    Solving a problem correctly is no more impressive or significant than rain falling "correctly". You answer the question in the only way the deterministic laws allow. The rain falls in the only way that the deterministic laws allow.

    The word "intelligence" doesn't refer to anything except the experiential requirements that the universe places on you as a consequence of its causal structure.


    What about the significance of intelligence in a universe with probabilistic laws?

    The only change from the deterministic case is that the course of events isn't precisely predictable, even in principle.

    However, the flow of events is still governed by the probabilistic causal laws. Which just means that to the extent that the flow of events isn't determined, it's random.

    Again, the analogy with poker comes to mind: the rules of poker are stable and unchanging, while the randomness of the shuffle adds an element of unpredictability as to which cards you are actually dealt. So, to the extent that poker isn't determined, it's random.

    The questions you're going to be asked and the problems you're going to be presented with in a probabilistic universe aren't predictable...but neither are your answers or your solutions, which result from the exact same underlying rule set. Again, to the extent that any of these things aren't determined, they're random.

    Adding a random component to an otherwise deterministic framework does increase the number of possible states that are reachable from a given initial condition, but it doesn't add anything qualitatively new to the content of those states or to the process as a whole. Nothing new is added to the deterministic case that would give the word "intelligence" anything extra to refer to.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2010 #2
    The universe isn't deterministic.

    Behaviorism and related perspectives is for those who wish to study humans but have no conscious understanding of what it is to be human.
  4. Sep 21, 2010 #3
    What is your justification for making this claim? There are several deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics, so surely that's not what you're basing your assertion on...is it?

    Though, it doesn't matter, as you may have noticed that I address probabilistic laws in the second half of the post.

    This post discusses the implications of nomologicalism, not behaviorism or related perspectives.
  5. Sep 21, 2010 #4


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    This argument has been made a 1000 times, a million times, and the answer remains the same.

    Random and determined are appropriate ways to model the causality of very simple systems perhaps - they make a good dichotomy in that context.

    But that model quite patently does not capture the causality of complex systems - ones like ourselves with the intelligence to appreciate that fact perhaps.

    So the smart thing to do is not get bogged down in a false dilemma born of classical mechanics and atomist philosophy but to seek the larger model which makes the proper distinctions between simple systems and complex ones. For example, Stewart and Cohen's rather cute dichotomy of simplexity~complicity.

    Bottom-up, using a mix of the determined and the random, you can only produce mechanical complication.

    But include top-down causality - the logic of constraints and self-organisation - and you can model complicity, the intelligent and functional way systems come to be complex and adaptive or autopioetic.
  6. Sep 21, 2010 #5
    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE DETERMINISTIC POLICE!!!!! Is it you who has posted thread of a similar ilk before? WHY ARE YOU SO COMMITTED TO DETERMINISM!? "BEcause blah blah blah implicit in science"..."NO ITS NOT!"...Maybe the MATHEMATICAL FRAMEWORK utilizes determinism. WHy strict determinism? Where does it come from? SOme absolute timeless platonic realm where everything is implicit in the previous thing? Find me strict causal determinism that says everything we do is implicit in the beginning of the universe. Is it in causality? What is causality? Haven't we expanded our notions of causality? Where does Science come from? DOesn't it start from experience? Where in experience does this notion arise? Maybe you're right there ARE deterministic versions of QM, but why are you so comitted to proving determinism? How do you act? Shouldnt your philosophy (surely it isnt science) match with your life? Not some academical chimera, that is buried so deep with "reality" that sure enough this "reality" finds itself nowhere...Epistemology man Epistemology, How do we know what we know? Where do we start in inquiry?...Now, from an epistemological reference point how are you SO CONVINCED that everything is 100% determined from the past? I"m ssorry, I'm biased, I have looked at these views, but the idea that a chaotic random hot mess of everything Space-time/matter could have something and contained within that random thing could be ABSOLUTLEY determined to from atoms and molecules and universes and galaxy's and life and humans and subjectivity is silly. If it is contained in those molecules, WHERE IS IT? WHere in the molecules is the informations pertaining to everything ever to be? NOt physically localizable? not in arrangement? then where? IN the framework? From a thermodynamic perspective and many others it seems so untenable.......
    just, come on think about Occam and his lovely razor.. You have a notion of probability saying that ALL PROBABILITY IS MERELY IGNORANCE and that there is an Uknown Unseeable order that though we can never know is the absolute metaphysical way of everything, whether evidence points in the possible contrary or not we were determined to be that way, sounds like voodoo, and an argument form that would be employed by a dogmatic religgous zealot
    ahhh end rant, sorry..enjoy
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  7. Sep 21, 2010 #6
    Every event is either caused or uncaused. There is no third option. Is there?

    If the event is uncaused, then nothing further can be said about it. That which has no cause, has no explanation.

    If the event is caused, then it must be caused according to some rule or law.

    The rule is either deterministic, or probabilistic. There is no third option. Is there?

    Simple vs. complex has nothing to do with deterministic vs. probabilistic.

    Mixing deterministic and random gives you...probabilistic.

    Bottom up vs. top down isn't relevant. Top-down "emergent" laws must be either deterministic or probabilistic as well.

    Either your models are going to be deterministic or probabilistic.

    Self-organization still happens according to rules, and the rules are either deterministic or probabilistic.

    Basically, if a system can be explained, then it must be explained by reference to a rule driven framework. The framework will be either deterministic or probabilistic. There is no third option.
  8. Sep 21, 2010 #7
    I'm not a determinist. I'm attempting to highlight the troublesome implications of determinism, and of ontological nomologicalism (the belief that the flow of events is governed by laws) in general.

    I think you've misinterpreted my posts.

    In general, I find Quentin Meillassoux's arguments in http://guidetoreality.blogspot.com/2010/08/meillassoux-foundation-of-absolute.html" [Broken] fairly convincing.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Sep 21, 2010 #8


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    I would in fact say that every event must have a cause, but cause itself has both local and global aspects.

    This is a complex or systems view of causality (familiar from Aristotle). Furthermore, it only makes sense if you accept reality has a further dimension - one that distinguishes between being and becoming, the potential and the actual, the vague and the crisp.

    So perhaps this whole view of causality is your "third option"?

    Your position is based on the belief that it must be either/or when it comes to random~determined. I instead am arguing that the random and the determined are instead the limits bounding casuality.

    If you maximise global constraints, then you minimise local indeterminacy - events seem highly controlled. And alternatively,if you minimise global constraints, you maximise local indeterminancy - events become highly free or unpredictable.

    So yes, there definitely is a third option. The spectrum of causality that exists between the either/or limits you mention.

    If you check out the quantum zeno effect, you can even see a nice physical example of this third option in action.
  10. Sep 22, 2010 #9
    Are you using a hyperbolic exaggeration of the philosophy to demonstrate its shortcomings? Or trying to propogate this understanding and what it means for us? Which is it? If the former, then we agree, at least somewhat. If you hold this view to be serious, I am asking why and what made you come to that conclusion. You say something is "caused or uncaused" these options do not say anything about them being all caused from the initial events and contained within the premise. It does not follow from everything being either caused or uncaused that they must have been all contained within the initial set of events. The notion of causality and the things that relate to it have been being expanded for a long time. Hume critiqed Newtonian philosophy and reasoning on the grounds that it couldn't reason from a particular effect of one cause and on to another effect of that cause (i.e. Newtonian description/explanation of Tidal forces) Now, we know that we can, for whatever reason. Clearly the notion of causality is by no means a closed book and has been expanded multiple times throughout the sciences since then.
    My point is that there is nothing contained within the First cause idea as realized through the Big Bang that leads to the conclusion that everything has been completely determined by and contained within that event. Where is it? In the MAthematical descriptions we use? Then what? Are we Mathematical platonists? Do we believe that the description that utilizes the framework is utter truth? It surely isn't contained within the physical arrangement of pure somethingness.
  11. Sep 22, 2010 #10
    Can you give an example for this apeiron? I am unable to understand this argument.
  12. Sep 22, 2010 #11
    If we don't even know the probability of an event occuring, then its neither probabilistic not deterministic right?
  13. Sep 22, 2010 #12


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    The example I mentioned was the quantum zeno effect.

    But there are many examples of the general idea.

    Take a bar magnet. A hot iron bar lacks global constraint in the form of an organised magnetic field. Individual dipoles are unconstrained and so each points randomly in some direction. Local uncertainty is maximised.

    But cool the bar and at some point there is a phase transition. A global constraint develops (the orientation of a general magnetic field) and the individual freedom of the dipoles is minimised. They now have to line up in a certain global direction.
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