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Resolves the issue of free will as brought forth by modern physics

  1. Sep 10, 2009 #1
    I was wondering if anyone can provide me with literature that resolves the issue of free will as brought forth by modern physics, ie. the fact that atomic processes cannot be fully determined.

    Thank you for your concern,
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2009 #2
    Re: Spinozists?

    Modern physics does not show that atomic processes can't be determined. Physics can never prove or disprove determinism, only certain versions of it. You can look into Bohmian Mechanics for a full deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics.

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/dfwIntroIndex.htm has lots of good foundational papers on the issue of free will and determinism or indeterminism.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/ is also always a great place to start. Search for compatibilism and incompatibilism, free will, determinism, and causation. Incompatibilism may be the most related to what you are looking for.

    Spinoza believed in determinism. Is there some question you have about him?
  4. Sep 10, 2009 #3
    Re: Spinozists?

    I stumbled across this webpage:


    very interesting read, to me anyway. People often quote-mine Einstein's in favour of their religious views. "Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind"
    and other crap. But they misunderstand, fundamentally, what leads him to those ideas.

    The message above was stated below the picture, "Werner Heisenberg in the lecture hall
    Photo by Jochen Heisenberg" But thanks for the link. I'll look into that.

    "Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined..." - Benedict de Spinoza

    It's so enlightening. Especially when you examine human behaviour and how they were brought up, what makes them who they are from a psychological point of view. Are there criticism of this (Spinoza's) passage?
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2009
  5. Sep 10, 2009 #4
    Re: Spinozists?

    Although I do not logically disagree, I want to note that independently of any interpretation, modern physics at most would suggest some vague analogies related to free will, but to my knowledge, no serious work has lead to any consensus in this field. Basically : quantum mechanics does not tell us how free will emerges, despite a few claims in non-technical literature.
  6. Sep 11, 2009 #5
    Re: Spinozists?

    No one?
  7. Sep 11, 2009 #6
    Re: Spinozists?

    The quotation is loaded with assumptions. There are thousands of papers relating to the meanings of experience, reason, belief, freedom, consciousness, action, causes, and determinism. I'm not aware of any direct comments about the particular quotation in question.

    Many philosophers would agree with his statement and many would disagree. The most relevant area of study is probably philosophy of mind.
  8. Sep 11, 2009 #7
    Re: Spinozists?

    Even if you understand it through the most unsophisticated form it makes sense. It would be interesting to read about those who disagree.
  9. Sep 12, 2009 #8
    Re: Spinozists?

    I always thought it was clear that Spinoza declared himself as a Pantheist. But apparently that is not the case and was argued, by his rivals, that he was a Pantheist.


    For centuries, Spinoza has been regarded—by his enemies and his partisans, in the scholarly literature and the popular imagination—as a “pantheist”. It is not clear, however, that this is the proper way to look at his conception of God. Of course, Spinoza is not a traditional theist, for whom God is a transcendent being. But does Spinoza's identification of God with Nature mean that he is, as so many have insisted for so long, from the early eighteenth century up through the most recent edition of the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, a pantheist?

    In general, pantheism is the view that rejects the transcendence of God. According to the pantheist, God is, in some way, identical with the world. There may be aspects of God that are ontologically or epistemologically distinct from the world, but for pantheism this must not imply that God is essentially separate from the world. The pantheist is also likely to reject any kind of anthropomorphizing of God, or attributing to the deity psychological and moral characteristics modeled on human nature. The pantheist's God is (usually) not a personal God.

    Within this general framework, it is possible to distinguish two varieties of pantheism. First, pantheism can be understood as the denial of any distinction whatsoever between God and the natural world and the assertion that God is in fact identical with everything that exists. “God is everything and everything is God.” On this view, God is the world and all its natural contents, and nothing distinct from them. This is reductive pantheism. Second, pantheism can be understood as asserting that God is distinct from the world and its natural contents but nonetheless contained or immanent within them, perhaps in the way in which water is contained in a saturated sponge. God is everything and everywhere, on this version, by virtue of being within everything. This is immanentist pantheism; it involves that claim that nature contains within itself, in addition to its natural elements, an immanent supernatural and divine element.

    Is Spinoza, then, a pantheist? Any adequate analysis of Spinoza's identification of God and Nature will show clearly that Spinoza cannot be a pantheist in the second, immanentist sense. For Spinoza, there is nothing but Nature and its attributes and modes. And within Nature there can certainly be nothing that is supernatural. If Spinoza is seeking to eliminate anything, it is that which is above or beyond nature, which escapes the laws and processes of nature. But is he a pantheist in the first, reductive sense?

    The issue of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature (i.e., Natura naturans and Natura naturata) or only a part of Nature (i.e., Natura naturans alone), which has occupied a good deal of the recent literature, might be seen as crucial to the question of Spinoza's alleged pantheism. After all, if pantheism is the view that God is everything, then Spinoza is a pantheist only if he identifies God with all of Nature. Indeed, this is exactly how the issue is often framed. Both those who believe that Spinoza is a pantheist and those who believe that he is not a pantheist focus on the question of whether God is to be identified with the whole of Nature, including the infinite and finite modes of Natura naturata, or only with substance and attributes (Natura naturans) but not the modes. Thus, it has been argued that Spinoza is not a pantheist, because God is to be identified only with substance and its attributes, the most universal, active causal principles of Nature, and not with any modes of substance. Other scholars have argued that Spinoza is a pantheist, just because he does identify God with the whole of nature.

    However, this debate about the extent of Spinoza's identification of God with Nature is not really to the point when the question is about Spinoza's alleged pantheism. To be sure, if by ‘pantheism’ is meant the idea that God is everything, and if one reads Spinoza as saying that God is only Natura naturans, then Spinoza's God is not everything and consequently he is not a pantheist, at least in the ordinary sense. Finite things, on this reading, while caused by the eternal, necessary and active aspects of Nature, are not identical with God or substance, but rather are its effects. But this is not the interesting sense in which Spinoza is not a pantheist. For even if Spinoza does indeed identify God with the whole of Nature, it does not follow that Spinoza is a pantheist. The real issue is not what is the proper reading of the metaphysics of Spinoza's conception of God and its relationship to finite modes. On either interpretation, Spinoza's move is a naturalistic and reductive one. God is identical either with all of Nature or with only a part of Nature; for this reason, Spinoza shares something with the reductive pantheist. But and this is the important point—even the atheist can, without too much difficulty, admit that God is nothing but Nature. Reductive pantheism and atheism maintain extensionally equivalent ontologies.

    Rather, the question of Spinoza's pantheism is really going to be answered on the psychological side of things, with regard to the proper attitude to take toward Deus sive Natura. And however one reads the relationship between God and Nature in Spinoza, it is a mistake to call him a pantheist in so far as pantheism is still a kind of religious theism. What really distinguishes the pantheist from the atheist is that the pantheist does not reject as inappropriate the religious psychological attitudes demanded by theism. Rather, the pantheist simply asserts that God—conceived as a being before which one is to adopt an attitude of worshipful awe—is or is in Nature. And nothing could be further from the spirit of Spinoza's philosophy. Spinoza does not believe that worshipful awe or reverence is an appropriate attitude to take before God or Nature. There is nothing holy or sacred about Nature, and it is certainly not the object of a religious experience. Instead, one should strive to understand God or Nature, with the kind of adequate or clear and distinct intellectual knowledge that reveals Nature's most important truths and shows how everything depends essentially and existentially on higher natural causes. The key to discovering and experiencing God, for Spinoza, is philosophy and science, not religious awe and worshipful submission. The latter give rise only to superstitious behavior and subservience to ecclesiastic authorities; the former leads to enlightenment, freedom and true blessedness (i.e., peace of mind).

    How delusional. Einstein accepted the notion of a Spinoza type God, but later on went on to say that he doesn't think he can call himself an pantheist. I wonder if there is some connection.
  10. Sep 12, 2009 #9
    Re: Spinozists?

    Sounds right... although I'm not sure what you are referring to as delusional.

    You probably already found http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza-physics/, but it gives a good description of the physical aspects of Spinoza's God.

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ethics_(Spinoza) has it right from the source. You might be most interested in Part I. As for Spinoza and determinism, Part I Axiom III of his Ethics is an explicit statement of determinism as an a priori principle.

    III. From a given definite cause an effect necessarily follows ; and, on the other hand, if no definite cause be granted, it is impossible that an effect can follow.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2009
  11. Sep 13, 2009 #10
    Re: Spinozists?

    Was your response addressing that he may not be a Pantheist?
  12. Sep 13, 2009 #11
    Re: Spinozists?

    From Wikipidia: "Pantheism (Greek: πάν (pan) = all and θεός (theos) = God, literally "God is all" -ism) is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent God. In pantheism, the Universe (Nature) and God are considered equivalent and synonymous."

    By this definition, Spinoza is a pantheist. But what you quoted before is also accurate.

    "Rather, the pantheist simply asserts that God—conceived as a being before which one is to adopt an attitude of worshipful awe—is or is in Nature. And nothing could be further from the spirit of Spinoza's philosophy. Spinoza does not believe that worshipful awe or reverence is an appropriate attitude to take before God or Nature. There is nothing holy or sacred about Nature, and it is certainly not the object of a religious experience."
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2009
  13. Sep 13, 2009 #12
    Re: Spinozists?

    " I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. "

    - Albert Einstein

    In http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/heis...g07_index.html [Broken]
    it is said that his beliefs were similiar to that of Plancks.

    He also said he did not think he can call himself an atheist. He did this for obvious reasons, can you speculate as to why? People often quote him in favour of their views but they do not understand what leads him to these statements.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Sep 13, 2009 #13


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    Gold Member

    Re: Spinozists?

    There are actually three ways of dividing things here.

    1) Identify god with nature. But that actually divides nothing and so explains nothing. It is just giving the complexity of reality a second name. God becomes a completely redundant term unless it stands in relation to the generality of existence some how.

    2) Reduce god to some kind of universal substance - the water in the sponge as you put it. A pervasive divine stuff that is everywhere (but doing what?). We already have plenty of materials to make things so again a divine quintessence or whatever is a redundant concept. Unless you can support the argument by identifying what extra this substance does.

    3) The third way of reducing the kind of causality traditionally assigned to god-type notions is to treat him as a universal form. So "god" reflects the fact that the universe is in some sense "mindful" and "purposeful" and "actively constrained to be".

    This third way actually makes plenty of sense to me. Though the "mind of god" becomes something rather less woo-woo, like the second law of thermodynamics and other global constraints that act downwards to shape our reality - to shape the realm of brute substance.

    This version of pan-theism has recently started to be talked about as pan-semiosis, following on from the semiotics of CS Peirce.
  15. Sep 18, 2009 #14
    Re: Spinozists?

    When they say determinism, they don't mean that every event in the universe has been set out right and ready to play through? That would be too strong.

    But rather, that every cause has an effect.

    My biggest issue is this:
    Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Einstein, in a telegram response, answered he believes in "Spinoza's God."[24] Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."[25][24] Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory. Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration.

    But Einstein declared that he doesn't 'think' he can call himself a pantheist. Was this done for political purposes? I'm inclined to think so.
  16. Sep 18, 2009 #15
    Re: Spinozists?

    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.


    Can you have one without the other? Spinoza certainly didn't think so. The definition above is one of many, but it's what is generally meant in philosophy.

    I would speculate that Einstein didn't call himself a pantheist for the same reason the author of the SEP article on Spinoza didn't call Spinoza one either (despite the fact that his ideas matched the standard dictionary definition of pantheism).
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
  17. Oct 5, 2009 #16
    Re: Spinozists?

    Can you show me explicitly where this was written?
  18. Oct 10, 2009 #17
    Re: Spinozists?

  19. Dec 17, 2009 #18
    Re: Spinozists?

    Good to know.
  20. Dec 17, 2009 #19
    Re: Spinozists?

    A fully Deterministic universe is just an idea, like the idea that there are infinite number of universes, that reality does not exist prior to observation, that reality is a hologram, that the universe is a result of a fluke, that the universe is alive, that we create the physical laws, etc., etc.
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