This is just a very short and simple version of what I have argued as the proper way to understand choice. I believe there is no such thing as freewill. Choice, in my opinion is a causally determined mental calculation that we are all relatively free to make. Freedom and control are relative terms describing a relatioship between entities. Neither can be absolute, ever. Of course we have relative freedom to choose, it is just that that choice is not completely free from anything and not at all from the causal restraints of reality. What I mean by this can only be understood with proper knowledge of causality. Choice is essentially and necessarily dependent, not free.

Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, while mistakenly a firm defender of freewill (she calls it a form of natural, as opposed to supernatural, causation), wrote this about causality: The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. In other words, balls roll, if pushed; books slide. Balloons filled with helium go up, in our atmosphere; those filled with sand do not.

Things can only do what it is their nature to do. Also, a key part of causality is Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: An object will remain in uniform motion until acted upon by an outside force. So, nothing happens that does not have a cause. There is no “unmoved mover”, as Aristotle hypothesized simply to avoid being put to death like his predecessor Socrates. All of science and logic is based on the law of identity and cannot be used to discredit the universality of causality, not even the probability wave-function of quantum mechanics. Just because something appears random to us, doesn’t make it random! There are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in trying to attempt the extension of quantum principles to the macroscopic world and it does not change that fact that 2+2=4 (always, in this reference frame, barring any additional variables).

The identity of every entity is based on its structure and there are rules to what things can do. You cannot start your car with a book. You cannot kill bacteria with music. You cannot make a choice without the necessary information.

Choice isn’t free of your memories, mood, personality, oxygen, dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine levels and all other physically based aspects of your brain (even the temperature in the room). It is dependent on these things. Your brain is inextricably linked to the physical world. And your memories are stored physically in the neurons (the pre and post synaptic clefts, see Eric Kandel and the research he is doing with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute).

If you make a choice, to act, you do not access the first motor or pre-motor or motor association neuron in the chain by telekinesis. There is a physical causal chain of action from perception to behavior. There is nothing in the brain to suggest a supernatural aspect or an unmoved mover.

We have evolved here on this planet for millions of years to become really good at surviving. There is us and there is the world. Reality. No make-believe places or entities actually exists. All there is in the world is matter and energy. And we are aware of it through our perceptions. Our perceptions program our minds from birth. Our memories, thoughts, emotions and personality are causally dependant on our experiences. And each decision is causally dependant on the information available in the decider’s brain.

I am not suggesting that things are predetermined, only determined by the structure of reality and the laws that dictate its change, at the time of choice. Pre-determinism would entail a psychic ability to see the future, or a really good guess. 

A long time ago people did not know about the solar system and its proper structure. All they saw was the sun “come up” in the east and “go down” in the west. No one can deny that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But, I say, like freewill, the sunrise, is an illusion, in that, the sun is not actually rising at all, it just appears that way, because of the rotation of the planet we are on. If we did not take seriously the actual motions of celestial bodies, then near earth space travel would be impossible. And so, steps forward in philosophy and ethics will be impossible if people hang on to this superstitious, religious and irrational commitment to freewill. It is simply an illusion.

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Tags: Philosophy, causality, choice, determinism, freewill

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Comment by MCT on January 26, 2011 at 7:20pm

There is no magic. Sperm is life and so is egg, for as long as they are still within us. At the moment of fertilization, we have a zygote, then this human organism (a group of cells with a certain 46 chromosomes) grows through embryonic development from embryo to fetus to neonate to infant to toddler to child to adolescent and adult. There is no break in the causal link. Ending the life of this human at anytime is killing, but how do you define murder? The killing of a person? How do you define person? Gametes are not people. That's for sure. When you call a human organism a person is an arbitrary thing. Finding the exact moment is something quantum worshippers are worried about. Simply because there is a limit to how close I can look at things is not a reason to think they are not there.

A chair in space is still a chair. It is also a chair in a room with only nitrogen gas. It is still a chair if it is green or small or on grass or on a roof. It is not a chair if it is smashed into a million pieces. Or a billion. It is a certain pattern of molecules, which I guess, according to you, don't even exist, that make it a chair. Even if it is made out of plastic and not wood. It is a chair if someone is sitting in it and if no one is. If there is a frog on it, it is still a chair. Even if it is upside down and cannot function properly until it is flipped over, it is still a chair.

Comment by John Camilli on January 26, 2011 at 4:45am

Then let me pose the age old question to you: when does life begin? Since you are so addept at defining things, tell when is abortion murder and when is it just a douche? When does it stop being non-living proteins and become a viable life? Where is that exact, magical moment that allows you to seperate thing A from thing B, with all the distinct properties they have?

 

You said a chair is not the oxygen molecules that sit next to it, but I wonder could a "chair" support a human in a particular way if there were no oxygen? Would the notion of chair then even be possible without the oxygen next to it? I wonder.

Comment by MCT on January 22, 2011 at 10:00pm
It is relatively easy to define things and when you change them so that their identity is no longer intact, they are destroyed. What are you talking about with this chair?! I can clearly define the limits of a chair, just not with quantum precision, but that does not matter! You simply negate the existence any arbitrary concept. A chair is only those pieces that entail THE CHAIR! The air molecule right next to it is not part of the chair, but both are part of the universe. You cannot extend the uncertainty principle outside of extreme laboratory conditions. There is no need to describe the entire universe to understand the limits and identity if a chair, a 2 year old can do it. You define chair as every thing the chair's parts have been a part of? That is possible the most moronic thing I've heard all day. So, then, the chair is the tree, the termite, the floor, the air.......so irrational. You have been dooped by intellectually bankrupt elite in our country. The chair is the object that is in a shape that supports a person in a particular way. Many of its molecules used to be in a live tree, but that tree has been cut down. Then the material would be called logs, then 2X4s, then legs and a seat and finally a chair, maybe then firewood, then ash, they are all different entities with different identities. Simple stuff, bro.
Comment by MCT on January 22, 2011 at 9:24pm
JC,
Rubbish. 2+2=4 is knowledge. I have knowledge that Barack Obama is president, that EMR of around 475nm hitting my retina causes a chain reaction that manifests as the qualia blue when the signal moves through my occipital cortex, that helium is less dense than oxygen of the same pressure, and I could go on and on. Existence exists first, for you are always conscious of something, a perception that came from the physical realm of reality, and everything identifiable is some things and not others. It's identity is dictated by its borders and structure. It behaves only in a way that is dictated by these things. This causal relationship between everything is what allows us to form concepts, language and knowledge. Knowledge of this physical world. If you wish to talk about having knowledge of another kind other than the noncontradictory integration of perceptual evidence, then you are in fantasy land. Knowledge of something outside this physical causal realm is impossible; whatever you've got, it ain't about reality. Epistemologically and metaphysically, an objective deterministic world is the only one without illogical contradiction. Again, you cannot prove something that is necessary for every proof. Causality is necessary for you to brush your teeth every morning, it should be apparent to you. It is the most simple law of nature and you use it to deny it.
Comment by John Camilli on January 22, 2011 at 9:21pm

Btw, if causality exists then the law of identities is an impossible concept because thing A could never be defined. A thing can only be described as itself if it is a discrete entity, but if there is a causal link between everything that exists, then nothing is discrete nor can it be defined as itself. 

 

For example. According to what our "knowledge" would have us believe, there is such a thing as gravity. Let's see what that means for defining something as simple as a chair. If a chair has a gravity cone that extends infinitely into all directions, then everything else that exists is pulled toward it, and it is pulled toward everything else. Take away the chair and all of reality behaves differently. Fail to describe all of reality, and you have failed to define the chair. So in a causal framework, absolute definition becomes impossible and instead becomes a subjective opinion of any observer. We cannot say what thing A is without describing everything that exists, because if it exists and reality is causal, then its qualities are the nature of the interractions it has, and it is interracting with everything.

 

Thermodynamics throws a monkey wrench into the law of identities as well because it ensures us that things cannot be destroyed, meaning a "chair" is accurately defined also as everything its parts have ever been part of, and everything they ever will be. It would be completely arbitrary to simply draw a line and time and say 'now this object is a chair,' where before it was cotton blossoms and a cow.

 

Of course, gravity and thermodynamics are ideas that rely on the idea of causality, which cannot be proven to be the way of reality, so my own arguments don't hold to me, but since you believe causality is absolutely factual, you must admit that the arguments make part 3 of your epistemological argument mute, and limit man's progress to steps 1 and 2.

Comment by John Camilli on January 22, 2011 at 8:58pm

I...NEVER...leave out epistemology! Lol, seriously that is my primary area of interrest. After years of interrest in physics, I decided that it was no use asserting fundamental truths unless I knew, fundamentally, that truth were possible. You speak of self-apparent axoims of thought, or a priori archetypes, whatever it'll be called, but you forget that man has precious few of these at his disposal. Existence can be said to be a self-apparent axiom because we experience it without having to think about it. It happens to us and it feels a certain way whether anyone tells us it does, or we decide for our self that it does. It has qualities, traits, behaviors; it can be described. What exists has qualia, while what doesn't exist has not. Actually, I would debate that a concept of non-existence is impossible, and that the concept of existence therefore has no opposite, but that's beside the point.

 

The point is, that there isn't much else we can say for sure. "Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am." That statement is the sum total of man's vaunted knowledge. It is the only thing we can say with certainty because it is a statement which both makes an assertion AND proves itself. One cannot doubt that one is thinking because that requires thought, and one cannot doubt that one exists if one is thinking because thinking invokes feelings; qualities; traits, and what has traits exists.

 

But beyond asserting that I exist, this tatement does nothing to provide knowledge. It does not even tell me you exist, or that I feel reality as it truly is, or that I don't. All knowledge beyond awareness of one's existence is subjective. Existentialism. Even the core tenet of causality that you so love to rely on cannot be proven. Prove to me that you are not in an entirely acausal reality where our particular pocket of it seems to be ordered, but is really just a coincidental shape amidst the whole random mess. Prove to me that we are not Jesus on a piece of toast. You can't. You can't prove causality, and no one else can either, which means you can't prove that the concept of logic can even exist, which means you can't prove that knowledge can exist.

Comment by MCT on January 22, 2011 at 1:49pm

OK JC,

I believe you have a very good rudimentary understanding of how the university post-modern physics academic community has tainted culture and philosophy with their particle physics. You are talking only about one small aspect of metaphysics. You have completely left out epistemology. It is reason and logic that allows us to have knowledge. To have knowledge you must start from the primaries of thought, the axioms, which are apparent and unprovable because they are necessary for each and every proof of knowledge. 1) Existence exists, 2) Consciousness exists (but only after existence does) and 3) The law of identity (and its corollary, causality). The universe is here, it is what we are talking about. It must have been here before the evolution of brains, which is where our consciousness stems. Things do only what it is in their nature to do based on their structure. You simply cannot validly argue against these premises, because you invoke them in the use of any proof! They must be necessarily true to work as a proof. You cannot use the scientific method, which is based on reason and logic, to negate the validity of reason and logic. You quantum worshippers think that the slit-lamp experiment really means that things can happen randomly. That is the dumbest thing ever. It is the results of an experiment, not a divine dictae. Just because something appears random, does not mean it is. The explanation is simple, the limit of our perception. It really is tough to look at very small things, especially since we see with really small things.  And contemplating about relative skeptical subjectivism will not lead to a better answer. There is one objective universe, regardless of whether there are little one's within and without or not. The only time you can EVER express knowledge about anything is if you use reason and logic and EVERY time you do that you use the basic tenets of thought. Existence, consciousness and identity. There is nothing that could ever occur acausally. That is the same as the supernatural existing. Neither make sense. They are the same error in logic.

I do not need quantum theory to predict what will happen if I fill a balloon with helium and let it go in this atmosphere. So what if I cannot tell you EXACTLY to the umpteenth degree what the position and momentum of one of the particle waves is. That does not affect my ability to use reason and logic. It does not change that for every action, I will see an equal and opposite reaction, all other things being equal, barring any additional variables, in this reference frame and in the macroscopic realm. So what if you can't nail down to exact anything. It is the limit of our perception. Not the limit to reality. You will never see something random actually happen. You can, however, extrapolate quantum phenomenon to the macroscopic realm metaphorically until you are blue in the face, this will not change the fact that you are a biological machine and cannot help that your choice is dependent on everything else in reality. It is less influenced by the butterfly in China that just flapped it's wings and more by your recent memories or a new perception in the same room you are in.

 

 

The 4 dimensional space-time continuum has a structure, early 2011 and before has been determined, and after has not yet been determined, but it will be, in the future. NOTHING IS PRE-DETERMINED BY FATE!!!!!!!! STOP WRITING PRE-DETERMINISM PLEASE. Predetemine is a verb right? It implies a subject. There isn't one. Pre-determinism implies a consciousness to determine events in advance before they happen. This cannot happen!!! There are too many variables to predict who will accidentily get into a car accident tomorrow. It will be determined, but it is not pre-determined. Call it fate, fine, but you or I cannot know it until it occurs and we can perceive some direct or indirect evidence of it occurring. The only thing capable of predetermination would be someone omniscient and that's retarded.

 

Also, universal causality is not incompatible with choice. Our brains are difference engines (among other things) recognizing patterns and making a calculated determination as to what is in the decider interest or goal. We have morality in a mechanistic world. 

 

Has anyone every seen anything bigger that smaller than an electron just disappear or appear out of nowhere? No. The only time you will ever see or hear of anything ever acting randomly is in a physics lab and it will be while trying to see objects the size of a photon.

It's just the limit of our perception, dude. Nothing is random. There could be no reality if things happened randomly, even if it was a rare event. If something could happen randomly....that doesn't even make sense. Things can't happen randomly. It is an oxymoron, like being all knowing.

Comment by John Camilli on January 22, 2011 at 2:21am

Michael, the reason I'm so hung up on fate and determinism, and why particle physics is more than a little relevant is because those are the boundaries of where information turns into philosophy and belief. Whether things happen causally or acausally; whether we have control or we don't, these things determine a person's picture of reality. It determines whether we speak of ideas like responsibility and choice and free will.

Right after dismissing my reference to Heizenberg, you say that events "are determined when they are determined..."  But that is an issue of particle physics, or more specifically quantum physics in general. I'm sure you're familiar with the notion of the collapsing wave function; of potentiality and actuality. Then you are perhaps also aware that our knowledge of the mechanism by which a thing comes to have its particular nature is still a matter of speculation. We speak of causality in terms of probability, not factuality, which is to say we have observed the behaviors of nature well, but we have not figured them out.

 

We cannot figure them out - because of the uncertainty principal - we cannot even know if causality is factual. It may be that each moment of this reality is completely unrelated to the next. Things may be popping into and out of existence randomly everywhere, for no reasons at all, and we just happen to be in an improbably area where the randomness exhibits a kind of order. This notion is impossible for science to prove or disprove, which is why I always rant about science being a belief system if it is used to form an opinion. Science is only question and observation, not decision. Theory, not fact.

 

But people do use science to form their opinions. They use religion the same way, which it why it is important whether reality is entirely causal, entirely acausal, or is a mixture of the two. It has to be one of the three, and in some, or I would argue all, of those scenerios the idea of "choice;" of influencing the course of reality according to one's designs, is impossible. I do not even grant humans the power of a partially free will.

 

If reality is causal, there is no interrupting the chain and every effect will depend entirely on the initial cause (unless time is infinite and cyclical, which eliminates the need to explain a primal cause), making choice an impossible concept unless one IS the prime mover, which requires the rather large assumption of a God or gods.  

 

If reality is entirely acausal then nothing is dependent on anything else and the idea of effecting something called "choice" becomes clearly impossible.

 

And even if reality is a mixture of causal and acausal, and if a human has some THING bout it that allows it to introduce an acausal effect into the causal chain, thus interrupting what otherwise would have happened in reality, then they STILL could not be said to be controlling the results. If it was an acausal event they just introduced - meaning it wasn't predetermined by anything that just happened - then its results wouldn't be related to anything the causor intended them to be, meaning a human could never alter reality in a way that accomplished anything they wanted. Even if it could exist, this would likely be a much more harmful mechanism than a helpful one, and I doubt that evolution would've selected it.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 21, 2011 at 11:34pm
OK
Comment by MCT on January 21, 2011 at 11:16pm

What other perspective of predetermining something is there, other than human knowledge? Predeterminism implies a predeterminer. I don't mind calling what you call long-term determinism fate, but there is nothing predetermined about it, other than our non-supernatural ability to predict simple events with imperfect accuracy.

Determine is present tense. Causal law determines events. Choice is dependent on causality. Our choices are causally determined in the present, not the future. Things that will occur, in the future, exist, in the present, only as a not yet real hypothetical probability, until the necessary preceding events have unfolded and a particular probability is determined by causality.

Fate is what will be determined and cannot be predetermined.

Long-term determinism is maintained, but the future cannot be determined in advance.

Only an obviously fictitious all knowing God could know the complete structure of the four dimensional space-time continuum. No one can. It is incompatible with reason.

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