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Thread: Contingent truths?

  1. Top | #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    That's false, because the law of causality follows from the law of identity. The law of causality says that an entity will always act according to the properties that it has, i.e., its identity.
    IOW, your following Rand's ignorance of the role of context and environment and how it interacts with the internal properties of an entity to determine it's actions. Without context and environment, no entity would ever act, but rather all entities would remain forever in a constant state. All action is change, and all change requires new inputs in the form features of the environment that objects come in and out of contact with. Once this is acknowledged, then it follows that the inherent nature of an entity is separate from it's current and past contexts that led to act as it does. Thus, that context could have been otherwise without the nature of the entity being different. Thus, it's actions could have been otherwise, making those actions contingent on context outside of the essential nature of the entity.

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    Let's consider your example in this light:

    For example, in a lottery where the winner is picked by a computer program, winning the lottery would be from your perspective very lucky, since it could have very easily been otherwise if the computer had picked a different number. Your winning, in other words, was contingent on that number (yours) and no other being the one generated by the computer. It doesn't matter that the computer generated it according to strictly deterministic principles, it only matters that there were many other possible deterministic paths that could logically have been taken if the initial conditions were different. So, "I am the winner of the lottery that was selected by a computer program" is a contingent statement, not a necessary one, even though it describes something that did not result from human free will (which by the way is also generated according to strictly deterministic principles, so the comparison need not have been invoked in the first place).
    The reason this is incorrect is that the computer has a nature which causes it to operate in one particular way and no other under the circumstances. Given the particular properties of the circuits composing the computer, the inputs it was given, etc., there is no other way that the computer could have acted without a contradiction ensuing. For there to be any other result, it would have to have been something other than exactly what it was.
    So, to you, there is no improbability involved in your winning the lottery, since it could not have happened other than exactly the way it did? It would seem to also imply that, in fact, there is no such thing as probability. If so, how does your model account for the wide success of predictive algorithms and techniques explicitly based on probability, like those used by professional blackjack players?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    "Contingent" means "could have been otherwise." As far as we know, the only phenomenon that this genuinely applies to is human free will. A human choice can genuinely turn out more than one way, even if everything else is the same. Apart from human choice, everything results from the deterministic actions of physical matter, which has no capacity of choice and is therefore "necessary."
    ...
    (s2) Humans have a brain.
    Necessary. Evolution is a mindless physical process.
    ...
    (s6) Atoms with ten protons exist.
    Necessary. No one chose the number of protons that atoms have.
    If your theory is correct, then how do you figure evolution resulting from the deterministic actions of physical matter was able to supply humans with the ability to make choices that don't result from the deterministic actions of physical matter? Two choiceless chimpanzees had sex and conceived a mutant australopithecine, a nonhuman ape-man, which also had no choice and deterministically banged the rocks together to make its stone tools? And a few million years later two of those had sex and conceived a mutant Homo habilis who was a little better at making stone tools, because her brain, though made of the same kinds of physical atoms as her parents' brains, had human free will? Is that what you're telling us?

    So how does that work? Does primate DNA come with a gene that has both a determinism allele and a nondeterminism allele? Say, ...CAGATTA... and you get determinism, ...CAGACTA... and you get nondeterminism? What chemical reaction happens to that cytosine molecule that makes the consequence of that cytosine reaction be unnecessary, a human choice undetermined by its initial conditions, even though the corresponding reaction with a thymine molecule would have only consequences as necessary as the nucleosynthesis of neon?

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    Super Moderator Torin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J842P View Post
    What is human free will, and how is it distinct from the behavior of a chimpanzee, a dolphin, a lemur, a raven?
    Free will is the ability to choose. "Choice" is a primary concept which is immediately available to everyone in introspection. The primary choice everyone faces in their every waking moment is the choice to focus their mind or not, and once that choice is made they can deliberate between other options (e.g., should I go to the grocery store today? should I cheat on my taxes? etc.).

    How human free will differs from whatever capacity of choice an animal might have is a scientific question. I don't know whether animals have free will.

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    Super Moderator Torin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    That's false, because the law of causality follows from the law of identity. The law of causality says that an entity will always act according to the properties that it has, i.e., its identity.
    IOW, your following Rand's ignorance of the role of context and environment and how it interacts with the internal properties of an entity to determine it's actions. Without context and environment, no entity would ever act, but rather all entities would remain forever in a constant state. All action is change, and all change requires new inputs in the form features of the environment that objects come in and out of contact with.
    I agree that an entity without free will will always act the same way in exactly the same environment. I don't know what "without context and environment" means, though. Even the vacuum of space is an environment.

    Once this is acknowledged, then it follows that the inherent nature of an entity is separate from it's current and past contexts that led to act as it does. Thus, that context could have been otherwise without the nature of the entity being different. Thus, it's actions could have been otherwise, making those actions contingent on context outside of the essential nature of the entity.
    Its actions could have been otherwise if the environment was different, but that's perfectly compatible with my explanation of the law of causality. If you're claiming the environment could have been different, I'd like to know by what mechanism.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post
    So, to you, there is no improbability involved in your winning the lottery, since it could not have happened other than exactly the way it did? It would seem to also imply that, in fact, there is no such thing as probability. If so, how does your model account for the wide success of predictive algorithms and techniques explicitly based on probability, like those used by professional blackjack players?
    Probability is an epistemological concept - it pertains to our knowledge of things, not the things themselves. Once you have tossed a coin, there is a probability of 1 in reality that it will land (say) heads, but from our perspective the probability is 0.5 since we are ignorant of all of the forces operating on the coin and can only use the evidence of past tosses to form a conclusion.

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    Super Moderator Torin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    If your theory is correct, then how do you figure evolution resulting from the deterministic actions of physical matter was able to supply humans with the ability to make choices that don't result from the deterministic actions of physical matter? Two choiceless chimpanzees had sex and conceived a mutant australopithecine, a nonhuman ape-man, which also had no choice and deterministically banged the rocks together to make its stone tools? And a few million years later two of those had sex and conceived a mutant Homo habilis who was a little better at making stone tools, because her brain, though made of the same kinds of physical atoms as her parents' brains, had human free will? Is that what you're telling us?

    So how does that work? Does primate DNA come with a gene that has both a determinism allele and a nondeterminism allele? Say, ...CAGATTA... and you get determinism, ...CAGACTA... and you get nondeterminism? What chemical reaction happens to that cytosine molecule that makes the consequence of that cytosine reaction be unnecessary, a human choice undetermined by its initial conditions, even though the corresponding reaction with a thymine molecule would have only consequences as necessary as the nucleosynthesis of neon?
    This is a question for science, not philosophy. Philosophy only notes that we do have free will, and it is for science to explain how that works on the level of genes and chemistry. I'd speculate that it was a gradual process rather than one entity with no free will giving birth to one that suddenly had it, though. Free will is associated with the ability to reason, which we know evolved gradually.

    Notice that you could ask the same question about consciousness: When did consciousness arise? Did one organism without consciousness give birth to one with it? These are fair (scientific) questions, but they do not at all cast doubt on the knowledge that consciousness exists in the first place.

  7. Top | #17
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    Free will is a non compulsory choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by J842P View Post
    What is human free will, and how is it distinct from the behavior of a chimpanzee, a dolphin, a lemur, a raven?
    Free will is the ability to choose. "Choice" is a primary concept which is immediately available to everyone in introspection. The primary choice everyone faces in their every waking moment is the choice to focus their mind or not, and once that choice is made they can deliberate between other options (e.g., should I go to the grocery store today? should I cheat on my taxes? etc.).

    How human free will differs from whatever capacity of choice an animal might have is a scientific question. I don't know whether animals have free will.
    Then how do you know humans have free will? That seems like a scientific question in the same exact way. Why do you believe that human free will is distinct from a given animal's "capacity of choice"?

    And while I can introspect many things, that does not them "primary".

    This looks like handwaving to me.

    My introspection certainly can be a source of knowledge, but I can't just assume that my introspection about something is "primary". It is very possible that I introspect something like a feeling of having a choice, with there being no physical possibility of me actually choosing otherwise. That is equally consistent with my introspection. And indeed, it might even be more consistent with scientific observation than some hitherto imprecisely specified "free will," that is in some vague way distinct from every other animal's "capacity to choose".

  9. Top | #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    ...So how does that work? Does primate DNA come with a gene that has both a determinism allele and a nondeterminism allele? ...
    This is a question for science, not philosophy. Philosophy only notes that we do have free will, and it is for science to explain how that works on the level of genes and chemistry. I'd speculate that it was a gradual process rather than one entity with no free will giving birth to one that suddenly had it, though. Free will is associated with the ability to reason, which we know evolved gradually.
    Earlier you wrote:

    "Contingent" means "could have been otherwise." As far as we know, the only phenomenon that this genuinely applies to is human free will. A human choice can genuinely turn out more than one way, even if everything else is the same. Apart from human choice, everything results from the deterministic actions of physical matter, which has no capacity of choice and is therefore "necessary."

    So you are evidently equating free will with nondeterminism. But nondeterminism is not the sort of thing that can evolve gradually. "A little bit nondeterministic" is like "a little bit pregnant" -- the concept is incoherent.

    [If you disagree, here's proof: Suppose whether the coin will land heads or tails follows with 100% certainty from its initial conditions and the laws of physics -- that's determinism. Contrariwise, suppose whether the coin will land heads or tails doesn't follow at all from its initial conditions and the laws of physics, and it's a 50-50 chance -- that's nondeterminism. But in order to go from one situation to the other gradually, that would mean that given certain conditions that originally led to heads with 100% certainty, subsequently the chance of heads changes from 100% to 99%, to 98%, ... to 51%, to 50%. But in that scenario, although the probability of heads falls gradually, determinism goes away instantly. When the initial conditions and the laws of physics imply the coin will come up heads 99 times out of 100, that's not 1% nondeterminism. That's already full-blown, 100% nondeterminism. 99 times out of 100 is not "always act the same way in exactly the same environment". There's no such thing as "a little bit nondeterministic", because there's no such thing as "a little bit not always". Failing once in a hundred means not always. Failing once in a million means not always. QED.]

    So, assuming you're right that humans or some unknown set of other animals acquired free will by a gradual process, connected with the ability to reason which we know evolved gradually, it follows that free will is not the same thing as not resulting from the deterministic actions of physical matter. Which, curiously enough, is exactly what Hume said back in the 1700s.

    The belief that "Apart from human choice, everything results from the deterministic actions of physical matter" appears to be an intellectual relic left over from Cartesian dualism, and it appears to maintain itself in the meme pool due to an equivocation fallacy on the phrase "could have".

    Notice that you could ask the same question about consciousness: When did consciousness arise? Did one organism without consciousness give birth to one with it? These are fair (scientific) questions, but they do not at all cast doubt on the knowledge that consciousness exists in the first place.
    Indeed so -- in fact it seems likely to me that free will and consciousness are actually one and the same thing. But whether an object is conscious is a question orthogonal to the question of whether the object "has a nature which causes it to operate in one particular way and no other under the circumstances."

    When we learn to build a computer that emulates a human brain, using a hundred billion accurate simulations of a hundred billion neurons, then, as you say, there will be no other way that the computer could have acted without a contradiction ensuing. But there is no justifiable reason to think the computer won't be conscious. And when we build it, it will know it has free will the same way you know you have free will: immediate introspection.

  10. Top | #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Free will is a non compulsory choice.
    So it's a choice not contingent on compulsion?
    EB

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