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Thread: Should we be responsible for the decisions others make?

  1. Top | #31
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    Let’s say there’s a planet somewhere out in the far reaches of the galaxy where there has never been life either there or within a two million year reach of it.

    If we could rewind time a million years and let it start anew with all electrons beginning just as they did a million years ago, the distant planet would come to look just as it does today. It would be like rewinding a video cassette and watching events unfold again with no difference in how it did the first time. The same meteor hits would hit just as before. The craters the second go-round could not be distinguished from the first time they occurred.

    That is more (much more) than determinism. That is clock-like where what happened before will occur again with no yielded differences to be found along the second journey.

    Remind earth a million years and let it begin again, then it’s a different ballgame, as it’s teaming with a particular kind of life, mind-bearing life. Of yes, it’s still determined, but it wouldn’t be clock like.

    To say of an event that it’s determined isn’t to speak of upcoming future events. It’s a past looking perspective. Pick an event, any event, and to say it is determined is merely to say there was a cause. Whether a batter knocks a home run or foul, whatever happens, there was a cause. But, there being a cause doesn’t make subsequent events clock like. It won’t be like a rewound video tape where we’ll get bored by watching the same set of events unfold.

    The ability to think and act on our choices.
    The ability to think and act on our choices.
    That’s what guarentees that our futures will not play out in some fated kind of way. Sure, there will be a cause for what happens; there always is, so far as I can tell, but having a conscious allows us to manipulate upcoming events.

  2. Top | #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Let’s say there’s a planet somewhere out in the far reaches of the galaxy where there has never been life either there or within a two million year reach of it.
    Okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    If we could rewind time a million years and let it start anew with all electrons beginning just as they did a million years ago, the distant planet would come to look just as it does today. It would be like rewinding a video cassette and watching events unfold again with no difference in how it did the first time. The same meteor hits would hit just as before. The craters the second go-round could not be distinguished from the first time they occurred.
    Why do you think so?
    There seems to be no good reason for it. Maybe it would be very similar (or maybe not so much), and the same goes for the cassette. But the same, down to the subatomic level? I do not see any good evidence for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast

    That is more (much more) than determinism. That is clock-like where what happened before will occur again with no yielded differences to be found along the second journey.

    Remind earth a million years and let it begin again, then it’s a different ballgame, as it’s teaming with a particular kind of life, mind-bearing life. Of yes, it’s still determined, but it wouldn’t be clock like.
    Clocks aren't arbitrarily precise, either, but that aside, I do not see why there would be a difference, determinism-wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    That’s what guarentees that our futures will not play out in some fated kind of way. Sure, there will be a cause for what happens; there always is, so far as I can tell, but having a conscious allows us to manipulate upcoming events.
    Here you equate determined with fated. I disagree. Sure, having a consciousness allows us to manipulate events. But I see no good reason to believe one is more clock-like than the other.

  3. Top | #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Why do you think so?
    There seems to be no good reason for it. Maybe it would be very similar (or maybe not so much), and the same goes for the cassette. But the same, down to the subatomic level? I do not see any good evidence for it.
    The laws of nature. There is matter, and there is energy. Both are bound to be reactionary to the forces upon them. Even on a lifeless planet, there will be contingent events, but without a mind-bearing creature to choose between alternative choices, all events will transpire just as before— if all started out just as before, especially at the subatomic level.

    Clocks aren't arbitrarily precise, either, but that aside, I do not see why there would be a difference, determinism-wise.
    All events on such a lifeless planet are determined.
    All events on a planet teaming with life are determined.

    All I mean by determined is caused. Others tend to invoke more than that. I do not. If there is a determined event, then there is a preceding cause. If there is an event, it wasn’t uncaused.

    What’s the same is that all events on both planets have a preceding cause. So, determinism holds true for both.

    What’s different isn’t to do with determinism; what’s different is the subsequent state of affairs, should time reset itself. On the far off planet where no life is within reach, events will transpire and unfold just as before. Same ole events (contingent or otherwise) will be like watching a re-run.

    On Earth, where mind-bearing creatures are abound, there will be an actual difference in how events unfold. See, the events that occur on the distant planet are not necessary events. It is teaming with contingent events too. The reason the events on Planet X (to give it a name) seems to be necessary is because they must follow the laws of nature. The real reason the course of events do not change is because there’s no entity to make choices that alter any events as they transpire.

    Here you equate determined with fated. I disagree. Sure, having a consciousness allows us to manipulate events. But I see no good reason to believe one is more clock-like than the other.
    I do not see how I equated the two. They are different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    The laws of nature. There is matter, and there is energy. Both are bound to be reactionary to the forces upon them. Even on a lifeless planet, there will be contingent events, but without a mind-bearing creature to choose between alternative choices, all events will transpire just as before— if all started out just as before, especially at the subatomic level.
    But why do you think the laws of nature are like that? I do not see any good evidence of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    On the far off planet where no life is within reach, events will transpire and unfold just as before. Same ole events (contingent or otherwise) will be like watching a re-run.
    Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    On Earth, where mind-bearing creatures are abound, there will be an actual difference in how events unfold. See, the events that occur on the distant planet are not necessary events. It is teaming with contingent events too. The reason the events on Planet X (to give it a name) seems to be necessary is because they must follow the laws of nature. The real reason the course of events do not change is because there’s no entity to make choices that alter any events as they transpire.
    Do you think that life goes against the laws of nature? If so, what do you mean by "laws of nature"? Is life not part of nature? If so, what do you mean by "nature"?

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    I do not see how I equated the two. They are different.
    But you seemed to equate them as far as I can tell.

  5. Top | #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Do you think that life goes against the laws of nature? If so, what do you mean by "laws of nature"? Is life not part of nature? If so, what do you mean by "nature"?
    Life does not go against the laws of nature.
    Life is apart of nature.

    A rock is made of atoms. A person is made of atoms.
    Rocks can’t make decisions. People can. If a rock starts rolling down an embankment, barring interceding events, it’s future is a function of the laws of nature. We are not immune to the forces of nature, but there’s nothing about the laws of nature that guarentees what decison I will make if also rolling down an embankment. Atoms are not alive, and though the laws of nature plays the master role in what will happen to them overall, we have some limited control in what happens to us—because we can think and act upon it.

    But you seemed to equate them as far as I can tell.
    A determinist holds the position that all events are caused while an indeterminist holds the position that not all events are caused. I’m a determinist. I regard it as a looking back position. If there is an event, then preceding it is a cause. Even if I discuss a future event and say it’ll be determined, I’m talking about what precedes the event as being a cause for it.

    I do not regard it as a looking forward position.

  6. Top | #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Life does not go against the laws of nature.
    Life is apart of nature.

    A rock is made of atoms. A person is made of atoms.
    Rocks can’t make decisions. People can. If a rock starts rolling down an embankment, barring interceding events, it’s future is a function of the laws of nature. We are not immune to the forces of nature, but there’s nothing about the laws of nature that guarentees what decison I will make if also rolling down an embankment. Atoms are not alive, and though the laws of nature plays the master role in what will happen to them overall, we have some limited control in what happens to us—because we can think and act upon it.
    But unless we are souls, we are bunches of atoms thinking together. If the laws of nature say what the atoms will do, then they say what we will do. Of course, that does not mean we cannot control what we do: that we are caused by previous events does not preclude that we cause future events.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    A determinist holds the position that all events are caused while an indeterminist holds the position that not all events are caused.
    That is an unusual definition. But I wasn't talking about that, but about "That’s what guarentees that our futures will not play out in some fated kind of way." Even if our futures are caused by earlier events and fully determined, that does not imply that we are not free - and if it did imply that, how is non-determinism going to help? After all, our choices, if not determined by previous events, will introduce a certain amount of randomness. But it does not seem to make us freer.

  7. Top | #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    But unless we are souls, we are bunches of atoms thinking together.
    That sounds like a fallacy—Speaking of the parts as we would of the whole. People are composed of atoms, but while people think, atoms do not.

    If the laws of nature say what the atoms will do, then they say what we will do.
    Doing as we please is not inconsistent with the laws of nature. Because of the underlying laws of nature, events will occur, but we should resist the temptation of thinking of future events as necessary events. Recognizing that an event has a preceding cause is no where near the same as saying the event was a necessary event.

    I bounced a small bouncy-ball on a pier near the ocean years ago. It bounced upwards but never came back down. A seagull flying by swooped in for the catch ... and away it went. Looking back at that day, there was an event and of course, there was a cause preceding it, but what followed the cause was not a necessary event.

    Determinism isn’t the view that future events are determined by preceding events in the sense that what will happen must happen. If there wasn’t an intervening flying bird thief, there would have also been an event and of course a preceding cause.

    Of course, that does not mean we cannot control what we do:
    Yes, we have some control over the choices we make and what we do.

    that we are caused by previous events does not preclude that we cause future events.
    The wording gets tricky. Yes, I think. The laws of nature pretty much guarentee that something will happen, but it doesn’t guarentee what will happen. We live in a world where the actual events that do occur are contingent. If there are no mind-bearing entities, prediction of future events is theoretically possible (and the future will play out accordingly), but throw mind bearing entities into the mix, then prediction is a major problem to overcome. But, not because of complexity. We are abiding by the laws of nature (and so are the atoms of which we are composed), but that we are able to alter the course of many events that happen before us, our futures will not unfold with the perfect prediction possible on a lifeless planet.

    That is an unusual definition. But I wasn't talking about that, but about "That’s what guarentees that our futures will not play out in some fated kind of way."
    On a planet with no mind bearing creature, what’s to interrupt the course of events from unfolding how they will? Given all the contengencies at play, any series of events that do occur under the exact same conditions would occur again. If that is the case with mind bearing animals too, how illusory (and dark) our lives must be. I think the fact events are not necessary events and our ability to make choices consistent with the laws of nature allows us to effect outcomes that are not set in stone.

    This material has been argued over for ages. There are still people that think if God unmistakably knows what choices we will make that we must make them. They’re wrong. Knowledge doesn’t turn events into necessary events. If I am under no compulsion to act in opposition to how I want to act, I have free will and the ability to do what I want so long as it’s consistent with the laws of nature. I will act as He knows I will (assuming there’s a Him and He knows, of course), but must act as I will, no—and that’s because I have free will.

  8. Top | #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    That sounds like a fallacy—Speaking of the parts as we would of the whole. People are composed of atoms, but while people think, atoms do not.
    It's not a fallacy of composition because of the "bunch of" part. I'm not saying individual atoms think. But bunch of atoms arrange in certain manners (that's humans, for example) do just that.

    However, some things that are true of the parts are true of the whole. For example, if the parts are all determined by previous events, so is the whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast

    Doing as we please is not inconsistent with the laws of nature. Because of the underlying laws of nature, events will occur, but we should resist the temptation of thinking of future events as necessary events. Recognizing that an event has a preceding cause is no where near the same as saying the event was a necessary event.
    True, but you use unusual terminology, so it's difficult to understand what exactly you're saying here. But I think I have provided enough arguments. We just do not agree, and I'm afraid I'm out of ideas.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    The wording gets tricky. Yes, I think. The laws of nature pretty much guarentee that something will happen, but it doesn’t guarentee what will happen.
    Why do you think so? I do not think we know that. But in any case, if it guarantees what will happen when it comes to particles, then it does when it comes to humans because humans are made of particles. Else, they do not guarantee what will happen when it comes to particles.

    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    We live in a world where the actual events that do occur are contingent. If there are no mind-bearing entities, prediction of future events is theoretically possible (and the future will play out accordingly), but throw mind bearing entities into the mix, then prediction is a major problem to overcome. But, not because of complexity. We are abiding by the laws of nature (and so are the atoms of which we are composed), but that we are able to alter the course of many events that happen before us, our futures will not unfold with the perfect prediction possible on a lifeless planet.
    Actually, prediction of future events is not theoretically possible (e.g., look up Uncertainty Principle).
    But that aside, I do not see any good evidence in support of the mind-bearing/no mind bearing distinction you make here. Why do you believe that?


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    On a planet with no mind bearing creature, what’s to interrupt the course of events from unfolding how they will?
    On a planet with a mind bearing creature made of particles, how come the creature made of particles change the way the events work in accordance to the laws of nature and at a subatomic level. A choice is made by creature that is a bunch of particles. How can the particles not behave as the laws of nature say particles behave based on previous events (assuming the laws of nature are like that for particles, which you believe).


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    Given all the contengencies at play, any series of events that do occur under the exact same conditions would occur again. If that is the case with mind bearing animals too, how illusory (and dark) our lives must be.
    I do not agree. Why would they be illusory? And how do we get out of that? By making choices that are not determined by previous events? But if the choice is not determined by our previous thoughts, how is it more free? (except when one wants to make a random choice, maybe).


    Quote Originally Posted by fast
    This material has been argued over for ages. There are still people that think if God unmistakably knows what choices we will make that we must make them. They’re wrong. Knowledge doesn’t turn events into necessary events. If I am under no compulsion to act in opposition to how I want to act, I have free will and the ability to do what I want so long as it’s consistent with the laws of nature. I will act as He knows I will (assuming there’s a Him and He knows, of course), but must act as I will, no—and that’s because I have free will.
    I agree. But I do not see why you make the distinction between particles and mind-bearing entities, and also why you think determinism would conflict with free will.

  9. Top | #39
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Not all events have a cause. There are two things that prevent an isolated lifeless planet from looking exactly identical if you rewound time and played it again: uncertainty and chaos.

    Uncertainty is fundamental. You can predict the half-life of a large collection of radioactive atoms with great precision; But you can't predict the time it will take for any given nucleus to decay.

    Chaos is inherent in complex systems. If there are even tiny changes in the starting conditions in a chaotic system, this can lead to very large differences in the final condition of the system.

    In the case of the isolated lifeless planet, we can see that a large meteor impact will make a big change to the planet. And so if that meteor misses the planet on one iteration, but hits on another iteration, we will see a large difference in the final state and appearance of the planet.

    But if the meteor has traveled through interstellar space, then the diffence between hitting and missing the planet could be very tiny indeed - an alpha particle emitted by an atomic decay on one side of the rock, rather than the other, could be enough to make that difference.

    It's moderately entertaining to contemplate what a deterministic universe might look like. But it's a gross error to believe that the universe we inhabit is such a place. It's not.

    Life differs from non-life only in complexity. We usually see more chaos in living systems than in non-living ones; And that can give the misleading impression that life is uniquely non-deterministic - but that's incorrect. All systems are non-deterministic, but those that are less chaotic tend not to be as obviously so, at the macroscopic level.

    A good example of a non-living chaotic (and therefore unpredictable) system is the weather. The famous 'butterfly effect' implies a living thing as the perturbing factor that leads to major differences in outcomes; But life is not required. A much smaller, but still sufficient, peturbation could be as simple as a carbon-14 atom decaying now, instead of then.

    Complex systems are impossible to predict; Even if the starting conditions are known to an arbitrary degree of perfection. Strict determinism is incompatible with Quantum Field Theory; It is therefore almost certainly wrong.

  10. Top | #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Not all events have a cause. There are two things that prevent an isolated lifeless planet from looking exactly identical if you rewound time and played it again: uncertainty and chaos.

    Uncertainty is fundamental. You can predict the half-life of a large collection of radioactive atoms with great precision; But you can't predict the time it will take for any given nucleus to decay.

    Chaos is inherent in complex systems. If there are even tiny changes in the starting conditions in a chaotic system, this can lead to very large differences in the final condition of the system.
    Saying that there was an event but no preceding cause for it is like saying it just happened causelessly. Prediction is in part a function of ability, and if the ever-so tiny changes are outside our abilities to track, then sure, we can’t predict the changes, but our inability to predict because of our inability to track the changes isn’t to say there’s no underlying preceding physical cause for an event. That’s why I express the prediction as being theoretical. When I rewind a VHS cassestte and hit play, the same movie plays again. When I talk about rewinding and starting anew, I mean it such there are no tiny changes.

    In the case of the isolated lifeless planet, we can see that a large meteor impact will make a big change to the planet. And so if that meteor misses the planet on one iteration, but hits on another iteration, we will see a large difference in the final state and appearance of the planet.
    No disagreement here. But, the hypothetical assumes no change in initial conditions, not even by one single iteration—of any sort.

    But if the meteor has traveled through interstellar space, then the diffence between hitting and missing the planet could be very tiny indeed - an alpha particle emitted by an atomic decay on one side of the rock, rather than the other, could be enough to make that difference.
    Maybe there is something to alpha particles that make it so that the future will not unfold the same. I don’t want to challenge that really. But, that truth, even if so, affects only my assessment of what will happen on a lifeless planet. It doesn’t dissipate the distinction I’m trying to make.

    It's moderately entertaining to contemplate what a deterministic universe might look like. But it's a gross error to believe that the universe we inhabit is such a place. It's not.
    No one has shown that they even understand my conception of what a deterministic universe might look like. My view is (apparently) unusual. It’s not determinism (but the laws of nature) that allows for the forwarding looking perspective. Determinism (to me) is all about looking to the past.

    Let’s say A causes B and B causes C. If we concentrate on B and ask if it was determined, we look to see if there was an A. If so, B was determined. However, upon leaning that B was determined, that says nothing about C. The point is that there is nothing about determinism that should have us think we can predict the future. If (just if, mind you) that determinism is true, it’s not that which tells us C will occur. Determinism just means (in my view) there is a preceding (preceding) cause for an event. If event L will happen on May 1st 2050, there is a tie-in cause that comes before (before) event L.

    People speak of determinism (unfortunately) as if C must occur if determinism is true. It’s that which I’m saying is not so, and agreeing with me but for the wrong reasons is problematic to my point. So, just for the sake of argument, accept that determinism is true and still see what I’m saying.

    Life differs from non-life only in complexity.
    No, no, no. Never mind determinism for a moment—or what might merely be my version of or perspective towards determinism. Also, the important divide isn’t between life and non-life. It’s between life of a particular kind and all else. Trees are alive, but they have no consciousness—at least not of any normal kind to which I am speaking of.

    Everything in any group not only will but also must act in accordance to the laws of nature. People are no different from trees or rocks in that regard, but unlike trees and rocks, people can pick from certain contingent events to come.

    Determinism being true (if it is) isn’t responsible for what will happen when the fragile wine glass hits a concrete floor with great force. Determinism is just the view that there is a preceding cause for events that occur. When it shatters into a million pieces, it’s not in disaccord to the laws of nature—whether the force was caused by the wind knocking it out of tree branch or being throw by a person with the same force and trajectory. It’ll shatter either way, and either way, there is a cause. Both are compatible with the laws of nature. Determinism didn’t cause anything to happen, but with no people, the forces consistent with the laws of nature will yield a shattered glass should the wind blow, but the laws of nature does not guarentee what choice a person will make.

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