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Free Will, Determinism, indeterminism, and probabilistic determinism
in Philosophy

By ZeusAres42ZeusAres42 446 Pts
Free Will, Determinism, indeterminism, and probabilistic determinism

The issues I would like to explore here are as follows:
  1. Determinism
  2. Indeterminism
  3. Probabilistic Determinism
  4. How this correlates with Free will
  5. Other possible theories

Determinism is the notion that everything is causal (known as cause-and-effect in physics). It is the idea that everything that happens within a given model is caused by preceding factors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism. Both Physicists Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were determinists. 

Indeterminism is the idea that the universe is in fact indeterministic. The concept is that not everything can be pre-determined and that many things can be uncertain, undecided, and ultimately probabilistic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indeterminism. This was actually the theory that was originally presented by Physicist Werner Heisenberg who came sometime after Albert Einstein. 

Probabilistic Determinism is the explanation that even though there is the uncertainty principle (Indeterminism) that still doesn't change the concept that there are preceding factors that still influence any given outcome; we just can't determine that outcome.  https://www.southampton.ac.uk/~doug/quantum_physics/determinism.pdf


Given this information then I am lead to ponder the following two questions -
  1. what does this all have to say about Free will?
  2. What other possible theories are there about the Universe and what do those theories have to say about Free Will?
Could it be that Free Will is not an illusion and actually the result of an indeterministic outcome?

The unexamined thought is not worth thinking.




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  • DeeDee 652 Pts
    If we allow for indeterminism that means  we are in a state of constant universal  flux which again leaves no  challenge to the idea that free will is illusory , for how can we held accountable for actions that are undecided until they take place? 
    GeoLibCogScientist
  • Dee said:
    If we allow for indeterminism that means  we are in a state of constant universal  flux which again leaves no  challenge to the idea that free will is illusory , for how can we held accountable for actions that are undecided until they take place? 
    We can't be held accountable for things outside our control but we can be held accountable for things within our control. I say we don't have complete free will but we do in a certain sense but only within the laws of physics. For example if I am going out for a walk for some reason or another at some point I am going to have to turn right or left, and turning right or left is within my control; what's not within my control is the fact that I still have to make a choice, if that makes sense?



    The unexamined thought is not worth thinking.

  • DeeDee 652 Pts
    edited August 12
    @ZeusAres42

    You say ......for some reason or another at some point I am going to have to turn right or left, and turning right or left is within my control 


    My reply .......You say it’s within control bit if it’s predetermined you merely think that,  which makes that sense of being free illusory 


    You say ......what's not within my control is the fact that I still have to make a choice, if that makes sense?


    My reply .....I’m trying to work out how in the first part of your statement the turning is within your control if it’s predetermined , or indeed how it’s so if part of the indeterminist position 


    GeoLibCogScientist
  • To me, it seems self-evident that any change in one's genetic make-up, environment, or anything else that can change the neurotransmission in the brain, the choices in their life would have been different. To me, for the concept of free will to exist, one must prove that someone who has the exact same genetics, environment, and the same constant neurotransmission as the self, that different choices can be made under such circumstances. To me, the free will argument has a much higher burden of proof than the deterministic one. Given what we already know about neuroscience, psychology, and pharmacology, simply using medications to alter one's neural make-up alters the decisions they will make in very similar situations they were presented with prior to the introduction of such a chemically-changing drug. That alone indicates that outside factors influence and direct the choices a person makes.

    So, burden of proof rests with those who believe in free will. To prove it, everything needs to be exactly the same between two different people. So, let's take identical twins, try to get as close to an environment shared between them as possible(it will be hard to make sure they have the exact same experiences, very hard, but I'll accept something like where 75% of experiences being shared between the two.) To increase the likelihood their experiences are the same, we may need to look at identical conjoined twins specifically. Even then, such twins will not have the same dreams, but I will overlook that for the sake of the free will believers. We'll just exclude dreams from environment entirely. So, if such a free will believer can prove the other head on a conjoined twin will make different choices if we somehow managed to alter their brain chemistry to be precisely the same constantly as the other head's, then we can believe in free will. Until then, it's an unsubstantiated belief. 
    Plaffelvohfen
    "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
    -Albert Camus, Notebook IV
  • We can't be held accountable for things outside our control but we can be held accountable for things within our control. I say we don't have complete free will but we do in a certain sense but only within the laws of physics. For example if I am going out for a walk for some reason or another at some point I am going to have to turn right or left, and turning right or left is within my control; what's not within my control is the fact that I still have to make a choice, if that makes sense?


    Hopefully, you don't mind I jump in here even though you were responding to @Dee.  Your first sentence "We can't be held accountable for things outside our control but we can be held accountable for things within our control." assumes first that anything is within one's control. We must first prove anything is within a person's control, or even if the concept of "control" is even philosophically and metaphysically possible. I'm leaning towards it is unlikely to be possible. For reasons why feel free to read my general comment to your OP. above this one you're reading.
    "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
    -Albert Camus, Notebook IV
  • edited August 12
    Sorry, I keep adding new comments after I think of more to say. This will be my final one, I will attempt to refute the argument that it's "self-evident" one has free will given it feels that way to oneself. It is certainly hard to argue against free will if one appears to experience it daily in every choice they appear to make. There have been studies on the brain and free will, for example as reported here scientists have discovered parts of the brain responsible for one's feeling of free will. If we were to alter those parts of the brain, theoretically you may no longer feel like you're in control of your actions. There are numerous studies I know of out there which indicate that as well, so I urge you to research it. So, it seems to me it's only self-evident because our brain is making it seem that way. It would not be so clear that the self has free will if not for the feelings of it that the brain produces.

    Note:
    I'm of course human, and in my endeavor to become more self-aware of my own cognitive biases and other problems, I will state now that I have a possible issue that could cause bias in my interpretation of studies. If you find a reason to believe these studies are indicating something other than what I've said,  let me know and let me know if you spot a possible cognitive bias. The condition I have which may make me biased in this matter is that I do have a dissociative disorder. Such disorders are known to mess with one's perception of free will, and so I recognize this may be a factor for my own belief that free will does not exist. 
    "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
    -Albert Camus, Notebook IV
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1793 Pts
    Probabilistic Determinism essentially is plain Determinism, just interpreted differently. Probabilistic Determinism means that there are underlying laws governing what outcome a "probabilistic" event takes, which means that it is not really probabilistic. We only see it probabilistic due to lack of knowledge.
    It is a bit like throwing a coin: sure, we say that the probability of heads or tails is 50%, but in reality, with complete information, we can with 100% certainty predict the outcome of every flip by just measuring the initial kinematic parameters of the coin and projecting its trajectory. What we see as a probabilistic Universe, in reality is not one.

    Now, I do not see how Indeterminism can be consistent with our scientific philosophy. Our entire science is based on one single initial assumption: that the world obeys the principle of causality. We believe that we can learn to predict the future by studying the present; that is the single ultimate goal of science. By understanding how we can modify the present to achieve the desired future, we are hoping to improve our quality of life.
    Indeterminism would mean that the principle of causality is wrong; that the future does not have to be predictable. If that is true, then the entire scientific body falls apart; there is no more reason to study anything, since the future is unpredictable and we cannot hope to affect it in any way. 
    Now, you could object that, perhaps, the world is only partially deterministic: some things can be predicted, while others cannot. The problem here is that those others make the world inherently chaotic, and since they do not obey the causal connection and defy all logic, they necessarily are going to leak in to the deterministic aspects of the Universe, making it indeterministic completely - and that, again, means that we cannot predict anything.
    Not only science breaks down, but our brains do as well. Nothing makes sense to the brain any more, since things can just randomly pop up which it cannot understand due to them being disconnected from the past. Humans cannot function in such a wild environment.

    Now then, having decided that the world has to be deterministic; what implication does it have on the free will? A very simple one: free will is an illusion. Our body composition defines what we are going to think and what decisions to make. There is no way to escape this natural limitation, and however much we try to expand our consciousness, the very act of trying to expand it also is dictated by the processes in our body.
    CYDdharta
  • @GeoLibCogScientist "There have been studies on the brain and free will, for example as reported here scientists have discovered parts of the brain responsible for one's feeling of free will."

    There are parts of the brain responsible for feeling tactile sensation also, yet what we are touching is nonetheless real.
  • @MayCaesar "Now then, having decided that the world has to be deterministic; what implication does it have on the free will? A very simple one: free will is an illusion."

    In my estimation, consciousness is not at all like anything else in the universe. Can you think of anything even remotely similar to consciousness?
  • CYDdhartaCYDdharta 1127 Pts
    Either people have free will or they don't, and everything is predestined (the script).  I think the belief in predestiny is very dangerous, as it can be used to justify any action.  "It wasn't my fault I [insert the most heinous and depraved act here], I was just following the script.  I had to play my part, I have no free will."  At this point, it's like asking if there's a God.  As an Agnostic, I believe the answer to both (whether there is free will and whether there is a God) is unknown and, at this point, unknowable.  

    The one thing that predestiny would make possible is time travel.  Time travel is possible only if it is in the script, and of course if it's in the script, it is inevitable. 

    piloteer
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1793 Pts
    @WinstonC

    I think consciousness is one of the fundamental properties of the world that cannot be explained through other terms; it is just there. Moreover, it is required for the world's existence; indeed, if the world existed, but had no consciousness, then no observer would be able to testify the fact of the world's existence, and hence it would be the same as if it did not exist.


    @CYDdharta

    Determinism goes much deeper than that. Whether you at some point start believing that the Universe is deterministic is already predetermined, and whether you decide to justify any action based on that or not also is predetermined.

    It also does not lift responsibility from your actions for you. Just because your actions were already predetermined, does not take away that they are your actions, resulting from the choices you made.

    You can justify anything by anything. No one prohibits you from justifying a murder by the notion that 2+2=5. That hardly says anything about the fundamental structure of the Universe; it is just a logical statement that has no impact on anything.
  • SESMeTSESMeT 20 Pts
    I just think we need to make a distinction between philosophical (in)determinism and scientific (in)determinism. That's all.
  • SESMeTSESMeT 20 Pts
    edited August 15

    Could it be that Free Will is not an illusion and actually the result of an indeterministic outcome?
    Indeterminism and determinism are actually irrelevant when it comes to Libertarian free will. Libertarian free will isn't compatible with determinism *or* indeterminism ... whether scientific or philosophical. 

    The only reason the concept of determinism is useful when it comes to free will is to distinguish between compatibilist and incompatibilist free will. Whilst Libertarian free will isn't compatible with determinism *or* indeterminism ... not everybody knows that. But everybody who has done even the bare minimum amount of philosophy knows that Libertarian free will isn't compatible with philosophical determinism. So it's simple to make a distinction between free will that isn't compatible with philosophical determinism and free will that is. The former is Libertarian Free Will and the latter is Compatibilist Free Will.
  • Seems to me some people conflate determinism and predeterminism... The former allows for randomness whereas the later doesn't...

    The fact that the universe is deterministic doesn't imply that everything was set at the beginning... Your birth wasn't predetermined, the day of your death isn't predetermined either. 
    ZeusAres42piloteer
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • @MayCaesar "I think consciousness is one of the fundamental properties of the world that cannot be explained through other terms; it is just there. Moreover, it is required for the world's existence; indeed, if the world existed, but had no consciousness, then no observer would be able to testify the fact of the world's existence, and hence it would be the same as if it did not exist."

    This mirrors my position, perhaps even too closely! The reason I asked is because the fact that consciousness is so unique means it may not be subject to the same deterministic laws as other phenomena. This may mean that free will does in fact exist (I'm not saying it necessarily does, just that it's possible).
  • Seems to me some people conflate determinism and predeterminism... The former allows for randomness whereas the later doesn't...

    The fact that the universe is deterministic doesn't imply that everything was set at the beginning... Your birth wasn't predetermined, the day of your death isn't predetermined either. 
    I am not entirely sure but I do think I was beginning to conflate the two here at some point too.

    By the way, what do you think of the following? The idea that that somewhere along the course of universal history one thing reacted with another thing and the end result was free will? But free will in a limited sense if that makes sense?
    Plaffelvohfen

    The unexamined thought is not worth thinking.

  • I am not entirely sure but I do think I was beginning to conflate the two here at some point too.

    By the way, what do you think of the following? The idea that that somewhere along the course of universal history one thing reacted with another thing and the end result was free will? But free will in a limited sense if that makes sense?
    Well, yes it does make sense, but I'd say that the end result was consciousness, and with it the problem of free will... Without consciousness there is no free will problem so... I guess we'll have to understand more about the nature of consciousness before we can hope to close the debate on free will... ;) 
    ZeusAres42
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1793 Pts
    @WinstonC

    Would it still be free will though? You could say that consciousness cannot be explained within the confines of our observable world, but it is possible that our world is just a subset of a bigger world, and in that bigger world what choices we make is predetermined.

    I just do not see how we can do away with determinism as a whole without completely obliterating the foundations of our modern logic - and we do not have a better logic in mind. At the same time, we could say that free will "roughly exists" in that, in principle, we can predict everyone's choices in the future, but in practice it is computationally unfeasible. Same as with flipping the coin: we can write down all the equations guiding the coin motion, but we can never predict in real time by just looking at it how it will land.
  • piloteerpiloteer 427 Pts
    edited August 18
    @MayCaesar

    Are you arguing that even if determinism is false, we must try to adhere to it like it still is true, or else all logic will break down and all will be anarchy? If we have free will, then we have the free will to act civilized even in the face of the great void. By the way, many physicists believe the universe is an anarchy. I think @CYDdharta made a great point. The idea that we cannot control our actions is dangerous because people will do what they want and think that they can't help it. And others might believe them and think that there should be no consequences. 
  • piloteerpiloteer 427 Pts
    edited August 18
    @GeoLibCogScientist

    Identical twins often do share the same environmental circumstances. They live together, and have the same parents, and have the same bedroom, and are put through the same circumstances. The only variations that occur are from the fact that they have their own free will which causes them to have different experiences. I'd say the burden of proof is on the determinists. Prove to me that conjoined twins who are most certainly having the exact same experiences, do not have the capability to have their own individual personalities. To be honest though, none of this would be a truly scientific study anyway. I think much of your argument relies on emotions controlling us because we cannot control them. Regardless of the fact that we cannot control our emotions, there's still the fact that emotions don't control our actions.    
  • CYDdhartaCYDdharta 1127 Pts
    MayCaesar said:

    You can justify anything by anything. No one prohibits you from justifying a murder by the notion that 2+2=5. That hardly says anything about the fundamental structure of the Universe; it is just a logical statement that has no impact on anything.

    Actually; that doesn't hold true if life is the script.  The only way anyone can really justify anything is if they have free will, otherwise they're just playing their part and at best giving the illusion that they're justifying their actions.
  • @piloteer

    When I say "environment", it's referring to literally everything else other than genes. So, if a twin falls and breaks a bone while the other doesn't, can have an impact. One going on a date with a different girl than the other. One having different classes in school, etc. There are actually a LOT of different environmental differences between identical twins who aren't conjoined which can alter one's neuro-chemistry to be different than the other's. Even for conjoined ones, there can be.  Basically, the important thing is we maintain the same exact neuro-chemistry between the twins. I suppose that's sufficient and it doesn't need to be conjoined twins. Environment only has an impact on someone within the confines of it affecting brain chemistry, so if we keep brain chemistry precisely the same between the two somehow(it would presumably require further advancement in technology than we currently have) then the environment doesn't matter as much.
    "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
    -Albert Camus, Notebook IV
  • If we can achieve such a condition I said above, where it's two identical twins in which we can control their neurochemistry and keep it the same constantly, and if both are presented the same choice without knowing what the other does, and we repeatedly test this, if it shows they make different choices, any variation at all, we might then conclude free will exists. If, however, all their neurochemistry is the same and the genes are(given they are identical twins), and they don't make different choices, then we can conclude free will certainly doesn't exist.
    "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
    -Albert Camus, Notebook IV
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1793 Pts
    @piloteer

    No, my point is that determinism has to be true, otherwise everything we have been doing so far in this world made absolutely no sense. This extreme version of nihilism is hardly a great starting point for cognizing the world.

    Even if we can never learn the inner mechanics determining every single outcome, they have to be there, otherwise causality breaks, and without causality we do not have anything to go on. It is not anarchy; it is absolute chaos, so chaotic that even saying that it is chaos is meaningless, lost in that very chaos.


    @CYDdharta

    Yes, we are all playing our part. And one of the aspects of this play is our usage of the concept of responsibility. I am not going to justify terrible actions by the notion that they were predetermined, but other people may decide to do so. Whether they do or not is also pre-determined. And even your criticism of determinism is pre-determined.

    It is not a very trivial concept, but people are free to see it as trivial and draw false conclusions, such as those allowing them to justify everything.
    CYDdharta
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1793 Pts
    @GeoLibCogScientist

    It is practically impossible to create absolutely identical testing environments. They may be made very-very close to each other, and then chances are most choices will be the same - but some might not be, because there could be some underlying mechanism we are not aware of taking care of randomness. 

    My point is, even if we observe two individuals in identical testing environments making very different choices consistently, it will not necessarily mean that free will exists.

    Again, we need to answer the question, "free from what?", when talking about free will. Nothing is absolutely free; everything abides by some laws. What freedom do we exactly mean when calling our will "free"?
  • piloteerpiloteer 427 Pts
    edited August 19
    @MayCaesar

    Well.........gee. Thanks for not making your position any clearer. It still seems that you think we should ignore all evidence that points to free will, because it's bad for science and logic, and could destroy the very fabric of our civilization. A lot of modern theoretical physicists believe that free will is not an illusion, and they have evidence that they would readily point to. I don't see any of them pulling their teeth out because they're in the throws of a mean panic attack. Take a breath May,........................breath in through your nose, and slowly breath out through your mouth.  The only thing that changes if free will exists, is free willers like me will get more points on DI. Nothing else changes. All logic won't break down.

    Logic, scientific findings, social constructions on what constitutes reality are in a constant state of evolution. Of we look at the patterns of scientific thought, there's an ebb and flow when it comes to free will. 100 years from now there might be undeniable evidence that free will is an illusion, only for it to be totally discredited 100 years later. Even the non-locality theory doesn't take all causality out of the equation. It just posits that some forms of indeterminate actions occur. As far as free will being a nihilistic concept, I'd say you're totally backward on that. The idea that there's nothing we can do about our actions and we're just helpless observers of this experience is nihilistic. It could make people think that they're not in control of their actions, so no consequences are truly deserved. That's nihilism. David Hume was nihilistic, not Niels Bohr or John Bell. Determinism takes all responsibility of consequences out, because nobody can control their actions. Free will fortifies responsibility and consequences.   
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