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Why do you assume that we are deterministic? Don't you think it at least seems like we make choices?

AW15:28, 5 March 2013

We do make choices. I never said or even intentionally implied that we don't.

Determinism is simply the idea that everything in the universe has a causal relationship with everything else in the universe, and can only behave in one way. For example, let's say that I decide to eat a pizza for lunch instead of a salad. A determinist would say that all my past experiences, as well as the environment around me, and countless other things directly caused me to choose to eat the pizza.

Notice that from the deterministic perspective, I actually make a choice. I use all my memories to weigh both options and choose the one that benefits me the most.

Please, listen to the Radiolab clip I linked to. About five minutes in, they tell the story of a woman with transient global amnesia. It is an excellent example of human determinism.

Sheldor18:09, 5 March 2013

I think most people (including me) would define "choice" in such a way that determinism contradicts it. If there was only ever one possible outcome, no choice was made, only the illusion of one.

Voidious18:15, 5 March 2013

I believe that humans are like computers; we have inputs and outputs. When we have the same inputs, we will have the same outputs.

But, we still make a choice. The woman in the clip decided to say the same things over and over, because her inputs were roughly the same.

Sheldor19:19, 5 March 2013

Well, you're free to use the word that way, but I definitely assign a different meaning to the word, and I bet most people do too. To me, it sounds like the difference between perceiving a choice and actually making one.

Voidious19:37, 5 March 2013

Well then, how do you personally define the word "choice"?

Sheldor19:50, 5 March 2013

Deciding between two potential outcomes. If there was only one potential outcome, it wasn't a choice, only the illusion of one. Real choice definitely implies free will and non-determinism.

Voidious19:56, 5 March 2013

But, in my example there were two potential outcomes, pizza or salad.

I'll try a new example: Alice has two options, she could have $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 deposited into her bank account, or she could have that much added to her debt. She weighs the two options, and decides to take the deposit because she perceives it to be in her best interest. She could have chosen the second option, but she didn't because she perceived it to not be in her best interest.

Alice's judgement is based on all her memories and past experiences, as well as her current environment, and many other small factors. In order for her choice to be non-deterministic, she would need to abandon all judgement and make her choice completely random.

So essentially, what you're saying is that in order to have freewill and have control over our fate, we need to make all our decisions completely random, without any consideration of how they effect us.

Sheldor21:29, 5 March 2013

Not at all. You say: "She could have chosen the second option." But you also say there was never any chance she could have chosen the second option, because the series of events is deterministic. Do you really not see a conflict here?

Voidious21:30, 5 March 2013

Free will would allow Alice to choose between maximizing money, choosing at random, or simply pissing off Sheldor. In the first, picking the money is the rational choice. In the second, flipping a coin is a rational choice. In the third, not picking the money is the rational choice.

Memories and past experiences help judge what is the best action for each desired outcome, but don't restrict possible outcomes to a single one.

MN00:27, 6 March 2013

Yes, she could have picked the latter option. It was a potential outcome, as was the former. But, she did not. Why didn't she? Because she used her judgement and decided to pick the former.

Her knowledge and memories were the inputs to her judgement, and her decision was the output. Technically speaking, she did not have free will as her knowledge and memories were acquired from prior events. But, to have free will, she couldn't let prior events determine her decision, so she would have to abandon her judgement.

In conclusion, you can keep your free will,

I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose rational judgement.

Sheldor00:40, 6 March 2013

There was 3 judgements up there. Alice must abandon 2 judgements, no matter the choice made.

MN02:01, 6 March 2013

Most people would choose the first, and again if repeated. But because there is an economic force acting against free will. Determinists find it fun, liberalists see it with horror.

It IS possible to destroy someones free will through force. Liberalists fight those situations so people can exert their free will without being opposed by externalities.

Another example, gravity. A determinist would brag no one can fly and there is no choice. A liberalist would build an airplane so people can choose to fly or not.

MN01:31, 6 March 2013

I'm a determinist, and I believe we do have choice. As I've noted before, I believe that we make choices like computers do, our perception of our current environment, as well as our memories of past events, are our inputs, and decisions are our outputs. When our perception and memory give us the same input, we will give the same decisions as output.

Free will is a self-defeating concept, for our choices to be completely non-deterministic, they would have to be truly random (Which I believe is impossible, anyway.), which gives the person in question no say in the matter at all.

Sheldor00:03, 7 March 2013

I really think you're warping the meaning of the word "choice" here. Would you say a tennis ball makes the choice to bounce off the ground?

Voidious00:32, 7 March 2013


From Wikipedia:

"Choice consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one or more of them. While a choice can be made between imagined options ("what would I do if ...?"), often a choice is made between real options and followed by the corresponding action. For example, a route for a journey is chosen based on the preference of arriving at a given destination as soon as possible. The preferred (and therefore chosen) route is then derived from information about how long each of the possible routes take. This can be done by a route planner. If the preference is more complex, such as involving the scenery of the route, cognition and feeling are more intertwined, and the choice is less easy to delegate to a computer program or assistant."

As I've said before, choice is weighing options and selecting the one that seems to be the most beneficial. Tennis balls do not do this, they are not intelligent systems, they are just objects directly following the laws of pysics. Humans and computers ultimately do follow the laws of physics, but they also exhibit the qualities of intelligence and choice.

Sheldor00:48, 7 March 2013

I would say that excerpt assumes a degree of free will. To a determinist, a tennis ball bouncing and a human's brain pulsing with electricity and then moving a mouth to form a sentence are just a series of atoms interacting in a purely deterministic way according to the laws of physics. Calling one a "choice" and the other "just objects directly following the laws of physics" seems disingenuous.

But I'll drop it if you want to choose to have your cake and eat it too. ;)

Voidious00:53, 7 March 2013

Eating cake is unhealthy. ;)

You are correct. I believe all matter in the universe behaves deterministically according to the laws of physics (even those that we have not yet discovered). Not unlike the way cells in Conway's Game of Life interact with each other deterministically.

Intelligent systems are special arrangements or patterns of matter (or Life cells). Intelligent systems behave differently than non-intelligent systems (like a tennis ball), even though they still follow the same physical laws.

Tennis balls could be used to create logic gates. With enough of them, one could create a very basic (and inefficient) computer. Though the tennis balls themselves cannot make decisions, when enough of them are arranged together, they form an intelligent system that can receive inputs and give outputs.

A man actually did create a Universal Turing Machine in Life, using cells that directly obey deterministic laws.

Sheldor01:56, 7 March 2013