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PhilosophyGround >> Determinism and your thoughts


8/8/06 12:19 PM
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Indrek R.
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Edited: 08-Aug-06
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Determinism has been debated in this forum for a few times under different topics. I think it deserves one of its own finally. I never really found the determinism problem very interesting until lately. Discussions with sanguine_cynic also confused me a bit since there was something intuitively contradictory in his account (determinism by both genes and natural environment). Then again many have believed determinism to be true and yet have been compatibilists. I haven´t by no means satisfactorily studied all the main theories yet and can only offer my own intuitive remarks. I will also be offline for the next 10 days so I hope there is a lot to read when I get back :) Sanguine saw our actions caused by either genes or environmental (cultural) conditioning. What is so counterintuitive is the simple phenomenological feeling of rational deliberation and ability to choose not act upon ones desires. I´ve been reading some evolutionary psychology lately (which I really like) and will draw some examples from there. Let´s say that your selfish gene makes you want to have sex with every sexy woman you see except at the time of when you have freshly fallen in love. You cannot do much to suppress the desire (or if you will then only by severe repression so that it will take its place in the subconscious). Every man (except maybe at a very old age) no matter of what moral outlook or religious beliefs he might hold will probably agree with the above statement if sincere enough. The desire is there. It surfaces because of your genes. Similarly jeaolusy - it just surfaces and floods you over even if there mightn´t be any rational reasons for having those feelings. Some other desires can be culturally determined (commercials make you want to buy stuff). There are certain cultural reasons behind the surfacing of those desires and emotions. Now let´s say that you have those huge sexual desires and fulfilling them would actually be largely in favor of your genes (which it probably would). You cannot control the surfacing of these desires and some people sometimes just do not think about them too much, thinking just that "this is what I really want". But there is still the ability to rationally stand back and suppress those surfacing desires and feelings and to choose not to act upon them. Now this is not an argument against causal determinism, but it is one against genetic and cultural determinism. But it also shows to an extent that genetic and cultural arguments cannot be simplistically used to support causal determinism. Greets, Indrek
8/8/06 6:55 PM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 08-Aug-06
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ok, to complicate things abit.. why couldn´t your "choice" to rationally stand back and not give in to the desires also be genetically and/or culturally determined?
8/9/06 2:04 AM
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winnidon
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Edited: 09-Aug-06
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To build upon what FudoMyoo says: Why couldn't some people be genetically/culturally determined to care more about realizing their future desires (i.e., to achieve want you really want to want) such that these second-order desires, on reflection, trump more immediate desires?
8/11/06 7:27 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 11-Aug-06
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What FudoMyoo and winnidon said... Plus your example is not detailed enough. Why is the person repressing their sexual desire? Is it because they are priest? Well that's culteral conditioning overriding genetics. Is it because you are dating someone else? Is it because this girl is your friends girlfriend? There are genetic and cultural causes for all of these things.
8/18/06 8:28 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 18-Aug-06
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This leads into compatibilism, doesn't it? Your choice is determined, at the very least, by your brain structure. Now, as far as I'm concerned all that's saying is that my choice is determined by me, as to all intents and purposes I am my brain structure. So I think determinism holds, but I don't see how it's incompatible with the free exercise of one's will - namely acting in accordance with one's own brain structure and the associated desires and tendencies.
8/18/06 8:29 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 18-Aug-06
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I don't get why people have a thing against compatibilism...I think it's so obviously right.
8/19/06 7:49 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 19-Aug-06
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Cabal1: What is your reply to Peter van Inwagens consequence argument then?
8/19/06 11:47 AM
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Indrek R.
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Edited: 19-Aug-06
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Back from Poland :) The example was indeed a bit too simplistic. "The ability for rational deliberation" and the degrees of that in different persons are indeed culturally conditioned and might be genetically determined to a degree (you cannot choose your parents). But I do not think that they are determined in the sense that there is a dark force at work in us which we cannot intervene on our own terms. So the point of the example is not against causal determinism per se but FOR the existence of some sort of agency in human life. Your desires might be indeed be completely determined by your genes and your environment, but your are your responses to them? If they are how come that almost everyone has those exact same desires surfacing, but the responses can be very varied? There are evolutionary reasons behind those desires but what would the reasons be behind differential responses to those desires? It might be said that then the culture makes the difference, but as for "cultural conditioning" I intuitively feel that the whole idea of cultural conditioning or cultural determination needs something akin to "human agency" or "human choice" to work. I just can´t spell the idea behind the intuition out yet.
8/25/06 10:06 AM
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Cabal1
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Edited: 25-Aug-06
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Run it by me, Fudo, and I'll let you know.
8/27/06 6:41 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 27-Aug-06 01:54 PM
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This is what Invagen wrote in his "An Essay on Free Will" (1983): "If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequence of laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it's not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us." A bit informal, but the point should should be clear. another version of the argument against compatibilism looks like this: P1. We have free will (of the kind required for moral responsibility) only if we are the ultimate causes (sources, originators, first causes) of our actions. P2. If determinism is true, then everything we do is ultimately caused by events and circumstances outside our control. P3. If everything we do is ultimately caused by events and circumstances outside our control, then we are not the ultimate causes (sources, originators, first causes) of our actions. C1. Therefore, if determinism is true, we are not the ultimate causes of our actions. C2. Therefore, if determinism is true, we don't have free will (of the kind required for moral responsibility).
8/27/06 4:01 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 27-Aug-06
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FudoMyoo, I disagree with Premise 1.
8/27/06 4:20 PM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 27-Aug-06
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ok. and I like chocolatechip cookies.
8/28/06 10:05 AM
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Indrek R.
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Edited: 28-Aug-06
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I like chocolatechip cookies too. I also find Inwagens argument not only convincing, but rather even common-sense. This is due to the fact that I´ve yet to form an idea how compatibilism could really work. The problem that I have with cultural determination is that ultimately it has to have a start in either someones free action or it will have to be a derivation of a natural process caused by the laws of nature. Either way there can be no talk of pure cultural determination in the causal sense. Or what do you think?
8/28/06 11:41 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 28-Aug-06 11:41 AM
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"This is due to the fact that I´ve yet to form an idea how compatibilism could really work." My guess is that they, like sanguine, reject P1, claiming that being the *ultimate* cause isn´t a necessary condition to have free will of the kind required for moral responsibility. They probably will argue along the lines that it´s enough that you made your choice, even if you are determined by your history and the laws of nature. That reply doesn´t convince me however. But maybe Cabal1 has another perspective and counters Invagens argument differently. I´m curious to see. "Either way there can be no talk of pure cultural determination in the causal sense. Or what do you think?" I don´t know to be honest, I haven´t thought about it like that.
8/28/06 7:29 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 28-Aug-06 07:33 PM
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Sorry about being so vague with my response. I was in a rush. It's pretty simple really. We hold people responsible for their actions because we know from historical experience that this is an effective means to make people behave in a socially acceptable way. It is no different then when my sister's cat tries to scratch me, I squirt it with water so that it knows not to do it in the future or face punishment. If I didn't squirt my sister's cat it would continue to scratch me. If we didn't punish criminals they would act in even worse ways. It's a matter of utility.
8/29/06 5:15 AM
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FudoMyoo
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Edited: 29-Aug-06 05:26 AM
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"It's a matter of utility." That´s more of a descriptive argument then a moral argument though. That something is in a certain way, or that it works, is not an argument that it *should* be in that way. If you aren´t some kind of utilitarist of course.
8/29/06 8:42 AM
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Indrek R.
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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Both Sanguines response to Fudo and Fudos response to it have some interesting implications that are relevant to our discussion. Sanguine : "We hold people responsible for their actions because we know from historical experience that this is an effective means to make people behave in a socially acceptable way." Sanguine you imply that we have a CHOICE whether we can hold them responsible or not. So your response implies that we can indeed interrupt the causal chain and do something different. The possibility of choice is implied by the reason you give to justify compatibilism - we hold people responsible since it is socially useful. Given determinism that you argue for, do we really have such a choice? I do not think so. Isn´t determinism also self-defeating in the sense that it doesn´t make absolutely any difference whether it is true or not? If determinism is true then anything which will happen will be determined by the prior causes and nothing really hangs from us and our discussion here and etc. If we come to the conclusion that determinism is true - does it really change anything. If determinism holds then nothing in our behaviour or actions will change because of the gained knowledge - its not up to us to change anything, any change will be determined and our gained knowledge is determined and etc.??? Sanguine might say that our discussion could have some impact on cultural determination, but this will however be still our free action somehow entering the cultural determination circle or be culturally determined itself in which case still nothing really hangs from us. But I think the idea of cultural determination is conflicting anyway - there is cultural conditioning, but it can be resisted, it is not causal determination. Fudo: "That?s more of a descriptive argument then a moral argument though. That something is in a certain way, or that it works, is not an argument that it *should* be in that way. If you aren?t some kind of utilitarist of course." Fact-value distinction cannot hold true if there is determinism. There are no values in the relevant sense (for the distinction) if there is no choice. I think its the same as with the moral responsibility. If everything is the way it is without any other possibility and noone can break the causal chain of actions then the fact that something is in a certain way cannot be in any other way. And should or ought implies can here. So Fudos response automatically implies the free will incompatibilism position. Which I think I tend to agree with since I feel that there is moral resp. and values and the fact-value distinction. Now this is just a random thought: Maybe Kant was right suggesting that we are double-creatures living with one foot in the phenomenal (natural world) and with one foot in the noumenal (the ability to initiate action). Greets, Indrek
8/29/06 4:10 PM
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winnidon
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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"We hold people responsible for their actions because we know from historical experience......" You seem to be assuming precisely what is contentious given the truth of determinism - a meaningful notion of moral responsibility. Determinism is the metaphysical view that the laws of nature and the past facts of the world entail all future facts. Thus, the truth of determinism entails that all our actions (mental or otherwise) are the determined outcome of the past facts and the laws of nature. To return to your example, given the truth of determinism, it is not as if we punish criminals because it works rather, it is because we could not have acted otherwise -- and crucially neither could the criminal.
8/29/06 4:39 PM
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Indrek R.
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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winnidon is on the same page with my post
8/29/06 6:49 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 29-Aug-06 07:03 PM
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Indrek, "you imply that we have a CHOICE whether we can hold them responsible or not. So your response implies that we can indeed interrupt the causal chain and do something different. " No we don't interrupt the causal chain and do something different. The causal chain has caused us to choose something. No different than a causal chain causing an ant to protect his queen. IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE YOU KNOW DETERMINISM TO BE TRUE In the field of psychology determinism is a assumed as a given. Without determinism psychology at all would be impossible. Their would be no way to guess what actions a person would take, or why they got the way they are etc. Here are a few examples of everyday occurences where you know determinism to be true. A smoker wants to quit but he can't because he's addicted You get angry and you would like to calm down, but you can't and you make angry irrational choices you don't want to make but have a hard time avoiding An alcoholic takes another swig of beer even though he wants to avoid drinking A cocaine addict fiends another hit A person with Tourette's syndrome yells something inappropriate even though he doesn't want to. You have recently been dumped by your girlfriend and you can't stop thinking about her even though you would like to forget about her. You are in a depressed and you would like to feel happy but you just can't magically say "feel happy" and have it work. You want to ask someone for a favor, but you wait till they are in a good mood to ask You are nervous before a jiu jitsu match even though you would rather be calm You can't function without your coffee in the morning You don't walk up a pretty girl in the street, whip out your DICK and yell "SUCK ON THIS YOU UGLY PIG" because you know that this causal chain of events would probably CAUSE her to be frightened or weirded out. etc etc etc ..
8/29/06 7:01 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 29-Aug-06 07:16 PM
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"To return to your example, given the truth of determinism, it is not as if we punish criminals because it works rather, it is because we could not have acted otherwise -- and crucially neither could the criminal." I'd slightly change your statement to say "We punish criminals because it works AND we could not have acted otherwise." Just because a choice can be rationally justified doesn't mean it wasn't determined. DEEP BLUE made rational moves in chess all the time, and it is determined. Deep Blue is a machine that is programmed (by humans) to make rational choices towards accomplishing a goal(winning at chess) A human being is a machine that is programmed(by natural selection) to make rational choices towards accomplishing goals(mainly survival and reproduction) both follow deterministic processes
8/29/06 7:16 PM
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winnidon
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Edited: 29-Aug-06 07:36 PM
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"Here are a few examples of everyday occurences where you know determinism to be true. A smoker wants to quit but he can't because he's addicted You get angry and you would like to calm down, but you can't and you make angry irrational choices you don't want to make but have a hard time avoiding An alcoholic takes another swig of beer even though he wants to avoid drinking " I suspect--given your examples--that you fail to appreciate that, within the freewill debate, determinism is tantamount to a metaphysical causal necessity! In any case, it is hardly obvious that we know that everyday occurances such as addiction entails a causal necessity. To be clear, I am not denying that there is no causal link rather, that the link is one of causal necessity.
8/29/06 7:35 PM
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winnidon
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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"Just because a choice can be rationally justified doesn't mean it wasn't determined. DEEP BLUE made rational moves in chess all the time, and it is determined." Again, I think you are unclear that determinism, as I am using the word, is a philosophical technical term about causal necessity. If determinism is true then EVERY choice--rational or otherwise--directly follows from the past facts and the laws of nature. "Deep Blue is a machine that is programmed (by humans) to make rational choices towards accomplishing a goal(winning at chess) A human being is a machine that is programmed(by natural selection) to make rational choices towards accomplishing goals(mainly survival and reproduction) both follow deterministic processes" It seems clear to me that you are simply using 'determinism' differently -- that you are offering a discriptive account and not a metaphysical claim.
8/29/06 7:36 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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I'm not sure what you are saying
8/29/06 7:38 PM
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sanguine cynic
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Edited: 29-Aug-06
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"That something is in a certain way, or that it works, is not an argument that it *should* be in that way. If you aren?t some kind of utilitarist of course." I don't know, I'm kind of a pragmatist.

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