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Dawkins vs Sartre/ existentialism vs biological determinism

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    I'd like to clarify from the outset that I don't subscribe to Dawkins' hard-line views of genetic determinism. I'm just using him as an appropriately extreme example of biological deterministic scientists - in reality, probably the vast majority of biologists in academia.

    On the other hand, I have for years been attracted to Sartre's writing on existentialism and freedom - especially emotional freedom/ emotion as strategy in Bad Faith.

    The more Sartre's Theory of Emotion was ridiculed, the more. I convinced myself that this was a predictable response from people clinging to myths about themselves and their unwillingness to accept personal responsibility.

    Lately, however, Sartre's Sketch on emotions seems incapable of withstanding the scientific criticism that is implied by biological determinism ("BD"). Whilst both existentialism and BD express doubts, or reject, the idea of "consciousness", BD has convincingly rubbished very idea of Free Will, a basic and necessary element of existentialism which has been consigned to the dustbin of superstition.

    The idea is - and it is difficult to reject - that human beings are, in fact, prisoners of our biology or (per Dawkins), our genes. Free will is a myth we tell ourselves, it is belief our ability to act with freedom that lacks any scientific or reasonable basis.

    Am I wrong? I'd hate to think that I finally persevered through BEING AND NOTHINGNESS for no good reason. How can this conclusion be avoided?


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Comments



  • It seems to me that the quick-and-dirty objection to absolute biological determinism is this: it doesn't correspond with our observations or experiences. We observe and experience ourselves to be making choices all the time.

    "Ah", you may say, "but this may be illusory."

    Indeed it may. But one of the fundamental axioms of the scientific method is that our empirical observations are not illusory; they are not are not delusions; there is an objective external reality and our observations and experiences meaningfully correspond to it. If this is not so, then we can never learn anything objectively true by observation or experimentation.

    Of course, we can't prove that this is so, since any attempted proof that this is so must rely on observations and experiments whose validity, as a mathod of proof, depends on it being so. Thus, circular reasoning. So, instead, the meanignfulness and significance of our observations and experiences is one of the axioms on which the scientific method depends. And arguing that our experience of choice is, in reality, delusional and does not correspond to exertnal reality is a direct attack on that axiom and, therefore, on the whole of the scentific method.




  • What is freedom and free will? Is it a feeling, a belief that’s defined by how we act? (Algorithms that can predict our behavior?!) Surely every decision made by people can be traced back to some sort of learned behavior, experience or bias? Probably influenced greatly by culture and communities. But if you have, for example 3 different possibilities and you choose one, surely that’s free will if you choice is informed and won’t necessarily always be the same (can be cultivated through growth and I suppose manipulation).

    People who isolate themselves - depression = prison , Solitude - freedom and choosing to be free

    People who conform to the norms without questioning anything - willing prisoners? Free will to be ignorant?

    People who challange conformity - free if they genuinely don’t get upset with ignorance or pushback - prison if they allow society to undermine their own efforts to objectively challange norms

    Is freedom not a mindset or a feeling? As somebody who suffers from depression and anxiety I certainly know what I consider “freedom” and to a degree “free will”. People in horrible situations (nazi camp) that managed to survive or retain hope, freedom of the mind?

    Personally when I feel like anything is possible in my life but I am content with just believing this , being content with my life and not actually feeling like the need to act on it, I feel free. Kind of a gratitude of sorts because there is no desire for anything other then the now which is absolute freedom. Choosing to accept this truth at that moment is free will in my opinion because there are so many alternate competing options, just choosing the now is freedom from bondage. Im rejecting my instincts (anxiety/depression) in favour of freedom that often alludes me.

    Edit: thinking of Buddhism and meditation, isn’t freedom just being able to accept that life just is, it doesn’t really matter what it’s about or freedom or free will. Just accepting life as is, is freedom.

    Incidentally I do find philosophy very interesting subject but I find the way people talk in this forum a barrier to discussions. I don’t have an education in this area and perhaps it’s because many of you do and you don’t want to engage people who you feel might not be serious about it. I’m not looking to offend, Maybe I’m not clever enough to take up this subject but I’d rather be honest about how I feel when writing here then to pretend I understand everything.




  • Lately, however, Sartre's Sketch on emotions seems incapable of withstanding the scientific criticism that is implied by biological determinism ("BD").
    You introduce several complex and interesting discussion points Miltiades. Given my limitations at the moment, I will attempt to touch upon one or two, and return later when time permits.
    Whilst... BD express doubts, or reject, the idea of "consciousness", BD has convincingly rubbished very idea of Free Will.
    This position of biological determinism appears to be solidly on the Nature side of the Nature vs nurture argument. Some may question if nurture was biologically determined too?

    The philosophical origins of "consciousness," and alternatively unconsciousness, have been confounded. Some have claimed that St Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274) suggested that unconscious processing occurred in his theory of mind way before Friedrich Schelling, Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, or more poetically Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Obviously the works of Freud and Jung greatly popularized these concepts, but unfortunately both of these psychiatrists based their researches on prescientific case study analyses, and as in the case of Freud committed an ecological fallacy by leaping from individual level cases to social populations in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930).
    The idea is - and it is difficult to reject - that human beings are, in fact, prisoners of our biology or (per Dawkins), our genes. Free will is a myth we tell ourselves, it is belief our ability to act with freedom that lacks any scientific or reasonable basis.
    Behaviorists like BF Skinner in his Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), or in his more scientifically based Cumulative Record (1961), would also suggest that free will was myth, and that humans were a product of their Nature and environment. Unlike hard line biological determinists, behaviourists tended to include both Nature and nurture in their models; but nurture with considerable limitations in definition, content, and context.




  • BD has convincingly rubbished very idea of Free Will
    It has? In the relevant sciences, neurology and genetics being two, there is still back and forth discussions on whether Free Will exists and to what extent. I don't think it has been convincingly rubbished in any sense.





  • The idea is - and it is difficult to reject - that human beings are, in fact, prisoners of our biology or (per Dawkins), our genes. Free will is a myth we tell ourselves, it is belief our ability to act with freedom that lacks any scientific or reasonable basis.

    Am I wrong? I'd hate to think that I finally persevered through BEING AND NOTHINGNESS for no good reason. How can this conclusion be avoided?

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here, in the final chapter of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins argues that we are not slaves to our genes.


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  • The more Sartre's Theory of Emotion was ridiculed, the more. I convinced myself that this was a predictable response from people clinging to myths about themselves and their unwillingness to accept personal responsibility.
    An example of Bad Faith? Or what?
    Sartre's Sketch ... the idea of "consciousness" ... idea of Free Will, a basic and necessary element of existentialism
    For Jean-Paul Sartre consciousness allows the world to be perceived. Challenges Immanuel Kant's phenomena and noumena dualism. Where Kant contended that there were things that existed yet to be perceived, in any case they still existed. Satre countered that only those things that were consciously perceived existed. But new things could be added should they appear. Makes me wonder about this subtle distinction between Satre and Kant, or how similar and different it might be?

    Where Kant was more an objective materialist that some biological determinists may identify with, Satre's consciousness seemed to differentiate humans from Richard Dawkins' biologically driven animals that exhibited no consciousness.




  • Fourier wrote: »
    It has? In the relevant sciences, neurology and genetics being two, there is still back and forth discussions on whether Free Will exists and to what extent. I don't think it has been convincingly rubbished in any sense.
    Can you name any biologists who believe in the concept of free will?

    Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky is seen as a moderate, and even he is unequivocal on the non-existence of free will. Scientists can accept that which is observable or can be inferred -- where is this free will? Describe it?
    Black Swan wrote: »
    You introduce several complex and interesting discussion points Miltiades. Given my limitations at the moment, I will attempt to touch upon one or two, and return later when time permits.

    This position of biological determinism appears to be solidly on the Nature side of the Nature vs nurture argument. Some may question if nurture was biologically determined too?
    Unlike hard line biological determinists, behaviourists tended to include both Nature and nurture in their models; but nurture with considerable limitations in definition, content, and context.
    I don't know of any biologist who rejects the idea of nurture (let's say environment, instead) -- but they add (to the genetic theory) a biochemical dimension -- now I'm a slave to my coffee withdrawal and my genes. They believe in the interaction of genetics and the physiocal/ biochemical world as being in control of who we are and what we do.
    5uspect wrote: »
    I’m not sure what you’re saying here, in the final chapter of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins argues that we are not slaves to our genes.
    Of course, maybe we're not slaves to our genes, in the sense that our genes give us some latitude -- I can sit inside for lunch or I can choose to go for a walk. I can choose my words in replying to you -- or can I? How much of what I am writing is interdependent on my biology, my metabolism, all the combined physical structures of my body?

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/
    Many scientists say that the American physiologist Benjamin Libet demonstrated in the 1980s that we have no free will. It was already known that electrical activity builds up in a person’s brain before she, for example, moves her hand; Libet showed that this buildup occurs before the person consciously makes a decision to move. The conscious experience of deciding to act, which we usually associate with free will, appears to be an add-on, a post hoc reconstruction of events that occurs after the brain has already set the act in motion.




  • Can you name any biologists who believe in the concept of free will?
    First note Neuronal determinism does not imply a negation of Free Will (Compatibilism).

    Anyway Adina Roskies is an example of a biologist. However in general I don't like to cite proponents of ideas for scientific issues. People can not believe in an issue and yet contribute papers that cast doubt on what they believe.

    Libet's original studies that started the "No Free Will" in a big way in neurology are being criticised in the last few years as not showing what Libet claimed. This lack of conclusivity to experiments is much more important than what people believe.
    Scientists can accept that which is observable or can be inferred -- where is this free will? Describe it?
    Humans don't seem to be predictable in many scenarios. That's an observable fact. To claim that this unpredictability can be removed by detailed knowledge of neuronal tissue is itself a conjecture that is not observed or inferrable from what is currently known.

    There's no onus on one side in particular here. Demonstrating Free Will involves showing the unpredictability cannot be removed, showing it false requires showing it can.

    We know the most fundamental levels of reality are autonomous/free, so it wouldn't be completely unprecedented in science for something to be "Free".




  • Fourier wrote: »
    Libet's original studies that started the "No Free Will" in a big way in neurology are being criticised in the last few years as not showing what Libet claimed. This lack of conclusivity to experiments is much more important than what people believe.
    By referring to Libet's "claims" being since "criticised" you almost make it sound as if this research has become less credible over time.

    In fact, it's the other way around. Libet's research was originally far more controversial than it is today. The basic thrust of his observations -- that ostensibly free choices are in fact determined by neural activity before the subject is conscious of having made a 'choice' -- has been reproduced in subsequent research. The concept of scientific/ biological determinism has never been less controversial.

    As an aside, I find it very interesting that much of the criticism of LIbet's work, and criticism of biological determinism itself, seems almost to dwell on why BD should not be true, or mustn't be true, because of the moral consequences for human society. Obviously, there's more intelligent criticism than that out there, but it is surprising that so many commentators seem to posit that 'this mustn't be true because that would be terrible'.

    Even if they don't state their opposition in such brute language, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that some people are in opposition to the concept of biological determinism because, well, they'd rather it weren't real.
    Humans don't seem to be predictable in many scenarios. That's an observable fact. To claim that this unpredictability can be removed by detailed knowledge of neuronal tissue is itself a conjecture that is not observed or inferrable from what is currently known.

    There's no onus on one side in particular here. Demonstrating Free Will involves showing the unpredictability cannot be removed, showing it false requires showing it can.

    We know the most fundamental levels of reality are autonomous/free, so it wouldn't be completely unprecedented in science for something to be "Free".
    What do you mean by the sentence "We know the most fundamental levels of reality are autonomous/free"? Can you expand on that?

    Because it reads to me like you might actually be referring there to randomness. We know that biology can be random -- random gene mutation is the obvious example. It may very well be that our choices are governed by random processes as well as biological onces -- but random phenomena are equally as incompatible with freedom as determinism is.

    You also say "there is no onus on one side here". It reminds me of something Adina Roskies wrote, that neuroscientists haven't managed to prove that there isn't a free will. That's an amazing statement, which I would think is akin to saying "well biologists haven't proven that there isn't a soul, or an omniscient God, so I'm going to retain my belief in one"

    There is no scientific evidence in favour of autonomous human freedom -- certainly not of the type proposed by Sartre, which is the specific type of freedom I'm referring to here. It seems increasingly necessary to view that kind of libertarianism as a myth or a superstition.




  • By referring to Libet's "claims" being since "criticised" you almost make it sound as if this research has become less credible over time.

    In fact, it's the other way around. Libet's research was originally far more controversial than it is today. The basic thrust of his observations -- that ostensibly free choices are in fact determined by neural activity before the subject is conscious of having made a 'choice' -- has been reproduced in subsequent research. The concept of scientific/ biological determinism has never been less controversial.
    That's not my reading of the neurological literature. Libet's work was originally criticised and then became accepted more during the 1990s. Since the mid-2000s further studies have been done that have left the state of the whole area more complex and confusing with no clear conclusions.
    As an aside, I find it very interesting that much of the criticism of LIbet's work, and criticism of biological determinism itself, seems almost to dwell on why BD should not be true, or mustn't be true, because of the moral consequences for human society
    Those might be the criticisms outside neurology but not within. The criticisms within neurology have mostly been about what the timings are correlated with, other studies showing the ambiguity of sensory processing, how you extract correlations from a temporal series and other technical issues.
    You also say "there is no onus on one side here". It reminds me of something Adina Roskies...
    There is no scientific evidence in favour of autonomous human freedom
    Humans having Free Will is just as in line with the evidence as the alternative. Human predictability is quite low in many circumstances. I don't want to get too technical here, but some of our choices break what are known as the CHSH inequalities, which are very hard to explain with determinism. There have been experiments attempting to track us in basic tasks where the probability distributions don't tighten even after repeated sampling. Just currently the evidence is not clearly in favour of either direction. There are things that support both views to some degree. Wiki says it well enough:
    The field remains highly controversial. The significance of findings, their meaning, and what conclusions may be drawn from them is a matter of intense debate. The precise role of consciousness in decision making and how that role may differ across types of decisions remains unclear

    It's just an open issue with no clear conclusion yet. I don't think it's like arguing for God or spirits, there are things in line with it.
    What do you mean by the sentence "We know the most fundamental levels of reality are autonomous/free"? Can you expand on that?

    Because it reads to me like you might actually be referring there to randomness
    Subatomic systems' behaviour is not controlled by other physical facts. Thus what they do seems autonomous from other physical systems. This is not the same as the popular conception of randomness.


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  • Fourier wrote: »
    That's not my reading of the neurological literature. Libet's work was originally criticised and then became accepted more during the 1990s. Since the mid-2000s further studies have been done that have left the state of the whole area more complex and confusing with no clear conclusions.
    As the boundaries of knowledge in neuroscience are pushed further out, it is entirely to be expected for the landscape of knowledge should grow more complex, like a blind man regaining his sight. When in the process of scientific discovery doesn't that happen? I don't see how growing complexity can be used to refute the studies that have reproduced Libet's work.

    There are valid criticisms of Libet and subsequent related research, their methodologies and how they drew conclusions, of course.

    So lets ignore Libet for a moment and return to basic human reasoning involving a real life case-study.

    We know that neurochemical and anatomical changes in the brain cause massive changes in our behaviour. Charles Whitman is a classic example. Whitman led a normal, humdrum life -- until one day he killed 16 people including members of his own family, whom he loved. Whitman asked for his brain to be examined after his suicide, and eventually a panel of medical experts affirmed that Whitman's behaviour was due to a tumour disrupting neural processes in his amygdala, which is widely cited as a reason for his extraordinary, violent behaviour.

    This is nothing new; for well over a century, the legal system has recognised how neurological disorders can cause a killer to be not guilty for their crime.
    A person suffering with clinical depression who is prescribed the correct type and dosage of an SSRI/ SNRI will usually have their systems relieved, to the point where their personality may change altogether.
    If I go out tonight and consume MDMA, I'll be more friendly and empathetic.

    The materialistic/ deterministic concept of human behaviour is visible to all of us, every day. If you don't have enough glucose in your blood, you're likely to be lethargic and unable to focus. If you have elevated testosterone, you're more likely to get in a fight.

    Knowing this, then even if Libet et al. had never conducted their research into brain activity and conscious decision-making, we should still be extremely skeptical about some invisible, quasi mystical 'driving force' within our brains (souls?), when we know that we are constantly doing strange things because of our biochemistry and neuroanatomy which, in retrospect, can cause us surprise or alarm that we behaved in those ways.
    Humans having Free Will is just as in line with the evidence as the alternative. Human predictability is quite low in many circumstances.
    No, it isn't. There is literally no scientific evidence for the existence of free will.

    In fact, the trend in neuroscience over the past 100 years or so, has been to increasingly demonstrate biological reasons for human behaviour.

    It is only in the past 70 years or so we've even known about ADHD, the biochemistry of depression, schizophrenia, and even epilepsy. 30 years ago we didn't even know about various personality disorders, now we know they have a genetic component, as does alcoholism. The march of biology is moving in a very clear direction, and it isn't favouring the omnipotent humunculus.
    Subatomic systems' behaviour is not controlled by other physical facts. Thus what they do seems autonomous from other physical systems. This is not the same as the popular conception of randomness.
    Why would quantum indeterminacy be relevant here? It shows unpredictability, for sure, but that's not necessarily at odds with biological determinism. The fact that we cannot predict (or understand) aspects of our brain doesn't cause us to resort to "Oh well it must be my mystical free will instead"

    To return to the OP and the topic at hand, at the very least, developments in neuroscience and biology should cause people to question a lot of things about our species, but most relevantly for the purposes of this discussion, it raises serious doubts about a lot of the writing of Sartre and other existentialists, but especially Sartre.




  • As the boundaries of knowledge in neuroscience are pushed further out, it is entirely to be expected for the landscape of knowledge should grow more complex, like a blind man regaining his sight. When in the process of scientific discovery doesn't that happen? I don't see how growing complexity can be used to refute the studies that have reproduced Libet's work.
    I never said the complexity itself was refutation. It was that there were no clear conclusions from the current state of the field. That's not a refutation either. The point is that there is no reasonably solid refutation of either position. If you read monographs on the subject that is essentially what they say, that the results are inconclusive. At no point is simply the complexity invoked as a refutation.
    and eventually a panel of medical experts affirmed that Whitman's behaviour was due to a tumour
    Experts say it is not conclusive:
    Wiki wrote:
    During the autopsy, Chenar discovered a "pecan-sized" brain tumor,[58] which he labeled an astrocytoma and which exhibited a small amount of necrosis. Chenar concluded that the tumor had no effect on Whitman's actions. These findings were later revised by the Connally Commission: "It is the opinion of the task force that the relationship between the brain tumor and Charles J. Whitman's actions on the last day of his life cannot be established with clarity."
    Again something inconclusive.
    Knowing this, then even if Libet et al. had never conducted their research into brain activity and conscious decision-making, we should still be extremely skeptical about some invisible, quasi mystical 'driving force' within our brains (souls?), when we know that we are constantly doing strange things because of our biochemistry and neuroanatomy which, in retrospect, can cause us surprise or alarm that we behaved in those ways.
    This is a false dichotomy. The options are not between total biochemical determinism or a supernatural soul/magic force. Nobody would argue that biochemistry affects our behaviour and that our control over our actions can be diminished in various circumstances. It is a leap though to go from this to total biochemical determinism.
    No, it isn't. There is literally no scientific evidence for the existence of free will.
    There is scientific evidence both for the fact that our actions are not predictable in advance and evidence against. You cannot just declare the case closed in contradiction to the academic views on the subject. I gave an example of humans breaking statistical inequalities hard to square with determinism.

    Can you provide a scientific reference that states clearly that Free Will has been refuted in the opinion of the neurological community?
    In fact, the trend in neuroscience over the past 100 years or so, has been to increasingly demonstrate biological reasons for human behaviour.

    It is only in the past 70 years or so we've even known about ADHD, the biochemistry of depression, schizophrenia, and even epilepsy. 30 years ago we didn't even know about various personality disorders, now we know they have a genetic component, as does alcoholism. The march of biology is moving in a very clear direction, and it isn't favouring the omnipotent humunculus.
    Again these don't demonstrate an absence of Free Will. Of course neurology has found biological reasons for human behaviour. You are again contrasting total biochemical dependence with magic souls. Nobody is advocating magic souls. There are several other concepts such as top-down causation or emergence. Completely physical/naturalist explanations that permit Free Will.
    Why would quantum indeterminacy be relevant here? It shows unpredictability, for sure, but that's not necessarily at odds with biological determinism.
    I never said it was. I gave it as an example in science where freedom/autonomy exists with no reference to magic or supernatural events.

    However note some people do think it is relevant. Can you explain why it's not at odds with biological determinism? It's not an easy argument to make in my experience involving subtle effects like decoherence.
    The fact that we cannot predict (or understand) aspects of our brain doesn't cause us to resort to "Oh well it must be my mystical free will instead"
    Again this is strawmanning. Nobody is talking about "mystical" stuff. I also never said we have to resort to saying there is Free Will.

    What I am saying is that the field is currently inconclusive. Not that there is Free Will. And certainly not that if there were it would be a "mystical" force




  • Fourier wrote: »
    I never said the complexity itself was refutation.
    Not refutation perhaps, but you appear to be suggesting that growing complexity (again, to be expected) is contributing to discrediting Libet et al.

    I don't take issue with people criticising methodology or specific conclusions -- Libet did that himself, as I'm sure you're aware. I'm a bit puzzled as to how the growing complexity can be a problem -- it's not as if the added complexity is pointing instead towards a little humunculus.
    Experts say it is not conclusive:
    Said. In 1966. Back then, the amydala was vaguely linked to fear, but scientists weren't at all sure of what the amygdala did. To my knowledge, it wasn't until the last 30-35 years that we've known about its relationship with aggression.

    You're referencing a quote from people who believed in the efficacy of (and were probably performing) lobotomies. I'm talking about contemporary observations of Whitman's tumour.
    Knowing this, then even if Libet et al. had never conducted their research into brain activity and conscious decision-making, we should still be extremely skeptical about some invisible, quasi mystical 'driving force' within our brains (souls?), when we know that we are constantly doing strange things because of our biochemistry and neuroanatomy which, in retrospect, can cause us surprise or alarm that we behaved in those ways.
    This is a false dichotomy. The options are not between total biochemical determinism or a supernatural soul/magic force. Nobody would argue that biochemistry affects our behaviour and that our control over our actions can be diminished in various circumstances. It is a leap though to go from this to total biochemical determinism.
    It's a bigger leap to go to the mystical concept of Free Will.

    All opinions are not equal. I'm not attempting to establish a false dichotomy, I'm simply suggesting that even ignoring Libet et al, ignoring Dawkins (yes, please lets), even a layman's knowledge of science should cause them to be skeptical about the idea of a Free Will compared to a biological explanation for human behaviours.

    First we learned about the frontal lobe, then we found out about schizophrenia, then we discovered dyslexia, and autism, and ADHD, and personality disorders -- and suddenly what do we have? A growing picture where our behaviours are increasingly demonstrated to be biological and/or genetically heritable.

    That's the point. I'm not saying it's proof, I'm asking that you consider the direction of the evidence.
    Can you provide a scientific reference that states clearly that Free Will has been refuted in the opinion of the neurological community?
    No. I don't have the resources to do a survey on this. I just haven't ever come across a biologist who believes in a metaphysical kind of free will, of the kind that Sartre believed to be true (which was, after all, the point of this thread)
    However note some people do think it is relevant. Can you explain why it's not at odds with biological determinism? It's not an easy argument to make in my experience involving subtle effects like decoherence.
    Well the obvious answer to that is that you cannot rule out some unknown deterministic processes underlying quantum mechanics. All we can talk about for sure is unpredictability -- and even a hard determinist would agree that human behaviour, although obeying material laws, is unpredictable.




  • Not refutation perhaps, but you appear to be suggesting that growing complexity (again, to be expected) is contributing to discrediting Libet et al.
    No as I said it is the lack of a consensus or clear conclusions. I'm not even really sure what complexity contributing to discrediting would mean. Regardless it's not the complexity.
    Said. In 1966...
    No they still aren't conclusive:
    https://www.dailytexanonline.com/2016/07/30/experts-still-disagree-on-role-of-tower-shooters-brain-tumor
    It's a bigger leap to go to the mystical concept of Free Will
    Once again nobody is claiming a mystical version of Free Will.
    cause them to be skeptical about the idea of a Free Will
    "Be skeptical about" is fine and I'm not arguing that. Conclude it's false though is not supported by neuroscience.
    That's the point. I'm not saying it's proof, I'm asking that you consider the direction of the evidence
    The current evidence in totality has no clear direction, that's the problem. There is evidence in both directions. In both cases however the relevant studies are performed on low sample groups with poor control often leading to poor p-values, which themselves only manifest after certain priors are assumed. I've dug into one of the major "no free will" papers before. I could explain how weak its statistics actually are if you want. This also applies to pro-Free Will papers.
    No. I don't have the resources to do a survey on this. I just haven't ever come across a biologist who believes in a metaphysical kind of free will, of the kind that Sartre believed to be true (which was, after all, the point of this thread)
    This can be a function of reading things at the popular science level. There are many neurologists and scientists with ideas including top down causation and emergence that are compatible with what Sartre spoke about. It's just all the writing is at a very technical level and requires an understanding of emergence and complex systems. There's plenty of debates in science that unfortunately don't filter down to general books.
    Well the obvious answer to that is that you cannot rule out some unknown deterministic processes underlying quantum mechanics
    That has been ruled out. Conclusively.




  • Fourier wrote: »
    No as I said it is the lack of a consensus or clear conclusions. I'm not even really sure what complexity contributing to discrediting would mean. Regardless it's not the complexity.
    You're the one who raised the issue of increasing complexity. You said "further studies have been done that have left the state of the whole area more complex and confusing" -- what, then did you mean by that?

    You cannot have meant that the question has become more confused/ complex because of discoveries in favour of some invisible, unobserved Free Will which lacks any scientific explanation, so what then?
    Have you read the article you cite?

    One of the people who doubted the relevance of Whitman's tumour doubted that the tumour even existed -- this is patent nonsense, it was grossly identifiable. To believe that, you'd have to posit that the medical experts were unable to distinguish a tumour from brain tissue. The other (far more reasonable) criticism was that Whitman's behaviour was exacerbated by his traumatic early childhood -- which is totally compatible with a deterministic view.
    Fourier wrote:
    Well the obvious answer to that is that you cannot rule out some unknown deterministic processes underlying quantum mechanics
    That has been ruled out. Conclusively.
    It can't be though, can it, in principle. Asking you to disprove "Bohmian mechanics", however ridiculous, is like asking a scientist to prove that free will doesn't exist.




  • You're the one who raised the issue of increasing complexity. You said "further studies have been done that have left the state of the whole area more complex and confusing" -- what, then did you mean by that?
    That the field has not converged toward a consensus.
    You cannot have meant that the question has become more confused/ complex because of discoveries in favour of some invisible, unobserved Free Will which lacks any scientific explanation, so what then?
    There have been facts found that are more easily explained via lack of determinism. I have already stated that most researchers who suggest Free Will do so via naturalistic explanations like top down causation, emergence, ontological structural realist theories and so on. Constantly characterising it as mystic/magical with no scientific explanation is just not correct.
    Have you read the article you cite?
    Yes.

    It shows doubt about the tumour being the cause. That's all I was contending. I'm not saying it proves Free Will or something. Of course there are explanations compatible with determinism. However it's not a shutcase either as "childhood" is much more nebulous than a direct physical cause like a tumour.
    It can't be though, can it, in principle. Asking you to disprove "Bohmian mechanics", however ridiculous, is like asking a scientist to prove that free will doesn't exist.
    It has. Bohmian mechanics cannot replicate relativistic particle decays. It has particle number as a conserved quantity.




  • Peregrinus wrote: »
    It seems to me that the quick-and-dirty objection to absolute biological determinism is this: it doesn't correspond with our observations or experiences. We observe and experience ourselves to be making choices all the time.

    "Ah", you may say, "but this may be illusory."

    Indeed it may. But one of the fundamental axioms of the scientific method is that our empirical observations are not illusory; they are not are not delusions; there is an objective external reality and our observations and experiences meaningfully correspond to it. If this is not so, then we can never learn anything objectively true by observation or experimentation.

    Of course, we can't prove that this is so, since any attempted proof that this is so must rely on observations and experiments whose validity, as a mathod of proof, depends on it being so. Thus, circular reasoning. So, instead, the meanignfulness and significance of our observations and experiences is one of the axioms on which the scientific method depends. And arguing that our experience of choice is, in reality, delusional and does not correspond to exertnal reality is a direct attack on that axiom and, therefore, on the whole of the scentific method.

    A different perspective of our experience can be arrived at through the practice of meditation, which is essentially the practice of examining ones experience. We can see how little control we actually exhibit over our internal processes.




  • Just on the issue of the Libet experiments. This is a tweet from Sam Harris on the topic:
    https://twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg/status/1172175513671987200?s=19




  • I've recently rekindled my interest in the question of Free Will, so it's great to see a thread on the topic here.

    From my recent egnagement on the subject I have come to the conclusion (perhaps erroneously) that for free will to be real it must be, as Miltiades posits, mysytical in nature. It seems to necessitate either Idealism* or some form of cartesian dualism. I just can't see how it can possibly fit into any sort of materialist paradigm.

    Compatibilism
    Amongst philosophers, the dominant argument in favour of free will appears to be something called "compatibilism". Apparently this is the position favoured by a majority of philosophers. Notable proponents of compatibilism include Daniel Dennett and Eddy Nahmias. Compatibilism is the attempt to reconcile [a] notion of free will with the scientific paradigm of determinisim. On the other side of that argument are people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, who are deemed incompatibilists bcos, for obvious reasons, they say that free will is not compatible with determinism. I would consider myself an incompatibilist because I cannot see how free will is possibly compatible with determinism within the materialist paradigm.

    Determinism, as I'm sure goes without saying, is the idea that all states of the universe are caused by antecedant (or prior) states. If this is true, then it implies that everything in the universe has a prior cause and is part of an overall chain of causality - analogous to a train of dominoes. If we imagine that "our will" or our "choice" is one such domino which causes us to act in a given manner, then we can see that our "will" itself has a prior cause. If we follow this chain of causality it will extend beyond "me", that is, "my will" will be caused by something other than me. This is not difficult to imagine in a real sense, when we consider that we don't choose our genes, we don't choose our parents, we don't choose the environment in which we grow up, etc. etc. yet all of these things determine our values, our beliefs, and our general outlook on life, all of which dictate the choices we make. Knowing all of thise we still ffeel as though we have free will or ultimate control over our choices, but imcompatibilists will say that this is illusory.

    It is easy to overcomplicate the argument by following this feeling that we have, when all we need to do is return to the idea of determinism. Determinism tells us that everything has a prior cause, this includes our will. Therefore, our will cannot be free, unless we invoke some entity that doesn't fit into this chain of causality. To do this we would need to invoke something outside the paradigm of materialism. Compatibilists such as Dennett attempt to dance around this and try to redefine what free will is, however, they only succeed in positing that we have a will. They don't restore the critical freedom [of that will] which determinism removes.


    Indeterminism
    Quantum Indeterminism appears to be even less compatible with free will than determinism. Firstly, it is probably worth noting that the ability to predict the choices of a person has absolutely no bearing on whether or not their will is free. A deterministic sysytem can be sufficiently complex that it can be unpredictable, as in chaos theory.

    We have to think about where our will comes into quantum indeterminacy. If our actions/choices are the result of quantum randomness then this is just another form of determinism over which we have no control and our will, therefore, is not free.

    If the quantum event is the caused by our willing it to happen which then gives rise to our choices or our behaviour then we are dealing with the much maligned notion of "the observer effect" which is the idea that a conscious observer is necessary to "collapse the [quantum] wave function". This is something that doesn't appear to have much truck in the field of physics and it also appears to invoke some form of either idealism or cartesian dualism because indetermin because, as Fourier mentioned, "subatomic systems' behaviour is not controlled by other physical facts."


    It's hard to see where free will can squeeze into the materialist paradigm. Any arguments that attempt to rescue it from determinsim appear to do so at the cost of the critical characteristic of freedom, while indeterminism seems to strip it of either freedom, will, or both.




  • Fourier wrote: »
    Miltiades wrote:
    Well the obvious answer to that is that you cannot rule out some unknown deterministic processes underlying quantum mechanics.
    That has been ruled out. Conclusively.

    There are a few prominent physicists who would disagree with that, aren't there? Lee Smolin being the most prominent.

    The notion of Superdeterminism hasn't been (or perhaps can't be) ruled out, has it? It seems like a big objection to it tends to be that it involves some form of "conspiracy" but that argument allegedly involves a presupposition of free will. It is, however, just the natural conclusion of determinism i.e. all chains of causality have their origins at the big bang.

    It's difficult to see how we can have an indeterminate universe without, again, invoking some form of dualism.

    @Fourier, you've mentioned that "subatomic systems' behaviour is not controlled by other physical facts". This appears to be a statement about indeterminism which naturally refutes determinism. If we apply this notion to the double slit experiment, where we have a flash of light registering on the screen. This would imply that nothing physical precedes the particle registering on the screen. We might then ask, at the moment immediately prior to the particle registering on the screen, what physical state was it in? If it wasn't in some kind of physical state then what kind of state was it in? If it wasn't in some physical state immediately prior to registering on the screen, then how was it able to interact with the screen?


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  • roosh wrote: »
    There are a few prominent physicists who would disagree with that, aren't there? Lee Smolin being the most prominent.
    Firstly Smolin does not advocate determinism for QM. I'm not about to give a course in his views on Quantum Gravity, but it's not about determinism. It's about focusing more on an aspect of QM called relationism.

    And no I wouldn't say many prominent physicists argue for determinism in QM. The view of the overwhelming majority in light of the evidence is that determinism is invalidated. Not only is there no working deterministic theory, but we know none can exist without several kinds of fine tuning which makes them unnatural.
    The notion of Superdeterminism hasn't been (or perhaps can't be) ruled out, has it?
    Superdeterministic theories require fine-tuning. The issue with them has nothing to do with Free Will, but in their deficiencies as predictive physical theories.
    @Fourier, you've mentioned that "subatomic systems' behaviour is not controlled by other physical facts". This appears to be a statement about indeterminism which naturally refutes determinism. If we apply this notion to the double slit experiment, where we have a flash of light registering on the screen. This would imply that nothing physical precedes the particle registering on the screen. We might then ask, at the moment immediately prior to the particle registering on the screen, what physical state was it in?
    "Physical state" is an ambiguous phrase. QM gives it a quantum state, which is a description of the probabilities for outcomes of subsequent measurements. If you're asking what it's like independent of anybody measuring it, QM doesn't speak about that.
    If it wasn't in some kind of physical state then what kind of state was it in? If it wasn't in some physical state immediately prior to registering on the screen, then how was it able to interact with the screen?
    In QM one makes a preparation. That is you set up some kind of physical system like a hot cathode ray or a laser. Then you pick how to measure this system, e.g. do you use a photo-detection screen or do you use a homodyne detector. What happens at the measurement equipment is not determined completely by any other physical fact, that's the random part of QM. Also whether there is a particle there or not depends on the measurement choice. If I use a photo-detection screen then I can talk about the laser being composed of photons, if I use a homodyne detector I can't. So the composition of objects is context dependent.

    QM also has a deeper form of indeterminism. Which is that nothing controls the choice of measurement equipment/context. It's not even random like the measurement outcomes, it's outside the theory.




  • Fourier wrote: »
    And no I wouldn't say many prominent physicists argue for determinism in QM. The view of the overwhelming majority in light of the evidence is that determinism is invalidated. Not only is there no working deterministic theory, but we know none can exist without several kinds of fine tuning which makes them unnatural.
    The point was that determinism has been conclusively ruled out, when I don't believe that this is the case. The many worlds interpretation, along the lines of Everett, is a deterministic interpretation of QM which hasn't conclusively been ruled out, therefore the notion of determinism itself hasn't been ruled out.

    With regard to Smolin's position
    Fourier wrote: »
    Firstly Smolin does not advocate determinism for QM. I'm not about to give a course in his views on Quantum Gravity, but it's not about determinism. It's about focusing more on an aspect of QM called relationism.
    I'm not sure if you mean that he doesn't advocate determinism for QM as it is currently formulated bcos I think that is technically correct, but he is an advocate of the position that QM is [in his words] "wrong". What he means by "wrong" is what most people might [in his words again] "politely" mean when they say it is incomplete.
    the theory Smolin seeks...must be deterministic, meaning that the future state of a system is completely determined by the laws of physics acting on the present state.
    https://www.americanscientist.org/article/a-realist-vision-of-the-quantum-world
    Like Einstein, Smolin is a philosophical ‘realist’ — someone who thinks that the real world exists independently of our minds and can be described by deterministic laws.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01101-0

    He might not advocate for determinism as we generally tend to understand it, instead a kind of non-local determinism.
    The most important thing I'm doing in my new work is taking seriously the role of nonlocality. [Nonlocality refers to the ability of objects to influence the actions of other objects that are very far apart in space and time.] If you want to give a realistic, complete description of what's going on when you have two particles or more that have interacted and are what we call "entangled," then how you choose to manipulate one of the particles can influence the others, even if they're very far apart. And this means that you have to take seriously that influences aren't constrained by the idea that things only affect what is near to them.
    https://www.space.com/einsteins-unfinished-revolution-lee-smolin-interview.html
    Fourier wrote: »
    Superdeterministic theories require fine-tuning. The issue with them has nothing to do with Free Will, but in their deficiencies as predictive physical theories.
    There are those who argue against superdeterminism bcos they feel that it invalidates the whole practice of scientific inquiry. They argue that we must be free to choose what experiments to do, otherwise the universe is engaged in some giant conspiracy to make us conduct experiments that make the universe appear indeterminate, when it is actually [super]deterministic.

    I'm not sure about the fine tuning argument and how it makes it seem "unnatural", I think the anthropic argument speaks to that, doesn't it? Either way, superdeterminism is simply determinisim taken to its natural conclusion, and that would mean that the universe is deterministic.

    Fourier wrote: »
    "Physical state" is an ambiguous phrase. QM gives it a quantum state, which is a description of the probabilities for outcomes of subsequent measurements. If you're asking what it's like independent of anybody measuring it, QM doesn't speak about that.
    Is a quantum state something other than physical? This is what I meant by indeterminism seeming to imply some form of dualism - the indeterminism of certain interpreations of QM that is.

    The idea that QM doesn't speak about what the system is like independent of anybody measuring it is where the charge of incompleteness comes from, isn't it; that was, essentially, the basis of the EPR paper. Bell's theorem then demonstrated that we need to give up either locality, realism, local realism, or free will. Bell actually suggested that superdeterminism could address the issue, didn't he, but he seemed to dismiss it? I must read up on his reasons for that again.

    If we stick with the idea that QM doesn't speak about the state of a system independent of being measured; we can still ask the question, what is the state of the system immediately prior to measuring it?

    If QM doesn't speak about this, then does QM fail to give a complete description of the physical world?
    If it is in a quantum state, does this mean that quantum states are not physical and therefore the universe is dualistic?

    Fourier wrote: »
    In QM one makes a preparation. That is you set up some kind of physical system like a hot cathode ray or a laser. Then you pick how to measure this system, e.g. do you use a photo-detection screen or do you use a homodyne detector. What happens at the measurement equipment is not determined completely by any other physical fact, that's the random part of QM. Also whether there is a particle there or not depends on the measurement choice. If I use a photo-detection screen then I can talk about the laser being composed of photons, if I use a homodyne detector I can't. So the composition of objects is context dependent.
    Is it a photo-detection screen that is used in the double-slit experiment (or at elast in the version that is commonly described)? It might be easiest to stick with one and explore the consequences.

    If we take the photon arriving at the photo-detection screen (this presumably means that the electron collides with some other particle and a photon is emitted which then arrives at the screen). We can ask what causes the flash of light on the photo-detection screen, where does it come from?

    If we don't have a deterministic answer then I struggle to see how we have a complete answer, or one that doesn't invoke some form of dualism.
    Fourier wrote: »
    QM also has a deeper form of indeterminism. Which is that nothing controls the choice of measurement equipment/context. It's not even random like the measurement outcomes, it's outside the theory.
    There is that word "choice". There are those who argue that free will is a foundational assumption of QM (or science in general). Is this the kind of free will that the Conway-Kochen-Specher paper talks about?



    Even taking all of the above into consideration, there doesn't appear to be any room for free will in any of the paradigms of scienctific inquiry.




  • roosh wrote: »
    The point was that determinism has been conclusively ruled out, when I don't believe that this is the case. The many worlds interpretation, along the lines of Everett, is a deterministic interpretation of QM which hasn't conclusively been ruled out, therefore the notion of determinism itself hasn't been ruled out.
    If we adopt this notion of "not ruled out", then it hasn't been ruled out if there is a civilization living inside the sun or if small pandas live inside our cells. Virtually nothing would be ruled out under this definition.

    However in terms of actual scientific research yes they have been ruled out. Quantum Field Theory doesn't have the tensor product decompositions necessary to support Many Worlds and similar issues hold for other deterministic interpretational positions. They all have the potential to replicate only non-relativistic quantum theory in non-thermal states once they have been fine-tuned. And even that hasn't been fully proved.

    I'm not going to argue about Smolin's position, he doesn't advocate determinism. Simple as that. If you disagree quote the relevant equations in his papers, not pop science articles.
    I'm not sure about the fine tuning argument and how it makes it seem "unnatural", I think the anthropic argument speaks to that, doesn't it? Either way, superdeterminism is simply determinisim taken to its natural conclusion, and that would mean that the universe is deterministic.
    What I mentioned above has nothing to do with the anthropic principle. Superdeterministic theories are ruled out on the basis of empirical evidence, only a set of measure zero in their parameter space replicates current observations. Thus by Bayesian reasoning they are ruled out.
    Is a quantum state something other than physical?
    It appears in a physical theory so it is physical. That's what I would mean by a physical state, but I'm not sure it is what you mean. Similarly the macrostate in statistical mechanics doesn't describe what an object is like exactly, but it is still a state in a physical theory.
    If we stick with the idea that QM doesn't speak about the state of a system independent of being measured; we can still ask the question, what is the state of the system immediately prior to measuring it?
    You can give it a state prior to measurement. The quantum state, which describes the probabilities of possible future measurements.
    If QM doesn't speak about this, then does QM fail to give a complete description of the physical world?
    If it is in a quantum state, does this mean that quantum states are not physical and therefore the universe is dualistic?
    The quantum state is physical because it appears in a physical theory. QM doesn't give a complete description of the physical world, because QM itself says no such description exists. The best one can do is QM.
    If we take the photon arriving at the photo-detection screen (this presumably means that the electron collides with some other particle and a photon is emitted which then arrives at the screen). We can ask what causes the flash of light on the photo-detection screen, where does it come from?
    No. In QM you cannot ask that. Furthermore QM and its resulting no-go theorems tell you that you will not get the answer for that. Furthermore as I mentioned above you can't even talk about a "photon" unless you use the appropriate apparatus. If you had used a Homodyne detector the results wouldn't have been comprehensible in terms of photons. "Photons" are just a type of mark in certain devices.
    If we don't have a deterministic answer then I struggle to see how we have a complete answer, or one that doesn't invoke some form of dualism.
    I don't know what you mean by dualism, but what I've described is what QM says. It tells you the probability of the outcomes of various measurements and those probabilities have been verified in real life experiments.
    There is that word "choice". There are those who argue that free will is a foundational assumption of QM (or science in general). Is this the kind of free will that the Conway-Kochen-Specher paper talks about?
    Yes.
    Even taking all of the above into consideration, there doesn't appear to be any room for free will in any of the paradigms of scienctific inquiry.
    That QM requires choice leaves no room for choice? Could you explain that. I would say there is clearly room for it in QM, since QM requires it.




  • roosh wrote: »
    If our actions/choices are the result of quantum randomness then this is just another form of determinism over which we have no control and our will, therefore, is not free.
    I struggle with the free will concept. It's been discussed here in various ways; but has it been conceptually defined?

    Quantum randomness? To what extent would indeterministic dynamics allow for a very small attribution to free will? Free will (in addition to other variables) as a label that refers to something that alters the probability distribution over allowed outcomes.

    I ponder to what extent research design may exhibit some small measure of free will? For example the Free Will Theorem of Conway and Kochen suggests: "It is usually tacitly assumed that experimenters have sufficient free will to choose the settings of their apparatus in a way that is not determined by past history."




  • There are two general arguments going here. One can generally be categorised as whether or not there are physicists who would disagree that determinism has been been conclusively ruled out. The other argument is more of a philosophical exploration of foundational questions in Quantum Theory, taking in the implications of free will, determinism, and indeterminism.

    Determinism ruled out?
    This first part of the post seeks to address the "ruled out" issue by referencing well established physicists who advocate for either MWI or realism, both of which are deterministic - the implication being that these well established physicists disagree that determinism has been ruled out, by way of necessity.
    Fourier wrote: »
    If we adopt this notion of "not ruled out", then it hasn't been ruled out if there is a civilization living inside the sun or if small pandas live inside our cells. Virtually nothing would be ruled out under this definition.

    However in terms of actual scientific research yes they have been ruled out. Quantum Field Theory doesn't have the tensor product decompositions necessary to support Many Worlds and similar issues hold for other deterministic interpretational positions. They all have the potential to replicate only non-relativistic quantum theory in non-thermal states once they have been fine-tuned. And even that hasn't been fully proved.

    I'm not familiar with the work of many (or indeed any) tenured physicists releasing books and/or actively advocating that there is a civilization living inside the sun or small pandas living inside our cells, whereas there are a number of prominent physicists who do actively promote the many worlds interpretation i.e. they don't consider it to be ruled out. There are also prominent pyhsicists who advocate a realist interpretation. Are you familiar with any of the work by Sean Carroll?

    Fourier wrote: »
    I'm not going to argue about Smolin's position, he doesn't advocate determinism. Simple as that. If you disagree quote the relevant equations in his papers, not pop science articles.
    I might defer to Smolin himself on this one.
    Thus, if you are a realist and a physicist, there is one overriding imperative, which is to go beyond quantum mechanics to discover those missing features and use that knowledge to construct a true theory of the atoms. This was Einstein’s unfinished mission, and it is mine.

    The power of physics comes from its laws, which dictate how nature changes in time. They do this by transforming the state of the world as it is now to the state at any future time. A law of physics functions in some ways like a computer program: it reads in input and puts out output. The input is the state at a given time; the output is the state at some future time.*
    Along with the computation comes an explanation of how the world changes in time. The law acting on the present state causes the future states. A successful prediction of the future state is taken as a validation of that explanation. The prediction is deterministic, in that a precise input leads to a precise output. This confirms a belief that the information that went into describing the state is in fact a complete description of the world at one moment of time.
    This concept of a law is basic to a realist conception of nature and, as such, transcends any one theory.
    This might be where Graham Farmelo and Helge Kragh came to the conclusion that "the theory Smolin seeks...must be deterministic, meaning that the future state of a system is completely determined by the laws of physics acting on the present state" and "like Einstein, Smolin is a philosophical ‘realist’ — someone who thinks that the real world exists independently of our minds and can be described by deterministic laws."
    Fourier wrote: »
    What I mentioned above has nothing to do with the anthropic principle. Superdeterministic theories are ruled out on the basis of empirical evidence, only a set of measure zero in their parameter space replicates current observations. Thus by Bayesian reasoning they are ruled out.
    Is there a paper that you could point to on this. Genuinely, I am always on the lookout for more information.

    It is probably worth mentioning again that determinism taken to its natural conclusion gives us superdeterminism. I understand that you disagree on the viability of determinism, but we can explore the implications of indeterminism below and see how viable that remains.


    Foundational Questions

    I'm not sure if you're aware of how you are aware of how you are evading the question, but if we look at our exchange again. We're talking about how QM rules out determinism. Broadly speaking, I'm asking questions in the direction of realism, while you are, broadly speaking, defending a radical anti-realist position similar that of Bohr, commonly known as the Copenhagen interpretation - this is distinct from other anti-realist approaches such as quantum epistemology or operationalism (or the shut-up-and-calculate position).
    Fourier wrote:
    What happens at the measurement equipment is not determined completely by any other physical fact
    This is your statement about indeterminism i.e. a statement against determinism.
    roosh wrote:
    at the moment immediately prior to the particle registering on the screen, what physical state was it in?
    Here, I'm asking a question in the direction of realism. Note, this is a question about the state of the system prior to measurement.
    Fourier wrote:
    QM gives it a quantum state, which is a description of the probabilities for outcomes of subsequent measurements. If you're asking what it's like independent of anybody measuring it, QM doesn't speak about that.
    You say that it is a "quantum state" which gives the probabilities for the outcomes of subsequent measurements. The issue is, I'm asking about the state of the system prior to measurement, while you are answering a question about the likelihood of a measurement occurring at a given location on the screen.

    You say that QM doesn't speak about the state of the system prior to measuring it. Here, we have two conclusions. Either QM is:
    1) incomplete, or
    2) radically anti-realist

    The Copenhagen interpretation as espoused by Bohr is a radically anti-realist interpretation of QM. We can explore the logical consequences of that.
    roosh wrote:
    QM doesn't speak about the state of a system independent of being measured; we can still ask the question, what is the state of the system immediately prior to measuring it?
    Note, I'm asking a question here again about the state of the sytstem prior to measurement i.e. a question in the direction of realism.
    Fourier wrote:
    You can give it a state prior to measurement. The quantum state, which describes the probabilities of possible future measurements.
    Here, the question is evaded again. You talk about the probability of the particle being measured at a specific location on the screen, when the question was about the state of the system prior to being measured.

    But, if we go back to your original statement about determinism
    Fourier wrote:
    What happens at the measurement equipment is not determined completely by any other physical fact
    We can interpret this to mean that the measurement of the system is not determined by the prior physical state (or "fact") of the system (this is simply a statement about determinism).

    Do we take this to mean that the system was not in a physical state prior to being measured? I think the literature talks about "beables" as opposed to observables. If it was in a physical state, then we have determinism. If it wasn't then we have either dualism (of the Cartesian variety) or spontaneous manifestation out of nothing, that we can somehow predict probabilistically.


    Fourier wrote:
    No. In QM you cannot ask that. Furthermore QM and its resulting no-go theorems tell you that you will not get the answer for that.
    There is a difference between "in QM you cannot ask that" and "you cannot ask that". Clearly, we can ask that and it is a reasonable question. The no-go theorems tells us we won't get an answer, but that doesn't mean that there isn't an answer. This is where the argument that QM is incomplete comes from.

    It may very well mean that there is a limit to our ability to express the fundamental nature of the universe in mathematical or linguistic terms, but that is a limitation of humanity as opposed to a statement about the fundamental nature of the universe. Our reasoning can allow us to draw further conclusions, even if it is only to say that there must be a more fundamental "level" of the universe which we are precluded from describing, given our limitations.
    Fourier wrote:
    Furthermore as I mentioned above you can't even talk about a "photon" unless you use the appropriate apparatus. If you had used a Homodyne detector the results wouldn't have been comprehensible in terms of photons. "Photons" are just a type of mark in certain devices.
    It still makes sense to ask what was it that interacted with the device to manifest as a photon? Something had to interact with it, otherwise there would have been no photon. If we can't ever describe that, then fair enough, but that doesn't mean that the mark on the device wasn't in a physical state prior to being detected. There may have been no physical "facts" about it because "facts" seems to imply known observables, but again, I think the term "beables" is used to describe the physical state of the system prior to being measured - which would make the system deterministic.

    Fourier wrote:
    I don't know what you mean by dualism, but what I've described is what QM says. It tells you the probability of the outcomes of various measurements and those probabilities have been verified in real life experiments.
    Yes, but it doesn't tell us the state of the system prior to being measured. In fact, the anti-realist position tells us that there is no physical state of the system prior to it interacting with the measuring device. This just begs the question, how does nothing interact with a measuring device to manifest as something?

    Fourier wrote:
    Yes.

    That QM requires choice leaves no room for choice? Could you explain that. I would say there is clearly room for it in QM, since QM requires it.
    Firstly, can I ask if you agree that free will is a foundational assumption of QM?


    We have to be careful here when we talk about the "free will" in QM. If we take the freedom to mean the freedom offered by indeterminism i.e. that the future is open, then it isn't necessarily free will that is in question because it isn't our choice that causes the wave function collapse, it isn't our choice that determines where the photon will appear on the screen. That is, it gives us but no will - unless again, we invoke cartesian dualism (and the much maligned "observer effect").

    Similarly, if some quantum indeterminate occurrence dictates our choice, then it can neither be said to be free, nor our will. Indeed, it is just another form of determinism.




  • I'm not familiar with the work of many (or indeed any) tenured physicists releasing books and/or actively advocating that there is a civilization living inside the sun or small pandas living inside our cells, whereas there are a number of prominent physicists who do actively promote the many worlds interpretation i.e. they don't consider it to be ruled out. There are also prominent pyhsicists who advocate a realist interpretation. Are you familiar with any of the work by Sean Carroll?
    Of course there aren't people advocating these things, it was just for emphasis. I am familiar with Carroll's work. The point is that they think they can make a deterministic theory. They've been saying this for nearly 70 years at this point. Not one person has managed to progress any such theory beyond non-thermal finite system non-relativistic QM, i.e. they can only replicate a tiny fraction of modern Quantum Theory and even there there are significant gaps in their attempts. Theorems unproven that mean even this tiny fragment isn't secured. And we know that even if they do secure this fragment they'll only do so after fine tuning.

    In any other area of science we would call this "ruled out". A minuscule fraction of people with nothing to show after 70 years with impossibility proofs preventing natural versions of what they advocate. It's ruled out.
    I might defer to Smolin himself on this one.
    I asked for Smolin's papers, not pop science material. If you look at his papers it is relational.
    Is there a paper that you could point to on this. Genuinely, I am always on the lookout for more information.
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1208.4119
    I'm not sure if you're aware of how you are aware of how you are evading the question, but if we look at our exchange again. We're talking about how QM rules out determinism. Broadly speaking, I'm asking questions in the direction of realism, while you are, broadly speaking, defending a radical anti-realist position similar that of Bohr, commonly known as the Copenhagen interpretation - this is distinct from other anti-realist approaches such as quantum epistemology or operationalism (or the shut-up-and-calculate position).
    I'm not evading questions. I'm just describing quantum theory. That's the way it is, not my fault. Copenhagen isn't anti-realist, though that is a common phrasing in popular science books. It's non-representational. What is "Quantum Epistemology"?
    The issue is, I'm asking about the state of the system prior to measurement
    You have to be clear about what you mean by "state". The reason you think I am evading questions is because you're not familiar with physics terminology as I have mentioned to you before. State has a specific meaning in physics. You want to know the metaphysical nature of the system prior to measurement (a separate notion to "state"). QM does not tell you that.
    Here, the question is evaded again. You talk about the probability of the particle being measured at a specific location on the screen, when the question was about the state of the system prior to being measured.
    I'm not evading the question, you're using the wrong terminology. It does give the system a state as defined in physics. If you're asking does it give a metaphysically representational state. The answer to that is no, as I have already explained. I've answered your question before, not evaded it.
    Do we take this to mean that the system was not in a physical state prior to being measured? I think the literature talks about "beables" as opposed to observables. If it was in a physical state, then we have determinism. If it wasn't then we have either dualism (of the Cartesian variety) or spontaneous manifestation out of nothing, that we can somehow predict probabilistically.
    You'll need to use correct terminology. QM gives a state, but not a metaphysically representational one. I don't really understand why the absence of a metaphysically representational state implies Cartesian dualism. There are several other options. For example the underlying ontology could be a non-mathematical monist one. There are several options here, I don't see how your two options are the only ones. See the work of Bernard d'Espagnat "On Physics and Philosophy" for a more complete list of possibilities.
    If we can't ever describe that, then fair enough, but that doesn't mean that the mark on the device wasn't in a physical state prior to being detected
    Again you need to be more precise. You mean to say "that doesn't mean there wasn't a metaphysical state of affairs". If a physical theory cannot describe something then that does mean there is no physical state, since "physical state" refers to a description of a system in a physical theory.
    This just begs the question, how does nothing interact with a measuring device to manifest as something?
    Again you see this is the problem of reading high-level physics without the appropriate background knowledge. "No physical state" is not the same as "nothing" or "no metaphysical state of affairs".
    Firstly, can I ask if you agree that free will is a foundational assumption of QM?
    Yes, in the specific sense meant in QM. That the choice of observable is free. Note you go on to speak about indeterminism, this isn't what the term "Free Will" in QM refers to. It's that nothing, not even quantum probabilities, dictate the choice of observable. Quantum probability dictates the chances of the outcomes associated to a given observable once one is chosen. It does not dictate the choice of observable itself. Nothing physical does according to the theory.




  • Fathom wrote: »
    I struggle with the free will concept. It's been discussed here in various ways; but has it been conceptually defined?
    It is a generally ill-defined term but it is still possible to discuss it using a place holder and see what conclusions can be drawn.

    The notion of a deterministic universe was seen as the death knell for free will. Compatibilists then tried to rescue it from determinism but they failed to restore the freedom that determinism destroyed.
    Fathom wrote: »
    Quantum randomness? To what extent would indeterministic dynamics allow for a very small attribution to free will? Free will (in addition to other variables) as a label that refers to something that alters the probability distribution over allowed outcomes.
    If we think about where our will can fit in a non-deterministic world with quantum randomness. Does our will cause the collapse of the wave function which results in a specific measurement outcome, or is our will caused by quantum randomness?

    If our will is caused by quantum randomness then it is only free in the sense that quantum randomness means that our will could be anything [within the given parameters]. If our choices are simply the manifestation of quantum randomness manifesting in a specific outcome i.e. the collapse of the wave function then it isn't something that we control i.e. we are not free to choose because we have absolutely no control over the outcome. In this case we have no will, not to mind free will.

    Alternatively, if there is a thing called "our will", and our choices are determined by some random quantum event, then this is just another form of determinism which removes the freedom from our will.

    If "our will" is free but is not part of the causal chain in a deterministic universe, or in some way causes the random quantum event to manifest as a measurement, then we have cartesian dualism.
    Fathom wrote: »
    I ponder to what extent research design may exhibit some small measure of free will? For example the Free Will Theorem of Conway and Kochen suggests: "It is usually tacitly assumed that experimenters have sufficient free will to choose the settings of their apparatus in a way that is not determined by past history."
    Conway Kochen assumed free will in their paper in order to demonstrate that, if we have free will, then so too do particles.

    There are those who suggest that free will is a foundational assumption of QM while others argue that it is indeterminism that is the foundational assumption - think of a truly random number generator, we wouldn't necessarily ascribe free will to it.




  • Fourier wrote: »
    Of course there aren't people advocating these things, it was just for emphasis. I am familiar with Carroll's work. The point is that they think they can make a deterministic theory. They've been saying this for nearly 70 years at this point. Not one person has managed to progress any such theory beyond non-thermal finite system non-relativistic QM, i.e. they can only replicate a tiny fraction of modern Quantum Theory and even there there are significant gaps in their attempts. Theorems unproven that mean even this tiny fragment isn't secured. And we know that even if they do secure this fragment they'll only do so after fine tuning.

    In any other area of science we would call this "ruled out". A minuscule fraction of people with nothing to show after 70 years with impossibility proofs preventing natural versions of what they advocate. It's ruled out.
    I was just using your examples for emphasis as well.

    The reason they haven't ruled it out is bcos they find the interpretation you are advocating deeply unsatisfying. In some cases, they don't believe that QFT is the fundamental theory bcos it fails to talk about the state of the system prior to measurement. As you have said yourself.

    Fourier wrote: »
    I asked for Smolin's papers, not pop science material. If you look at his papers it is relational.
    So, Smolin's own characterisation of his position isn't sufficient?

    Fourier wrote: »
    Thanks, I'll give this a look over. Anything from a journal?

    Fourier wrote: »
    I'm not evading questions. I'm just describing quantum theory. That's the way it is, not my fault. Copenhagen isn't anti-realist, though that is a common phrasing in popular science books. It's non-representational. What is "Quantum Epistemology"?
    Quantum epistemologists argue that QM doesn't deal with what is real in the world but rather only ever talks about our knowledge of the world.

    The term anti-realist is used for a very good reason, namely that when proponents of Copenhagen have freely expressed their interpretation of it, it falls squarely in the anti-realist camp. Indeed, as we drill down here we seem to find that either Copenahgen is incomplete or it is anti-relaist.

    Fourier wrote: »
    You have to be clear about what you mean by "state". The reason you think I am evading questions is because you're not familiar with physics terminology as I have mentioned to you before. State has a specific meaning in physics. You want to know the metaphysical nature of the system prior to measurement (a separate notion to "state"). QM does not tell you that.
    Hopefully though dialogue I can outline my position more clearly. I will strive for the correct terminology but if you feel like you have an idea of the point I am trying to make hopefully you can point me in the right direction - as you have done here.

    I'm not certain that "metaphysical nature" is the precise term, but we can go with it for now. Does the term "beable" refer to the metaphysical nature of a system?

    Am I correct in saying that the field of science in general works on the assumption that the metaphysical nature of all things in the universe is physical? As opposed to there being some other kind of substance that could be classed as non-physical giving rise to dualism akin to cartesian dualism?

    Is the failure of QM to tell us the metaphysical nature of a system prior to measurement the reason behind the argument that it is incomplete?

    Fourier wrote: »
    I'm not evading the question, you're using the wrong terminology. It does give the system a state as defined in physics. If you're asking does it give a metaphysically representational state. The answer to that is no, as I have already explained. I've answered your question before, not evaded it.
    Your answer was that it does give the state of the system prior to measurement. You said that this is a quantum state. But you also said that the quantum state gives the probability of future measurement outcomes. So, it doesn't then give the state of the system prior to measurement, it gives the probability of a measurement outcome.

    Does it say anything about the metaphysical nature/state at the time of measurement? Is that physical?

    Fourier wrote: »
    You'll need to use correct terminology. QM gives a state, but not a metaphysically representational one. I don't really understand why the absence of a metaphysically representational state implies Cartesian dualism. There are several other options. For example the underlying ontology could be a non-mathematical monist one. There are several options here, I don't see how your two options are the only ones. See the work of Bernard d'Espagnat "On Physics and Philosophy" for a more complete list of possibilities.
    The absence of a metaphysically representational state doesn't necessarily imply Cartesian dualism, it implies incompleteness. It's when we ask the question about how a physical measurement can manifest from something non-physical - as it must, if the measurement isn't determined by prior physical "facts" (or is "beables" the better term here) - that we arrive at some form of Cartesian Dualism.
    Fourier wrote: »
    Again you need to be more precise. You mean to say "that doesn't mean there wasn't a metaphysical state of affairs". If a physical theory cannot describe something then that does mean there is no physical state, since "physical state" refers to a description of a system in a physical theory.
    Aye, there's the rub. This exposes the semantic nature of the argument. This says that there is no "physical state" because the theory is incapable of describing it.

    The counter argument is that there is a "physical state" to be described but the current theory cannot describe it, therefore it is incomplete.

    Alternatively, there is a metaphysical state which is not a "physical state", hence dualism.

    We can drop the word "state" here and simply use the word "physical" (given that anything in a "physical state" is "physical"). The implication of what you are saying is that describing something in a physical theory makes it physical as opposed to there being a physical world that we discover and attempt to describe.


    Looked at another way:
    We have a description of the system at the moment of measurement. This is a "physical state". You are saying that this physical state is not determined by prior physical "facts". This leads us to question how this "physical state" manifests as a physical interaction at the screen.


    Fourier wrote: »
    Yes, in the specific sense meant in QM. That the choice of observable is free. Note you go on to speak about indeterminism, this isn't what the term "Free Will" in QM refers to. It's that nothing, not even quantum probabilities, dictate the choice of observable. Quantum probability dictates the chances of the outcomes associated to a given observable once one is chosen. It does not dictate the choice of observable itself. Nothing physical does according to the theory.
    This seems to beg a number of questions: yes the observable that is chosen is open, it is free, it is not predetermined but where does the "will" come into it? Who or what "wills" the choice of observable; how are observables chosen; by what process are choices made; what constitutes a "choice"?


    There appears to be freedom but no will or at least no physical will. Perhaps a non-physical will?




  • roosh wrote: »
    The reason they haven't ruled it out is bcos they find the interpretation you are advocating deeply unsatisfying.
    I know all this, I have read most of their technical articles. What I'm describing is what QM itself says. They aren't satisfied with that, but there is no evidence at all for their positions and theorems proving they're not able to replicate parts of QFT.
    So, Smolin's own characterisation of his position isn't sufficient?
    That's not a characterisation of his own position. See this paper:
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1805.12468.pdf

    Section 3.1
    Thanks, I'll give this a look over. Anything from a journal?
    Did you look at the link? That is from a journal. Namely: New J. Phys. 17, 033002 (2015)
    Quantum epistemologists argue that QM doesn't deal with what is real in the world but rather only ever talks about our knowledge of the world.
    Do you mean Quantum Bayesians or QBism? There isn't an interpretational position called Quantum Epistemology.
    Your answer was that it does give the state of the system prior to measurement. You said that this is a quantum state. But you also said that the quantum state gives the probability of future measurement outcomes. So, it doesn't then give the state of the system prior to measurement, it gives the probability of a measurement outcome.
    A lot of this back and forth is due to your misuse of the word "state" and "physical". Physical means as described by a physical theory or can be described by a physical theory. "Physical State" is then the description of an object in a theory. For example in Newtonian gravity a gas cloud has a physical state. This state only describes the cloud's mass distribution so it isn't a exhaustive description of the cloud. It is still a physical state though as it is a description of the cloud in a physical theory.

    Metaphysical and physical are not the same. Metaphysical is as such "how things truly are", physical is "the description given by a physical theory". The latter might not inform you of everything about the former and in fact in many theories, not just QM, it is quite different from it. For example the macrostate in Statistical Mechanics.
    It's when we ask the question about how a physical measurement can manifest from something non-physical - as it must, if the measurement isn't determined by prior physical "facts" (or is "beables" the better term here) - that we arrive at some form of Cartesian Dualism.
    We don't arrive at Cartesian dualism then. As I said Bernard d'Espagnat goes through several possible ontologies of which Cartesian dualism is simply one. It's a fact that this doesn't arrive at Cartesian dualism. As I said we might arrive at a non-mathematical monism.
    This seems to beg a number of questions: yes the observable that is chosen is open, it is free, it is not predetermined but where does the "will" come into it? Who or what "wills" the choice of observable; how are observables chosen; by what process are choices made
    QM doesn't tell you. And since the idea of a theory underneath QM is so strongly prohibited and shown to require fine tuning to an unnatural degree, it is virtually certain that you cannot know how an observable is chosen.


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  • Fourier wrote: »
    I know all this, I have read most of their technical articles. What I'm describing is what QM itself says. They aren't satisfied with that, but there is no evidence at all for their positions and theorems proving they're not able to replicate parts of QFT.


    That's not a characterisation of his own position. See this paper:
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1805.12468.pdf

    Section 3.1
    Thank you. That looks like an interesting paper and has relevance for my own philosophical position that time is neither fundamental no emergent. It'll take me a while to parse all of it, but I will concede that point about Smolin advocating for a deterministic theory, although he does classify himself as a realist.

    I know that there are well respected physicists out there, such as Sean Carroll, who wouldn't agree that determinism has been ruled out and I'm willing to make the leap that he is familiar with the arguments that you raise here and himself remains unconvinced.

    We can still explore the second question on the philosophical implications of QM, as we are doing below.

    Fourier wrote: »
    Do you mean Quantum Bayesians or QBism? There isn't an interpretational position called Quantum Epistemology.
    I'm not sure, Smolin uses the term in Einstein's Unfinished revolution to mean those who say that QM is not about the fundamental nature of reality, but about our knoweldge of it.

    Fourier wrote: »
    A lot of this back and forth is due to your misuse of the word "state" and "physical". Physical means as described by a physical theory or can be described by a physical theory. "Physical State" is then the description of an object in a theory. For example in Newtonian gravity a gas cloud has a physical state. This state only describes the cloud's mass distribution so it isn't a exhaustive description of the cloud. It is still a physical state though as it is a description of the cloud in a physical theory.

    Metaphysical and physical are not the same. Metaphysical is as such "how things truly are", physical is "the description given by a physical theory". The latter might not inform you of everything about the former and in fact in many theories, not just QM, it is quite different from it. For example the macrostate in Statistical Mechanics.

    We don't arrive at Cartesian dualism then. As I said Bernard d'Espagnat goes through several possible ontologies of which Cartesian dualism is simply one. It's a fact that this doesn't arrive at Cartesian dualism. As I said we might arrive at a non-mathematical monism.
    Scientific inquiry has many different applications. One of those applications is informing the deepest philosophical questions, such as the question of "how things truly are". When we talk about free will and whether the universe itself (as opposed to a theory of it) is deterministic or indeterministic we are talking about "how things truly are".

    You say that "physical means as described by a physical theory or can be described by a physical theory. "Physical State" is then the description of an object in a theory". What we are interested in is whether or not the description of the object is a complete description of that object. If the description of an object in a physical theory is incomplete then we can ask what the complete physical state of the object is. We're not interested in whether or not that theory (or any other theory) can provide a more complete description. We are interested in "how things truly are". If a theory cannot describe how things truly are then that is a limitation of the theory and that theory cannot be said to offer a complete description of the universe.

    It would seem that you are arguing that QM cannot give such a complete description.


    In the context of determinism, it is whether or not something is determined by a prior state that is important. The application of a conceptual label in this case "physical" is not absolutely necessary; especially if what we mean by "physical" is "what has been measured". If "state" is too confusing then we can use the term "beable".

    If the flash of light at a detector screeen is caused by a "beable" colliding with the screen to manifest as a "photon" then we still have determinism. Given that we cannot use the term "physical" to describe a "beable" we should call it "unphysical". If the "beable" is of a different substance then we have substance or cartesian dualism, if it is of the same substance we have a form of monism. Either way, both scenarios are deterministic.

    Fourier wrote: »
    QM doesn't tell you. And since the idea of a theory underneath QM is so strongly prohibited and shown to require fine tuning to an unnatural degree, it is virtually certain that you cannot know how an observable is chosen.
    So where does "my will" come into play, where does "your will" come in to play? I can see where there is freedom of outcome, but not freedom of will.


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