Huxley
 
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 07:51 pm
The existence of change characterizes a number of the pre-Socratic dialogs. As far as I can tell, Aristotle's Physics was his general response to these questions of change, as well as his specific response to several thinkers in his day. It is from here that we (the Western Tradition) derive a notion of cause.

What Aristotle meant by cause was not what we generally mean by cause -- he had four, the material, the efficient, the formal, and the final. Cause, in our modern world, is the cause of cause-and-effect, or to use Aristotle's terms, the efficient cause. It is from this notion of causation that we obtain the Cosmological argument, the denial of free will, and scientific certainty.

But is this notion of causation defensible, or is it too metaphysical for science?

Do we need to think of cause in the efficient cause way in order to make a solid scientific contribution?

Do we need to think of cause in any way at all to generate scientific knowledge?

Lastly, what is cause? If you don't have a good definition that you're willing to defend, that's fine. In that case, what is your concept of cause?
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ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 02:58 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:
. . . . the denial of free will, and scientific certainty.
I dont see how you can arrive at this.
1) denial of free will is anti-scientific
2) free will is threatened by determinism, not by cause and effect
3) science doesn't claim certainty, it specifically disclaims it
4) there is no consistent notion of cause in the sciences.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 03:00 am
@Huxley,
I think there has to be a recognition of final causes. This is of course taboo in current science. But surely it must be germane to biology. Consider the idea of entelechy. This is an Aristotlean concept related to teleology, but in relation to particular organisms and organs. It is that which drives to organism or organ to fulfil its purpose. Consider neuro-plasticity or even just the means by which organs heal. In the case of neuroplasticity the brain reorganises itself around damaged areas in order to maintain or restore its functionality.

This kind of thinking is still preserved in neo-thomism. Etienne Gilson 'insists that a completely rational understanding of organisms and biological systems requires the philosophical notion of teleology, the idea that certain kinds of things exist and have ends or purposes the fulfillment of which is linked to their natures'. (From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again.)

All heresy to modern science, which only conceives of efficient causes.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 07:44 am
@ughaibu,
Well, often the argument for determinism comes from the notion of cause-and-effect (if it is argued for, rather than just presupposed). Further, an argument explaining scientific certainty comes from the notion of cause-and-effect (look at Kant, for one such argument). Although, I would say there is a difference between scientific certainty and, say, Cartesian certainty. Science certainly does operate with certainty, just not some sort of fixed certainty. As an idea is used more and converges, it is thought to be more certain (if never indubitable. Note the difference between indubitability and certainty).

I'm not saying that I'm arguing for these things. I'm noting such positions because they are tied up with our notion of cause, which is what I was trying to introduce so that I could ask questions about cause.

Why is the denial of free will anti-scientific?

Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 07:52 am
@jeeprs,
I think that depends upon the scientist you ask. As ughaibu mentioned, it could be that the notion of cause has no place in scientific knowledge at all. (though, then I think the question arises, how do you characterize the things currently thought of under the category of efficient cause?)

The problem with teleology is that it can explain all things: Why does something happen? Well, that's it's purpose! But, simultaneously, I agree that we utilize teleology. I think there is likely a proper way to go about it, but it's not a concept very well developed.

An update I would suggest to teleology and its application to understanding biological systems: It's not just the natures that one has to consider. It's also the environment. The nature of a species, in Darwin-speak, is to reproduce. Changes in the environment redirect how that species succeeds (or does not succeed) in this end-goal, as different characteristics are selected for. It is in this way that teleology, while avoided, is still used (at least, from the philosophic perspective. One might abandon cause all together when doing science, but admit the teleological qualities to the scientific thought when reflecting upon the process of science)
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:05 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

The existence of change characterizes a number of the pre-Socratic dialogs. As far as I can tell, Aristotle's Physics was his general response to these questions of change, as well as his specific response to several thinkers in his day. It is from here that we (the Western Tradition) derive a notion of cause.

What Aristotle meant by cause was not what we generally mean by cause -- he had four, the material, the efficient, the formal, and the final. Cause, in our modern world, is the cause of cause-and-effect, or to use Aristotle's terms, the efficient cause. It is from this notion of causation that we obtain the Cosmological argument, the denial of free will, and scientific certainty.

But is this notion of causation defensible, or is it too metaphysical for science?

Do we need to think of cause in the efficient cause way in order to make a solid scientific contribution?

Do we need to think of cause in any way at all to generate scientific knowledge?

Lastly, what is cause? If you don't have a good definition that you're willing to defend, that's fine. In that case, what is your concept of cause?


What is supposed to be indefensible about saying that dropping a heavy object on my foot caused my toe to fracture. Or that placing water into a freezer caused the water to turn to ice? Is there supposed to be something that matter with that? Could you say what it is?
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:07 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:
Why is the denial of free will anti-scientific?
Any scientist wishing to perform an experiment, which could cast doubt on the reality of free will, needs to assume that it is possible for them to design and implement that experiment, and in addition to deal with unforeseen difficulties as they arise, interpret the results, etc. In short, they have to assume the reality of free will. Any interpretation of the results, of such an experiment, needs to account for the success of the experiment as a confirmation of the free will of the experimenter, regardless of any other results.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:14 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

Well, often the argument for determinism comes from the notion of cause-and-effect (if it is argued for, rather than just presupposed). Further, an argument explaining scientific certainty comes from the notion of cause-and-effect (look at Kant, for one such argument). Although, I would say there is a difference between scientific certainty and, say, Cartesian certainty. Science certainly does operate with certainty, just not some sort of fixed certainty. As an idea is used more and converges, it is thought to be more certain (if never indubitable. Note the difference between indubitability and certainty).

I'm not saying that I'm arguing for these things. I'm noting such positions because they are tied up with our notion of cause, which is what I was trying to introduce so that I could ask questions about cause.

Why is the denial of free will anti-scientific?




I don't think that the denial of free will is either scientific or anti-scientific. The only reason people have claimed it to be scientific is that they have thought that determinism is a presupposition of science, and that free will and determinism are incompatible. I don't know about the first premise in the above argument, but the second premise is certainly false.

I would have no idea why the denial of free will would be anti-scientific. Someone would have to explain that one to me.
0 Replies
 
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:18 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

What is supposed to be indefensible about saying that dropping a heavy object on my foot caused my toe to fracture. Or that placing water into a freezer caused the water to turn to ice? Is there supposed to be something that matter with that? Could you say what it is?


No, I don't think it's supposed to be wrong. How would you characterize this use of the word "cause", though?

I'll try and explain where I'm coming from with this question by taking your examples.

Let's take each of these scenarios. The cause of your fractured toe could be "dropping a heavy object on your foot". The same effect could be characterized by the cause "A gravitational force accelerated a ball into your foot". Another cause could be "An impulse caused energy to be transferred to my toe at such a rate that the bone fractured". Or, "The kinetic energy of some object was transferred into my toe, and the crystal lattice of my bones was broken", etc. etc. Each of these causes describe the same event -- a broken toe. But which is the cause? Or is the cause before these moments, where the thought (in scientific terms, a synapse fires) to let go of the ball occurred, and so on back to the big bang? At that point, is cause even scientific, or is it only metaphysical?

Or suppose the water example. The cause could be placing the water in a freezer (which would follow the same line of reasoning of cause-and-effect back to the big bang, and the question of whether this is a scientific conclusion or a metaphysical conclusion). The cause could also be "The water lost enough energy such that its vibrations no longer kept it in the liquid phase, and the molecules settled into potential energy well lattices to form ice". The cause could be attributed to a macroscopic description of thermodynamic processes as well -- it's 0 degrees and enough heat transfer has occurred that there isn't enough energy to keep the water in the liquid phase, so it's ice now.

There are a multiplicity of causes, and one is tempted to continue following a chain of cause-and-effect to the beginning of the universe. Are such arguments scientific arguments, or are they metaphysical arguments? Is such a notion of cause indefensible (as scientific)?

Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:23 am
@ughaibu,
If Free will is a necessary presupposition for scientific investigation, as you say, Would a scientist that is a determinist then fail at scientific investigation?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:32 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

What is supposed to be indefensible about saying that dropping a heavy object on my foot caused my toe to fracture. Or that placing water into a freezer caused the water to turn to ice? Is there supposed to be something that matter with that? Could you say what it is?


No, I don't think it's supposed to be wrong. How would you characterize this use of the word "cause", though?

I'll try and explain where I'm coming from with this question by taking your examples.

Let's take each of these scenarios. The cause of your fractured toe could be "dropping a heavy object on your foot". The same effect could be characterized by the cause "A gravitational force accelerated a ball into your foot". Another cause could be "An impulse caused energy to be transferred to my toe at such a rate that the bone fractured". Or, "The kinetic energy of some object was transferred into my toe, and the crystal lattice of my bones was broken", etc. etc. Each of these causes describe the same event -- a broken toe. But which is the cause? Or is the cause before these moments, where the thought (in scientific terms, a synapse fires) to let go of the ball occurred, and so on back to the big bang? At that point, is cause even scientific, or is it only metaphysical?

Or suppose the water example. The cause could be placing the water in a freezer (which would follow the same line of reasoning of cause-and-effect back to the big bang, and the question of whether this is a scientific conclusion or a metaphysical conclusion). The cause could also be "The water lost enough energy such that its vibrations no longer kept it in the liquid phase, and the molecules settled into potential energy well lattices to form ice". The cause could be attributed to a macroscopic description of thermodynamic processes as well -- it's 0 degrees and enough heat transfer has occurred that there isn't enough energy to keep the water in the liquid phase, so it's ice now.

There are a multiplicity of causes, and one is tempted to continue following a chain of cause-and-effect to the beginning of the universe. Are such arguments scientific arguments, or are they metaphysical arguments? Is such a notion of cause indefensible (as scientific)?




I think you mean a multiplicity of descriptions, don't you. Why would you think there was a multiplicity of causes? The descriptions you give are scientific descriptions, and, for all I know, they are all right. After all, the same thing can be described in a number of different ways.
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:35 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:
If Free will is a necessary presupposition for scientific investigation, as you say, Would a scientist that is a determinist then fail at scientific investigation?
I dont see why they should, though the record shows that they can post full blown nonsense when trying to address the matter of free will. Most determinists are compatibilists, as it's pretty difficult to seriously deny the reality of free will, but Kochen and Conway recently produced an interesting proof that compatibilism is false: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0807/0807.3286v1.pdf
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:37 am
@kennethamy,
I can go with that. Supposing what I stated were descriptions, though, and that descriptions differ from causes, what in each of these instances was the cause?
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:45 am
@ughaibu,
Well, if they wouldn't fail whether or not they were determinists/compatibalists/etc., in what respect do you mean that a scientist must presuppose free will in order to do science?

After all, it is possible that the universe is deterministic, and that this is the reason why science "works". I'm not arguing this is a necessity, myself, but I don't see how you've ruled this out in the above argument.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:49 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

Well, if they wouldn't fail whether or not they were determinists/compatibalists/etc., in what respect do you mean that a scientist must presuppose free will in order to do science?

After all, it is possible that the universe is deterministic, and that this is the reason why science "works". I'm not arguing this is a necessity, myself, but I don't see how you've ruled this out in the above argument.


Scientists, like everyone else, make decisions which they are not compelled to make. Why would they have any special issue with doing things of their own free will? Do you know of scientists being under some compulsion or other?
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:52 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

I can go with that. Supposing what I stated were descriptions, though, and that descriptions differ from causes, what in each of these instances was the cause?


There can be a number of different descriptions of the same chain of events or causes. Of course, some of them may be better than others. And some of them incorrect.
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:54 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:
Well, if they wouldn't fail whether or not they were determinists/compatibalists/etc., in what respect do you mean that a scientist must presuppose free will in order to do science?
All healthy human adults unavoidably assume the reality of free will, whether they're scientists or not and whether they're determinists or not. This is admitted by deniers, it's part of what they call the "illusion of free will". If one performs a scientific experiment, which relies on an assumption, and the success of that experiment is in accordance with the correctness of that assumption, then that needs to be included in the results and their interpretation. Otherwise, one is not doing science.
Huxley wrote:
After all, it is possible that the universe is deterministic, and that this is the reason why science "works". I'm not arguing this is a necessity, myself, but I don't see how you've ruled this out in the above argument.
I haven't ruled it out with the above argument, this argument aims only to show that denial of free will is anti-scientific.
0 Replies
 
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 09:53 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

There can be a number of different descriptions of the same chain of events or causes. Of course, some of them may be better than others. And some of them incorrect.


What, then, is cause if not the description of a chain of events and causes?

kennethamy wrote:

Scientists, like everyone else, make decisions which they are not compelled to make. Why would they have any special issue with doing things of their own free will? Do you know of scientists being under some compulsion or other?


Well, yes, I do. I would say that scientists are under the compulsion to adhere to rules of law, logical rules of inference, empathic rules associated with social bonds, and so forth.

I would also say you're shifting the meaning of free will in this sentence from what I intended by free will, above. I'm comfortable with going in this direction, but I think this definition of free will you're adopting is in no way connected to cause. As such, a deterministic causality and free will are commensurable, and I'm inclined to think this way myself, but if that is the case shouldn't cause be thought of as not-scientific, but rather metaphysical?

ughaibu wrote:

All healthy human adults unavoidably assume the reality of free will, whether they're scientists or not and whether they're determinists or not. This is admitted by deniers, it's part of what they call the "illusion of free will". If one performs a scientific experiment, which relies on an assumption, and the success of that experiment is in accordance with the correctness of that assumption, then that needs to be included in the results and their interpretation. Otherwise, one is not doing science.

I haven't ruled it out with the above argument, this argument aims only to show that denial of free will is anti-scientific.


Ah, I see where you are coming from, then.

However, I disagree that one needs this assumption in order to do science. It's an extraneous assumption to the process of science. Just because a person operates with an assumption doesn't mean that a certain, specified process is necessarily tied up with that assumption. This is why scientists can be both theists and atheists alike -- because these questions aren't scientific questions, and they don't interfere with the process of science (at least, as we presently conceive science). So, what you need is an argument that attaches the presupposition of free will to the process of science, or another argument that shows the denial of free will to be anti-scientific.

Further, I'm not sure I agree with the word "healthy" being attached there -- it bolsters your position, in that anyone who denies free will can be described as being unhealthy. Yet, there are scientists who deny free will, and they seem to be operating in a perfectly healthy manner as well.
ughaibu
 
  2  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 10:03 am
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:
what you need is an argument that attaches the presupposition of free will to the process of science
That's what I gave. The specifics of doing science include the assumption of the reality of free will. This is irrelevant, and can be ignored, for all experiments other than those which purport to refute free will.
Huxley wrote:
I'm not sure I agree with the word "healthy" being attached there -- it bolsters your position, in that anyone who denies free will can be described as being unhealthy.
Not at all, because I didn't say that all healthy human adults affirm the reality of free will and I pointed out that deniers admit the assumption of it's reality. I have not drawn any independent distinction between affirmers and deniers.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 10:07 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

Huxley wrote:
what you need is an argument that attaches the presupposition of free will to the process of science
That's what I gave. The specifics of doing science include the assumption of the reality of free will. This is irrelevant, and can be ignored, for all experiments other than those which purport to refute free will.


Well, if you gave an argument for it, I missed it. Do you mind rephrasing? All that I see is an assertion that doing science necessitates the assumption of the reality of free will... in this case, in experiments meant to test free will.

A second question, which experiments purport to refute free will?
 

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