9
   

Trick of the Language?

 
 
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 03:47 pm
Grant me that free will does not exist, and then consider this:

All events leading up to an action can influence whether or not that action is realised. Even to the point of nanoseconds before something happens, it can be averted or otherwise stopped from happening. A nanosecond after that action is realised that same action can be viewed as having been inevitable from the moment the universe was conceived.

One second our lives seem to have this infinitely changeable, possible quality, and, after the point at which something happens, things suddenly look like they were destined always to be. Is this right? Is the above a totally or even partially true statement? Or am I making a profound logical error or errors?
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 05:40 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
even partially true statement?
Yes, inasmuch as that's the way it seems to many of us

Intuition doubts if everything could be returned to its state at some moment yesterday that today would be exactly the same though I'm not sure how any difference could apply to the issue of freewill. However I wonder if the antipody won't eventually be resolved by demonstrating it's merely a semantic matter

Yes, no, there's no such word
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 06:05 pm
@dalehileman,
Thanks for answering Smile

The question of how much of the problem comes down to semantics versus the real state of the universe (say) is the central one I wanted to pose really. It feels like it should be a mistake unique to human consciousness, yet my belief in determinism also seems to support it as correct in broader terms.

Just as an aside I want to say that I rather bungled the posting of this, among other things failing to tag it for the Language forum etc. Frustrating.
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 06:10 pm
@medium-density,
It seems to me that most philosophical questions these days -- and especially any that deal with what, for lack of a better word, we still call 'metaphysics' -- are about semantics rather than anything like ultimate reality.

BTW, I re-tagged the thread for you. (You can add tags after you've sumitted, you know)
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 06:28 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Yes the validity of language in describing reality does seem to be a rather leaky problem, especially in philosophy.

And thank you very much for the tidying up of the tags -I tried to change them through the edit button which seemed to be a no go.
0 Replies
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 07:06 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
…..yet my belief in determinism also seems to support it as correct in broader terms.
Med you seem to be saying you'e a determinist, which of course is okay. However I think most of us feel as if we have to assume freewill if for no other reason because determinism is so gloomy an outlook

In my whole life I did meet one other out-and-out determinist who admitted however in spite of that outlook he enjoyed watching it happen

Andy above evidently agrees with me about the semantic prop
medium-density
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 07:24 pm
@dalehileman,
Yes well, insofar as I actually understand determinism I believe the universe is deterministic. This would make me a determinist, however I admit to not being able to live my life in the full flight of the intellectual freedom such a position allows one, since I am a human with emotions which rule my actions above all.

I have never seen an argument which would convince me that free will is possible, and I accept determinism (which in a way is only the law of cause and effect; we are caused beings) even in human concerns no matter how gloomy it seems. I'm a pessimist as well so it kind of suits me Wink
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2013 08:16 pm
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:
I have never seen an argument which would convince me that free will is possible


Neither have I.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 02:10 am
@medium-density,
You are confusing levels of description.

"Free Will" is a social and psychological concept which has essential significance in a network of human behaviorial concepts like "responsibility", "self", "culpability" etc. If you doubt this, consider the social result of removing "culpability" from the language !
"Determinism" is a mode of argument primarily supported by successful prediction of limited physical events. Philosophers having failed to give a clear definition of "causality" prompted Kant to conclude it was a perceptual a priori (i.e a wired in mode of thinking). Causality has no place in modern physics partially because the time dimension within which it seems to operate has been subsumed as an aspect of "space-time" and can no longer be considered to be an independent reference frame.

Thus the argument that physical events are deterministic and that they are a necessary substrate for cognitive events is flawed on at least three counts.
1. Determinism/causality, despite its limited success in predicting what we tautologically call "mechanistic behavior" is ultimately a cognitive concept.
2. Necessity does not imply sufficiency.
3. "Events" are observer defined by selection of the boundaries of the event window.
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 12:38 pm
@fresco,
Quote:
1. Determinism/causality…….is ultimately a cognitive concept.
I'd say this observation supports my contention that the entire argument is merely a semantic issue

Quote:
primarily supported by successful prediction of limited physical events.
Yet meantime we're left with the determinist's insistence that all events are physical
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 01:20 pm
@dalehileman,
I agree that most metaphysical arguments discussed in the abstract can be termed "merely semantic". However specific AI research, or defense arguments in court rooms often take determinism, rightly or wrongly, as axiomatic . The point is that what we call "semantics" is contextually anchored, or as Wittgenstein pointed out, metaphysical "problems" tend to be what happens "when language goes on holiday" (i.e used out of context or in nebulous generalizations).
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 01:32 pm
@fresco,
Fres your argument far exceeds the capabilities of the Typical Blockhead (me). But I'm wondering whether you're merely rephrasing my contention that the apparent impasse between determinism and free will is merely a semantic issue

Quote:
However specific AI research, or defense arguments in court rooms often take determinism, rightly or wrongly, as axiomatic .
Forgive me Fres but this sentence can be interpreted in several if not many different ways so reducing your entire contention to everyday terms in short sentences suitable to the Average Clod (me) might be appreciated as well by others
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 02:08 pm
@dalehileman,
I am qualifying the phrase "merely semantic" by pointing out that a non-contextual "impasse" is a straw man. Consider the following contexts.
1.Nobody (normally) discusses the choice of "shirt selection" (say) in terms of a free will/determinism dichotomy...the dichotomy has no semantic significance in this case.
2. On the other hand, consider a court room argument that X committed a crime because he suffered from an aberrant brain condition outside his control. In that case the dichotomy does have significance.

So the phrase "merely semantic" belies the fact that in context, decisions either way can have social consequences and that point devalues the import of "merely".
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 03:19 pm
@fresco,
Quote:
1…...choice of "shirt selection" (say) in terms of a free will/determinism……..no semantic significance…..
Don't know, suppose depends on what one means by "semantic," but some see the shirt selection in exactly the same terms as the jury trial

Somebody please help me out here
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 14 Feb, 2013 10:29 pm
@dalehileman,
The point is, in those contexts where you think sanity/insanity is a meaningful semantic distinction equivalent to free will/determined, then the phrase "merely semantic" is inappropriate. Note too that some religions having "free will" as a core component would also give contextual substance to the dichotomy.

So I am saying that although the distinction is meaningless as a general all-embracing principle, thereby rendering the non-contextual determinism principle vacuous, in certain contexts the distinction between "free will" and "determinism" does have semantic significance (semantic=implying social consequences).

dalehileman
 
  0  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2013 12:18 am
@fresco,
Quote:
…..where you think sanity/insanity is a meaningful semantic distinction equivalent to free will/determined,…...
To me they don't seem equivalent. The latter represents not merely a difference but an outright contradiction

Attributing contextual substance to the dichotomy as as general all-embracing principle does indeed render the non-contextual determinism principle vacuous in certain contexts of immense semantic significance

Sorry Fres, just couldn't resist. To communicate with the Commonplace Muddler (me) you must employ more nearly everyday language
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2013 03:00 am
@dalehileman,
I think fresco would be satisfied if you merely took "merely" out of your initial response. Laughing
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2013 03:12 am
@MattDavis,
The irony is that dalehileman's posture as "a muddler" suggests that "clear language" is possible, but as Quine and others have pointed out this is never the case.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2013 03:21 am
@dalehileman,
dalehileman wrote:

Quote:
…..where you think sanity/insanity is a meaningful semantic distinction equivalent to free will/determined,…...
To me they don't seem equivalent. The latter represents not merely a difference but an outright contradiction


Qualifier:From my understanding of what fresco has written:

I don't think the intention was to equate (sanity/insanity) with (free will/determined) in general.
But, rather to compare them in the context of something like a court trial, when the decision one way or the other determines the outcome of the trial.
In a court (where intention matters) finding that someone is insane may exonerate the accused (or lessen the punishment). The logic being used in such a court is that, if someone is insane they therefore had no free will and thus were incapable of intending the act (or consequences of the act) in question.

So, getting it back to the OP:
Be careful of dismissive language regarding such questions of free will because people's lives may hang in the balance. Laughing dun dun dun
Also I think fresco has a special place in his heart for semantics.
When he sees the word "merely" proceeding it, his heart trembles from the abuse. Laughing
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Feb, 2013 03:26 am
@fresco,
Quote:
The irony is that dalehileman's posture as "a muddler" suggests that "clear language" is possible, but as Quine and others have pointed out this is never the case.

It is also ironic that if it were the case you might be able to demonstrate to everyone the nature of that irony.
 

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