Archives for posts with tag: determinism

Bonkers, right?

Here’s a more elaborate expression of the same concept:

“Al-Ash’ari (873–935), the founder of the theological school that al-Ghazâlî belonged to, had rejected the existence of “natures” (tabâ’i’ ) and of causal connections among created beings. In a radical attempt to explain God’s omnipotence, he combined several ideas that were developed earlier in Muslim kalâm to what became known as occasionalism. All material things are composed of atoms that have no qualities or attributes but simply make up the shape of the body. The atoms of the bodies are the carrier of “accidents” (singl. ‘arad), which are attributes like weight, density, color, smell, etc. In the cosmology of al-Ash’arî all immaterial things are considered “accidents” that inhere in a “substance” (jawhar). Only the atoms of spatially extended bodies can be substances. A person’s thoughts, for instance, are considered accidents that inhere in the atoms of the person’s brain, while his or her faith is an accident inhering in the atoms of the heart. None of the accidents, however, can subsist from one moment (waqt) to the next. This leads to a cosmology where in each moment God assigns the accidents to bodies in which they inhere. When one moment ends, God creates new accidents. None of the created accidents in the second moment has any causal relation to the ones in the earlier moment. If a body continues to have a certain attribute from one moment to the next, then God creates two identical accidents inhering in that body in each of the two subsequent moments. Movement and development generate when God decides to change the arrangement of the moment before. A ball is moved, for instance, when in the second moment of two the atoms of the ball happen to be created in a certain distance from the first. The distance determines the speed of the movement. The ball thus jumps in leaps over the playing field and the same is true for the players’ limbs and their bodies. This also applies to the atoms of the air if there happen to be some wind. In every moment, God re-arranges all the atoms of this world anew and He creates new accidents—thus creating a new world every moment (Perler/Rudolph 2000, 28–62).”

On the other hand, we currently have our own struggles.

Determinism.
Is it possible to determine the ultimate cause of anything? Forget about ‘everything’… even the ultimate cause for something seems to be far beyond our capabilities…

Freedom.
Is it real?
Or is it only a figment of our own imagination?

Reality.
Is it real?
Or is it created by our own conscience?

No links provided. Do your own googling.

Here’s what science teaches us on this matter.

Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’:
It is impossible to simultaneously measure with absolute precision both the position and the velocity of any object.

For many everyday instances, this doesn’t present any problem. For practical purposes, our technological prowess is enough. Philosophically… Heisenberg’s principle is yet another irrefutable indication that we’re very far from ever being able to determine the ultimate cause of anything.

Are we able to live with this uncertainty?

Are we able to go to bed at night without being absolutely sure that the sun will rise tomorrow?
OK, everybody somehow knows – even if nobody wants to accept it, that there’s a slight chance that they will not wake tomorrow… but the Sun?!?

Are we able to live with the notion that what we call ‘natural order’ isn’t fixed?

That a meteorite might come from nowhere and kill all the ‘dinosaurs’?
That a virus might spring up from nowhere and fuck up our lives?

“What we see is the fire touching the cotton and then the cotton being reduced to ashes. We wrongly assume that there is thus a necessary causal relationship between fire burning and the cotton being burned”.

Now please tell me something.
What is the subject here? Cotton being burned or our relationship with what’s going on there?

We see… we assume… He, al Ghazali, tells us that we are wrong to assume that what we see is what is really happening… He is ‘right’ – because…- and we are wrong…

The funny thing being, of course, that al-Ghazali is, partially, right!
Since Heisenberg had postulated his famous principle, we should refrain ourselves from assuming anything…

OK. Let me put it differently then.
What happened to that cotton?
Is it still white? Or had it been “reduced” to ashes?

Who brought the flame close enough to the cotton?
Was this an experiment? In a lab?
Or a tragedy? In a field/storage? By lightning? Or by an arsonist?

Returning to al Ghazali, we need to remember that his world was totally different from ours.

It’s safe to say that their culture was about as sophisticated as ours. Same arts, same subjects discussed in the philosophical circles, same religious ideas…

Civilizationally speaking, we live in a totally different world.
Civilization – the consequence of ‘culture’ being put to practice’ had advanced dramatically in the last 1000 years.

And since our thoughts are heavily influenced by the environment in which we’re doing the thinking…

The fraction of the population who enjoyed ‘food security’ was minuscule compared to today.
The fraction of the population who was pretty much sure they will awake the next morning was minuscule compared to today.
The fraction of the population who felt free – from oppression – was, practically, nonexistent.

Yet the ‘thinkers’ felt the same need for coherence as those thinking today. They felt the same need to know what tomorrow had in store for them.
They, like us, needed an explanation for disease. For war. For tragedy…
And since no pathogens nor dictators were available …

How come ‘no dictators were available’?!?
Who in his right mind would have called, then, the local ruler a ‘dictator’? In his face…
Look at what happened, now, to people doing that in Moscow!
Or even in Washington, DC

That was the role attributed to God. To be the bridge to tomorrow.

It was not the flame which reduced the cotton to ashes. Nor the experimenter/arsonist/dictator. It was ‘God’.
As long as we could accept that – and that God loved us, the future was still bearable.

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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Knowledge is being constantly (re)generated by us.

Everything we know, individually and collectively, has been first felt, then interpreted and finally communicated by us.

For something which has happened inside our sensorial sphere to become a piece of information we have to first notice it, then evaluate it and, finally, deem it important enough to remember. To codify it as information.

For something to make sense – whatever that means, the information we have about that something has to fit in to the rest of information we already have.

These three premises, which I hold to be self evident, lead me to the conclusion that:

Individual human beings will always have but a limited knowledge/understanding about/of the world.
A group of people are able to develop an aggregate understanding of the world which might be wider than those belonging to the individual members.
In time, a community of people will cobble together an even more complex weltanschauung. But still an incomplete one. For no other reason than the fact that the sum of a finite number of finite quantities will always be finite.

Consequences.

Since our understanding of the world is finite, determinism doesn’t make sense.
This being the reason for all authoritarian regimes/monopolistic arrangements caving in sooner rather than later. For the simple reason that those regimes/monopolies use but the brain power of those in power and waste the rest.
Our understanding of the world being finite, there is no way to demonstrate or refute God.

Which God is, anyway, nothing but a figment of our imagination.
Because of the very reasons I mentioned above.
Even if God itself would appear right now in a public square and on all the TV monitors in the world, the impression/understanding of him we would be left with after the experience would be of our own making.

Incomplete and inexact. Heavily dependent on everything else we already know.

“Friedrich Engels in a thinker’s pose
The four-meter-tall bronze sculpture of the other philosopher of communism, Friedrich Engels, is a bit smaller than the planned Marx statue in Trier. This Engels monument in his hometown, Wuppertal, was also made by a Chinese artist and offered by the government of China in 2014.”

I grew up under communist rule.
We studied marxism in school.
At some point, I was about 16, the teacher asked us about the relative merits of the different brands of materialism he had mentioned during his classes.
My answer was ‘dialectic materialism is better than all others because those who apply it into practice constantly gouge the consequences of their (political) decisions and fine tune policies accordingly’.
Some 15 years later the communist lager had imploded simply because those who were supposed to act in a dialectic manner had failed to put the principle in practice.
Coming back to the original question, ‘was Marx a determinist’, the answer is yes.
Marx’s dialectics is only a procedure. Meant to help the communists exercise the dictatorship mandated by Marx in the name of the proletariat. And dictatorships are determinist by definition.
Why mandate one if you are not convinced that things can be ruled?
For the long run and in a comprehensive manner?

The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision, is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs.”

The systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.

In these terms, science must be deterministic.
No systematic study of anything might ever be made if not starting from the conviction that a given set of causes will produce the same results, over and over again. No laws attempting to describe any facts in general terms might be formulated unless starting from the same premises.

On the other hand, it was science itself which had taught us that:

It’s impossible to determine, with absolute precision, both the position and momentum of an electron

The same ‘uncertainty principle’ can be extended to other pairs of “complementary variables, such as length of time and energy“.

And there are countless other examples of ‘in-determination’ which have been documented by scientists during their search for the ultimate truth.

Any chance of reconciliation?

Well…
To start, I’ll note first that ‘determinism’ is a concept which had started its career in philosophy while ‘science’ has a more ‘complex’ origin. It might have been initiated by Christian theologians trying to ‘guess’ God’s will only they were attempting to fulfill that task by closely watching Nature – which was seen as the very embodiment of God’s intentions.
In this sense, scientific determinism can be understood as the conviction that Nature must make perfect sense – must be completely explainable, simply because God’s creation – which includes Nature, must be perfect.
OK, and since all theologians agree that no human will ever be able/should ever pretend to know God, what’s the problem in accepting that Man – collectively speaking now, will never learn enough to find a complete explanation for everything?

‘And what about the atheists?’

What about them?
Oh, you mean the people who are sure that God doesn’t exist? Who are just as sure that God doesn’t exist as the staunch believers who are perfectly confident that God not only exists but also micro-manages everything? Under the Sun and beyond?
I’ll just leave it there…

On a deeper level, there is no contradiction between ‘determinism’ – philosophically speaking, and scientific thinking. As long as we keep these two ‘apart’, of course…

‘So you are going to accept that science will never ‘know’ everything AND that ‘everything is a consequence of the previous state of affairs’ ‘ ?

Well, again…
The key word here is “inevitable”!
Determinism is ” the philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision, is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs
For a philosopher it is very easy to say ‘inevitable’. Even more so for believing philosopher.
For a scientist… how is a scientist going to say that something is ‘inevitable’? ‘Philosophically’ speaking, of course… as in ‘with absolute precision’?!?

Specially since entertaining a truly ‘scientific attitude’ means, above all, to be prepared, at all moment and without any notice, for all your previously held convictions to be contradicted by new evidence…

‘What are you trying to say here?
That everything revolves around the manner in which each of us relates to the meaning of his own interpretation of each concept?
That truth itself is relative?’

‘That man is the measure for everything?’

Yep!
AND that man is also responsible for the consequences his own actions! In front of his own children, before everything else.
For no other reason than it will be his own children who will bear the brunt of his own decisions.

Additional reading:
Science as Falsification“, Karl R. Popper.
800 Scientists say it’s time to abandon “Statistical Significance”
“Protagoras”
“On the Essence of Truth“, Martin Heidegger
“Suicide now leading cause of death among children aged 10 to 14 in Japan

I am determined to fly.
Only my actual flying is relative to my ability to ‘negotiate’ the absolute determination with which my body and the rest of the planet pull at each other.

Translation:

There are three kinds of ‘determination’.
Absolute, relative and teleological.

‘Absolute determination’ is that situation where everything is under the same constriction. For instance, (almost) everything substantial in this Universe is affected by the gravitational field which permeates everywhere and everything.

Relative determination is that situation where either a special characteristic of something or a special circumstance induces a specific relation between that something and an ‘overpowering force’. For instance, any electrically charged particle is under the influence of the electromagnetic field while the ‘neutral’ ones are indifferent to the said field. Also, a dead leaf which happens to fall in a stream is under a double determination. It is simultaneously pulled towards the center of the Earth and helplessly transported by the water. OK, the flow of the water is indeed powered by the same gravity which pulls the leaf but, again, it is relative to the local relief.
Please note that even if the absolute determination might seem insignificant due to the effects of the relative one, the absolute never ceases. An electron which spins happily around a nucleus only seems impervious to the gravitational pull. Simply because the latter is way weaker than the former, at that scale.

Teleological determination is that situation where the determinant has an active role in shaping the influence it exerts over the determined. NB, ‘active’ and not necessarily ‘conscious’. For instance, no two working bees belonging to the same hive  will ever do exactly the same thing in the same (broad) situation, despite both being under the same absolute determination and under almost similar relative determination – they are twin sisters.

Things become way more interesting when we start discussing the influence of ‘intent’.
When the teleological determination becomes intentional.
Where the scope of the active action is influenced by the consciousness of the determinant instead of depending exclusively on ‘rules’ and chance.