Thought vs Matter/Energy

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on April 5th, 2020, 7:08 am 

Christ, it's a week between replies. Is it a joke? A wind-up? Or do we have to spend time in Deep Socratic Contemplation before we make our next timeless utterances?

It's boring the hell outa me, that's for sure!


Sorry - big family shake-ups in trying to take precautions against Corona virus.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on April 5th, 2020, 7:35 am 

Hi Charon

I don't 'believe' there is evidence, there is! Not everything is caused, it's a fact. Because it's a fact no choice is involved.


Cause doesn't require choice - just a prior event that may be inevitable - as determinism suggests.
The thing that other philosophies suggest is that there may, in rare circumstances, be occurrences without any cause whatsoever.

The only things that have no end have no beginning either. Could it be otherwise?


Yes - for example, if time had a beginning, it doesn't necessarily have to have an end.

Finipolscie surprised me by saying that time could be no more than the effect of motion, (and therefore sequence)... which I guess might be true. I think the ancient Greek philosophers considered the start of everything as being from the first motion. I'm not sure that they considered that everything might always have been moving (but that would also require eternal existence).

But philosophically, if there was a first movement, while we might speculate that all motion everywhere might stop, that is not guaranteed - it might go on forever.


Look, always go for the greater picture. Life is the greater picture, not the lesser things it contains. Has life any beginning? Isn't it always new, fresh, spontaneous? And therefore remains essentially the unknown?


I like to think that true change can occur, but the determinist philosophy says that what you refer to is your ability to predict, rather than the underlying inevitability. ie. you are surprised by a different outcome to your prediction... which was limited by your knowledge and indeed, everyone else's too.

It must have involved energy, right? Nothing happens without energy. And they say energy, as we said before, has no beginning and no end. No one as far as I know disputes that. So it didn't start with the Big Bang. Something must have been there first.


Isn't that the dilemma? Steven Hawking in his book the Grand Design, argued the old mathematical philosophy that if there was a true start from nothing, it must have happened with an even that was without cause (truly spontaneous), but it split nothingness 'as the zero form of something', into two- ie. positive and negative matter/energy, (which collectively equate to zero still - a balanced equation).


So if there are things without time and without causation then we're looking at something quite different.


Precisely.


IS there spontaneity?


'Spontaneity' means something occurs without a cause. 'Randomness' - more than one outcome for no causal reason. The existence of these things is a matter of belief because some people like me like to think they are true, but others think they are due to a hidden cause that we haven't yet detected.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on April 5th, 2020, 9:10 am 

lateralsuz -

Cause doesn't require choice


I think we're conflating two separate things here. It's we who choose, cause doesn't choose. And we choose, basically, because we don't perceive clearly. Where there's clarity of perception there's no choice; the fact is the fact.

The thing that other philosophies suggest is that there may, in rare circumstances, be occurrences without any cause whatsoever


I'm glad they've caught up then!

Yes - for example, if time had a beginning, it doesn't necessarily have to have an end


Does anything go on forever? Change is the constant. Nothing existent lasts, life is impermanence. It's so.

Finipolscie surprised me by saying that time could be no more than the effect of motion, (and therefore sequence)... which I guess might be true


Of course. We have invented what we call time, right? All there actually is is movement. When we invent a system to measure the movement, that's what we call time.

Move your hand across your body, slowly, from one side to the other. All there is is that movement, nothing more. But when we time it with a clock then the amount of units that pass is what we call time. That's all - time is measured movement, measured with one of our systems, and there have been several over the ages.

So time is the measure of movement, and life is movement, change. Nothing is static, it doesn't exist. But it's we who invent time as measure.

But philosophically, if there was a first movement, while we might speculate that all motion everywhere might stop, that is not guaranteed - it might go on forever


As you say, it's all speculative.

I like to think that true change can occur


What do you mean by 'true change'? Change is occurring ceaselessly, it's what actually is.

the determinist philosophy says that what you refer to is your ability to predict, rather than the underlying inevitability. ie. you are surprised by a different outcome to your prediction... which was limited by your knowledge and indeed, everyone else's too.


Well, let's not bother with prediction then! I mean, some things are pretty predictable but it's certainly not an accurate science. Even the weather people, whose very essence is prediction, find it difficult.

The existence of these things is a matter of belief because some people like me like to think they are true, but others think they are due to a hidden cause that we haven't yet detected.


That's why it's so important to find for oneself what is true. Not obstinately hold to some opinion or other but actually find out. Then it doesn't matter what anybody says.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on April 5th, 2020, 1:45 pm 

GENERAL NOTE

This is a message board, and many members do not look in here every day. Expect some delays.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on April 7th, 2020, 8:00 am 

Hi Charon

To answer your various points overall...

If maths and the philosophy of determinism govern the majority of activity in the physical realm, then most of that physical realm will produce one inevitable outcome.

If we clearly demonstrate that something was not inevitable, it must either come from 'outside the model', or be a factor that breaks the rules which seem to govern the things we can define in physical terms. To this extent I think its interesting to focus on the factors within science that use probabilities within their mathematical models, as this is effectively an admission that the determinist principle doesn't seem to work here... for whatever reason.

True change, to me, represents something that alters what would have been an inevitable outcome, and sets us on a new path.

The philosophical question is whether the agent of such change was actually part of the same inevitable system, but was something that had followed a different route to the one we had anticipated; or whether it was a true agent of fundamental change - by definition, ie. able to introduce a spontaneous or random element (as previously defined) without cause.

I have always said this, so I didn't need to catch-up. But if we are to take this path then we have to follow the implications completely through our logic about existence - which is what Finipolscie did, and why it came as a revelation to me.

The reason why we seem to be having our nice but elongated debate is because some of the comments you have made, blur or even deny the concepts, and I couldn't tell if that was down to the choice of words, or a seemingly fundamental misunderstanding on one of our parts.

Can anything go on forever? While the pattern of change within the system may cause objects within it to have a limited life, I don't see why the system itself (call it the framework for existence, if you like), shouldn't be eternal.

The key determinist idea to explain origin is precisely that - that existence has had no beginning, and therefore the process of inevitable change goes on forever.

That is why I like the idea of true spontaneous or random change - because it could shake the mix a bit, and liven things up.


There is nothing wrong with our use of prediction, so long as we don't confuse it with the underlying principles.

To this extent I do like to see if other people's ideas can demonstrate if I am going wrong in my logic or base positioning. We don't know the answer, but we should try to avoid mistakes anyway.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on April 7th, 2020, 1:15 pm 

lateralsuz -

True change, to me, represents something that alters what would have been an inevitable outcome, and sets us on a new path.


But is anything absolutely inevitable? Except that things end because of impermanence. Perhaps only change is inevitable.

The philosophical question is whether the agent of such change was actually part of the same inevitable system, but was something that had followed a different route to the one we had anticipated; or whether it was a true agent of fundamental change - by definition, ie. able to introduce a spontaneous or random element (as previously defined) without cause.


I'd say change is inherent in the system, so to speak.

a seemingly fundamental misunderstanding on one of our parts.


Possibly that one. It happens, but we can get round it, it's not inevitable :-)

I don't see why the system itself (call it the framework for existence, if you like), shouldn't be eternal.


But that's what I've been saying, that life is the greater, the whole, and is an eternal movement. It's simply there, it hasn't been born and it doesn't die. Things within it come and go but the thing itself remains.

To this extent I do like to see if other people's ideas can demonstrate if I am going wrong in my logic or base positioning


I don't think they are essentially wrong. From what I can see, anyway.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on April 13th, 2020, 9:43 pm 

Hi lateralsuz,
Have you heard that classical physics is “deterministic” and quantum mechanics is probabilistic? I like the way Leonard Carter put it here:
Actually, classical mechanics is deterministic only in an ideal sense, that it is possible IN PRINCIPLE to determine the future state of a system given a complete and exact specification of its state at some point in time. To require determinism in this way would mandate specifying the state at time t to an arbitrary level of precision and accuracy, clearly an impossible objective. Even something as simple as a three-body problem has no exact analytical solution, except for special cases. The non-linear nature of classical dynamics is illustrated in the popular notion of the butterfly effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can have an influence on the formation of a hurricane over the Atlantic —— while extremely unlikely, it’s still possible. But while classical mechanics may be non-deterministic, it’s not probabilistic as is the case for quantum mechanics. For the latter, the future state of a QM-level system cannot be determined even in principle, thus there is a fundamental difference between the two in that respect.

https://www.quora.com/To-what-extent-is ... babilistic

In his book, “Quantum Gods” by Victor Stenger, he talks about “deterministic chaos”:
Chaos was accidentally discovered in 1961 by meteorologist Edward Lorenz while running a model of the atmosphere on one of the primitive computers of the day. In repeating a run, he entered a number that had been rounded off to 0.506 in a printout from the actual number inside the computer which was 0.506127. He found that the model gave completely different results in the two cases. Lorenz discovered that his model was very sensitive to tiny changes in the input data. It was as if a butterfly flapping its wings could change the weather days ahead, so this was dubbed the butterfly effect.

No known mathematical technique enables one to go from the initial conditions to the final results of a chaotic system, and so the process appears on the surface to be indeterministic. However, for a system on the macroscale, an individual body such as a pendulum bob still obeys deterministic Newtonian mechanics.

While deterministic chaos is limited to classical systems, quantum uncertainties in the initial conditions could result in a large-scale, otherwise deterministic chaotic system such as a pendulum or the atmosphere, to behave unpredictably.

Phenomena at the classical scale are deterministic because the classical mathematical correlations are but this leaves out the underlying probabilistic behavior of individual molecules that we can’t know about even in principal.

I think understanding what it means for a phenomenon to be deterministic in the sense meant by physics is important to grasping your concerns about subjective phenomena like thoughts being able to influence objectively observable phenomena like behavior. There's a problem here that you've picked up on that is often glossed over but there are very good discussions by others on this topic (philosophers of mind, physicists, neuroscientists, biologists, etc...).
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energyin order to get a tiotal perce

Postby charon on April 21st, 2020, 12:10 pm 

Dave -

Well, we won't wait for suz. It might be silliness but it might be something serious to do with the virus or some other reason, we don't know.

Phenomena at the classical scale are deterministic because the classical mathematical correlations are but this leaves out the underlying probabilistic behavior of individual molecules that we can’t know about even in principal.


I think that's the point, that whatever knowledge we have, it's limited. We might have a massive amount of knowledge - and to some extent we already do - but knowledge isn't everything.

There are two points arising from that. One is the inordinate amount of time it would take to collect enough knowledge to say we knew everything... except that's not possible. Whatever knowledge we have it'll always be incomplete because everything is changing; there'll always be more.

The other point is whether there's anything other than knowledge we can access to get a total perception. There IS total perception although it generally applies to things within life rather than the totality. We can have a complete insight into, say, a mathematical or physics problem, or into one of our own dilemmas.

But is there anything else? We might solve one thing but there are a million others waiting. In other words we're always going very slowly, step by step, inch by inch... and then we're dead.

So what's to be done? What exactly is it we want to understand? I think that should be made very clear before the question can be answered. And I'm not at all convinced we even know what the question is.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on April 22nd, 2020, 7:28 pm 

Hi Charon,
What exactly is it we want to understand? I think that should be made very clear before the question can be answered. And I'm not at all convinced we even know what the question is.

I’d agree the OP as presented isn’t particularly clear and could be better presented. I also think an understanding of what’s meant by determinism in classical physics and why that’s important has to be well understood before the OP can even make any sense. So my last post was just an attempt to help clarify what’s meant by determinism in the sense of classical physics.

Although it’s true that we can’t make perfectly accurate predictions using classical physics because of those tiny fluctuations at the quantum level, we also can’t know them even in principal. It isn’t just a matter of knowing that molecular information exactly. Nevertheless, the higher level descriptions such as voltage potential in a circuit, shear stresses in a fluid and similar classical descriptions, are perfectly valid and can produce accurate predictions of phenomena. Ohm’s law isn’t incorrect because we can’t know a voltage potential exactly. It gives accurate predictions using the higher level description which are an averaging of the underlying molecular states. Imperfect knowledge of molecules/atoms isn’t important to the matter of characterizing a given phenomenon, only in predicting it perfectly accurately.

Thoughts are generally considered an emergent property of the brain as a whole. The brain goes through various physical states and as it does, the emergent property of ‘thoughts’ emerge at the level of the brain as a whole. We can’t predict exactly how these physical states will evolve because we can’t know the state at the quantum level.

The question many ask then is, can an emergent property such as a thought, have any causal efficacy? Can the quantum fluctuations, the unknowns, somehow be ‘used’ by this higher level emergent property and therefore influence the system as a whole? Can a thought influence the future physical state of the brain or is the entire system essentially deterministic? Note that neuron interactions are a great example of highly nonlinear classical physics. We can’t predict this ‘deterministic chaos’ exactly. But if the emergent property of ‘thoughts’ can’t influence anything, we would appear to have a problem.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on April 23rd, 2020, 8:16 am 

Dave -

You've probably realised by now that I don't do physics as such. I may understand it to a certain extent but I'd rather not immerse myself in it and become over-centered on that. Moreover, I'm not sure that it's necessary in order to understand how life operates. After all, if we all had to get a PhD in physics before we could understand our existence where would we be? :-)

So, what is the problem here? Is it a problem of existence or a physics problem? If it's a physics problem then it may have been caused by precisely the immersion I was talking about. If I examine just one part of a picture, say, then anything I find may or may not apply to the whole picture. So I'd rather look at the whole picture from the start.

What's the issue here? Is it whether everything operates by strict cause/effect and nothing else? How are we to find out? Obviously some things are. That's self-evident. If I overeat, I get fat. If I exercise, I get fit. Simple, and one can extrapolate from that.

But is there anything which is not merely the effect of a cause? I'd say there was, as I was trying to explain to suz. Is, for example, beauty 'caused'?

You may say that it's all in the eye of the beholder. That is, the culture around one has inculcated certain ideas of what is beautiful into us and that is recognised as 'beauty'. Thus our conception of beauty is conditioned, therefore what we perceive as beauty, if this is the case, is caused; it's the effect of the culture.

But is there beauty apart from indoctrinated ideas? Obviously there is. Such beauty is totally independent of any cultural influence; it's there if one has the eyes for it.

So the upshot is that both determinism and indeterminism are true; it's not either/or.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on April 30th, 2020, 3:29 pm 

davidm » March 20th, 2020, 10:06 pm wrote:What I’m trying to say, though, is that loophole-free tests of the violations of Bell’s inequalities still allow one to pick and choose among various interpretations of QM, including Many Worlds, where the effects of spooky action at a distance manifest themselves without any actual spooky action at a distance.

Yes. The Bell's Inequality Tests in Netherlands, Colorado (and later Japan) have eliminated some contenders , while still leaving the field wide open for others.

But anyways, I the bald statement "There is no empirical test to differentiate between interps-of-QM" is technically speaking no longer true today. Not since 2015.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on April 30th, 2020, 3:57 pm 

lateralsuz » March 18th, 2020, 7:49 pm wrote:Hi hyksos, davidm, theVat
Would wave collapses, vacuum fluctuations, nuclear decay and everything else, have a cause or not (even if we have yet to identify it/them)?

If there is a hidden cause, does it relate to unusual properties of matter/energy, or could it be that there is another type of stuff that is seemingly generating the unpredictable effects? The Dualist perception.

If you see the presence of true randomness or spontaneity (without cause) anywhere, how would you consider that the effects are prevented from creating chaos throughout existence?

I am aware that you have asked a yes/no question and that you expect a yes/no answer. However, let the following be my answer to your question.

I would say that the problem of Quantum Mechanics is more subtle and vicious than you are thinking.

Let me give an example. You have a physics professor who spends a week of lectures explaining how electrons are actually better described as waves. Indeed there are physical events like barrier tunneling that perfectly match this theory, and wildly so. Electrons are ghostly ephemeral entities that disappear from one place in spacetime and reappear somewheres else. And everyone liked that and went home and so the universe is so. So it is, amen.

The next week the professor is telling the same students that they can calculate orbital angular momentum of an atom. OAM results by considering that the electron is a tight localized ball of mass rotating around the nucleus like a planet orbiting a star. OAM is measurable in a device called a magnetic resonance imaging chamber. He takes his students over to the chemistry building and literally shows them the MR machine and its output graphs.

But hold up --- doesn't this view contradict the ephemeral electron-as-a-wave as bespoken in week one? We were told that the electron was a ghostly entity flitting in and out of spacetime. Now its described as hard ball of mass? Were we lied to?

Turns out there is no contradiction. It is true that electrons disappear and reappear again when changing orbits, and jump across insulators to a wire on the other side. But in every case they perform these teleports in just such a way that orbital angular momentum is conserved. It's a giant coincidence. An all-too "convenient" coincidence built into the laws of physics.

Modern physics is chock full of convenient coincidences like this. This goes back to 1905. After that the coincidences piled higher and higher. This is the sense in which the randomness is prevented from creating chaos throughout existence.


I said that QM is subtle and vicious. Subtle and vicious in the sense that you have to face up to questions about whether it even makes sense to say that a system was in an obvjective state, S prior to measuring it. Then what does "measurement" mean? This person taking measurements --- what is an "observer" anyway?

Eugene Wigner designed the thought experiment to illustrate his belief that consciousness is necessary to the quantum mechanical measurement process (and therefore, that consciousness in general must be an "ultimate reality"


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_paradox

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigner%27s_friend
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 3rd, 2020, 9:27 pm 

Hi Everyone
Apologies for my prolonged absence. I’ve been having to deal with a few issues that are being resolved, but they will still make my continuing involvement with the forum a little patchy going forwards…. at least for a while.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 3rd, 2020, 9:36 pm 

Hi Hyksos

I’m glad you have re-entered the fray. I was beginning to think you’d abandoned us!

I wasn’t looking for precision, but I was looking for an acknowledgement of the basic options, and where people felt inclined to stake their bets currently.

Your points are well made, but I still read them as describing the scientific limitations of what we can demonstrate, rather than narrowing the path to a solution. I agree with your point that the underlying evidence to resolve these matters is currently beyond our abilities. Yet we are aware of the dilemma within the issues and they are not going away.

We therefore have to resort to philosophy which helps us to put a framework around the unknown, (to borrow someone else’s phrase).

The fundamental truth is that we can’t see what is going on at the level of sub-atomic particles, and we also do not seem to know of all of the influences that may be operating, (because those that we do know about do not account for the effects we observe).

If the deterministic maths, (ie. excluding probabilities), cannot account for what is repeatedly observed, the philosophy of this subject is therefore very clear about the remaining options –

a) There are forces beyond those that we know, (hidden variables, hidden parameters, other dimensions, or other ‘types of stuff’ underpinning our universe), that will bring the explanations back within Deterministic principles.
b) There are aspects of existence which fundamentally break the rules of Determinism - that effectively do things without a cause and therefore put us on a different track occasionally, (whether through magical teleportation as you describe – or a more basic level of true randomness – but both without cause).

If you can think of other fundamental options beyond those 2, (a or b), then I would genuinely like to know – accepting that this would be philosophical speculation rather than an expression of your views – unless you wish to elaborate on your preferences.

I find it interesting that some aspects of QM findings do seem to produce a limited range of outcomes – which to me suggests that they are more mechanical and potentially still within a Determinist framework of some sort.
Yet others do not, and the extremely wide range of options which their probabilities describe, do seem (to me) to point to a more fundamental problem with the Deterministic philosophy in that area of existence.

Finipolscie, (who I quoted when starting this debate), acknowledges that there are major aspects of the physical existence that we occupy, which do conform to Determinist principles, but he conceptually separated the other aspects of reality which do not seem to conform, (as potentially representing something fundamentally different). He initially used our thoughts to demonstrate that they may not conform to Determinist principles, and then went on to look for various micro and macro examples from scientific research of physical existence.

Clearly QM examples were prominent at the ‘micro’ level, but as an example from the macro level, the finding about the accelerating expansion of the universe seemed a good one to me. That’s because it destroyed the traditional ‘bang-crunch’ theory of eternal existence, by demanding a change to the eternal pattern, (ie. it could no longer collapse/crunch). This is why certain scientists were sent scambling to concoct other theories of eternal existence that would still allow an accelerating, non-collapsing universe, (eg. the notion of hidden curtains of energy beyond our view).

The philosophical logic is that any change to an eternal pattern can only be possible from either ‘a’ or ‘b’ above – and on the scale of the universe which encompasses everything, it was more likely to be ‘b’.

So I think there are ways to incline our thinking if we consider that there are only 2 basic options to resolve the dilemmas.

On your final point, I should first say that there are two basic options for chaos
• Chaotic existence that is a less structured version of the current universe, but still philosophically operating on the same set of principles or
• In the presence of ‘actions without cause’, there would be no controlling anything, whether through co-incidence or not.

It is a fact that the physical universe which we experience does tend to have stability and structure – so is it possible that it exerts a conforming influence on things around it that might be truly random?

Due to the stability that we do observe in physical existence, it is rare that a true change of direction seems to happen beyond our 'Thought-based actions', yet if our brains are a channel for effecting change, then other things might be too. However it would seem that the impact of such random activity would rarely be significant enough to cause fundamental change in the system, rather than a subtle change of direction.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 3rd, 2020, 9:40 pm 

Hi charon and dave-c

Thank you for carrying on without me.

I think my response to Hyksos will partially respond to some of your points too, but on your broader discussion, you often seem to blur the distinction between our ability to predict, and what is happening in reality, regardless of our predictions.

I do agree with charon in saying that qualia do seem to break deterministic explanations of the brain and they also reinforce the opening premise that Thought is therefore one of the prime ways historically that randomness and spontaneity were believed to demonstrate themselves in the real world.

Our predictions will always be limited by a lack of knowledge: whether our inability to gather the necessary data; or not being aware of all influencing factors; or fundamentally not understanding the underlying principles.

I think Determinism and the associated maths, makes it pretty clear what it represent in physics. The question for me is where we take it.

Where we see uncertainty in the use of probabilities, then do we go hunting for other fundamental things in the universe beyond our current identification, or do we continue trying to squeeze reality into the limited range of principles and known factors that science currently offers?

By younger scientists increasingly accepting the perceived reality of randomness, (and some even talk openly of spontaneity), they rarely seem to consider that in its true sense we would be talking about things without a cause, or things that are outside the ‘currently defined system’. They merely seem to be making a statement rather than truly accepting the implications.

In terms of our daily lives, an ability to predict is very useful; but in terms of our moral or preferential decision-making about how we choose to act within it, these are influenced by deeper issues & underlying principles about how the universe operates. If everything is inevitable and we are merely acting out a script in an existence that we only partly understand, then what’s the point in our speculation, other than mere comfort?

What would be the moral point of locking people up if what they did was not a matter of true choice, but a pre-set inevitability… etc?

Yet if we accept that true randomness and spontaneity exist, there are only 2 philosophical ways to explain those effects.

Can you think of others, and which of them is your current preference?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on May 3rd, 2020, 11:44 pm 

What would be the moral point of locking people up if what they did was not a matter of true choice, but a pre-set inevitability… etc?


Well, that's pretty obvious. Unless you're happy to have disturbed people wandering the streets. Like Bundy. Or Trump :-)

Or practically anybody really, it's all a matter of degree.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 10th, 2020, 8:18 pm 

Hi Charon

A point well made in response to my clumsy submission.
I was thinking about the notion of punishment rather than simple safety.
There would be no moral point to punishment if everyone and every thing could only perform an inevitable script.

Yet most people, and society in general, perceive that our decisions are not inevitable and therefore worthy of punishment. However, for those decisions not to be inevitable, they must either emerge from something outside the deterministic universe or be genuinely random - ie. not based on a cause.... unless you can think of something else?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on May 11th, 2020, 9:12 am 

I think the idea is both - to protect others plus a deprivation of liberty in a foul environment as punishment. You have to be treatable to get sent to a mental hospital but if you've committed a serious crime it's nevertheless a prison hospital. Those with untreatable antisocial personality disorders, as they're called nowadays, just get put in ordinary jail. But I expect you're aware of all that.

As for decisions, what would you say if you applied it to yourself? Would you take total responsibility for every single decision you ever made? And, if you did, would you accept being pulled up over them if they were wrong in some way?

I think the bottom line is that we can't shift the blame. If I decide to throw a brick through a window (I haven't so far) it's no good saying 'God did it' or 'It's all my parents' fault' or some other thing. But that doesn't mean there's no place for mitigation, there is. So we have to take responsibility but there may be good reasons why it happened. As in those women who were cleared of killing abusive husbands, for example.

We could claim some act was beyond our control - and I quite believe some are - but that would have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Some murderers have said all they saw was a 'red mist' or that it was all 'just like a dream'. What then are they guilty of? Not premeditation.

So I'd say take every case on its merit and do the best to get to the truth of it. But then I suppose we have the social/justice system to contend with and that's certainly not perfect.

Then we have your point of inevitability. Was it absolutely inevitable that Bundy would become a horrific serial killer or that Hitler would be genocidal? Who can say? Some would say it was written in the stars; others that, given greater love and understanding by the world, neither of those two men would have become what they did.

It's Spring at the moment. If I plant a carrot or an onion seed I know that we'll get a carrot or an onion, not a rose or an antirrhinum. But human beings are not like seeds, it's not determined what they will be. That's why parental care, education and environment are so important. The world can be changed, and should be.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on May 15th, 2020, 9:22 pm 

Students going through lessons on neurons are told from the beginning that the interactions between neurons are ‘classical’ in nature. I like the way Christof Koch puts it, “Although brains obey quantum mechanics, they do not seem to exploit any of its special features.” Koch realizes that “In contrast to classical physics, quantum mechanics is fundamentally indeterministic.” Which is to highlight that classical physics IS deterministic. What that means has been posted above a number of times and I suspect is still not understood. However, it’s an important point that is central to the discussion of thought and causal efficacy.

Consider computers are the same way; deterministic and based on classical physics. There is no need to delve into what’s happening at the quantum level. It’s superfluous, unnecessary, confusing. The interactions between neurons, to the best of our knowledge, do not make use of quantum mechanics, so those interactions are deterministic.

Does this represent a problem for thought or subjective experiences in general? Yes, it says that thought and subjective experiences in general are deterministic. They are determined by the local interactions occurring between neurons.

Classical physics is governed by locality. Things that occur, only occur because of local interactions. If we take a neuron out of a brain and subject it to the same interactions it undergoes inside the brain, it will still go through the same physical states over some time interval. Clearly, this is the same for any set of interactions that are describable using classical physics. Luckily this is true, or we’d have no way to reduce large, complex interactions to their parts so we could model them and describe what happens. Meteorologists would all lose their jobs. Engineers would become buffoons and planes would not fly. We’d all become politicians, trying to convince others we could make some grand prediction that never occurred.

People have asked, how can we overcome the fact that all these thoughts and experiences emerge from neuron interactions and yet, these higher-level phenomena never have any influence over the neurons? That seems to say thoughts can’t make any difference, which is a correct conclusion despite the fact thoughts obviously do make a difference. If neuron interactions give rise to thoughts, then we are in a very dark hole that we can’t get out of. Quantum mechanics can’t rescue thought. Neuron interactions (brains) don’t make use of any of the special features of quantum mechanics, so there’s a problem with the concept that thoughts are emergent on those interactions. Let’s assume the brain doesn’t make use of QM (neuron interactions don’t make use) and go from there. Incorporate a few more problems with phenomenal consciousness like the symbol grounding problem (people write code and that code has to have an agreed upon language) and the problem of counterfactual sensitivity required for the computational theory of mind (neuron interactions have to somehow be nonlocal and ‘know’ what the entire system is doing before thoughts can emerge). We end up with a local theory of consciousness (single cell theory) but a very particular type of single cell theory that makes predictions and can alleviate the problem with thoughts being epiphenomenal.
http://sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=34944
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 17th, 2020, 10:27 am 

Hi Charon

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the logical side of our brain can react to general circumstances with a logical response that can be defensive/reactive/protective/aggressive etc - but that would be causal/deterministic.

The real issue in relation to thoughts is whether they initiate something that is not based on pure deterministic logic - and of course, there is the perpetual problem of describing qualia on deterministic principles - which has not so far been possible.

Finipolscie identified a number of everyday examples of our thought processes which did seem to demonstrate that Thought is not deterministic.

His best example, I felt, started when he pointed out that in the deterministic physical environment there is no possibility of a chemical pause, and yet it is possible to have pauses in Thought and conversation etc.

He also looked for examples where there were minimal outside influences to determine how long a pause might be, and to identify a moment that must originate in the brain without inevitability. The great example he came up with was a deliberate pause in conversation. How long is the pause? Well its as long as you care to make it, and in a situation where there is no social or other pressure to end a pause, it can be as long or as little as you like - so not inevitable and therefore a strong potential example of a lack of determinism that must also originate in your brain.

What do you think of that example?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on May 17th, 2020, 10:42 am 

Hi Dave_C

What is determinism in Physics & neurology? Well it must follow the definition:- Specific events from a precise start point must result in one inevitable outcome - the mathematical situation (excluding probabilities).

However, the use of probabilities allows more than one outcome from the same specific start point - an admission that those circumstances have either :- not yet been defined in a deterministic way; or do not intrinsically conform to determinism - which means they must either be truly random or spontaneous, and therefore have an element that is without causal inevitability.

For this reason, those who say that QM is deterministic are entirely wrong, as virtually every QM equation is underpinned by probabilities.

As Finipolscie pointed out, computers are deterministic, but the vast array of computerised outputs arises from the vastly different inputs to the process, which may (probably) be subject to non-deterministic Thought. That would be how creativity in language/concepts/music etc can be distinguished from physical mechanics.

If you look for effective examples of where Thought breaks the deterministic physical model, then you potentially see why/where the ideas to explain though in physical ways might be seriously flawed... and in my opinion, they definitely are.

You only need one good example that breaks the deterministic model - because determinism can only work on totality.

If you only try to demonstrate that neurons can work in a deterministic way, you will never consider the examples where non-deterministic outcomes are achieved.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on May 17th, 2020, 7:15 pm 

Hi lateralsuz,
I guess the term “determinism” is in need of discussion. Classical physics is deterministic. As mentioned previously, QM is not. What we mean by that has to be taken in context. Please see what I mentioned about ½ way down this page. I had a couple of references mentioned above that are accurate and useful for this discussion.

Now let’s change that definition (of determinism) slightly to accommodate what’s generally meant by determinism when it applies to classical physics. Classical physics doesn’t make perfectly accurate predictions. But the equations are deterministic and the predictions only vary depending on the accuracy of the input.

Classical physics is also local. Because of this, we can calculate things that happen and make predictions. As mentioned, those predictions are not exact but are accurate. How accurate? Think about a bell curve. Let’s say our calculation hits the peak of that bell curve because we are using the best information we have available. But the actual system may evolve to hit a point that’s not on the peak of the bell. The system (as long as it can be defined by classical physics and “does not make use of any of the special features of quantum mechanics”) is bound by the predictions made by classical physics. The system is highly predictable and must drop into a future physical state that is predictable from classical physics. The system can’t just do anything, it isn’t just a random flip of a quantum coin, the system is determined by and it is bound by the equations of classical physics.

Today, the model used by neuroscience is that the interactions between neurons are ‘classical’ in nature so the above description applies to neuron interactions.

Can the slight random behavior of actual systems be caused in some way by thoughts? Or can thoughts make use of those slightly random deviations so that thoughts can have causal efficacy?

If we assume neurons:
- Interact locally
- Do not make use of any of the special features of QM
- Produce the emergent phenomenon by their interaction called ‘thought’
- Probably a few other axioms

Then thoughts can’t have any causal efficacy. They are determined by classical physics and bound by what can be predicted by classical physics. We don’t need, nor should we bring up QM. Statements about QM don’t have anything to do with the discussion about thoughts. I’d suggest getting away from discussions of how QM cause deviations to predictions made by classical physics and stick to what’s important. In a very real sense, classical physics is deterministic… just not in the way you might want to define determinism.

Hope that makes more sense now.

Dave.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on May 18th, 2020, 6:35 am 

suz -

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the logical side of our brain can react to general circumstances with a logical response that can be defensive/reactive/protective/aggressive etc - but that would be causal/deterministic.


I don't think I mentioned sides of the brain, etc.

I'm also not sure that defensive/reactive/protective/aggressive reactions are logical. What is it we're protecting?

The real issue in relation to thoughts is whether they initiate something that is not based on pure deterministic logic


Well, we seem to be repeating this ad infinitum. Can thoughts initiate something not based on logic? Obviously. I think it's called making a mistake, talking nonsense, anything you like. We do it all the time. In fact, it tends to be the other way round, that we admire those who make good sense and show sound judgement.

The great example he came up with was a deliberate pause in conversation


I'm afraid I'm not terribly impressed with this example. Of course we can pause in a conversation, we often do. But because someone stops talking doesn't mean their thoughts have stopped, does it?

If you're telling me something and I'm thinking about something else, then I'm not listening, I'm not giving you my full attention.

Whether any of this is determined or not, I couldn't say. Determined by what?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on May 19th, 2020, 10:30 pm 

Hi lateralsuz,
lateralsuz » May 17th, 2020, 9:27 am wrote:His best example, I felt, started when he pointed out that in the deterministic physical environment there is no possibility of a chemical pause, and yet it is possible to have pauses in Thought and conversation etc.

He also looked for examples where there were minimal outside influences to determine how long a pause might be, and to identify a moment that must originate in the brain without inevitability. The great example he came up with was a deliberate pause in conversation. How long is the pause? Well its as long as you care to make it, and in a situation where there is no social or other pressure to end a pause, it can be as long or as little as you like - so not inevitable and therefore a strong potential example of a lack of determinism that must also originate in your brain.

What do you think of that example?

I have to agree with Charon here, this isn't a good example unfortunately. Why can't a robot be designed to randomly pause? Why can't we just build robots that behave as if they were conscious? In fact, we already do that - consider the Turing test competitions.

The point I believe you (with reference to Finipolscie) are trying to make, regards what's generally called the problem of mental causation and you'd like to see how mental causation can make a difference in the world. I'm sure you have some basic axioms in mind here as well though I'm not aware of what those are.

There are logical issues associated with mental causation. I read an interesting article recently that began by breaking up mental causation into reductionist views and non-reductionist views. Although I didn't like the article, I do think that was an inciteful way of breaking up the issue. My argument above follows the scientific approach of reductionism but others might take up a non-reductionist approach.

The point is that there are arguments based on step by step logical reasoning that show what the problems of mental causation are. They can be physicalist or dualist arguments, reductionist or non-reductionist. But in the end, the concept of mental causation will need to overcome some very serious issues and I think that's widely recognized.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 3rd, 2020, 9:17 pm 

Hi Dave-c & Charon

Apologies for the delay in replying but it has been a difficult time.

Re: the example of a pause in conversation...
I'm afraid I'm not terribly impressed with this example. Of course we can pause in a conversation, we often do. But because someone stops talking doesn't mean their thoughts have stopped, does it?


I think you may have missed the point here. I am not a Determininst when it comes to describing the Universe as a whole, but if I were, then everything including our thoughts, (which would be presumed to be entirely based in physical matter/energy), could only produce one inevitable outcome.

The example is not concerned about generating a pause, but showing that the length of a pause is not inevitable - and if it is not inevitable then it cannot be deterministic. (Remember, we are not talking about our ability to predict the length here - but the underlying reality of what could occur).

The example was made stronger by saying that deliberately stopping a conversation and deliberately having pauses of indeterminate length, were evidence that the brain too, (which was directly responsible for the pause), was the source of the lack of determinism.


Why can't a robot be designed to randomly pause?


Because, as things stand, any programmed activity would, almost by definition, be formulaic and/or based on determinist principles applicable to the physical environment (which make up the computer).

All computerised / mechanical devices currently work on a determinist basis.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 4th, 2020, 11:40 am 

lateralsuz -

I am not a Determininst when it comes to describing the Universe as a whole, but if I were, then everything including our thoughts, (which would be presumed to be entirely based in physical matter/energy), could only produce one inevitable outcome


I don't do if's. Sorry, can we stick to reality?

All computerised / mechanical devices currently work on a determinist basis


Obviously, since they are mechanical. But they also break down. Is that determined?

Determined by what? Wear and tear? Faulty wiring? Power drop-outs? Those are causes. But 'determined' implies a higher principle at work.

Is there such a principle? If there is, then we can show that everything that happens is inevitable. But is there and can we show it? If not, the discussion has no meaning.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on June 4th, 2020, 8:11 pm 

Hi lateralsuz,
Because, as things stand, any programmed activity would, almost by definition, be formulaic and/or based on determinist principles applicable to the physical environment (which make up the computer).

All computerized / mechanical devices currently work on a determinist basis.

Completely agree. But you have to present an argument for neurons not being deterministic in the same sense. One can't just claim that thoughts are random and they influence our behavior. You need an argument to show that's true. In fact, neuroscience models neuron interactions in a computable way that's governed by classical physics so they're just as deterministic as any analog computer.

I don't agree with the computational theory of mind, but one has to understand the existing theories and come up with logical arguments why they might be incorrect before making broad claims about thoughts being random.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 12th, 2020, 8:07 pm 

Hi Charon

I was talking about reality and not a 'higher purpose'. Determinists do argue that everything including our thoughts follow determinist principles. I am not a determinist when it comes to the entirety of existence, but I have a strong respect for the determinist laws that have been shown to be accurate in the physical realm.

Determinism requires a cause - nothing more. Physical breakdowns can be explained by physical causes - so they are deterministic.

However there are examples within the universe, both in the way that our thoughts & feelings arise, and in theories of physical origin.... plus quite a few examples in the sub-atomic level of existence, that cannot be explained by physical cause - at least at present

In stepping through the logic, (apologies for 'teaching you how to suck eggs'), it may be that we are just waiting for the right discovery to reveal a cause. Such resolutions are often described as 'hidden variables'.

However there are many things within this list of items (if you care to make one) that seem to fundamentally break the established principles of physical laws. such as various permutations of the dual slit experiment, or the Gisin experiments on faster than light communication.... or indeed, the bang-crunch theory of origin (which was broken by the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating).

So when we are faced with events that appear to break the established principles of science - where do you go? Hidden variables, or a lack of determinism - ie. a lack of any cause?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 12th, 2020, 8:15 pm 

Hi Dave_C

Completely agree. But you have to present an argument for neurons not being deterministic in the same sense. One can't just claim that thoughts are random and they influence our behavior. You need an argument to show that's true.


The point I have been trying to make, is that physical things (at least at our level of reality, not the sub-atomic world), do follow the determinist explanations which science has identified. So the physical mechanisms of a neuron can be expected to be deterministic.

However those physical/deterministic workings do not explain what is observed/experienced in everyone's thoughts and feelings every day.

So when determinism fails to explain these undoubted capabilities of our thoughts, we can say that there is good cause to believe they operate on a different basis that is quite possibly non-deterministic.

What other evidence is required ?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on June 12th, 2020, 9:43 pm 


So when determinism fails to explain these undoubted capabilities of our thoughts, we can say that there is good cause to believe they operate on a different basis that is quite possibly non-deterministic


We can also say, with equal justification, that they operate on the basis of fairy dust.


Absence of a complete explanation is not a warrant to assume that none is forthcoming unless we concoct some novel metaphysical stuff.
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