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Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Neil Schipper's Avatar Jump to comment 148 by Neil Schipper

I neglected to point out this chestnut:

it doesn't matter where I prod a grain of sand, it will react in the only way it can - by simple physics. It matters, however, where I prod a living organism with a brain, because the range of ways it can react is probably beyond the thousands. They're both deterministic, but that's all they have in common.

(My bold added.)

Note how you use that but. You treat determinism as a spigot that you can turn off and on at will.

Thu, 19 Jul 2012 17:05:59 UTC | #949589

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Neil Schipper's Avatar Jump to comment 116 by Neil Schipper

Awareness is the only....I repeat the only....means by which you 'know' anything.

This is a statement of necessity (true), not sufficience.

Awareness sits on top of a great deal of complexity, and its effectiveness runs a very wide gamut.

Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:21:00 UTC | #949512

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Neil Schipper's Avatar Jump to comment 114 by Neil Schipper


So, my review of our recent discussion has not provided me any motivation to alter meme #3 in my first contribution here.

(Quick aside: I won't say much about fatalism, as I see it as a distraction. I'll just say that it's a mood that may emerge from trying to applying the "good" intellectual tool determinism to the problem of an individual's getting on in the world, a fundamental mismatch of tool to problem.)

In discussing meme #3, you say a lot of things we agree on, mainly that determinism fully considered poses no threat to responsibility.

I acknowledge that "determinism enables responsibility" in the sense that "the determined universe has bequeathed to us responsibility". We also observe, with similar hindsight, that the determined universe has bequeathed to us floods, social species, the position and velocity of a specific oxygen molecule in the room I'm in... everything. "Determinism enables responsibility" says so much that it says nothing interesting.

I think you expose the heart of our disagreement with the latter part of this:

What I object to is the idea that determinism in principle threatens responsibility, or that responsibility is some sort of helpful illusion.

(Again, first part, no problem.)

The "ultimate fabric" of responsibility is members of a social species trying to predict that certain reprimands to a suspected transgressor will increase the future safety (i.e. Harris' "well-being") of the hive. When we assign responsibility to an individual, we are doing something fundamentally probabilistic, compelled by an urge fueled by an illusion of certainty.

Even if we wisely admit that we are only somewhat certain, the determined-but-unknowable action-reaction cascade is opaque to us.

That the individual is a "concentration of determinism" does not overcome this quality of the outcome of that cascade being opaque; each flood, grain of sand and neutrino is also a concentration of determinism even though the latter all seem to us to be much weaker concentrations.

My contention is that responsibility is simultaneously (1) "merely" another feature of a determined universe being played out, and (2) something locally crucial to sentient minds of a social species making their way in the "determined, but unknowably so" universe. And further, that these two "modes" or "features" of responsibility have no useful or interesting or actionable connection. Nothing I've seen challenges this contention in any way I can understand.

An analogy: we're told by some of our best minds that an electron is both a wave and a particle. This is distressingly counter-intuitive to us, but we "sort of" "get over it" as the experimental data pours in.

Likewise, responsibility has a dual nature as outlined. You seem unwilling to embrace that duality.

Wed, 18 Jul 2012 17:40:32 UTC | #949504

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Neil Schipper's Avatar Jump to comment 102 by Neil Schipper

Z, I have to be off, but I would like to reply later.

Before doing so, in the best of faith, I'll reread what's been said on both sides.

Very briefly, I think (at least) one of us is confused about where fatalism and determinism do and don't intersect.

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 17:21:34 UTC | #949436

Go to: The raw deal of determinism and reductionism

Neil Schipper's Avatar Jump to comment 82 by Neil Schipper

.. by implying connectivity ..

An obvious blunder. I should have said something like discernable connectivity in contrast to the theoretical one we agree exists.

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 23:01:29 UTC | #949360

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