Terça-feira, 12 de Maio de 2020
Errors on causation and indeterminism in «The Routledge Dictionary of Philosophy»

 

In his article «Free Will and determinism»  The Routledge Dictionary of Philosophy postulates:

 

«Causal determinism says that everything that happens is caused; it allows that our choices and actions are effective as links in the causal chain, so that deliberation has a point, but insists that they are themselves caused. Determinists are sometimes divided into hard and soft. Hard determinists say that our actions are caused in a way that make not as free as we might have thought, so that responsability, if it implies free will, is an illusion. The causes may be physical or physiological (events in the brain), or else mental (e.g. conscious or unconscious desires and childhood experiences which cause such desires). Soft determinists, by far the largest class in recent times, say that our actions are indeed caused, but we are not therefore any less free that we might be, because the causation is not a constraint or compulsion on us. So long as our natures and choices are effective as items in the causal chain, the fact they are themselves caused is irrelevant and does not stop them being what they are. Indeterminists, however, insist that determinists, of whatever complexion, can give no sense to the sentence "He could have done otherwise", where this means something more than simply "He might have done otherwise (had his nature or circumstances been different)". Soft determinism often hold that what justifies praise and blame is solely that they can influence action. This, says indeterminists, misses the point of these concepts, which are essentially "backward-looking". Hard determinists are incompatibilists, i.e., think free will and universal causation are incompatible. Soft determinists are compatibilists. Indetermininists may be either, but are usually incompatibilists.»

«One difficulty with indeterminism is that mere absence of causation does not seem enough. If our actions are no more than random intrusions into the causal scheme of things how can we be any more responsible for them than if they were caused?  Indeterminists are sometimes called libertarians. But more strictly, libertarians are those who postulate a special entity, the "self", which uses the body to intervene from outside, as it were, in the causal chain of events, but is itself immune to causal influence. (...)»

«Such a self must at least be open to pressure from things in the world (or why would it ever make a wrong or weak-minded choice?), and to define its actual relation to the world seems difficult.» (Michael Proudfoot, AR Lacey, Routledge Dicionário de Filosofia, fourth edition,  pages 145-146; bold is put by us).

 

One notable error of this text is: the terms causation and caused are used inappropriately. Cause for these authors is the same as determinism or infallible law of cause and effect - I call it deterministic causation - but there is another type of causation, the free causation that proceeds from free will. It is a mistake to say, for example, that "if I decide to stay at home or go to the beach and I go to this one it is an uncaused action", as Proudfoot and Lacey maintain. No! It is an action caused by my free will or my instinct. Both of these are the cause of actions.

 

Another  capital error of this text is the confusing definition of indeterminism. In fact, there are 3 meanings of the concept of indeterminism, that Proudfoot and Lacey fail to discern:

 

1) Biophysical indeterminism, that is, the absence of infallible laws in physical and biological nature. Example: miracles such as the «miracle of the Sun» in Fátima in October 1917, an exceptional optical phenomenon of a mystical nature.

 

2) Psychological indeterminism without free will. Example: a man suddenly exalts himself in public space and attacks another.

 

3) Indeterminism inherent in free will. This last one is a rational organ that is inserted in indeterminism because it can choose one thing or its opposite. Example: a conscientious voter analyzes the programs of the different parties and candidates for parliament and decides to vote either on the right or on the left.

 

Let's see how it is presented to us  the confused concept of indeterminism. Proudfoot and Lacey write:  «Hard determinists are incompatibilists, i.e., think free will and universal causation are incompatible. Soft determinists are compatibilists. Indetermininists may be either, but are usually incompatibilists.» This is not clear at all: hard determinists, a great part of them libertarians, denny the existence of free will, but soft determinists, including many libertarians or indeterminists, assure there is free will... Confusion, only confusion! The inconsistency in the definition is absolute when it says that indeterminism does not accept that our actions are caused but says that part of the indeterminists share the soft determinism that is based on the notion of cause:

 

«One difficulty with indeterminism is that mere absence of causation does not seem enough. If our actions are no more than random intrusions into the causal scheme of things how can we be any more responsible for them than if they were caused? »

 

The confused definition of libertarianism begins by saying that there is free will arising from a self immune to physical determinism but then admits that the self is under pressure from physical determinism. This is the same as soft determinism, the self decides freely but is under pressure from biophysical determinism:

«Indeterminists are sometimes called libertarians. But more strictly, libertarians are those who postulate a special entity, the "self", which uses the body to intervene from outside, as it were, in the causal chain of events, but is itself immune to causal influence. (...)»

«Such a self must at least be open to pressure from things in the world (or why would it ever make a wrong or weak-minded choice?), and to define its actual relation to the world seems difficult.» 

Let us use Ockham's razor, eliminating the duplications of the same definition.

 

Libertarianism understood as the ability of the self to decide without suffering pressure from the physical and social world is impossible to occur in human beings, who feel hungry, cold, job insecurity or social prestige, love and jealousy, fear of falling ill and dying.The correct definition of libertarianism must be as follows: it is the statement  that postulates there is free will in human beings and which is subdivided into biophysical determinism with free will and biophysical indeterminism with free will. Examples of the latter are: in the middle of summer, the temperature drops 10º below zero (anomaly) and a person decides to stay at home or go out to play in the snow, thinking about the consequences; the occurrence of strange rotations of the Sun visible to the naked eye (indeterminism) before which each spectator decides to turn their backs so as not to be deluded or to contemplate such an unusual phenomenon.

 

Another error is the distinction between hard determinism and soft determinismin fact, determinism is always with the same intensity in both theories. A stone thrown from the top of a tower falls to the ground with the same speed in hard determinism as in soft determinism. Instead of hard determinism whe should say biophysical determinism without free will and instead of soft determinism we should say biophysical determinism with free will.

 

 Another error is the definition of Soft Determinism: «Soft determinists, by far the largest class in recent times,say that our actions are indeed caused, but we are not therefore any less free that we might be, because the causation is not a constraint or compulsion on us.» If all of our actions are caused - that is, in Proudfoot's logic, actions biophysically determinists - exercise compulsion on us contrary to what the Dictionary says. This should say, within its logic, that in  soft determinism there are free, "uncaused" actions, but it does not say. Example: «I decide to go to a library and order a book», it is an action generated or caused by my free will, but "uncaused" in the terminology of Proud and Lacey.

 

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© (Copyright to Francisco Limpo de Faria Queiroz)



publicado por Francisco Limpo Queiroz às 20:51
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Domingo, 1 de Junho de 2008
The "Dilemma of Determinism" or a confused view of Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn explains on a confuse way the «dilemma of determinism»:

 

«Dilemma of determinism- it is often supposed that if an action is the end of a causal chain, i.e, determined, and the causes strech back in time to events for which an agent has no conceivable responsability, then the agent is not responsable for the action. The dilemma adds that if an action is not the end of such a chain, then either it or one of its causes occurs at random, in that no antecedent events brought it about, and then in that case nobody is responsable for its occurrence either. So whether or not determinism is true, responsability is shown to be illusory.»  (Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2005, page 100)

 

Let´s underline the errors of Blackburn:

  1. He confuses determinism with fatalism or with determinism in a world without free will. Determinism does not excludes necessarily free will. An action can be the end of a causal chain, being formed by determinism and free will along all the chain. So this chain does not excludes free will.
  2. He reduces the action at random, out of a causal chain, to an action without free will. It is false: an action at random can implicate free will.

 

So the "dilemma of determinism" is wrongly constructed by Simon Blackburn, as he excludes two hypothesis: the chain of caused actions including free will simultaneously with determinism; the non caused action by deterministic factors, which is produced by unforeseeable free will.

 

Nota : O «dilema» do determinismo formulado por Blackburn é o seguinte: 1. ou há determinismo, uma longa cadeia de causas e efeitos até à presente acção praticada pelo sujeito, o que impede o livro arbítrio; 2. ou não há determinismo, nem um encadeamento de causas e efeitos no tempo, e as acções brotam aleatoriamente, não havendo livre-arbítrio; 3. portanto, haja determinismo ou não, o livre-arbítrio não existe. É um raciocínio falacioso: pode haver determinismo misturado com livre-arbítrio (refutação do ponto 1); pode haver acção aleatória gerada por um livre-arbítrio imprevisível (refutação do ponto 2). Blackburn e os seus epígonos pensam mal, confusamente.

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publicado por Francisco Limpo Queiroz às 15:38
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