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Jun 27, 2009


Fantasy Writer Guy

In a community where people only seem to want to talk about sports, politics and farts, it's delightful to hear a voice that ponders the same subject matter that I regularly meditate on. Luckilly I'm not prone to loneliness because I'm too often alone in this sense! I often start writing without knowing what I'm about to write about. One such doodling turned out to be about cause and effect. It's here if you're interested: http://crushedwithkisses.blogspot.com/2008/11/cause-number-one-and-number-one-cause.html

Roger L. Cauvin

Graham, good discussion so far of free will and determinism. I'm not sure where you are going to end up with it, but I thought I'd summarize what most philosophy says about the issue.

There are basically three different stances on the issue:

1. Libertarianism - belief in free will and rejection of determinism. (This sense of "libertarianism" is not necessarily the same as the political ideology.)
2. Hard determinism - belief in determinism and rejection of free will.
3. Soft determinism (or compatibilism) - belief in both determinism and free will.

Compatibilism is perhaps the most interesting. Some of its adherents not only consider determinism and free will compatible, but they actually believe free will is impossible without determinism. The argument is that, if I "will" that I'm going to do something (e.g. punch you), reliance on cause and effect is my only assurance that it will actually happen.

Graham Glass

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the compliment!

I'm somewhat familiar with the various philosophical camps.

I think we have free will regardless of atomic-level determinism, since a froth of non-determinism at atomic-level wouldn't have any noticeable impact on determinism at higher levels.

I also agree with you that any kind of rational thought requires a high-degree of determinism; otherwise, we'd all be thinking random and incoherent thoughts.

I'm going to try and address the core reasons why people are uncomfortable with deterministic brains. Based on my experience, the #1 thing that people can't understand is how a deterministic brain could be creative.

So that's the direction that this particle series is heading!

Once again, thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.


Graham Glass

Hi Fantasy Write Guy,

WOW! I just read your poem and it was great. Thanks for sharing this with me, since the timing was perfect.

That poem must have taken you weeks to write!!


Gary Benner

I have always understood the relationship between free will and determinism in the analogy of swimming in a fast flowing river ... while you can make decisions about whether you swim upstream, downstream, or to the sides, the outcome will be predominantly determined by the river ( and surrounding circumstances ... the weather, or a wild bear on the shores!! ).

And then who is "you" anyway, and what are the influences on your decision?? ... your brain chemistry/structure affected by past events/decisions, when you last ate, or your current emotional state?

With this topic, and also the concept of infinity, I realise that my brain does not have the cpu's, ram and hdd, to truly ever understand it completely.

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