Skip navigation

edificeThe Edifice And The Shack is a metaphor for the contrast between some proposed giant articulate system of philosophical or ethical principles, and the actual beliefs revealed in the actions and conclusions of the author.

The Edifice is the giant hulking philosophical legerdemain someone has proposed as the way everyone actually operates without exception or as the way everyone should operate from now on: The Answer to everyone’s philosophical conundrums and all questions of Good Social Policy.

The Shack describes the metaphor for the schlepped-together hedonistic or puritanical pragmatism which the author of The Edifice actually operates by, which we presume he erected behind The Edifice to avoid trashing the property values.

shackThis error is a brand of confusing our ideas with their objects, also known as the reification fallacy, and though Plato didn’t invent that mistake, he does get credit for making it seem respectable.

This error most often shows up lately as Sheeple Arguments (when someone starts by thinking EVERYONE ELSE is missing something) or what Thomas Sowell calls “The Mass Psychoanalysis Of Society” – when we imagine society is a creature, with ideas and desires and the ability to learn or teach, which we can understand and predict despite the way it’s actually comprised of millions of brains at least as complicated as our own.

There is a fix for people suffering this mistake…involving the placebo effect, just one of many faculties the Fatalist can’t really integrate.


hypochondriahospitalNewcomb’s Paradox explodes the theological nature of the Fatalist aka Naturalist aka Determinist, who we often see erecting such an edifice to protect their theological conclusions.

There is a wonderful puzzle that illustrates the difficulty.

Below is a common series of objections I’ve encountered when I present my “imagination invokes synergy” argument for free will.

Can you find a better one?


I think your questions are legitimate and deserve answers although I can only speak for myself. See below.

PS. Just so you know where I am coming from, I am an academic physicist.

 jim

Hi, Jim.

Thanks for taking the time. I’m also trained in physics (BS in Astrophysics), and since I now teach math and physics full time, I guess I qualify as an academic physicist, as well, so you and I are definitely on the same page.

> 1) Most general; how much mass does an attitude have?  An idea? A belief? An experience?
> IOW, how does the naturalist (which includes
> determinist) philosophy
> which seems to assumes that reality is made only of
> energy, cope with
> the demonstrated fact that much of reality has nosheeple
> mass, such as
> forces, angles, proportions, information, principles
> of operation,
> etc?

Answer: Angles, proportions, etc. have no mass because they are not physical objects – they are concepts.

That is 100% false – you’re pulling my leg about the nature of those realties, right?

Though we use concepts to think about such non-massive realities, they exist in their own right, separate from anyone actually thinking about them. Such mathematically-expressible relationships are 100% real, despite being massless, which is exactly why any cosmology which asserts that energy is all that exists is demonstrably false. Arrangement (which has no mass, since it does not exist as an object) is absolutely a feature of the physical universe, regardless of how we think about such arrangement.

They are not physical *objects*, but they are physically real, which is exactly my point; naturalism starts with oversight, since it fails to account for a number of non-massive yet completely demonstrable physical realities.

Do you think the angle between the sun and the moon in the Earth’s sky is a function of who’s looking or thinking about it?

You might be making the classic Platonist mistake of confusing your ideas for the things those ideas are for thinking about. Perhaps you  believe that you think *about* ideas, when in fact, ideas are what you think *with,* and you use them to think *about* your experiences. That ancient mistaken premise is the foundation of most of the errors found in philosophy which includes, among others, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Plato.

I assure you, portions of a rotation (angles) do physically exist regardless of whether or not you pay attention to them. Likewise proportional relationships, operational principles like gravity, frequencies of interaction, synergistic creative results, etc.

Re; synergy
Of course, in classical systems, we expect that given **complete** knowledge, prediction of the behaviour of the whole is always possible – if you disagree, please give an example.

Complete knowledge, by definition, includes knowledge about the behavior of a whole system, which, again by definition, cannot be used to illustrate synergy. Your request for such an impossible example is a mistake, because it assumes as true something which cannot be.

Synergy is about the behavior of a whole system which cannot be predicted despite complete knowledge of the component *parts.* To use your example, how a wave works cannot be predicted on the basis of complete knowledge about a water molecule considered alone.

Indeed, electric charge has no meaning, without at least two particles by which to display the effects of charge-mediated interaction. The entire universe is built of such interactions.

Synergy is an absolutely creative principle, in the sense that the behavior of whole systems doesn’t occur without the *whole* system. Until those parts interact, the *effects* of that interaction don’t exist, and in most cases, those synergistic effects are qualitatively and fundamentally different than the specific effects any one part or sub-assembly is capable of producing.

Absolutely complete knowledge about photons, atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen, or any other element cannot be used to predict the way that plants operate. Only in their organized-into-a-life-form arrangement can we understand what a plant does, in the sense of gathering, sorting, storing and rearranging energy for use in specific outcomes the plant is built to produce.

Another example; take a rope, rotate one end 360 degrees, to make a loop. Rotate the same end another 360 degrees, passing the end through the loop. This will produce a knot; a self-interfering collection of angles.

What is the knot made of? Before you incorrectly answer ‘rope,’ remember that we can attach the end of that rope to, say, a chain, and by loosening and rotating that knot, pass the knot from the rope-made section to the chain-made section. Same knot, different material. What is the knot made of?

Notice, for example, that the knot’s 720 degrees is a common multiple of complete systems. You’ll recognize it as thetense2 Jacobian for a spherical integration, but anyone can recognize it as the common multiple of any geometrical 3-D system. This is not a conceptual fabrication, it is an undeniable reality of all existing systems, which we must include in our conceptualizations to get an accurate understanding of them, which is to say, in order to make accurate anticipatory decisions about them.

Take two triangles, which are made of 3 edges each, for a total of 6 edges. Open up each at one corner, and twist them in opposite ways (one spiraling clockwise, the other counter-clockwise). Reconnect them in an interlaced fashion, and you’ll have constructed a tetrahedron, made of the same 6 edges, but not constituting 4 triangles.

1 + 1 = 4. Only the princple of synergy can explain how those two extra triangles were ‘bootstrapped’ into existence.

Notice, as well, that the sum of all the angles of that tetrahedron is 720 degrees…just like that knot. This correspondence is not an accident, it is a feature of nature, not at all dependent on whether or how we think about it. Thinking about it in terms of radians changes nothing except the particular units we use to measure the double-rotation which every complete system is made of.

Cubes, for example, are complete systems, and contain a total of 6*360 degrees, for a total of 3 double-rotations.

What do you think spin-2 means, anyway?

Shall I continue? Examples of such synergistic *creations* abound. The universe is literally constructed of nothing else. ‘Objects’ are nothing more than event-complexes, and those events are made of proportional relationships (frequencies) angles (portions of rotations, or phase interactions, in the more common parlance), and self-interfering stable patterns of interaction (double-rotations).

Complete knowledge of the Earth, Sun, and Moon cannot be used to predict the specific angles which characterize any specific arrangement of them. You must observe the whole system to make that discovery; the moon’s phase is undeniably a real physical fact, but it is equally undeniably a product of the moon’s mathematically -expressible *relationship* to the sun and earth, not something which exists as an object.

> Quantum mechanical systems are intrinsically, or
> ontologically, random but still deterministic in the
> sense that we can predict probabilities with complete
> accuracy, given completely accurate knowledge of the
> state of the system at a given time. (Physicists say
> “the wave function evolves deterministically”.)

I’m not worried about QM, here – that is a specious way to seek the foundation of free will, IMO.

Indeed, it is synergy which is the operable principle, because our minds do, synergistically, the same thing which physics does, synergistically; create ‘from whole cloth’ new arrangements in time and space, which produces wholly novel event-complexes.

Nevertheless, you are making a common mistake; the fact that complexes of QM interactions are eminently predictable does not change the fact that any one of them is eminently *un*predictable.

Do you know what a photon is made of? Better yet, when we talk about photon-mediated energy transitions in the placement of electrons around an atomic nuceli, why is it that the ‘quantum leap’ is considered to occur from one energy-level around one atom, to another energy level around the same atom?

Since the space-time interval for all photons is 0, and every electron is indistinguishable from every other, how do we know that the electron in the low-energy level is moving to a higher level in the same atom, instead of moving to the other atom, at the same moment that the electron in the high energy level also swaps atoms?

So, aside from quantum indeterminacy – which I think everyone who discusses this subject is aware of – I am not sure what you are getting at. Again, an example of a “synergistic” system, where complete knowledge of the parts does not allow prediction of the behaviour of the whole, would be useful.

Now you have lots of examples. Once you understand what synergy is, by definition, you’ll think of lots of them on your own.

Your body is such a system, as well. So is the information-processing which we refer to as your ‘mind.’

WRT the notion of determinism-vs-free will, the primary issue is whether the deterministic thesis can possibly be considered a scientific one.

IOW, can it make accurate anticipatory predictions (or be used to craft effective anticiparoty designs), which any notion, in order to be considered scientific, must do.

The operation of synergy explains why there will always be unpredictable aspects of our experience; the knowledge we develop as we go becomes input for new (conceptual) systems which, as always, display new behaviors which the compenent parts cannot produce alone.

It is primarilly that principle that convinces me that determinism cannot be a scientific thesis, but if I’ve missed something, please let me know what.

Simply put; what predictions does the theory of determinism make, which are different than the predictions make by the free will hypothesis, and by which we can decide if one is more accurate than the other?

Determism fails on both counts; it can’t cope with the
> facts (people who believe in free will) and it can’t explain *how*
> trust in free will is a mistake, by describing disadvantages for
> trusting it.
>
Answer: No one seriously believes that evolution necessarily roots out “mistakes”.

You can replace ‘disadvantageous design’ with mistake, if you prefer, but the word ‘mistake’ helps bridge the gap between the physical evolution of biological designs, and the cultural/mental evolution we experience as thinking individuals. They are part of the same process, carried out by different methods, but trending toward the same outcome; accomplishing more functions with less inputs.

You will find severe difficulty explaining how it is we can know evolution is operating at all, without reference to the more-advantageous designs which proliferate at the expense of the less-advantageous. Natural selection only means something specific in reference to the advantges and disadvantages upon which that selection operates.

If there is some disadvantage to the notion of free will, what is the selection pressure against it? Why haven’t we experienced any? If we have, in what ways has it manifested? If I’ve overlooked it, how have I?

Meeting this challenge is an absolute requirement in order for anyone positing the deterministic thesis to make the claim that the thesis is a scientific one.

Naturalists claim that the notion of free will is a mistake. How do they know? Why hasn’t evolution selected against it, if it really isn’t advantageous to trust the notion, or if trust in the deterministic thesis is more advantageous?

What it does is to favor adaptive traits. Perhaps having the idea of freewill is adaptive, even though it is wrong?

That doesn’t make any sense, either. “Adaptation” only occurs in response to factual realities. If there is not a factual reality to adapt *to,* adaptation doesn’t mean anything.

Some plants adapted the ability to change the direction of their growth, to adapt to the factual reality that sunlight comes from different angles at different times.

Animals have adapted to different kinds of foods by evolving different kinds of teeth by which to digest that food.

You have to make reference to the effective reality which one or the other thesis is better adapted to cope with, in order to speak of adapation in any meaningful way.

Simply *imagining* that it *could* be a better adaptation fails the test; in order to be judged a scientific thesis (as so many naturalists claim) the deterministic thesis actually has to make some testable predictions which are different than the predictions made by the free will hypothesis.

I’m challenging you (or anyone) to produce an example of such a prediction.

If you (or someone) doesn’t meet the challenge, then you have no reasonable basis to make the claim that the deterministic thesis is a scientific one.

I’m sorry, but the burden of proof in this situation is 100% completely upon the person advancing the deterministic thesis. That is simply how science works.

I’m perfectly willing to give everyone here the benefit of the doubt, because intllectual honesty and the freedom of scientific inquiry can proceed in no other atmosphere.

I’m also perfectly willing to admit that *either* thesis is ultimately theological, which isy to say, untestable in pure principle.

But we cannot pretend that referring to a prediction you can imagine making within the context of the deterministic framework is any substitute for *actually making one*!

To be considered scientific, it must be capable of making actual predictions. So far, I have seen zero evidence that it can be used that way, despite several honest attempts at eliciting an example on this forum, and a number of hours seeking exactly that within the literature widely available elsewhere.

It’s not looking good for the ‘science’ of naturalism.

It’s time for someone to pony up with a in-principle-performable test of the thesis, admit it’s actually a theology (or untestable), or refuse such admission, and hence relegate the entirety of your mission here to the other spin-offs of history such as phrenology, astrology, etc.

This isn’t something I’m making up. Deliberation upon logical and emperical grounds is the only thing science does.
Lacking emperical testablility means a thesis lacks the claim to the adjective ‘scientific.’

Personally, I would choose another explanation. One of the fundamental roles of our intelligence is to help us model the world with obvious beneficial consequences (e.g., “planting seeds now yields food later”, that kind of thing).

Agreed – we have minds specifically in order to anticipate future conditions and by which we can plan our future actions.

In our experience, the one part of our world which seems beyond all explanation is the behaviour of other humans.

You are speaking for yourself. “Seems” can be deceiving. Please don’t pretend that your specific experience trying to explain human behavior is universally applicable.

A study of history, akin to the study of QM, shows that although any one human is eminently unpredictable, groups of people are fairly regular in their behavior, at least to the degree that people do respond in more-or-less predictable ways to more-or-less discoverable circumstances.

There is also a consistent trend throughout history of doing more with less, by which humans have consistently improved their situation. The development of minds by evolution follows the same trend started long before we evolved; we can now make anticipatory designs, by which to gather life-support and information, without sacrificing a life for every test we make. Our bad ideas can die in our stead, as Karl Popper first put it, because we can stop using them when they prove untenable. An untenable DNA-constructed life form must die with the bad design which it represents.

DNA-mediated evolution is a prototyping system, whereby any new design can only be tested by growing a complete example, or at least a complete example in possession of the new feature. Over time, DNA-mediated learning has passed the knowledge of how to build the successful-so-far designs down to the descendants of the creatures carrying out the successful tests.

Mind-mediated evolution can prototype designs in the imagination, purely as an information-comparison process, as well as building designs which do not require a complete organism to test (such as a spoon, bicycle, or airplane).

This is a fundamental shift in the design process from the physical to the metaphysical (objects to relationships), yet it stands as a further example of the same trend; doing more (learning or increasing precision in our designs) with less (effort or time or suffering).

Hence, when we have trouble explaining something, we very naturally reason by analogy that that something is  caused by a person. In the case of our attempts to  understand our own behaviour, that “person” is what we call our “free will”. It is a (largely) harmless mistake – like primitive people attributing the winds to the action of a “god”.

Natural selection proceeds upon the basis of marginal or incremental improvements, so whether it is a large or small mistake doesn’t change the question; if there is a disadvantage, no matter how small, to the notion of free will, why hasn’t it been selected against?

You can’t wave your hands or waffle away the difference as you’ve just attempted. Likewise, you can’t use the untestability of a thesis to protect it from criticism; untestability is the *only* criteria by which we can judge a thesis unscientific, and determinism as a thesis appears more and more to fit that bill.

You are free to avoid engaging the crux of the matter, but please don’t pretend you’ve done otherwise.

I’m honestly asking; what predictions can determinism make by which we can judge it a better or worse theory than the theory of free will? Without at least one such example, intellectual honesty about scientific endeavors requires that we consider determinism as failing to qualify as scientific.

But just like the belief in the wind-god does the individual no harm (nor good) it is bad for society if it ultimately stops the search for the “real” explanation (pressure changes, Coriolis forces, etc.) In the same way, belief in free will may do the individual no harm – and especially no harm vis-a-vis his reproductive success which is all evolution cares about – but many of us think it is harmful for our society.

Unfortunately, you’ve made the classic constructivist mistake, which very often results from the platonic mistake. You can learn more about the former from Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit,” and more about the latter from Adler’s “Ten Philosophical Mistakes.”

Simply put, ‘bad for society’ doesn’t mean anything, if it isn’t based on the disadvantages experienced by (some of) the individuals which constitute that society, whether extant, or in terms of the descendants of current members. Perhaps the latter is what you meant?

If no individuals experience any disadvantage from a particular design or notion, then it cannot be bad for ‘society’ by definition, because society is not a creature, it is only a collection of people.

If something is bad for society, it must cause harm or disadvantages to at least one individual in order to make that estimation.

I am not sure what you mean by “it [determinism] frees many people from personal responsibility”.

Are you kidding? That’s exactly the major concern addressed by Tom Clark’s piece, which he referenced in a previous post on this forum; doesn’t determinism lead to a complacent or fatalistic attitude? Why would Tom address that point, if it wasn’t a common consideration?

Suppose that you have god-like, contra-causal free will but that I am a robot.

OK, that’s two contrafactual conditional hypotheticals you’ve introduced to make your point – don’t forget that means I get to introduce two arbitrary hypotheticals when I attempt to refute it, since contrafactual conditionals are always true.

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with that notion, but I assure you, logic demands that you admit the same options to me as I admit for you, in order to make sure the basis for judging our conclusions is equivalent.

Of course, since I get to craft my hypotheticals *after* you have, I will always be capable of crafting them in such a way that I can effectively counter yours, which means the second person to move always wins.

Perhaps you’d like to start again, this time without making the always-losing move of introducing contrafactual hypothetical conditionals?

To get back on point, what’s the difference between ‘autonomous individual’ and ‘someone possessing free will’?

>3) Most specific; what conceivable outcome of an
> empirical test could
> prove the deterministic hypothesis incorrect?

>Science proceeds by *dis*proving theses, and
> continuing to operate on
> the basis of those conjectures (theories) which
> haven’t been proven
> incorrect (yet). This latest challenge from an avowed
> naturalist
> does not speak well about the ‘scientific’ basis of
> that philosophy,
> since he displays a severe ignorance of science by
> making it.

Answer:

 That is an interesting question. There are obvious answers such as a simple mechanical experiment which gives different results each time it is run. Of course, such things exist but we understand them not as a violation of determinism but as an example of a chaotic dynamics. But there are many, many perfectly repeatable experiments that support (classical) determinism.

Unfortunately, that misses the point entirely.

Both Newton and Einstein make the same predictions about many things. The tides and the orbit of Jupiter both support both theses, and hence cannot be used to judge between them.

It is only by considering where Newton is *mistaken* that we can judge Einstein superior, for example, WRT the precession of mercury’s orbit.

IOW, it was only by sticking his neck out, and making predictions about things that could have been totally erroneous (for example, the bending of starlight by the sun), that Einstein’s theory proved not only that it was scientific, but also that it was superior to Newton.

In order to judge determinism a viable example of a scientific thesis, it must be capable of making predictions, and making them in such a way that a conceivable result could prove it wrong.

Having passed a lot of tests isn’t enough, since the thesis that god controls everything has also passed every conceivable test.

Passing tests doesn’t help; it must be capable of *failing* a test, before a thesis can be considered scientific, and only by *not* failing tests, can it be considered a success.

So, back to the point; how could determinism possibly be proven wrong? If there is no possible way it can be proven wrong, it is not a scientific theory. If every possible result in terms of data

The fatalistic nature of physics doesn’t help us decide between the two theses, since free will also makes the same predictions about non-mind-mediated interactions.

Specifically, we know that synergy is fated to operate whenever component parts are brought into coordinated operation as a whole. Only by making reference to such *novel* synthesized relationships can we evaluate either thesis as better or worse.

It is exactly that criteria that I seek, and it is exactly that criteria which everyone, so far, has failed to produce.

In fact, at this point in time, the burden of proof is on someone who wants to disprove determinism in the natural world – give us an example!

You are 100% wrong, as I described before.

The burden is on the presenter or promulgator of a thesis to prove the thesis is an example of scientific notion, by making reference to a test which the thesis could, in principle, fail, whether it does or not, in fact, fail it. What predictions does determinism make, which are different than any prediction made by ‘free agents in an information process universe’ thesis?

The god thesis has never been proven wrong. Are you prepared to accept that the notion is true, because it has never been disproved? Or are you prepared to accept that the standard philosophy of science applies to *anyone* who aspires to claim their notions are scientific, which includes, as of this moment, yourself WRT the deterministic thesis?

If what you are really referring to is that free will, as commonly understood, does not exist then the question is more relevant. I am not an expert, but I think that all we can say is that (a) the philosophers can’t make sense of the concept

Of course they can. Synergy is the principle which provides the random element, the ‘out,’ required for novel boot-strapping productions required by the thesis.

Indeed, determinisms failure to admit such boot-strapping occurs, when it undeniably and demonstrably does, is a severe failing of the theory. It makes claims which are 100% contrafactual, when considered as predictive pronouncements, as any science must attempt.

and (b) the relatively new field of mind science (experimental psychology, functional brain imaging, etc.) seems to provide little or no support to the idea.

Actually it does, because of the difference in context.

I’ll get back to this point, because it’s very relevant, but the short version is that within the context of human decision making (whether ‘fully caused’ or ‘free’), deliberation and information-processing are the ‘substance’ by which those decisions are made.

Determinism, as a deliberative concept, belongs fully to that context, but by making reference to events *outside* of that context, makes a logical level violation, rendering the notion false, at worse, or theological, at best.

If it is a testable notion, we can use the results of that testing in our deliberations, rendering the notion scientific. If it is *not* testable, if we cannot use it within the context of our deliberations, and upon which we make predictions and anticipate future conditions, then it is purely theological.

There isn’t a middle ground, here. It is either testable or isn’t.

So far, despite multiple honest requests for exactly that, no one here has stepped up to the plate, and produced an example of such a test.

My claim, that the thesis is theological, has yet to be refuted.

My prediction is that it cannot be demonstrated to be a scientific thesis, because of the context-crossing logical violation I referred to.

Only by producing a viable empirical test, can anyone here prove my prediction wrong, and hence prove my claim mistaken.

C’mon guys, I’m sticking my neck way out here. All the cards are on the table or in your hands.

What’s the problem, exactly, that’s keeping you from making the only move that counts in this context?

BTW, there are many simple experiments that COULD prove mind-body dualism….

Who cares? Science proceeds by *dis*proof. There is no way around it, so please get on board, or admit you aren’t doing science!

Hope this is of interest. Sorry the answers are so long.

No problem on the length – if we want to reach the goal, we have to take the steps, right? Pay the price or do without the benefit.

And it was of interest, but only by producing yet another negative example; the determinstic thesis (and promulgators) have yet to show any evidence that it is a scientific thesis.

However, that doesn’t mean it cannot be…Time Will Tell, as always.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *