Poll

Which philosophy seems most logical to you of the ones provided?

Free Will
Causal Determinism as proposed by Reasonable Doubts podcast
Compatibilism (Free Will + Determinism)
Some form of Determinism I haven't listed
Other or Agnostic

Author Topic: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?  (Read 8630 times)

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Offline norcalclimber

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I have been listening to the Reasonable Doubts podcasts on Determinism lately and from a naturalist/atheist perspective it seems like the only logically consistent argument.

I'm curious as to whether this is actually the case, or if there are alternatives to Determinism which are consistent with naturalism/atheism?

I'm relatively new to philosophy and I confess I am largely ignorant of differing schools of thought within philosophy so I appreciate any feedback whatsoever.

Offline Will Nitschke

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2011, 04:33:30 PM »
My view is that Determinism confuses what some philosophers describe as Levels of Explanation. When you're trying to understand what a Chess Computer is going to do next, it's best to the analysis in terms of concepts such as intentions and strategies. It would be utterly meaningless to contemplate quantum mechanical processes. To apply physical determinism to conscious thought processes is as equally as meaningless.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2011, 06:35:34 PM »
I don't have a proof of determinism, so I can't say that it's the only "choice" for everyone, all I can say is that I personally don't know of a logical alternative.

(presuming that determinism here is contrasted with free-will)
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Offline Sordid

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 06:44:57 PM »
Well when it comes to decision-making, you have basically two options: Have a reason for picking one option over the other, in which case it's clearly deterministic. Or decide randomly. But random isn't the same thing as free will, now is it?

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2011, 07:09:06 PM »
I think it's hard to avoid going with determinism even if you aren't a naturalist/atheist. I don't see how belief in a soul or some other form a dualism rescues free will. It just moves the problem. Instead of asking what combinations of internal states and external inputs caused your brain to end up in the state it did you have to ask what drives your soul's actions. If they aren't based on inputs acting on a prior state then what are they based on?
If one is going to be ignorant, then one may as well make a thorough and studied job of it.

Offline Will Nitschke

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2011, 08:20:47 PM »
I don't have a proof of determinism, so I can't say that it's the only "choice" for everyone, all I can say is that I personally don't know of a logical alternative.

(presuming that determinism here is contrasted with free-will)

The problem with this reductionist line of argument is that it simply makes no sense... the idea that you can reduce everything to atoms or quarks or whatever, is just silly. Consciousness is a prime example... deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation. People attempt to apply bottom level 'rules' to 'top level' processes and all you end up with is stupid.
Conversation is not an enterprise designed to yield an extrinsic profit, a contest where a winner gets a prize, nor is it an activity of exegesis; it is an unrehearsed intellectual adventure - Michael Oakeshott

Offline norcalclimber

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2011, 08:27:52 PM »
My view is that Determinism confuses what some philosophers describe as Levels of Explanation. When you're trying to understand what a Chess Computer is going to do next, it's best to the analysis in terms of concepts such as intentions and strategies. It would be utterly meaningless to contemplate quantum mechanical processes. To apply physical determinism to conscious thought processes is as equally as meaningless.

How does Determinism confuse "Levels of Explanation"?

If you are saying that applying physical determinism can't predict the future, I would agree.  I do feel considering the implications of determinism can have a very meaningful effect on a persons life though.  I personally find it easier to be sympathetic to my high maintenance girlfriend since I started contemplating determinism.

Or are you saying that conscious thought processes are somehow beyond purely natural processes/forces?

I think it's hard to avoid going with determinism even if you aren't a naturalist/atheist. I don't see how belief in a soul or some other form a dualism rescues free will. It just moves the problem. Instead of asking what combinations of internal states and external inputs caused your brain to end up in the state it did you have to ask what drives your soul's actions. If they aren't based on inputs acting on a prior state then what are they based on?

I agree...however since IMO supernaturalists/theists are just pulling stuff out of their ass anyway it's logically consistent for them to pull free will out of their ass  ;D

Offline norcalclimber

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2011, 08:33:06 PM »
I don't have a proof of determinism, so I can't say that it's the only "choice" for everyone, all I can say is that I personally don't know of a logical alternative.

(presuming that determinism here is contrasted with free-will)

The problem with this reductionist line of argument is that it simply makes no sense... the idea that you can reduce everything to atoms or quarks or whatever, is just silly. Consciousness is a prime example... deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation. People attempt to apply bottom level 'rules' to 'top level' processes and all you end up with is stupid.

What is Consciousness? 

What makes you think you are "conscious", whatever that is, and not just the product of chemical interactions?

Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2011, 08:48:51 PM »
I don't have a proof of determinism, so I can't say that it's the only "choice" for everyone, all I can say is that I personally don't know of a logical alternative.

(presuming that determinism here is contrasted with free-will)

The problem with this reductionist line of argument is that it simply makes no sense... the idea that you can reduce everything to atoms or quarks or whatever, is just silly. Consciousness is a prime example... deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation. People attempt to apply bottom level 'rules' to 'top level' processes and all you end up with is stupid.

this is just an argument from ignorance.
you may as well maintain that a soul exists because you can't reduce consciousness to brain chemistry, in fact, by making consciousness something other than a product of physical mechanics you are on par with the people who believe in souls.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2011, 08:51:21 PM »
I don't have a proof of determinism, so I can't say that it's the only "choice" for everyone, all I can say is that I personally don't know of a logical alternative.

(presuming that determinism here is contrasted with free-will)

The problem with this reductionist line of argument is that it simply makes no sense... the idea that you can reduce everything to atoms or quarks or whatever, is just silly. Consciousness is a prime example... deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation. People attempt to apply bottom level 'rules' to 'top level' processes and all you end up with is stupid.

What is Consciousness? 

What makes you think you are "conscious", whatever that is, and not just the product of chemical interactions?

very similar to the free will question: what makes you think you're acting freely? how do you think you'd be acting if you didn't have free will?
Quote from: Charlie Brooker, How TV Ruined Your Life
"...we spend more time gazing at luminous screens than into the eyes of our loved ones."

Offline The Latinist

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2011, 09:01:23 PM »
deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation.

All that happened is that it became too complex and possibly chaotic for us easily to identify all the interactions.  That doesn't mean that it's not still just chemicals interacting.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2011, 09:09:45 PM »
deterministic processes are not conscious yet human being are. Something happened between the bottom level and the top level that requires further explanation.


All that happened is that it became too complex and possibly chaotic for us easily to identify all the interactions.  That doesn't mean that it's not still just chemicals interacting.


do you really expect me to believe that the lottery barrel doesn't have a mind of its own?!
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Online superdave

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2011, 09:22:58 PM »
The thing is that chaotic systems, though fully deterministic, are highly  uncorrelated in time.    While the state in a chaotic system at time n might be entirely dependent on all the times steps (n-1), (n-2) etc, in a purely mathematical sense, functionally there is almost no connection between the state at a given time point and the time points much earlier than a few moments.  Take the weatehr a for example.  The weather today might have high correlation to the weather tomorrow but it will have almost zero correlation to the weather in two weeks from now. 

Now if the brain is a chaotic system, then proving it is deterministic really alters nothing in the context of free will. 

If you want to argue about a lack of free will, I think the effect of genes and the social environment are much stronger argument paths. 
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2011, 09:30:38 PM »
Now if the brain is a chaotic system, then proving it is deterministic really alters nothing in the context of free will.

Unpredictability != free will.
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Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Is Determinism the only logical choice for a naturalist/atheist?
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2011, 09:32:17 PM »
Now if the brain is a chaotic system, then proving it is deterministic really alters nothing in the context of free will. 

If you want to argue about a lack of free will, I think the effect of genes and the social environment are much stronger argument paths. 

would you mind paraphrasing that? not sure I know what you mean by 'alters nothing'
Quote from: Charlie Brooker, How TV Ruined Your Life
"...we spend more time gazing at luminous screens than into the eyes of our loved ones."