Knowledge argument against Determinism

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AgnosticBoy
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Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #1

Post by AgnosticBoy »

My position on free-will is that we possess it to some degree in that we can never be fully controlled or influenced. I believe our cognitive ability to know things and our wanting to be free all enables us to some free-will.

- Knowledge is power. Having knowledge of something gives you the ability or understanding to be able to do something.
- We have a natural instinct to want to be free or to not be under the control of some thing or someone (e.g. a dictator, etc.)

Given these two factors, how could I ever be fully controlled by something or someone?

Just to elaborate...

If I knew that someone or some thing was trying to control or influence me, then I would think my natural instinct would kick in. Knowing about the influence or control would make me want to do things differently or to at least make sure that the controlling factor (my parents said so) is not the only reason. Or I may even decide if I want to follow or give in to that influence or controlling factor since parental influence/control is sometimes a good thing.

Debate topic
Does our ability to know what controls or drives our decisions enable us to act contrary to or without said controls? If yes, is that proof against determinism?
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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #11

Post by nobspeople »

[Replying to AgnosticBoy in post #1]
Does our ability to know what controls or drives our decisions enable us to act contrary to or without said controls? If yes, is that proof against determinism?
Do we know everything that controls or drives our decisions to begin with? I'm not sure we do. Or is the ability to (only) know enough?
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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #12

Post by AgnosticBoy »

Purple Knight wrote: Sat Dec 26, 2020 1:09 pm That's my thinking as well. In all cases there is a cause. In my examples above:

1) He has chosen to overcome his desires because of his culture. If no one told him his emotions were bad, he wouldn't think that.
2) He has chosen as he does because he has a very high pleasure response to high-calorie foods. Some people have; some do not.
3) I would hope we could all agree that this fellow is an animal regardless of what he thinks he is.

It's about why we want what we want. There's a reason, every time. There aren't people who go about doing absolutely random things; you couldn't find such a person if you wanted, and even if you did, what is the value in that? He would have less value than anyone on my list, to my thinking.
I didn't see this post until after I had already responded earlier to another one of your posts. I appreciate you explaining your thinking and for now I agree with your point and that of Miles.

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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #13

Post by AgnosticBoy »

nobspeople wrote: Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:36 pm [Replying to AgnosticBoy in post #1]
Does our ability to know what controls or drives our decisions enable us to act contrary to or without said controls? If yes, is that proof against determinism?
Do we know everything that controls or drives our decisions to begin with? I'm not sure we do. Or is the ability to (only) know enough?
Theoretically, I believe we have the ability to know. I don't believe now that knowledge alone is enough. At best, my knowledge argument would be valid in that you could leave the control of one thing (the Matrix?, your culture?, etc.),but then you'd be acting under other controls of something else (some other reason or cause). Ultimately, you would still be caught in the process of doing something for a reason just as Miles and Purple Knight have explained.
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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #14

Post by AgnosticBoy »

I'll take the point in my last post even further to claim that we can even manipulate cause/effect for many things instead of just following them blindly or passively. Scientists already put this into practice when it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy. For instance, if we know the causes for various behaviors, then a practical application is that we can implement those causes to change from one behavior to another. An analogy would be an automaton that knows its behavior is determined by coding, and as such it is able to change its own coding to achieve a desired behavior.
Last edited by AgnosticBoy on Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #15

Post by Purple Knight »

So, in my thinking, Nobsy has a point, but only if we concede the usual atheist mantra that assuming nothing > assuming something.

I don't, for reasons I've explained. (A stronger argument against God is needed than just something like, blue premises are better than green premises, or negatives are better than positives.) I like to explain this while there's an example in front of my face because I find it doesn't work otherwise.

For example, if we don't know the cause of a thing, and if most atheists are right that assuming the negative is somehow logically superior to assuming the positive, we should assume that thing does not have a cause until we see that there is one.

In this case, this would effectively make the default position yes to free will.
AgnosticBoy wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:49 pm I'll take the point in my last post even further to claim that we can even manipulate cause/effect for many things instead of just following them blindly or passively. Scientists already put this into practice when it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy. For instance, if we know the causes for various behaviors, then a practical application is that we can implement those causes to change from one behavior to another. An apology would be an automaton that knows its behavior is determined by coding, and as such it is able to change its own coding to achieve a desired behavior.
We can change our behaviour but we need a reason to want to do that. For the Vulcan his reason is that he assumes, because he was told, that he has innate behaviours that will harm him and impede his goals. The Human however, isn't going to change its behaviour unless it sees some bad result of its behaviours (like drinking).

We're all still just meat robots.

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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #16

Post by AgnosticBoy »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:54 pm

We can change our behaviour but we need a reason to want to do that. For the Vulcan his reason is that he assumes, because he was told, that he has innate behaviours that will harm him and impede his goals. The Human however, isn't going to change its behaviour unless it sees some bad result of its behaviours (like drinking).

We're all still just meat robots.
Sure, I accept that we're in a deterministic universe. My point was that there's still some liberty even within those constraints in that we are not bound to any one course or any particular controlling factor. We can choose what will control or influences us. For example, a person can choose to get out from under the control or influence of parents and be guided by other things (friends, a boyfriend, etc).

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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #17

Post by Rational Atheist »

[Replying to AgnosticBoy in post #11]

Ultimately our choices are determined by the state of our brains at the time we made the choice, and these states are determined by prior states, which themselves are determined by more prior states. We can trace these brain states back to the initial state of our brain which was determined by our genetics and embryonic environment, neither of which we had any control over. Given that we know this, I think our "choices" are illusory.

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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #18

Post by Purple Knight »

AgnosticBoy wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:32 pmSure, I accept that we're in a deterministic universe. My point was that there's still some liberty even within those constraints in that we are not bound to any one course or any particular controlling factor. We can choose what will control or influences us. For example, a person can choose to get out from under the control or influence of parents and be guided by other things (friends, a boyfriend, etc).
Generally the strongest drive. How abusive are those parents? How much nicer will life be with some other person?

However... You have to see that as a choice even if it isn't. To do otherwise is hurtful to oneself.

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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #19

Post by AgnosticBoy »

Purple Knight wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 9:11 pm
AgnosticBoy wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:32 pmSure, I accept that we're in a deterministic universe. My point was that there's still some liberty even within those constraints in that we are not bound to any one course or any particular controlling factor. We can choose what will control or influences us. For example, a person can choose to get out from under the control or influence of parents and be guided by other things (friends, a boyfriend, etc).
Generally the strongest drive. How abusive are those parents? How much nicer will life be with some other person?

However... You have to see that as a choice even if it isn't. To do otherwise is hurtful to oneself.
We don't have to call it a "choice" if that's the problem, although I think some would just have a problem calling it a free choice. For now, I see no reason to not believe that we have the ability to go from state x to state y at a time of our liking. This could involve going from a bad habit to good behavior or habits. When people say they have no choice, then that makes it sounds like an overweight person is bound to stay in that condition but that's certainly not the case.
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Re: Knowledge argument against Determinism

Post #20

Post by Miles »

AgnosticBoy wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:32 pm Sure, I accept that we're in a deterministic universe. My point was that there's still some liberty even within those constraints in that we are not bound to any one course or any particular controlling factor. We can choose what will control or influences us. For example, a person can choose to get out from under the control or influence of parents and be guided by other things (friends, a boyfriend, etc).
Breaking this down to its essential basics, why does a person choose X rather than Y? Is the "choosing" an absolutely random event, or is there some reason (cause) behind it?
If it's an absolutely random event then you have no control over it. It could just as well not happen as happen.

If there's some reason (cause) behind choosing X rather than Y then whence that cause? Assuming the nature of the cause is not absolutely random, then it too must have arisen for some reason (cause). which means it's turtles (causes) all the way down; none of which give credence to a free choice, an operation of a "free" will. If the will operates at the behest of some thought process then the question is; what brought that thought process to conclude what it did, that it should settle on directing the will to do X rather than directing it to do Y?

Thing is, one can't get away from the "why-this-rather-than-that," question behind every event, no matter how far back in mental processing it resides. Every event is the inevitable result of the causes that brought it into being. For an event to be other than what it is would require one or more of its causal factors to be different: 1 + 7 + 232 + 18 will always result in 258. To result in 254 one or more of the numbers have to be different.

Like freewill, there's no such a thing as choosing, or any of its cognates.


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