The Meaning of Life

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.

Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:37 pm

Locke wrote:Hello David,

While true that I can't ignore the causal relationship of objects within this universe I believe that there is inherent randomness in the system that can't be predicted. The proponents of Determinism seem to ignore this. An example being star light that travels through interstellar gas. The light is on a set path when it leaves the star; but, when the photons encounter, lets say, a hydrogen atom. Specific photons are absorbed by the electrons around said atoms. When that quanta of energy is emitted back as a new photon it now travels in a random path that is not predictable. This of course diffuses the light and gives us spectral lines to read.

What makes you think that the new photon has been uncaused?

Predictability and determinism aren't synonymous terms. The fact that a particular event isn't predictable doesn't automatically mean that it is uncaused. We can't predict what number a rolled dice will show, for example, yet causality still governs its every movement.

Everything that you describe above is causal in nature, including the fact that we are (currently) unable to predict the new photon's movements. What you call "inherent randomness" is simply a region of causality that we have trouble modelling or measuring, for whatever reason.


Locke wrote:
Moreover, far from being "self-limiting", the recognition that causality drives utterly everything, including all aspects of our own behaviour, is incredibly liberating. For through it we can open ourselves to our infinite nature, which is the most amazing thing that a human can ever do.

I say " self-limiting" because while browsing the boards; causality seems to have become a catch all answer. This seems to have limited discourse.

They may well be some truth to that. But I would say it is more often limited by those who lack the courage and conviction of mind to grasp what is a perfectly straightforward truth (albeit a profound and lethal one). They are the ones who keep bringing up blatantly irrational objections to a matter they are deeply afraid of, thus keeping the conversations stagnating in this area.

I would like to see a time when the human race fully understands and accepts the truth of causality, and yes, has moved on.


You mention that this is liberating. Do you have an example of your constrained thought compared to your liberated thought?

Thoughts can be constrained by any number of things - fears, worries, attachments, biases, mental blocks, immaturity, habit, social pressure, pain, ignorance, etc. An obvious example is the fundamentalist Christian who constrains his understanding of science in order to preserve his attachment to his irrational belief-system.

Conversely, the less attachment and fear a person has, the more free his thoughts will become. Fewer and fewer areas of his mind will be "off-limits". Fewer and fewer distortions will affect his thinking. Fewer and fewer anxiety-driven mistakes will be made.

In other words, immersing oneself in causality is liberating in many different ways - intellectually, psychologically, emotionally, existentially, philosophically, spiritually. Sadly, not physically or financially, though. :)


I'm not sure what you mean by man's " infinite nature." Could you elaborate on that a bit?

It is what we are - beginningless and endless, beyond life and death, formless, utterly free.


Was our nature around before man evolved? Or even before this solar system came into being? Or, is it infinite from this point forward? Or, possibly when you said "our" did you mean the universe's nature?

Same thing, at bottom. The universe's nature is identical to our nature. Being beyond life and death, it has always been around, and will always be so.


Sorry for the rapid fire questions but I am truly interested in the appeal of this line of thought.

No problem.

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby guest_of_logic » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:51 pm

guest_of_logic: Personally, I don't see a way to disprove causal determinism conclusively, because it's internally consistent, but I do see ways to object to it based on its implications,

David: This is the telling remark. To reject truth on the basis that you don't like its implications is never a good idea. Not if you want to be truthful.


Oh, but I don't see how I could ever know causal determinism to be true in the first place, short of some sort of mystical or omniscient knowledge. Of course, if I knew it to be true, then I wouldn't need to consider its implications, and would simply accept it. I was speaking, by the way, of logical implications, not personal or emotional implications.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby cousinbasil » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:29 pm

DQ wrote:Moreover, far from being "self-limiting", the recognition that causality drives utterly everything, including all aspects of our own behaviour, is incredibly liberating.

Yes, it liberates one from utterly everything. But doesn't this mean then that there is utterly everything and something else besides?
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:29 pm

David,
Thank you for the thoughtful response.
What makes you think that the new photon has been uncaused?

Predictability and determinism aren't synonymous terms. The fact that a particular event isn't predictable doesn't automatically mean that it is uncaused. We can't predict what number a rolled dice will show, for example, yet causality still governs it's every movement.


I have to agree that causality is evident in the photon-electron interaction. I don't think that predictability and determinism can be separated though. Isn't this the precept of determinism? That all things are determinable with enough inspection? That all interactions don't have variability but follow an exact path of motion into the future?

Your dice analogy is a perfect example of unpredictability. I could roll two six-sided die one hundred times and the only true thing that we could predict is the probability of certain numbers coming up. I believe that seven has the highest probability of appearing; hence, why the game craps uses it as a prime motivator. But this doesn't mean that I couldn't roll a two ninety times; it is just highly unlikely. Now, the die only had six sides but an electron cloud has innumerable possible positions. Compound this with, let's say, 10^20 hydrogen atoms; which is a relatively small amount of hydrogen. What is the possibility of knowing the photon absorption, emission, and positions of said atoms. Now, let's compound the problem by trying to predict movement and interaction of every atom in the known universe. I dare say this seems impossible.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:55 pm

guest_of_logic wrote:
guest_of_logic: Personally, I don't see a way to disprove causal determinism conclusively, because it's internally consistent, but I do see ways to object to it based on its implications,

David: This is the telling remark. To reject truth on the basis that you don't like its implications is never a good idea. Not if you want to be truthful.


Oh, but I don't see how I could ever know causal determinism to be true in the first place, short of some sort of mystical or omniscient knowledge. Of course, if I knew it to be true, then I wouldn't need to consider its implications, and would simply accept it. I was speaking, by the way, of logical implications, not personal or emotional implications.



I have to say that I side with Laird on this. We seem to come to examination from opposing viewpoints. Determinist seem to believe that a thing is true and find ways to prove that the universe fits this truth. The opposing view is that nothing is true until it has been tested and proven to be true. I subscribe to this line of thought.

The determinist remind me of the story where a lady says that the universe rides on the back of a turtle. When asked what does the turtle stand on. She replies " It's turtles all the way down." I wouldn't be able to prove that the universe isn't on the back of a turtle so to her the turtle truth of the universe is still valid. But, since she can't prove to me that turtles carry the universe; I just have to throw the idea into a pile of other theories which are waiting for proof to validate their claims.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby guest_of_logic » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:06 am

Locke wrote:I have to say that I side with Laird on this.


Oh dear. David, sound the alarms - another contender has fallen deaf to non-duality.

Locke wrote:We seem to come to examination from opposing viewpoints. Determinist seem to believe that a thing is true and find ways to prove that the universe fits this truth. The opposing view is that nothing is true until it has been tested and proven to be true. I subscribe to this line of thought.


So do I, although I would phrase it as "nothing can be known with certainty to be true until it has been tested and proven to be true". How, though, could we ever possibly do this for causal determinism? How could we test every thing in the universe, past, present and future, and ascertain that it is 100% determined by causes? Clearly we can't, which is why I think, as you also appear to, that maintaining the "absolute truth" of causal determinism is in fact faith-based.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Carmel » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:15 am

Hi Locke and Welcome :)

...The problem with your dice example is that your confusing the words "unpredictable" and "uncaused". It's true that the outcome of the dice roll are unpredictable, but it is not true that they are uncaused. Think of all of the variables(causes) which affect the end result. i.e. the weight/mass of the dice, the force with which it is thrown, the friction it encounters when landing, the angle with which it is thrown and lands, etc...

Can you think of any other examples of something that you think is "uncaused"?
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:31 am

Hello Carmel and thank you for the welcome,

I have to agree that causality is evident in the photon-electron interaction. I don't think that predictability and determinism can be separated though.


I agree that I can't find a example of a phenomenon that is uncaused. My main issue is the idea that we can understand the total system so surely that it eliminates randomness. Playing billiards a good player can anticipate and control the effect quite easily. But, with lottery balls, we have not been able to accurately map the interaction so that one could win consistently. But, I'll admit that with the die and lottery balls; you are correct that maybe with the right tools we could measure and anticipate reaction so that all of these things become as predictable as playing pool.

These are very basic Newtonian physics exercises though. Once we get into the quantum level we know that standard Newtonian rules don't apply anymore. Even Richard Feynman once claimed that if after listening to his lectures you think you understand QED, you don't; because even he didn't understand what was really going on.

Thank you and please do point out any flaws in my logic.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:08 am

guest_of_logic wrote:
guest_of_logic: Personally, I don't see a way to disprove causal determinism conclusively, because it's internally consistent, but I do see ways to object to it based on its implications,

David: This is the telling remark. To reject truth on the basis that you don't like its implications is never a good idea. Not if you want to be truthful.

Oh, but I don't see how I could ever know causal determinism to be true in the first place, short of some sort of mystical or omniscient knowledge. Of course, if I knew it to be true, then I wouldn't need to consider its implications, and would simply accept it. I was speaking, by the way, of logical implications, not personal or emotional implications.

As I say, it is logically impossible for a thing to be without causes. At the very least, a thing is dependent upon its constituent parts. If the parts of a car - the wheels, the pannelling, the engine, the steering wheel, the seats, etc - are absent, then the car itself will also be absent. A car can only exist by virture of these other things - its parts - also existing.

A thing also depends on the external environment for its existence - e.g. the existence of time, space, the absence of forces that would obliterate it, the existence of processses that lead to the coming together of its parts, etc.

All of this applies to electrons just as much as it applies to cars and everything else, including ourselves.

Again, this is a logical issue and fully resolvable by the mind. It is logic which creates the omniscience.

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:20 am

Locke wrote:David,
Thank you for the thoughtful response.
What makes you think that the new photon has been uncaused?

Predictability and determinism aren't synonymous terms. The fact that a particular event isn't predictable doesn't automatically mean that it is uncaused. We can't predict what number a rolled dice will show, for example, yet causality still governs it's every movement.

I have to agree that causality is evident in the photon-electron interaction. I don't think that predictability and determinism can be separated though. Isn't this the precept of determinism? That all things are determinable with enough inspection? That all interactions don't have variability but follow an exact path of motion into the future?

Not at all. Not only is the universe too complex and our brains and senses (together with our technological aids) too limited to measure every possible variable, but the very act of prediction is itself intrinsically uncertain.

This is nicely illustrated by Chaos Theory which demonstrates that the very act of measurement itself can never be perfect, with the resulting errors immediately introducing a whole range of uncertainties. This is why long-term weather forcasting, for example, is always problematic. The errors in the measurements that we take in the present quickly multiply on themselves the further we look into the future.

At root, determinism is simply the view that all things have causes. It makes no reference to predictability or unpredictability, which is an entirely different issue.

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:22 am

cousinbasil wrote:
DQ wrote:Moreover, far from being "self-limiting", the recognition that causality drives utterly everything, including all aspects of our own behaviour, is incredibly liberating.

Yes, it liberates one from utterly everything. But doesn't this mean then that there is utterly everything and something else besides?

On the contrary, it is precisely the fact that there isn't something else which makes it so liberating.

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:56 am

David Quinn wrote:At root, determinism is simply the view that all things have causes. It makes no reference to predictability or unpredictability, which is an entirely different issue.


Ah, if I'm mistaken then I apologize. I had taken Laplace's demon as the predominant view of determinism.

Marquis Pierre Simon de Laplace wrote: "We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at any given moment knew all of the forces that animate nature and the mutual positions of the beings that compose it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit the data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom; for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes."
Last edited by Locke on Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby cousinbasil » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:21 am

DQ wrote:On the contrary, it is precisely the fact that there isn't something else which makes it so liberating.

If you have "liberated" something from it, it is no longer utterly everything.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Blair » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:39 am

Locke wrote:Determinist seem to believe that a thing is true and find ways to prove that the universe fits this truth. The opposing view is that nothing is true until it has been tested and proven to be true. I subscribe to this line of thought.


Starting In 1980, it took three years for (american) medical research to discover that AIDS patients all carried the human immunodeficiency virus.

What caused those three years of studied AIDS cases before scientists tested and proved the HIV connection?
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby guest_of_logic » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:56 am

guest_of_logic: Oh, but I don't see how I could ever know causal determinism to be true in the first place, short of some sort of mystical or omniscient knowledge. Of course, if I knew it to be true, then I wouldn't need to consider its implications, and would simply accept it. I was speaking, by the way, of logical implications, not personal or emotional implications.

David: As I say, it is logically impossible for a thing to be without causes.


I'm not arguing that a thing might be without causes (as you define them) - I'm arguing that we can't know for certain that causal determinism is true. For example, it's possible that certain events, such as the decay of certain sub-atomic particles, happen entirely at random, such that they are not pre-determined.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:28 pm

prince wrote:Starting In 1980, it took three years for (american) medical research to discover that AIDS patients all carried the human immunodeficiency virus.

What caused those three years of studied AIDS cases before scientists tested and proved the HIV connection?


I'm sorry. I'm not sure what you are suggesting here. " What caused those three years of studied AIDS cases." I don't know for certain. I imagine they were looking at tissue samples and testing for a variety of known disease vectors to eliminate them from possible causes. The American medical establishment is notoriously cautious; but, AID's wasn't just being studied here. The first noticed cases seemed to present themselves as Pneumocystis pneumonia. Are you saying that a doctor who believes in determinism would just look at these cases and say " This is because of HIV" without any test?

Rigorous study has defined the cause of AIDS very well now. Study has even traced a case back to 1959 it seems; where a man died and they listed the cause as " unknown illness." Are you suggesting that study is a waste of time?

If I just said " The wolverine carries a variant of chicken pox" you shouldn't and probably wouldn't believe this statement until the scientific community test that theory and deems it to be true or false.

If I've misunderstood the nature of your question, again, I apologize.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Blair » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:49 pm

Locke wrote:If I've misunderstood the nature of your question, again, I apologize.


You have, but there is no need to apologize. Your understanding of causality is crude and anthropomorphic at this stage, but you are in great company, most of the human race.

The nature of these questions, such as I asked you, why does an electron revolve around an atom, is not that I seek the answer , but rather to give you another angle from which to view reality.

I can throw any empirical example at you, and the resulting answer will always be in truth, causality.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:07 pm

Locke wrote: I had taken Laplace's demon as the predominant view of determinism.

Marquis Pierre Simon de Laplace wrote: "We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at any given moment knew all of the forces that animate nature and the mutual positions of the beings that compose it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit the data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom; for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes."

Yeah, well, hopefully you can see this is a very unsophisticated viewpoint.

The Western philosophic tradition has a lot to answer for, generating so much rubbish.

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:10 pm

cousinbasil wrote:
DQ wrote:On the contrary, it is precisely the fact that there isn't something else which makes it so liberating.

If you have "liberated" something from it, it is no longer utterly everything.

One is liberated from "things".

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby David Quinn » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:14 pm

guest_of_logic wrote:
guest_of_logic: Oh, but I don't see how I could ever know causal determinism to be true in the first place, short of some sort of mystical or omniscient knowledge. Of course, if I knew it to be true, then I wouldn't need to consider its implications, and would simply accept it. I was speaking, by the way, of logical implications, not personal or emotional implications.

David: As I say, it is logically impossible for a thing to be without causes.

I'm not arguing that a thing might be without causes (as you define them) - I'm arguing that we can't know for certain that causal determinism is true.

You've lost me.


For example, it's possible that certain events, such as the decay of certain sub-atomic particles, happen entirely at random, such that they are not pre-determined.

How are you conceiving "random" and "pre-determinism"?

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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Bobo » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:56 pm

David Quinn wrote:As I say, it is logically impossible for a thing to be without causes. At the very least, a thing is dependent upon its constituent parts. (...)
A thing also depends on the external environment for its existence...

By dependent do you mean caused? If so one can say that the totality is caused by things.

If you define a car to be its constituents parts, it already is, and can only be explained by externals. The totality 'already being' is unexplained and indetermided, as laird said. Or as you put it(?):
David Quinn wrote:On the contrary, it is precisely the fact that there isn't something else which makes it so liberating.

The problem, as Locke pointed, is that it's hard to explain mind by externals meaningfully (it is self-limitating).
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby guest_of_logic » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:50 pm

guest_of_logic: I'm not arguing that a thing might be without causes (as you define them) - I'm arguing that we can't know for certain that causal determinism is true.

David: You've lost me.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causal_determinism

guest_of_logic: For example, it's possible that certain events, such as the decay of certain sub-atomic particles, happen entirely at random, such that they are not pre-determined.

David: How are you conceiving "random" and "pre-determinism"?


I'm conceiving of random as being not fully determined by prior events. I'm conceiving of pre-determined as being fully determined by prior events. In other words, if X is random, then it is incorrect to say, "X occurred wholly because of events prior to it"; if X is pre-determined then it is correct to say, "X occurred wholly because of events prior to it, or in general wholly because of the past state of the universe", as in the Laplace quote that Locke provided us with.

These conceptions refer only to temporal causality, and ignore other things that you refer to as causes, such as the components of X and the relationship between X and the rest of the universe at the moment it exists, so bear that in mind when interpreting "wholly" and "fully".
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Blair » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:38 pm

Laird. so trite, so predictable, so caused...
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby guest_of_logic » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:59 pm

Next time I'll mix it up a little just for you.
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Re: The Meaning of Life

Postby Locke » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:32 pm

David Quinn wrote:Yeah, well, hopefully you can see this is a very unsophisticated viewpoint.

The Western philosophic tradition has a lot to answer for, generating so much rubbish.


I agree. I do see this as unsophisticated.

Maybe, to better understand the range of our differing views; you could define the limits of your view of determinism. If we take the example of Laplace's demon to be the all encompassing view of casual-determinism. What limits do you set on your views that define it as separate from the Laplace view?
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