# Re: Probability, Necessity, and Infinity

```On Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 5:38 AM, 1Z <peterdjo...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Nov 16, 3:27 am, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> If logic and reason reduce to causal laws, then ultimately causal laws
>> alone explain the result.
>
> If causal explanation and rational explanation
> are categoreally different, they don't exclude each other.
> We can explain the operation of  a calculator in terms of
> electrical currents, or we could explain it in terms of
> the laws of arithmetic. The two operate in parallel.```
```
The law of electromagnetism (or whatever physical law it approximates,
if any) operates in the world and has causal power.
The laws of arithmetic operate only in your mind and have no causal power.

So, the two don't really operate in parallel.  In fact the laws of
arithmetic don't "operate", in any literal sense, at all.

> What makes a calculator a calculator is that its
> operation is susceptible to an arithemtic description.

Arithmetic description exists only in the mind of a describer.

One man's calculator is another man's hammer.

One man's kindling is another man's slide rule.

What makes a calculator a calculator is that you use it as a
calculator.  It's only a calculator in the sense that it's a
calculator to you.

There is some Putnam mapping that would let you use a rock as a
calculator.  But since you don't know this mapping, the rock is just a
rock.  Unlike the calculator, the rock wasn't designed to have easily
interpreted inputs and outputs.

> How can you infer from that that there is no valid arithimetical
> description?

Where did I say that there are no valid arithmetical descriptions?  I
certainly never meant to say that.

Though I do claim that you can't justify your belief in valid
arithmetical descriptions...

>> If causal laws and "logic and reason" are entirely different things,
>> and causal laws are sufficient to explain the way that events
>> transpire, then what do we need "logic and reason" for?  They are
>> superfluous, except as descriptive categories.
>
> We need logic and reason to explain how premises lead
> to conclusions. That is different from explaining how
> causes lead to effects, although the two can run in parallel,
>
> That you can eliminate talk of forests in terms
> of talk of trees does not mean there are no forests.

The existence of trees and forests.

Assuming that some sort of scientific realism/materialism is true,
then trees and forests are both abstractions - rough approximations of
reality forced upon us by our limited mental resources.

In this case, if we had sufficient mental capacity there would no need
to think in terms of trees or forests - we could think exclusively in
terms quarks, electrons, photons, and whatnot.  Thinking in terms of
trees and forests is a "good enough" computational shortcut.

However, there is certainly no prediction I could make based on my
knowledge of trees and forests that would be as accurate or precise as
the predictions I could make if I had the mental and sensory capacity
to comprehend the forest at the level of it's constituent quarks and
electrons.

The only advantage of thinking in terms of trees and forests is
brevity and economy.  Shortcuts.

If you had no need of brevity or economy, then you would have no need
for concepts like trees and forests.  Rather, you might as well think
exclusively in terms of fundamental entities...quarks, electrons,
photons, and whatnot.

Note that you would also have no need of "emergent" laws like
evolution or the laws of thermodynamics.

Further, given sufficient computational power there's no "abstract
interpretation" that you couldn't legitimately extract (via the right
Putnam mapping) from the collection of electrons and quarks that
comprise the forest.  It would be like looking for bunny-shaped clouds
in the sky.  Trees and forests and squirrels and hikers *might* be the
most obvious higher-level interpretation of what exists...but
certainly not the only interpretation, and not privileged in any way.

My point being that, even assuming scientific materialism, trees and
forests only exist in your mind.  They are part of how things seem to
us.  They are part of us.  Like logic and reason and arithmetic
descriptions.

>>> OTOH, it *is* obvious that being the result of causal
>>> laws is exclusive of being freely chosen. You need, but
>>> don't have, an argument to the effect that free choice is essential
>>> to rationality.
>>
>> Actually I would say that the burden of proof is on you to show that
>> abstract concepts, like logic and rationality, can also be causal
>> forces.
>
> Not at all. If L&R were causal, then they *would* exclude other
> causal explanations. But their compatibility with causal
> explanations is based on the fact that they are not a kind of
> casual explanation.

Well, here we are pretty close to agreement.

So, either there are causal laws that have some sort of independent
existence and account the order we see in the world - OR there aren't,
and the order we observe is either the accidental result of random
events or perhaps a product of our minds.

However, logic and reason have no independent existence.  They are
part of our experience of the world, not part of the world.

>> Is a computer executing a chess program logical or rational?  Does
>> logic cause the computer to select one move instead of another?
>
> It doesn't cause it but it does explain it. It may be "just"
>  description but it is a valid description.

How do you justify your belief in it's validity as a description?

A very good quote:

"The mind actively processes or organizes experience in constructing
knowledge, rather than passively reflecting an independent reality.
To speak metaphorically, the mind is more like a factory than a mirror
or soft wax.

[...]

Truth, it is said, consists in the agreement of cognition with its
object.  In consequence of this mere nominal explanation, my
cognition, to count as true, is supposed to agree with its object.
Now I can compare the object with my cognition, however, only by
cognizing it...Since the object is outside me, the cognition in me,
all I can ever pass judgment on is whether my cognition of the object
agrees with my cognition of the object."

-- Lee Braver, "A Thing of This World"

> Talk of forests can be
> replaced with talk of tress, but that doesn't mean there is no
> forest.

See my comments above.

>> Logic and rationality are in the mind beholder if they are anywhere,
>> and certainly not in the quarks and electrons of computers, which are
>> the same as the quarks and electrons of rocks or clouds, and are
>> *literally* unmoved by reason.
>
> There are objective facts underpinning the applicability
> of the concept "logical" There are objective facts
> underpinning the applicability of the concept "quark"

How do you know?  What underpins the objective facts then?  Why can't
the concept of a quark be fundamental?

> There is a sense in which all concepts are in the head,
> but it is not useful to look at things that way.

"Not useful" in what sense?  With respect to what goal?

And why do you have that goal instead of some other goal?

>>> If double checking is unmiraculous, it can be caused as well
>>> as anything else.
>>
>> But how do you double check your double check?  If you doubt the
>> assumptions and reasoning that led to your initial belief, why
>> wouldn't those doubts apply equally to your double checking process?
>
> I don't disupute that. If you think scepticism follows
> from the fact that you can't infinity-check, then it follows,
> since you can't. But I don't think that is a strong form of scepticism

What would be a stronger form of skepticism?

> since it only means you can't be certain, not that you can't be right.

I said as much in my second post to this thread, in response to SPK.

Skepticism doesn't mean that we're necessarily wrong about anything,
but rather that we can't justify our belief that we're right.

>>>> Put succinctly, if we have knowledge we must accept beliefs only
>>>> because we understand them to be true; but if determinism is correct,
>>>> then we automatically accept whatever beliefs that our constituent
>>>> micro-particles impose on us.
>>>>
>>> But there is nothing to stop them imposing understanding
>>> and justification too. Our beliefs aren't necessarily true
>>> or justified under determinism, but they aren't anyway.
>>> What would be the difference between the deterministic
>>> universe and the free will universe? Are you seriously
>>> assrting that in the FW universe, our beliefs would be more
>>> universally true and justified?
>>
>> NO!  I'm not arguing for free will.  I'm arguing for skepticism.
>>
>> 1.  If there is no free will, then all that's left is skepticism.
>>
>> 2.  There is no free will.
>>
>> 3.  All that's left is skepticism.
>
> But your arguments for scepticism actually have nothing to
> do with FW!

I quoted Bryan Caplan's argument that determinism entails skepticism
in support of my more general claim that if we exist in a universe
that is governed by unchanging causal laws (deterministic or
otherwise) then we can't have justified, true, beliefs.

Existing in such a universe also precludes the possibility of free will.

Let me quote that earlier post:

"If an entity exists in a universe that is subject to unchanging causal
laws, how can it have justified true beliefs (a.k.a. knowledge)
either?

If the entity's beliefs are the result of some more fundamental
underlying process, then those beliefs aren't held for reasons of
logic or rationality.

Rather, the entity holds the beliefs that are necessitated by the
initial conditions and causal laws of it's universe.

Those initial conditions and causal laws *may* be such that the entity
holds true beliefs, but there is no requirement that this be the case."

>>>> It might be the case that those
>>>> micro-particles coincidentally make me believe true things, but the
>>>> truth would not be the ultimate causal agent acting upon me.
>>
>>> Or it might be the case that you have FW and freelly choose
>>> to make mistakes.  How would that look different? FW
>>> can't force people to be correct and justified and right
>>> all the time  -- where's the freedom in that?
>>
>> Free will isn't a coherent concept so there's no point in spending
>> much time on it.
>
> If it isn't a coherent concept, how can its absence imply scepticism?

If I said "free will implies X", then I would need free will to be a
coherent concept.

Since I'm saying "absence of free will implies skepticism", I don't
need free will to be a coherent concept.

Incoherence is consistent with absence.

Though, really my argument is more:

Determinism entails skepticism.  Determinism is a coherent concept.

Indeterminism entails skepticism.  Indeterminism is a coherent concept.

So, I think I'm fine.

>> What does evolution add to a deterministic universe?  Either the
>> initial conditions and causal laws lead to some particular outcome
>> (e.g., intelligence) -or- they don't.  There's nothing for evolution
>> to do.
>
> It's a kind of anthropic principal. Since you are an evolved
> being, you must have evolved from a long line of organisms
> that weren't massively deluded.

Why couldn't the universe have come into existence 1 minute ago with
us fully formed as part of it's initial conditions?

What about Boltzmann Brains?  Boltzmann universes?

If we apply the principle of indifference to the universe's current
macrostate, what should we conclude about the universe's entropy level
yesterday?  Should we conclude that it had higher or lower entropy
than today?

> The fact that you are in the universe
> tells you something about the universe. You could not just pop up
> in any old universe.

Why not?  What would stop that from happening?

>> What's more, evolution adds nothing to a probabilistic universe either.
>>
>> What is evolution, beyond causal laws acting on state over time?
>
> A specific kind of causal law that tends to promote rationality.

Evolution is a causal law?  Like electromagnetism, or the strong
force, or gravity?

Are there evolution fields?  Evolution particles?  "Evolvitons"?

No.

Evolution is a *consequence* of causal laws and initial conditions.
It isn't a causal law itself.

It is an "emergent" law, like the laws of thermodynamics.  They are
consequences, not causes.

>> Again, you've taken a figure of speech (natural selection) and
>> interpreted it literally.
>>
>> No "selection" actually takes place.  Things just happen, per the
>> governing causal laws (if there are any).
>
> That's a massive non-sequitur. If causal laws cause
> dinosaurs to die out that's selection occuring.

No, that's just events transpiring in accordance with causal laws and
initial conditions.  There is no additional "selection" process above
and beyond the usual fundamental laws of physics.

Which don't include evolution.

> That the forest is  a bunch of trees does  not
> mean there is no forest.

It means that the forest only exists in your mind.  Like evolution.
They are all descriptions, abstractions, representations - short cuts.

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