Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Determinism vs Indeterminism

Determinism if defined simply is scientific causality where every event has a previous cause and the chain continues till the first uncaused cause. Many forms of determinism exist which imply that our moods, behaviors, genetics, psychology, culture, environment etc are all fixed or deterministic.

Fatalism is an extreme variant of determinism which stresses on the deterministic nature of events but not the causal.

Free will and Determinism are thought as compatible by many but challenged as incompatible by others. Compatibilist believe that free will is another link in the causal chain of events and the actions are deterministic. It believes that there could not be any other way. Responsibility is determined by the motives and desires which themselves are thought of as deterministic. If the motives, desires and emotions have no role to play in the events then there could be no responsibility. Incompatibilist on the other hand have two distinct groups. One believes in free will and rejects determinism and the other believes in only determinism but not free will. Hard determinist believe that with determinism there can be no free will.

Compatibilism was championed by greek stoics
and philosophers like Hume. Compatibilist like Hume do not believe in free will in the absolute or counter factual sense but believe that if there are other genuine possibilities for motives, intentions and actions then the responsibility for those events lies with the individual as he was hypothetically free in making the choice. At the same time they believe that the motives, intentions, actions etc themselves are deterministic. If somebody is reading this blog then he has another choice of not reading it, hence he is free in making that choice but if somebody is being forced to read this blog then he no longer has that hypothetical choice of not reading this blog. Hume states that as long as this hypothetical choice exists then free will exists and the responsibility for events lies with individuals who possess this free will. Compatibilist believe that free will is a natural corollary to determinism as events are caused by motives, desires and emotions.

Hard Determinist believe that free will does not exist which has disastrous consequences for morality and ethics. Without free will, responsibility for actions would not exist. Hard determinist point out that if free will itself becomes unnecessary then ethics and morality simply exist because of specious reasoning.

Indeterminism is the exact opposite where events could be random.

Ilya Prigogine is a scientific author who has challenged scientific determinism stating that the more one learns about the world, the harder it becomes to believe in determinism. The fundamental incompatibility in determinism stems from the arrow of time. Determinism suggests that any event could be traced back and forward through time, suggesting that we could easily trace the past and predict the future while living in the present. He challenged this determinism by citing the instability of some systems which are irreversible. Systems which are sensitive to initial condition are unstable and cannot be traced back to those initial conditions and there would be a degree of uncertainty when a deterministic explanation is presented for the causes. Such uncertainty, he suggests, can only be explained in a probabilistic manner. Prigogine thought that humans in the mind and body epitomized such uncertainty and believed that determinism fails as a sound explanation due to the inherent uncertainty in the structure of this universe and because of the arrow of time which continuously moves in one direction which is forward.

Libertarianism is a form of incompatibilism which believes that free will exists and this universe is indeterministic. Science on the other hand has gone on too show some form of determinism and order in the natural world. The deterministic nature of one's behavior to a degree has also shown that free will cannot exist alone in its absolute sense in an entirely indeterministic universe.

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