Re: Determinism

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Sun Apr 15 2001 - 14:35:57 BST

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    Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2001 14:35:57 +0100
    Subject: Re: Determinism
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    In-Reply-To: <3AD88C1F.14920.40C75F@localhost>; from on Sat, Apr 14, 2001 at 05:42:55PM -0500
    From: Robin Faichney <>
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    On Sat, Apr 14, 2001 at 05:42:55PM -0500, wrote:
    > On 14 Apr 2001, at 13:44, Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > One may logically subdivide any event into smaller and smaller
    > > timeslices. If doing so with causation results ultimately in a
    > > durationless event, then the same will apply to every other event, and
    > > if this is the "correct" approach, then all events are "really"
    > > durationless. Is that a useful or in any sense desirable stance to
    > > take? Because it looks to me like a contortion designed specifically
    > > to evade the fact that, given the usual concept of causation, it does
    > > not extent vertically up *or* down the hierarchy of levels of
    > > explanation.
    > >
    > History would be what happens between events; the spatiotemporal
    > passages that carry us from one to the other.

    But between events nothing happens, and therefore no time passes.
    So you have durationless events separated by durationless non-events.
    The more you explain your view, the less sense it makes.

    > I also hasten to add
    > that your entire concept of level with unbreachable barriers...

    I never suggested unbreachable barriers.

    > In other words, in your world, the entire universe at every instant is
    > both caused by the entire universe in the preceding instant, and the
    > cause of the entire universe in the succeeding instant, regardless
    > of contiguity or noticeable influence.

    At the highest level of explanation, that's exactly right.

    > Such a definition in effect
    > renders causation meaningless, for you cannot distinguish it from
    > anything else, since it becomes omnipresent, even in empty
    > space.

    You forgot all about levels, didn't you?! :-) When you start making
    distinctions, you have to work at a lower level than that of the universe
    as a whole. This is not rocket science, Joe.

    > > > let us look at P-E pairs, however. When
    > > > they come together, what entity survives their mutual annihilation?
    > >
    > > You're fixating on "entity". The effect is clearly the absense of the
    > > pair.
    > >
    > Your own cut-and-pasted words:
    > that the concept of causation requires the causal
    > entity to precede that instant, and the caused one to survive it.
    > Are you repudiating them now?

    "Entity" was the wrong word -- I misspoke. I repudiate that word, if
    you like. "Situation" would have been better.

    > One can point to the alteration of a
    > presence (configuration, location, etc.) as an effect, but an
    > absence, as you state?

    Why not?

    > If nothing can be the effect of something,
    > then can it also be it's cause?

    You're the expert on something coming out of nothing, so why don't
    you tell us?

    > We (well, some of us) impose causative sequentiality upon
    > objects, which merely spatiotemporally change with the passage of
    > time. No causal entity can be separated from the interacting
    > objexts and pointed to in isolation, because it is a cognitively
    > imposed addition, with no mind-independent existence (David
    > Hume's point). It is what you would call maya, and what others
    > consider a construction.

    But Joe, it is *you* who are saying the normal concept of causation is
    maya, and *me* who is saying that's what *your* intellectual gymnastics
    amount to!

    > > You're confusing me with someone else, again. Scott Chase, I think,
    > > this time. I talk consistently about vertical causation, and view the
    > > bottom-up variety as no more valid than top-down. The only move that
    > > can occur between levels is a change in viewpoint, going for more
    > > detail or for a broader scope. Switching between a magnifying glass
    > > and a scanning electron microscope does not affect the specimen being
    > > studied, only which aspect of it is seen. Atoms don't *cause*
    > > molecules, because groups of them *are* molecules. Neural activity
    > > doesn't *cause* our decisions, because it *is* our decisions. Sure,
    > > you can use the word "cause" to cover such emergence, but only at the
    > > price of generating confusion. Top-down and bottom-up causation are
    > > both artefacts of sloppy thinking.
    > >
    > The large gaps you seem to be committed to imposing upon the
    > data are rendered apparent only if you peruse over a vast gradation;
    > there is little difference between one SEM and another one set to a
    > bit less magnification.

    A vast gradation is exactly what there is, in the context of interest.
    The gradation between neural activity and consciousness is easily vast
    enough to allow deterministic activation of neurons at one extreme and
    conscious decision-making at the other.

    > > By the way, your favourite example of "top-down causation", the
    > > correlation between subjects' reports and PET scans, is perfectly
    > > covered by what I call "diagonal causation", as fully explained on the
    > > web page.
    > >
    > Ok, now this is TRULY hilarious! There can be, according to you,
    > NO vertical causation, only horizontal causation, and (of course?)
    > diagonal causation (hello! Diagonals, or slopes, are composed of
    > both horizontal AND vertical components, dewde!).

    If you'd bothered to read it, you'd have seen that only the horizontal
    component is true causation, while the vertical component is translation
    between the explanatory frameworks associated with different levels.
    Where you find yourself getting so excited over an apparent error,
    it's wise to check your facts before "shooting off".

    Robin Faichney
    Get your Meta-Information from
    (CAUTION: contains philosophy, may cause heads to spin)

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