The paper defends an Aristotelian notion of indeterminism, as rigorously formulated in the framework of branching space-times (BST) of Belnap (1992), against the model-theoretic characterization of indeterminism that Montague (1962) introduced into the philosophy of science. It delineates BST branching against the background provided by Earman's (2008) distinction between individual vs. ensemble branching. It describes a construction of physically-motivated BST models, in which histories are isomorphic to Minkowski spacetime. Finally it responds to criticism leveled against BST by addressing (...) some semantical questions, a topological issue, and the past/future asymmetry. (shrink)
The causal Markov condition (CMC) plays an important role in much recent work on the problem of causal inference from statistical data. It is commonly thought that the CMC is a more problematic assumption for genuinely indeterministic systems than for deterministic ones. In this essay, I critically examine this proposition. I show how the usual motivation for the CMC—that it is true of any acyclic, deterministic causal system in which the exogenous variables are independent—can be extended to the indeterministic case. (...) In light of this result, I consider several arguments for supposing indeterminism a particularly hostile environment for the CMC, but conclude that none are persuasive. Introduction Functional models and directed graphs The causal Markov theorem The causal Markov theorem and genuine indeterminism Are the exogenous variables independent? EPR Conclusion. (shrink)
I assess Robert Kane's view that global Frankfurt-type cases don't show that freedom to do otherwise is never required for moral responsibility. I first adumbrate Kane's indeterminist account of free will.This will help us grasp Kane's notion of ultimate responsibility, and his claim that in a global Frankfurt-type case, the counterfactual intervener could not control all of the relevant agent's actions in the Frankfurt manner, and some of those actions would be such that the agent could have done otherwise. Appealing (...) to considerations of responsibility and luck, I then show that the global cases survive Kane's objections. (shrink)
In "The Indeterministic Character of Evolutionary Theory: No 'Hidden Variables Proof' But No Room for Determinism Either," Brandon and Carson (1996) argue that evolutionary theory is statistical because the processes it describes are fundamentally statistical. In "Is Indeterminism the Source of the Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory?" Graves, Horan, and Rosenberg (1999) argue in reply that the processes of evolutionary biology are fundamentally deterministic and that the statistical character of evolutionary theory is explained by epistemological rather than ontological considerations. (...) In this paper I focus on the topic of mutation. By focusing on some of the theory and research on this topic from early to late, I show how quantum indeterminism hooks up to point mutations (via tautomeric shifts, proton tunneling, and aqueous thermal motion). I conclude with a few thoughts on some of the wider implications of this topic. (shrink)
We argue that Brandon and Carson's (1996) "The Indeterministic Character of Evolutionary Theory" fails to identify any indeterminism that would require evolutionary theory to be a statistical or probabilistic theory. Specifically, we argue that (1) their demonstration of a mechanism by which quantum indeterminism might "percolate up" to the biological level is irrelevant; (2) their argument that natural selection is indeterministic because it is inextricably connected with drift fails to join the issue with determinism; and (3) their view (...) that experimental methodology in botany assumes indeterminism is both false and incompatible with the commitment to discoverable causal mechanisms underlying biological processes. We remain convinced that the probabilism of the theory of evolution is epistemically, not ontologically, motivated. (shrink)
Evidence from experimental philosophy indicates that people think that their choices are not determined. What remains unclear is why people think this. Denying determinism is rather presumptuous given people’s general ignorance about the nature of the universe. In this paper, I’ll argue that the belief in indeterminism depends on a default presumption that we know the factors that influence our decision making. That presumption was reasonable at earlier points in intellectual history. But in light of work in cognitive science, (...) we are no longer justified in sustaining the presupposition that we know what influences our choices. As a result, I’ll suggest, our belief in indeterminist choice is unjustified. (shrink)
It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible action might (...) obtain under the assumption of indeterminism. Despair over the prospect of giving a satisfactory answer to this question has led some contemporary philosophers to a position rarely, if ever, held in the history of philosophy: free, responsible action is an incoherent concept.2. (shrink)
The present paper studies a specific way of addressing the question whether the laws involving the basic constituents of nature are statistical. While most German physicists, above all Planck, treated the issues of determinism and causality within a Kantian framework, the tradition which I call Vienna Indeterminism began from Mach’s reinterpretation of causality as functional dependence. This severed the bond between causality and realism because one could no longer avail oneself of a priori categories as a criterion for empirical (...) reality. Hence, an independent reality criterion had to be sought, a problem which all three physicists to be studied solved in different ways that were mainly conditioned by their different concepts of probability. In order to prevent a dissipation of intuited facts, Mach had to resort to a principle of unique determination as his reality criterion, especially when discussing the Principle of Least Action. Giving theories more independence, Boltzmann understood atomism as property reduction to precisely defined theoretical entities and their interactions. While this served as a relative reality criterion, he also advocated a constructivist one because atomism was already implied by our finitary reasoning power. Finally, Exner contemplated the idea that all apparently deterministic laws are only a macroscopic limit of an irreducible indeterminism, because by adopting the frequency interpretation, observable collectives could be considered as the real basic entities. (shrink)
I examine different arguments that could be used to establish indeterminism of neurological processes. Even though scenarios where single events at the molecular level make the difference in the outcome of such processes are realistic, this falls short of establishing indeterminism, because it is not clear that these molecular events are subject to quantum mechanical uncertainty. Furthermore, attempts to argue for indeterminism autonomously (i.e., independently of quantum mechanics) fail, because both deterministic and indeterministic models can account for (...) the empirically observed behavior of ion channels. (shrink)
Probability and indeterminism have always been core philosophical themes. This paper aims to contribute to understanding probability and indeterminism in biology. To provide the background for the paper, it will first be argued that an omniscient being would not need the probabilities of evolutionary theory to make predictions about biological processes. However, despite this, one can still be a realist about evolutionary theory, and then the probabilities in evolutionary theory refer to real features of the world. This prompts (...) the question of how to interpret biological probabilities which correspond to real features of the world but are in principle dispensable for predictive purposes. This paper will suggest three possible interpretations. The first interpretation is a propensity interpretation of kinds of systems. It will be argued that backward probabilities in biology do not present a problem for this propensity interpretation. The second interpretation is the frequency interpretation. Third, I will suggest Humean chances are a new interpretation of probability in evolutionary theory. Finally, this paper discusses Sansom’s argument that biological processes are indeterministic because probabilities in evolutionary theory refer to real features of the world. It will be argued that Sansom’s argument is not conclusive, and that the question whether biological processes are deterministic or indeterministic is still with us. (shrink)
It is usual to identify initial conditions of classical dynamical systems with mathematical real numbers. However, almost all real numbers contain an infinite amount of information. I argue that a finite volume of space can’t contain more than a finite amount of information, hence that the mathematical real numbers are not physically relevant. Moreover, a better terminology for the so-called real numbers is “random numbers”, as their series of bits are truly random. I propose an alternative classical mechanics, which is (...) empirically equivalent to classical mechanics, but uses only finite-information numbers. This alternative classical mechanics is non-deterministic, despite the use of deterministic equations, in a way similar to quantum theory. Interestingly, both alternative classical mechanics and quantum theories can be supplemented by additional variables in such a way that the supplemented theory is deterministic. Most physicists straightforwardly supplement classical theory with real numbers to which they attribute physical existence, while most physicists reject Bohmian mechanics as supplemented quantum theory, arguing that Bohmian positions have no physical reality. (shrink)
This article focuses on three themes concerning determinism and indeterminism. The first theme is observational equivalence between deterministic and indeterministic models. Here I discuss several results about observational equivalence and present an argument on how to choose between deterministic and indeterministic models involving indirect evidence. The second theme is whether Newtonian physics is indeterministic. I argue that the answer depends on what one takes Newtonian mechanics to be, and I highlight how contemporary debates on this issue differ from those (...) in the nineteenth century. The third major theme is how the method of arbitrary functions can be used to make sense of deterministic probabilities. I discuss various ways of interpreting the initial probability distributions and argue that they are best understood as physical, biological etc. quantities characterising the particular situation at hand. Also, I emphasise that the method of arbitrary functions deserves more attention than it has received so far. (shrink)
This paper deals with the historical and philosophical background of the introduction of the notion of branching time in philosophical logic as it is revealed in the hitherto unpublished mail-correspondence between Saul Kripke and A.N. Prior in the late 1950s. The paper reveals that the idea was first suggested by Saul Kripke in a letter to A.N. Prior, dated September 3, 1958, and it is shown how the elaboration of the idea in the course of the correspondence was intimately intervowen (...) with considerations of how to represent indeterminism and of the adequacy of tensed logic in light of special relativity. The correspondence underpins the point that Prior's later development of branching time may be understood as a crucial part of his attempt at the formulating a conceptual framework integrating basic human notions of time and free choice. (shrink)
Carl G. Hempel's doctrine of essential epistemic relativization of inductive-statistical explanation seems to entail the unintelligibility of the notion of objective homogeneity of reference classes. This discussion note explores the question of whether, as a consequence, essential epistemic relativization also entails the unintelligibility of the doctrine of indeterminism.
I first adumbrate pertinent aspectsof Robert Kane''s libertarian theory of free choice oraction and an objection of luck that has been levelledagainst the theory. I then consider Kane''s recentresponses to this objection. To meet these responses,I argue that the view that undetermined choices (ofthe sort implied by Kane''s theory) are a matter ofluck is associated with a view about actionexplanation, to wit: when Jones does A and hisdoing of A is undetermined, and when hiscounterpart, Jones*, in the nearest possibleworld in (...) which the past and the laws are held constantuntil the moment of choice does B instead, thereis no explanation (deterministic or indeterministic)of the difference in outcome – Jones''s A-ing butJones*''s B-ing – in terms of prior reasonsor motives of either agent. Absence of such anexplanation is one crucial factor that underliesthe charge that Jones''s A-ing and Jones*''sB-ing are matters of luck. I argue that thissort of luck is incompatible with responsibility. (shrink)
A suspicion about libertarian free will is that freedom is undermined, rather than supported, by the positing of indeterminism within processes of volition. In response, this paper presents a way in which moments of indeterminism can enhance freedom, by showing how such moments can genuinely belong to the agent. The key idea is that of putting the imagination to work in the service of free agency. The suggestion is that indeterministic processes of imaginative generativity can both belong to (...) an agent, and provide a ground for claims of freedom. In contrast to Robert Kane’s libertarian proposal of locating critical self-forming actions in special moments of rational choice, freedom-friendly indeterministic moments of self-shaping are instead posited within processes of imaginative generativity in which our future possibilities are imagined. This incompatibilist alternative to traditional libertarianism is briefly compared to Mele’s modest libertarianism, and defended against a selection of likely criticisms. (shrink)
In recent years, as the enterprise of speculative metaphysics has attained a newfound measure of respectability, incompatibilist philosophers who are inclined to think that freedom of action is not only possible, but actual, have re-emerged to take on the formidable task of providing a satisfactory indeterministic account of the connections among an agent's freedom to do otherwise, her reasons, and her control over her act. In this paper, I want to examine three of these proposals, all of which give novel (...) twists to familiar themes. I will argue that despite the considerable ingenuity these philosophers evince, their attempts do not succeed. A common criticism of these theories will be that they fail to give a satisfactory account of what I term "agent-control," a certain feature of actions whose presence I take to be a central requirement for any workable model of responsible agency. I believe that the general notion I try to capture under this label is implicit in much of the voluminous discussion of the problem of free will (especially in compatibilist criticisms of libertarianism), although I am unaware of any explicit formulations of it in just the way I have in mind. Simply put, agent-control is that feature of the process of agency that accounts for how a particular piece of behavior is connected to, or an 'outflowing of, the agent, i.e., that which allows us properly to assert that the action was controlled by the agent. (shrink)
Many phenomena in the world display a striking time-asymmetry: the forwards transition frequencies are approximately invariant while the backwards ones are not. I argue in this paper that theories of such phenomena will entail that time has a direction, and that quantum mechanics in particular entails that the future is objectively different from the past.
E.J. Lowe claims that quantum physics provides examples of ontic indeterminacy, of vagueness in the world. Any such claim must confront the Evans-Salmon argument to the effect that the notion of ontic indeterminacy is simply incoherent (Evans 1978, Salmon 1981: 243-46). Lowe argues that a standard version of the Evans-Salmon argument fails quite generally (Lowe 1994). Harold Noonan (1995) has outlined a non-standard version of the argument, but Lowe argues that this non-standard version fails for specifically quantum mechanical reasons (Lowe (...) 1997). He claims that it is perfectly coherent to suppose that his quantum case is an example of ontic indeterminacy. In this paper, I raise some objections to Lowe's claim. (shrink)
_One summary of the great Kant's view, to the extent that it can be summed up, is_ _that he takes determinism to be a kind of fact, and indeterminism to be another kind_ _of fact, and our freedom to be a fact too -- but takes this situation to have nothing to_ _do with the kind of compatibility of determinism and freedom proclaimed by such_ _Compatibilists as Hobbes and Hume. Thus Kant does not make freedom consistent_ _with determinism by (...) taking up a definition of freedom as voluntariness -- at bottom,_ _being able to do what you want. This he dismisses as a wretched subterfuge,_ _quibbling about words. Rather, the freedom he seeks to make consistent with_ _determinism does indeed seem to be the freedom of the Incompatibilists --_ _origination. Is he then an Incompatibilist? Well, against that, it can be said he does_ _not allow the existence of origination in what can be called the world we know, as_ _Incompatibilists certainly do._. (shrink)
Originally published in 1934, this book presents the content of an inaugural lecture delivered by the British philosopher Charles Dunbar Broad, upon taking up the position of Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University. The text presents a discussion of the relationship between determinism, indeterminism and libertarianism. This book will be of value to anyone with an interest in the writings of Broad and the history of philosophy.
A recent proposal by Norton (2003) to show that a simple Newtonian system can exhibit stochastic acausal behavior by giving rise to spontaneous movements of a mass on the dome of a certain shape is examined. We discuss the physical significance of an often overlooked and yet important Lipschitz condition the violation of which leads to the existence of anomalous nontrivial solutions in this and similar cases. We show that the Lipschitz condition is closely linked with the time reversibility of (...) certain solutions in Newtonian mechanics and the failure to incorporate this condition within Newtonian mechanics may unsurprisingly lead to physically impossible solutions that have no serious metaphysical implications. ‡I thank Steven Savitt of the Philosophy Department at the University of British Columbia for drawing my attention to the Lipschitz condition, and Alexei Cheviakov of the Mathematics Department at the University of British Columbia for useful discussions. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
The general question to which Edwards here addresses himself is "whether any event whatsoever, and volition in particular, can come to pass without a cause of its existence," and among other arguments for a negative answer he has a reductio ad absurdum, arguing that if an act of will can occur without a cause, then anything at all, no matter how fantastic, can occur without a cause. There is, he says in effect, an inner contradiction in the notion that uncaused (...) events are bound always to be acts of will. We must note, however, in following his argument through, that his language is not quite that which I have just used, and in particular he does not speak primarily of what "occurs" but rather of what "begins to be." He says. (shrink)
Recent empirical evidence indicates that people tend to believe that they possess indeterminist free will, and people’s experience of choosing and deciding is that they possess such freedom. Some also maintain that people’s belief in indeterminist free will has its source in their experience of choosing and deciding. Yet there seem to be good reasons to resist endorsing. Despite this, I maintain that belief in indeterminist free will really does have its source in experience. I explain how this is so (...) by appeal to the phenomenon of prospection, which is the mental simulation of future possibilities for the purpose of guiding action. Crucially, prospection can be experienced. And because of the way in which prospection models choice, it is easy for agents to experience and to believe that their choice is indeterministic. Yet this belief is not justified; the experience of prospection, and hence of free will as being indeterminist, is actually consistent with determinism. (shrink)
I argue that results from foraging theory give us good reason to think some evolutionary phenomena are indeterministic and hence that evolutionary theory must be probabilistic. Foraging theory implies that random search is sometimes selectively advantageous, and experimental work suggests that it is employed by a variety of organisms. There are reasons to think such search will sometimes be genuinely indeterministic. If it is, then individual reproductive success will also be indeterministic, and so too will frequency change in populations of (...) organisms employing such search. (shrink)
The main goal of this paper is to contribute to the clarification of the dialectics between compatibilists and incompatibilists on free action. I describe a new incompatibilist position that has been neglected in the literature. I also provide a proper rationale for such a position. First, I present a justification for incompatibilism that is composed of an old idea and a new one. The old idea is the FRAP principle: freedom requires alternative possibilities. Compatibilists and incompatibilists alike usually share a (...) Key Assumption about how the open alternative possibilities allowed by indeterminism are supposed to support the libertarian case: the existence of alternative possibilities should make a metaphysically relevant difference concerning the control and/or the authorship of the agent over the action. The other component in the justification for incompatibilism is the rejection of the Key Assumption. Why to preserve FRAP when the Key Assumption is dropped? The answer has three parts: we have a strong pre-theoretical intuition in favour of FRAP; a crucial anti-libertarian argument, known as the Luck Argument, can be interpreted as showing that FRAP and the Key Assumption cannot both be true; the Luck Argument doesn't work when directed against FRAP itself. (shrink)
The historical origin and the experimental basis of the concept of physical determinism indicate that this basis was removed with the acceptance of the kinetic theory of matter, while its difficulties are increased by the admission that human nature, in its entirety, is a product of natural causation. An indeterministic view of causation has the advantages (a) of unifying the concept of natural law in different spheres of human experience and (b) of a greater generality, which precludes the acceptance of (...) the special case of completely deterministic causation, so long as this is an unproved assumption. It is not inconsistent with the orderliness of the world, or with the fruitful pursuit of natural knowledge. It enriches rather than weakens the concept of of causation. It possesses definite advantages with respect to the one-sidedness of human memory, and to the phenomena of aiming and striving observable in man and other animals. Among biological theories it appears to be most completely in harmony with the theory of natural selection, which in its statistical nature resembles the second law of thermo-dynamics. In an indeterministic world natural causation has a creative element, and science is interested in locating the original causes of effects of special interest, and not merely in pushing a chain of causation backwards ad infinitum. These contrasting tendencies are illustrated by a critique of the mutation theory, and by an attempt more closely to define the sense in which indeterministic causation should be thought of as creative. (shrink)
Indeterminism, understood as a notion that an event may be continued in a few alternative ways, invokes the question what a region of chanciness looks like. We concern ourselves with its topological and spatiotemporal aspects, abstracting from the nature or mechanism of chancy processes. We first argue that the question arises in Montague-Lewis-Earman conceptualization of indeterminism as well as in the branching tradition of Prior, Thomason and Belnap. As the resources of the former school are not rich enough (...) to study topological issues, we investigate the question in the framework of branching space-times of Belnap (Synthese 92:385–434, 1992). We introduce a topology on a branching model as well as a topology on a history in a branching model. We define light-cones and assume four conditions that guarantee the light-cones so defined behave like light-cones of physical space-times. From among various topological separation properties that are relevant to our question, we investigate the Hausdorff property. We prove that each history in a branching model satisfies the Hausdorff property. As for the satisfaction of the Hausdorff property in the entire branching model, we prove that it is related to the phenomenon of passive indeterminism, which we describe in detail. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to prove the consistency of libertarianism. We examine the example of Jane, who deliberates at length over whether to vacation in Colorado (C) or Hawaii (H), weighing the costs and benefits, consulting travel brochures, etc. Underlying phenomenological deliberation is an indeterministic neural process in which nonactual motor neural states n(C) and n(H) corresponding to alternatives C and H remain physically possible up until the moment of decision. The neurophysiological probabilities pr(n(C)) and pr(n(H)) evolve continuously (...) according to the different weights Jane's judgement attaches to C and H at different times during the deliberation. The overall process is indeterministic, since Jane's exact judgemental weighting would vary slightly were the process to be repeated from the same initial conditions. The weighting is however rational, and entirely under Jane's control. This controlled, rational, indeterministic process shows that libertarianism is a consistent philosophical thesis. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal, “How should libertarians conceive of the location and role of indeterminism?” Christopher Evan Franklin critically examines my libertarian view of free will and attempts to improve upon it. He says that while Kane's influential [view] offers many important advances in the development of a defensible libertarian theory of free will and moral responsibility … [he made] “two crucial mistakes in formulating libertarianism” – one about the location of indeterminism, the other about (...) its role – “both of which have helped fan the flame of the luck argument”. In this paper, I respond to Franklin's criticisms, arguing that, so far from making it significantly more difficult to answer objections about luck and control, as he claims, giving indeterminism the location and role I do makes it possible to answer such objections and many other related objections to libertarian free will. A central theme of this paper will emerge in my responses: In order to make sense of freedom of will... (shrink)
Quantum indeterminism may make available the option of an interactionism that does not have to pay the price of a force over and above those forces that are acknowledged in physics in order to explain how intentions can be physically effective. I show how this option might work in concrete terms and offer a criticism of it.
In this paper I wish to argue that counterfactual analyses of causation are inadequate. I believe the counterfactuals that are involved in counterfactual analyses of causation are often false, and thus the theories do not provide an adequate account of causation. This is demonstrated by the presentation of a counterexample to the counterfactual analyses of causation. I then present a unified theory of causation that is based upon probability and counterfactuals. This theory accounts for both deterministic and indeterministic causation, and (...) is not subject to many of the traditional problems facing theories of causation. (shrink)