Talk:Dilemma of determinism/Archive 4

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The logical structure

I thought that before Pfhorrest returned to actively editing this page, I would revisit his logical analysis of just what constitutes the 'dilemma of determinism' made 07:50, 25 September 2013. That might provide a useful starting point for further work on this page. To quote:

The dilemma is of this form:
(D ¬D) ¬F
That is an implication from an antecedent, the "(D ∨ ¬D)" part, to the consequent, the "¬F" part.

Pfhorrest goes on: "(D ∨ ¬D), is not a dilemma by itself. It might be called a dichotomy. A dichotomy becomes a dilemma if some bad thing is implied by either fork of the dichotomy."

I agree with his assessment. In other words, the 'dilemma' by this account is not that of choosing between the two 'horns', D or ¬ D. Either choice leads to ¬F.

So how might we pose the dilemma in words? The dilemma is that free will conflicts with either horn of the dichotomy, D or ¬D. Let's compare that with the present lead sentence:

"The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will is an argument that there exists a dilemma between determinism and its negation, indeterminism, in that both are purported to undermine the possibility of free will."

Although the formulation of the dilemma is accurate, I have several issues with this sentence. One is that it immediately jumps into technical vocabulary for which more ordinary language would be clearer: 'free will', 'determinism', 'indeterminism'. Second, it begins with the dilemma as 'between determinism and its negation, indeterminism", which we all agree is the dichotomy, and only then identifies the dilemma as 'in that both are purported...' IMO, that wording is going to leave some readers thinking the dichotomy is the dilemma. Third, it doesn't properly treat the 'standard argument'. Can we be clearer and less technical?

Here is a possible replacement:

"In philosophy the dilemma of determinism historically was the quandary posed by a belief that 'fate' determines everything, contradicting an intuition that humans have some control over decisions about their own conduct. A modern version of the quandary does not rely upon a mysterious 'fate' as determining events, but is based upon the assumption that, however it occurs, the course of events is independent of us. The subjective intuition that humans influence their own decisions is formalized as free will, and one view is that a correct resolution of the quandary disallows free will, a view sometimes called the standard argument against free will."

Brews ohare (talk) 23:33, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

This (new talk section) is a very useful starting point. Part of the reason I've been overwhelmed about coming back is that there's just so much to respond to and I never have the time and energy to face that kind of undertaking lately. This is a much smaller easier place to start.
Let's start with talking about the language of dichotomies and dilemmas.
A dichotomy is when you are forced to choose between two options: picking one automatically excludes the other and excluding one automatically picks the other. It has to be either one way or another. For example, "either it will rain here some time tomorrow or it won't".
A dilemma is when you are faced with a dichotomy and either choice is bad somehow. For example, "if it rains here before the end of the day tomorrow my giant paper mache float will be ruined by water damage, but if it doesn't rain here before the end of the day tomorrow the flowers to decorate that float will dry out and die".
Any old problem in general is not a dilemma. For example, "if I don't finish my float they won't let me into the parade" isn't a dilemma.
A dilemma is "between" the two sides of the dichotomy it is built out of. For example, in the above examples there is a dilemma between it raining here some time tomorrow and it not doing so, in that in either case my float is ruined.
Likewise, it is posited that a dichotomy exists between determinism and indeterminism, and that each side of that dichotomy presents a different problem for the existence of free will, so there is thus a dilemma between determinism and indeterminism in that either way there is some problem or other for the existence of free will.
Now, the "standard argument against free will" is simply the argument that there is such a dilemma, thus there is in any case some problem or another for the existence of free will, thus free will doesn't exist. That argument breaks down into two parts: an argument that determinism presents one kind of problem for the existence of free will, and an argument that indeterminism presents another kind of problem for the existence of free will.
It might perhaps be worth it to add to the end of the existing first sentence "and thus that free will is in either case impossible", as that is the conclusion of the argument: "[...] there exists a dilemma between determinism and its negation, indeterminism, in that both [...] undermine the possibility of free will, and thus [...] free will is in either case impossible" is a succinct version of the argument. The "purportedly" and "that" I've elided from this quote serve to keep the article from making that argument in its own voice rather than merely reporting that the argument has been made as it should.
I still think your argument against "technical vocabulary" has no legs to stand on. This is a narrow subject within one subject area within the field of philosophy and so should feel free to use philosophical terminology and wikilink it to broader articles for further elaboration. I mean, the current lede to the article Baryon requires you to know what a composite particle is, what an elementary particle is, what a quark is, and to care about what a meson and a hadron are and how they relate to baryons (and to know what an antiparticle is to understand the description of mesons). I mean, either know those things, or click the wikilinked words to find out more about what they are. If the article on baryons tried to explain all of the things you need to understand before you can understand what a baryon is first, it would go on for a couple paragraphs at least before getting around to giving the definition, or else take a couple paragraphs giving said definition in slow pieces. And the articles on quarks, mesons, hadrons, etc, would each have to go over much of the same information themselves too. The rest of the wiki exists, we can link to it when we use big words and trust readers to follow the links if they need to.
As for your suggested paragraph, aside from the above issues my point-by-point objections are:
  • "In philosophy" is unnecessary because there isn't another "dilemma of determinism" in another field to distinguish it from.
  • "historically was" suggests that this is an old dead issue. It's still out there and alive and being discussed in contemporary universities. This isn't phlogiston or something.
  • "the quandary posed by a belief that 'fate' determines everything, contradicting an intuition that humans have some control over decisions about their own conduct" does not describe the dilemma of determinism at all. It describes only one fork of it, and only one narrow (and this time actually mostly dead) version of that fork. This is the biggest ongoing concern of mine about your understanding of the issue, and was the reason I started the earlier "logic" talk section to clarify, and the rest of your suggested lede basically runs with it, so I'm going to break from piece-by-piece analysis here and go more into that again.
What you're written here as a description of the dilemma might be formalized here as:
D ∴ ¬F
What the dilemma actually says is:
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F
And since (D ∨ ¬D) is tautologically true, that's tantamount to the argument:
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F ∴ ¬F
Here's the steps we'd need to take to get from what you've written as a description of the dilemma to an accurate one. Each one of these necessary changes highlights an apparent misunderstanding on your part of what the dilemma is claiming, so it's important to go over them. We start with what you've written:
D ∴ ¬F
First, the dilemma isn't asserting D, it's only asserting a conditional with D as the antecedent, so we need to turn that "therefore" (∴) into an "entails" (⇒), like so:
D ⇒ ¬F
Next, the dilemma is also asserting another conditional with the negation of D as the antecedent, but the same consequent, namely this:
¬D ⇒ ¬F
We could just write a conjunction of those two conditionals, like this:
(D ⇒ ¬F) ∧ (¬D ⇒ ¬F)
That would be an accurate description of the dilemma. However, a simpler logically equivalent form would be to disjoin the antecedents on one side of the entailment with the shared consequent on the other side, like this:
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F
To turn that statement of the dilemma of determinism into the standard argument against free will, we just need to conclude from the tautological truth of (D ∨ ¬D) and their postulated entailment of ¬F that ¬F is so, like so:
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F ∴ ¬F
Do you follow all of that? --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:25, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi Pfhorrest: Glad you are back here. This topic is very interesting to me. Let me begin with your asterisks.

  • "In philosophy": I agree there isn't another philosophical 'dilemma of determinism'. But maybe there are readers who don't know this dilemma is a philosophical dilemma, but have in mind something else? To be silly, they may feel that it is some psychological state of mind that has to do with the difficulties involved in being determined to do what you want to do?
  • "'historically was' suggests that this is an old dead issue." That is not my intent. It may be that 'fate' hasn't the same command over us today as it did for Chrysippus, but it is readily understood today. That is why I thought it would get the idea across of the inexorable unfolding of events beyond human control. However, I felt that 'fate' today is replaced by our concept of the 'laws of nature', which for the purpose of explaining the internal mental conflict behind the dilemma isn't really different, but from the viewpoint of credibility the 'laws of nature' (or whatever terminology you like) are much more concrete and detailed than 'fate'.
  • "'the quandary posed by a belief that 'fate' determines everything, contradicting an intuition that humans have some control over decisions about their own conduct' does not describe the dilemma." I'd like to talk about this a bit more. I believe that your formal statement of the dilemma:
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F
is accurate once things have reached a certain level of formality. For example, once you have decided that it is possible for some specific verbal versions of D and F to capture the problem. Naturally, discussion uses concepts, and without them you may go around in circles. However, this activity is a response to a felt need. That need, I think, is to resolve the tension in one's mind between the everyday intuition that I am in charge (more or less) of what I decide to do from moment to moment, and my other conviction as an observer of the world, that a lot is going on that I have no control over. The unease develops that maybe my intuitions about what is under my own control is just another fantasy of my mind. To compare these two aspects of life, I formalize my intuition and my observations of the world. That can lead me to
(D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F.
However, this translation is theoretical, and the underlying motives may find any particular formalization inadequate.
I imagine that you want to skip this motivational background and begin with the examination of particular formalizations. To me that basically skips the whole philosophical purpose. It seems analogous to the computer programmer who loves to write code, and so skips over the complexities of asking the customer for details about what the code is supposed to accomplish. For me, the mental anguish leading to the formal dilemma is primal and should be kept up front.
This is longer than I expected. I'd be delighted to hear more from you. Brews ohare (talk) 12:58, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Possibly you would respond that this article is about (D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F, and how one has arrived at (D ∨ ¬D) ⇒ ¬F is another subject. I'd agree that one doesn't need to go into a ton of detail here, but omitting the underlying angst leaves some readers wondering what the fuss is about. Brews ohare (talk) 14:01, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

(D ∨ ¬D)

Some possible universes

Here is a question: the posing of the dichotomy as (D ∨ ¬D) assumes that D and ¬D exhaust the universe. The verbal formulation of D as 'causal' events can be arranged to imply that ¬D is random (probabilistic) events. However, must the dilemma be formulated this way? The figure shows this universe on the left, and a different universe on the right: it contains S = scientifically explained events, M = mental events, and D = 'determined' events. The angst behind the 'dilemma of determinism' doesn't exist in this universe if we suppose that ¬D is not necessarily random (uncaused causation?), or that D actually is a chimera. (Fischer?) Should this issue be raised in this article? Brews ohare (talk) 15:16, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

No----Snowded TALK 20:26, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: That's your long answer, eh? Helpful. Brews ohare (talk) 00:22, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
You are a time waster Brews. The above proposal ignores what every other editor has said to you about the scope of this article. So you are going to get short answers ----Snowded TALK 03:27, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
This is beside the point entirely. D and ¬D are formulated in a way that they explicitly have to exhaust the universe. There may be many other ways of dividing the universe up, but those have no bearing on the D-or-¬D dichotomy. Since you drew a picture I've drawn another to illustrate, though I'm not hosting it on Wikipedia because this is for discussion and not encyclopedic illustration:
The dilemma is claiming that being in the red box is bad for free will, and being in the cyan box is bad for free will, and those boxes are drawn in a way to cover the whole field of possibility. Other boxes can be drawn overlapping with them, but they're not relevant to the claims made about the red and cyan box. It would be relevant to counter that the red and cyan boxes are not relevant to the problem of free will, but in doing so you would be saying either that the red box is not a problem for free will (which is what compatibilists do), or that the cyan box is not a problem for free will (which is what Van Inwagen does; he says only the blue box is a problem), or neither of them is a problem (as Pinker and Bok might). But drawing those magenta and green boxes on there doesn't change a thing about the red and cyan boxes.
Everything still falls into one or the other, so if both are a problem, then there's a problem one way or the other. To disagree with that is inherently to say that at least one or the other of them isn't a problem. You might want to follow up something like: neither the red or cyan box are a problem, but the magenta box is. That's fine. I do something like that, so do Pinker and Box (with a different "magenta box" though). But the point is when someone says "either the red or cyan box would be a problem", if you want to disagree with that you have to say "no, at least one (if not both) of them is not" before you move on to say what would be a problem, because otherwise you're just going off on an unrelated subject without first answering the challenge posed to you.
To pull back an old analogy I made: if someone claims "eating macaroni will kill you, and not eating macaroni will kill you!", and you just reply "smoking will kill you"... yeah ok, so? Someone just claimed you'll die whether or not you eat macaroni. Are you going to respond to that, at least to tell them "no, neither eating nor not-eating macaroni will affect my life expectancy"? Or do you just want to start an unrelated discussion about smoking's effects on life expectancy? --Pfhorrest (talk) 09:13, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I didn't intend to introduce a whirlwind here. My intention was simply to query whether the universe divided into D and ¬D was only a logical fiction unrelated to the actual universe we live in. The pertinence of this topic to an article based upon (D ∨ ¬D) is plain: if D and ¬D are fictitious, then a division according to this dichotomy is just a game, as is the 'dilemma of determinism' itself, should one insist upon posing the dilemma in this way. Obviously, if, according to some published fraction of the literature, D doesn't exist in the universe except as an abstract concept, it needs to be mentioned that the 'dilemma' posed in this way is considered according to some thinkers as either being silly or being incorrectly posed.
From that viewpoint, one might ask: supposing that (D ∨ ¬D) does not (according to some) adequately capture the gist of the dichotomy behind the dilemma as it is intuitively felt, can the felt dilemma be logically posed using a differently framed dichotomy? To elucidate on what I mean by the felt dilemma, I'm referring to our subjective uneasiness over the tension between the seemingly ineluctable processes of the outside world and what Caruso says is "the unmistakable intuition of virtually every human being that he is free to make the choices he does and that the deliberations leading to those choices are also free flowing."
If this is a sore point, I'd rather go back to the discussion of your asterisked points in the thread above where we can make some progress, I think.
I'm unprepared to assess the literature critiquing D at the moment. However, here is a brief look at some literature engaged in assessment of D: Ilya Prigogine, a famous practitioner of thermodynamics, has written a critique of determinism in his book The End of Certainty. The paper by JJC Smart was apparently aimed at the position of CA Campbell that Smart characterized as 'uncaused causation', and Pinker discusses the "notion of uncaused causation that underlies the will". It is my conjecture that there is a substantial school of thought going back to antiquity, that arguably also includes William James and Immanuel Kant and Steven Pinker and Hilary Bok and Jacob Needleman, that follows the position that the universe does not divide meaningfully into D and ¬D. According to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, "The problem is ancient in its origins...But philosophers have been more concerned with what is to many of us the most compelling part of that general question: whether we ourselves, persons, are subject to the same kind of causal necessity. Philosophers have cared less about whether or not the rest of the universe is determined — what they have cared about more is whether or not our lives are determined."
Of course, there is no need to go off the deep end here; but this position probably should be brought up and flagged. Brews ohare (talk) 10:12, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
I think this is the more productive place to focus than on the section above, because this is getting at the same problem I was last writing about above.
My big concern throughout here has been an apparent conflation you make between the dilemma of determinism and the general conflict long posited between free will and determinism. It seems as if you think the real dilemma worth talking about is this:
  • if the causes of people's decisions are scientifically explainable then they must be determined and thus not free, and that's bad;
  • but if people's decisions are free then they must not be determined and thus not scientifically explainable, and that's also bad.
That is a dilemma, but it's a different one than the subject of this article. The third way out of that dilemma that you seem to feel is missing is the position that nothing is determined, and yet plenty of things are still scientifically explainable, so there's room for freedom without undermining science, and determinism is an irrelevant red herring that just confuses the issue. But for all that argument's merits, it's an argument against something else besides the subject of this article.
The dilemma which is the subject of this article is a different one, and saying "nothing is determined" doesn't help against that one, because that's just one of the forks of the dilemma itself:
  • if people's decisions are determined, then they are not free for such-and-such reasons, and that's bad:
  • if people's decisions are not determined, then they are not free for different reasons, and that's still bad.
So the position that "D doesn't exist in the universe except as an abstract concept" doesn't take a third path out of the dilemma; that's just the second horn right there. The second horn says "if D doesn't exist, that's bad for free will". So if someone thinks the way to save free will from the dilemma is to say that D doesn't exist and that's fine, then that someone is taking the second horn, and arguing that it's not a problem. They are not taking a third path.
I keep raising this analogy and you've yet to respond to it. I know it's a silly one, but that's intentional, because it's analogous to the silliness of the dilemma of determinism, and clearly illustrates what possible responses to it look like. Please humor me and address this question. If someone argues to you "eating macaroni will kill you, but not eating macaroni will also kill you, so either way you're dead", what are the possible responses to that? They clearly are:
  1. Damn, then I guess I'm dead.
  2. No, eating macaroni won't kill me.
  3. No, not-eating-macaroni won't kill me.
  4. No, macaroni has no effect on my lifespan (= 2 & 3 both).
Do you see why the two options, eating macaroni or not, are necessarily logically exhaustive, even if you take position 4 that they're completely irrelevant to your lifespan? There can't be any option besides "eat macaroni" and "don't eat macaroni" because the second is by definition true whenever the first isn't, and vice versa.
Do you see that the dilemma is not between eating macaroni and living? You're not just being forced to choose between dying and never eating macaroni. You're being told that no matter what you do or don't do with macaroni, you're dead. It's an argument that death is inevitable, for some reason to do with macaroni or the lack thereof.
Do you see why just saying "I won't eat macaroni then" doesn't help? Because it's claimed that doing that will kill you too. If you think the way to live is to not eat macaroni, then you first have to disagree with the second fork, that not-eating-macaroni will also kill you. Also, in saying this, you're tacitly agreeing with the first fork, that eating macaroni will kill you.
In this analogy, "eating macaroni" is analogous to "our decisions being determined", "not eating macaroni" is analogous to "our decisions not being determined", and "will kill you" is analogous to "makes free will impossible".
--Pfhorrest (talk) 07:31, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: Yes I understand that if D is "one description of how things work" and ¬D is "all other descriptions of how things work" then every description of 'how things work' falls into either D or ¬D. Your suggestion is that I am concerned with a different set-up: if S is "one description of how things work" and ¬S is "all other descriptions of how things work" then every description of 'how things work' also falls into S or ¬S. But I gather, because this article is about (D ∨ ¬D), it needn't digress to mention (S ∨ ¬S). While it seems a bit peremptory to refuse mention of viable alternatives in an article about one particular approach that is DOA, be that as it may, neither D nor S is the fundamental issue. The basis of concern is the inherent perplexity we suffer from trying to reconcile two instinctive beliefs: (i) the belief that there exist inexorable events beyond our control (how we describe them is only details: gods, science or destiny), and (ii) the belief in a personal ability to decide one's own actions and to choose between 'right' and 'wrong'. The 'dilemma of determinism' is one consequence of this perplexity, and it is a serious omission to leave out the context from which this dilemma draws its life. Historically, the origin of the popular use of the term 'dilemma of determinism' is William James' talk of that name, and it is this perplexity that concerns him most in that talk. Likewise it is a serious omission to avoid all mention of different approaches to this perplexity that discredit the (D ∨ ¬D) approach to it, not only approaches that examine various formulations of D, but also those more directly connected to the subject-object problem. Brews ohare (talk) 12:20, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

A basic issue

Summary: The article Dilemma of determinism inadequately describes the human context generating the dilemma, and puts too much emphasis on philosophical technicalities. Brews ohare (talk) 09:12, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Response: The article describes a specific philosophical issue and it is inappropriate to extend it to a major discussion of the wider issues as envisaged above. ----Snowded TALK 12:51, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
If this article were of interest only to a specialized audience, it could assume adequate background in its readers and avoid much setting of the stage. However, that is not the situation. William James' use of this phrase in his popular address The dilemma of determinism in 1884 put this topic on the map for a popular audience, and it has stayed there ever since. Apparently there is some difficulty for the intro to this WP article on the subject to frame an understandable context in which to place the 'dilemma of determinism'. As things stand, the wording of the first line of the intro already contains the (here undefined) technical terms determinism and indeterminism that the lay reader will not understand, two still-evolving positions that today continue to be debated.[1][2][3] Brews ohare (talk) 14:56, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
The plain and simple well-spring leading to the 'dilemma of determinism' is the inherent perplexity we suffer from trying to reconcile two instinctive beliefs: (i) the belief that nature is comprised of inexorable events beyond our control (how we describe the forces behind them is only details: gods, science, destiny, caprice), and (ii) the belief in a personal ability to decide one's own actions and to choose between 'right' and 'wrong'. The 'dilemma of determinism' is one consequence of this perplexity, and it is a serious omission to leave out the context from which this dilemma draws its life. Brews ohare (talk) 15:04, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Of course, a dilemma is a very particular kind of perplexity: one offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. So we can say that extension of belief (i) to intrude upon belief (ii) is unacceptable and places us in a dilemma: Which belief actually applies to our decision processes? If it is belief (i), then belief (ii) is wrong. If it is belief (ii), then how do we draw the line between belief (i) and belief (ii)? The 'dilemma of determinism' as posed by Russell is a particular version:
"One horn of this dilemma is the argument that if an action was caused or necessitated, then it could not have been done freely and hence the agent is not responsible for it. The other horn is the argument that if the action was not caused, then it is inexplicable and random, and thus it cannot be attributed to the agent and hence, again, the agent cannot be responsible for it."
—Paul Russell: Freedom and Moral Sentiment, p. 14
These words limit the only available choices for classifying events to caprice and causality, and pose the dilemma as the unacceptable contradiction introduced when these categories are applied to our decisions, upsetting our intuitions about moral responsibility (and challenging the legal framework based upon these intuitions). It suggests the dilemma is between belief (ii) (in an ability to decide one's own actions) and the extension of a particular form of belief (i) to intrude upon belief (ii), namely, that all the events of the universe are best (indeed, can only) be explained as either caprice or causality. In my view, within the broader formulation of the dilemma based upon the generally stated intuitions (i) & (ii), Russell's formulation is only one, and a rather faulty one, almost a straw man version. Much stronger versions of the dilemma can be formulated that are in better agreement with the philosophy of science and are more easily defended. Brews ohare (talk) 16:07, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Of course, a 'way out' of the dilemma is to deny that belief (i) has universal scope, regardless of whether one views belief (i) from the view of gods, science, destiny, caprice, or anything else. The rub is how to define the boundary separating the domains of belief (i) and belief (ii). At present, one approach to this issue is based upon the inapplicability of science to subjective phenomena, among which are our decision processes, an inapplicability due to the limitations imposed upon science by the strictures that define its notions of 'objectivity'. The elaboration of this separation is a work in progress.[4][5] Brews ohare (talk) 13:24, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Another approach to the boundary separating the beliefs, also based upon limiting the scope of belief (i) has a much longer philosophical history, going back at least to Plato, and with more modern proponents in William James, Kant, and Jacob Needleman. That school of thought treats the relation between the inner person and the external world as a continual interplay involving the growing enlightenment of the mind provoked by its interactions with the world. The boundary between the two beliefs is not found in a specific formula, but in this dynamic, a self-questioning and inner struggle to "know thyself". This approach is more mystical and although not necessarily religious, is at home in a religious viewpoint. It is described for William James by Rick Armstrong (2011). "Chapter 8: "First principles of morals": evolutionary morality and American naturalism". In Keith Newlin, ed. The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism. Oxford University Press. pp. pp. 141–142. ISBN 0195368932.  :
"Moreover, in 'The Dilemma of Determinism' (1884) William James ...defined the dilemma as consisting not merely in the insignificance of human action but more importantly in the irrelevancy of human judgment because a determinist passively accepts all that happens...James argues that the world should not be viewed as a determinist machine but rather 'as a contrivance for deepening the theoretic consciousness of what goodness and evil in their intrinsic nature are'. James believes that individuals are compelled to exercise their abilities to make ethical decisions, connecting the individual will to a more ethical world and asserting that determinism left a void of moral passivity."
—Rick Armstrong: “First principles of morals”: Evolutionary morality and American naturalism, pp. 141-142
Brews ohare (talk) 13:51, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Addressing the dilemma in this way also is found in Jacob Needleman (1982). The Heart of Philosophy (Penguin reprint of Alfred A Knopf 1982 ed.). p. 47. ISBN 1585422517.  He interprets Plato's cave, stressing the idea of a total commitment of the mind, going beyond merely an intellectual understanding, in order to reach a comprehension of one's place in the universe:
"No wonder modern man could never solve the problem of free will, or the problem of the existence of God, or the problem of the relationship beteen mind and body. Long before the rise of contemporary scientific, logical philosophy, ideas began to be treated as concepts, as problem-solving devices. When this happens, when it is forgotten that real ideas require not only intellectual attention, but an all-round moral effort in order to be grasped, then a hopeless confusion sets in....[In] Plato's allegory of the cave...the prisoners can see only the shadows cast upon the wall in front of them. They are so shackled that they cannot even see the real objects behind them merely by turning their heads. They must turn the whole body, the whole person, in order to see the reality that is directly behind them."
—Jacob Needleman: “The Heart of Philosophy”, p. 47
Brews ohare (talk) 15:44, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Comment: The above outlines the complete context of the dilemma. It would be most helpful to pull this apart and see what should go into Dilemma of determinism. Brews ohare (talk) 15:48, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Response: The article describes a specific philosophical issue and it is inappropriate to extend it to a major discussion of the wider issues as envisaged above.----Snowded TALK 23:53, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: I think you said this already. As pointed out above, (i) a major discussion of wider issues is not proposed, and (ii) an understandable non-technical context for the topic accessible by the average reader is appropriate. Brews ohare (talk) 02:08, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
I have and I will carry on repeating until you pay attention ----Snowded TALK 07:03, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

A discussion of sources

Brews, you're still conflating the dilemma of determinism with the general conflict posited to exist between free will and determinism.

Again, the dilemma of determinism is not between "either we have free will, and so there's some kind of inscrutable magic happening" and "everything is determined, and we really have no choice in anything". That's just the conflict between free will and determinism. That asks us to choose between free will and determinism, and there are different people who would say that losing one or the other of those is a bad thing. An argument and lots of literature about that conflict exists, but it's a much bigger thing that we have other articles on already.

The dilemma of determinism takes that general conflict and adds something else: that there is a similar conflict between free will and anything that's not determinism, so one way or another there's no free will. It's not asking us to choose between determinism and free will. It's saying, whether we choose determinism or not, free will is doomed. That's why it's also called the "standard argument against free will". It is, notable, not an argument for determinism. It's not taking a position on that first conflict there, between free will and determinism. It's saying, whether or not determinism wins that conflict, free will has to lose anyway.

You seem to interpret that Paul Russell quote as saying that there is a dilemma between accepting free will and accepting that determinism and indeterminism exhaust the options. That's not what it's saying. The dilemma is not "D or not D" vs "F"; it's "D therefore not F" vs "not D therefore not F".

I think James is a red herring, because upon further reading his essay titled "Dilemma of Determinism" doesn't seem to be discussing the same problem that any of our other sources are. I just noticed this line on the site from which much of the content on this article was initially drawn: "Fischer mistakenly attributes this dilemma to William James's Dilemma of Determinism, which was actually a dilemma about regret in a deterministic world." So it looks like the term "dilemma of determinism" got applied to this subject by Fischer and used for this subject since, even though James' original essay by that title was not about the same subject at all, but rather the subject you seem to want to make this article about. Is that where all this confusion comes from? --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:00, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

Pfhorrest: You have raised some very important differences of opinion regarding what Russell says and what James says. That needs some exploration. Perhaps the main issue cannot be discussed, that of a non-technical laic introduction, until it is agreed just what is going on here. So let's start with James.


Let's focus upon The dilemma of determinism of 1884. Pfhorrest, you have labeled this talk as a 'red herring, because ...[he] doesn't seem to be discussing the same problem'. I'd tentatively agree that he is not discussing the problem as you envision it, which I take to be not the basic conflict between free will and determinism, not that, but a discussion of the opposition to chance or (with a possibility of allowing a more varied interpretation of determinism) the opposition to 'anything that is not determinism'. James is discussing the general issue of free will vs. (determinism or chance), and while he mentions both opponents, determinism and chance, and argues at length in favor of adding 'chance' to the opposing alternatives, his focus is upon the dilemma posed as the struggle between free will and (determinism or chance). So let's pause here for a moment to see if you think this way. Do you? You've suggested in contrast with James that the issue is not F vs. (D ∨ ¬D) but (F vs D) contrasted with (F vs ¬D). Brews ohare (talk) 16:27, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
Here are some bits from James where he approaches 'chance' in his discussion (there is a discussion of chance extending over several pages):
"And this at last brings us within sight of our subject. We have seen what determinism means: we have seen that indeterminism is rightly described as meaning chance; and we have seen that chance, the very name of which we agreed to shrink from...means only the negative fact that no part of the world, however big, can claim to control absolutely the destinies of the whole"
—William James: “The Dilemma of Determinism”, p. 8
James is mostly interested in demolishing determinism as an exclusive option. However, with determinism dealt with, his notion of the enlarged dilemma, which now includes free will vs chance, is possibly different from yours. He also places any alternative that denies morality in the trash bin.
So, I'd say, a close reading of The dilemma of determinism is that it intends to consider the dilemma as 'free will' vs. ('determinism ∨ chance'), rules out determinism as the sole alternative (chance is an option), and makes a rather muddy case that 'free will' is compatible with 'chance', subject to the caveat that if it turns out that there is, in fact, a conflict here, free will takes the prize. (James doesn't foresee such a problem for chance, but does for determinism.) James' idea of 'chance' is (of course) not built upon the probabilistic form of the modern laws of nature, but upon the very broad notion that not everything is determined, that is, chance is ¬D.
Is his argument a 'red herring'? In your sense of the 'dilemma of determinism' it is a red herring because it forms the dilemma as 'free will' vs. ('determinism ∨ chance'), F vs. (D ∨ ¬D), while your formulation of the dilemma, as I understand you Pfhorrest, is about whether 'chance' is an exclusive alternative. Comments? Brews ohare (talk) 16:27, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
James discusses both determinism and indeterminism as logical possibilities, and he discusses the relation of the two to free will, but he is not anywhere that I can see discussing the argument which all other sources are discussing: that either determinism or indeterminism would undermine free will. James runs with the traditional incompatibilist assumption that determinism is incompatible with free will and thus free will would necessitate indeterminism. He concludes that though determinism might be logically possible, we have to assume indeterminism (and thus the possibility of free will) for practical, moral purposes. His stance is first and foremost that we have to assume the possibility of free will for practical, moral purposes; his conclusion from that stance is that if determinism would undermine free will, so much the worse for determinism (and thus, so much the better for indeterminism).
He does not directly address the argument, put forth by the many other sources we've discussed here, that one way or another free will is impossible. He would no doubt dispute that argument somehow, saying that if chance undermines free will then so much the worse for chance, and if both undermine it then so much for both (and there must be some alternative); but I see nowhere in there that he does directly address it. And as that is the subject of this article, that makes James' essay seem off-topic as a source despite its misleading name.
We already have an article on the purported conflict between determinism and free will: Incompatibilism, which is about the argument between people who say that determinism is true and thus free will doesn't exist, and people who say (like James) that free will exists thus determinism must be false. (Though James is slightly different in that he says that we must live as though free will exists and thus live as though determinism is false, even while upholding the logical possibility of determinism being true).
Pfhorrest: I think we see James much the same way. As you say: James does not say "one way or another free will is impossible". What he says is that "with determinism free will is impossible, but allowing indeterminism means free will is possible". I don't see why that puts him off topic: all it does is show he has a different take on things - that the dilemma can be avoided. That view is a particular view of the dilemma, and so it seems to fit into an article about the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 16:29, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
It's off topic because he doesn't even address the claim that one way or another (determinism or not) free will is impossible. We can infer that he would disagree with that claim, but I don't see anywhere that he discusses it. He says there are two possibilities, determinism and indeterminism, and that if determinism is detrimental to free will we must reject it in favor of indeterminism. He says nothing (that I can see, feel free to dig up a quote otherwise) about what if determinism and indeterminism are both detrimental to free will, which is the subject of this article. He is saying "We must assume F, so if D entails not-F, then we must assume not-D". He says nothing that I can find about the claim "D and not-D both entail not-F". He would surely disagree with it (and if so that would be relevant to this article), but I don't see him doing so anywhere. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:31, 31 October 2013 (UTC)


You interpret Russell as follows: ″You seem to interpret that Paul Russell quote as saying that there is a dilemma between accepting free will and accepting that determinism and indeterminism exhaust the options. That's not what it's saying. The dilemma is not "D or not D" vs "F"; it's "D therefore not F" vs "not D therefore not F".″
Indeed, you have my view. Here is the Russell quote leading to our diverse opinions:
"One horn of this dilemma is the argument that if an action was caused or necessitated, then it could not have been done freely and hence the agent is not responsible for it. The other horn is the argument that if the action was not caused, then it is inexplicable and random, and thus it cannot be attributed to the agent and hence, again, the agent cannot be responsible for it."
—Paul Russell: Freedom and Moral Sentiment, p. 14
I think this quote is compatible with either your view or my own. It's ambiguous. Therefore, we'll have to pursue Russell's argument further to see if he favors one interpretation over the other. Brews ohare (talk) 16:59, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
The context of the quotation on p. 14 does nothing to resolve the ambiguity between F vs (D ∨ ¬D) or F vs D contrasted with F vs ¬D. However, in the first category, we have his discussion of Hume. That discussion contains a figure (on p. 51) that very clearly shows the situation of F vs (D ∨ ¬D), with D divided into 'Humean necessity' and 'metaphysical necessity'. At a minimum, the suggestion is that the dilemma has a very long history based upon the formulation F vs (D ∨ ¬D). Brews ohare (talk) 17:11, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
I'd be inclined to say that the argument goes that there is indeed some part of the universe adequately described by D, and the rest described by ¬D. I think, Pfhorrest, that you have gone to some lengths to make this point yourself. So if U=universe, and U=(D + ¬D) and if F ∈ U, then (F ∈ D) ∨ (F ∈ ¬D), that is, (D ∨ ¬D) is the opposition. The dilemma is then posed as "inasmuch as the universe is exhausted by D and ¬D, if F is part of the universe, it has to be either D or ¬D, but both of these are incompatible with F". Of course, my position is that much literature is of the view that (depending upon how D is formulated) D and ¬D can form a demonstrably faulty and inaccurate way to divide the actual universe we live in, and the conflict with F is a consequence of a poor choice for D, which should be dumped and replaced with something else. Brews ohare (talk) 17:59, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
There are several misunderstanding in here. First and foremost, I'm not saying anything about whether any events in the universe are determined or not. There don't need to be any determined events in the universe at all for determinism and indeterminism to exhaust the logical possibilities. Saying that the only choices are determinism and indeterminism is not saying that events in the universe are divided into those two sets. One of them could be an empty set. That is the point I keep making about "saying nothing is determined doesn't help", because the dilemma doesn't claim that anything is determined. It only talks about what if they were and what if they weren't.
Secondly, you're mischaracterized what I was saying the dilemma is (and what I'm saying Russell is saying the dilemma is). Rather than untangle the way you've paraphrased it, allow me to just restate it more clearly. You seem to be thinking of the two options the dilemma forces a choice between as these:
  • Determinism and indeterminism exhaust the possibilities, therefore free will cannot exist.
  • Free will exists, therefore determinism and indeterminism cannot exhaust the possibilities.
I am arguing that the two options the dilemma is forcing a choice between are these:
  • Determinism is true, therefore free will cannot exist.
  • Indeterminism is true, therefore free will cannot exist.
It seems extremely clear that this Russell quote is saying that latter. The first bullet point here is the "first horn", and the second bullet point is the "second horn". The dilemma is in the choice between those two "horns". It is not the choice between whether to accept that argument (and reject free will), or reject it (to save free will). "Free will exists" is not a horn of the dilemma, whatever the other horn may be. The dilemma is not a choice between free will and anything else. It is a choice between two things which both purportedly undermine free will. --Pfhorrest (talk) 06:00, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I don't know where your 'first and foremost' comes from - it is unrelated to anything I think or have said. Your 'secondly' doesn't seem to differ from my portrayal of your views of Russell. You try to collapse the dilemma to two choices. Fischer does this about the same way. However, he begins with the 'factual' assertion "Either determinism is T or F" He follows this with the 'two horns' (i) If T, then no free will (ii) If F, then no free will. That avoids mixing up the 'factual' assertion with the horns.
Now, you say, either way 'free will exists' is not a horn. But surely choosing a horn, if that is only choosing whether determinism is T or F is not a dilemma. It's like saying an electron is a wave or a particle. It's a matter of observation and circumstance. It is the impact upon 'free will' that makes the whole thing a dilemma, and that dilemma is not because of the choice here. It is a dilemma because the conclusion that free will does not exist contradicts our intuition on the matter. Without our intuition of free will, there is no dilemma, just a conclusion. Brews ohare (talk) 16:20, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
"Choice" is just a loose way of speaking about possibilities (as in, we might choose which possibility to believe, though obviously we don't get to choose which is true). So never mind talk about "choice" here, as far as the sense of authors and readers having to choose which of two possibilities is true. Let's just talk about the possibilities themselves.
The dilemma (as Russell clearly formulates it) says that there are only two possibilities and either one undermines free will. A dilemma is when there are only two possibilities and either one leads to something undesirable. You are correct that the reason why this dilemma is called a dilemma is because it threatens free will which we want to preserve, but that means that "no free will" is the undesirable thing which either possibility leads to; it does not make free will one of the two possibilities it presents.
I've said it before but there are three things you seem to keep conflating (and consequently misreading sources which are talking about one but not the others):
1. The conflict which is posited to exist between free will and determinism.
  • "Determinism, thus no free will" is one side of this conflict.
  • "Free will, thus no determinism" is the other side of this conflict.
2. The jointly exhaustive options of determinism and indeterminism which are both posited to conflict with free will.
  • "Determinism entails no free will" is one fork of this dilemma. (And is equivalent to "free will entails no determinism").
  • "Indeterminism entails no free will" is the other fork of this dilemma. (And is equivalent to "free will entails no indeterminism").
3. The disagreement between those who accept that dilemma as a correct analysis and those who reject it for one reason or another.
  • "Determinism and indeterminism both entail no free will" is one side of this disagreement.
  • "No they don't, so free will is still possible" is the other side of this disagreement.
The first thing -- both sides of it together -- is merely one half of the second thing, and the second thing -- both sides of it together -- is merely one half of the third thing. The subject of this article is the second thing. In explaining what the second thing is, we have to present the first thing, but sources just talking about the first thing and not the other half of the second thing are not directly on this topic, they're on a broader topic. Likewise after explaining what the second thing is, we have to talk about responses to it, which is the third thing; but it would be inaccurate to characterize the two responses to the thing as the two halves of the the thing they're responding to.
More on this in the section below. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:49, 31 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: There is nothing in your three points I don't understand and I have no problem with any of them. I continue to feel that you are taking a very specialized formulation of the issues as the subject of this article, and using that to exclude the big picture as being not on topic. It's only my opinion, but I think omission of William James talk and his framing of the dilemma is a big mistake, partly because many readers of this article will run into James' Dilemma of determinism, and will be dismayed that it isn't even discussed here, and partly because I think James has a lot to say and understands the emotional situation. You have not addressed Russell's discussion of Hume. That discussion contains a figure (on p. 51) that very clearly shows how F is facing (D ∨ ¬D), with D divided into 'Humean necessity' and 'metaphysical necessity'. The entire connection with moral responsibility has been deleted from the article, including Fischer's discussion of the 'dilemma of determinism'. You have not addressed the real 'dilemma', which is the actual feelings involved here when intuitions clash, and insist instead upon what I call a 'dictionary approach'. As a follower of Wittgenstein's view of language, I can't accept that. My idea of a more inclusive approach to the topic is found here. However, you are the only audience on Dilemma of determinism with any grasp of this subject, so I will have to admit to getting nowhere and do something else. Thank you, Pfhorrest, for your willingness to engage. Brews ohare (talk) 13:07, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

Further discussion of sources

To sum up: The comparison of F vs. (D ∨ ¬D) obviously involves consideration of both F vs. D and F vs. ¬D. It also is clear that F vs. (D ∨ ¬D) is a dilemma, posing a conflict between two appealing beliefs: belief in F and a particular belief about how the universe works, (D ∨ ¬D). What you are suggesting is that your interpretation of Russell as considering a choice between F vs. D and F vs. ¬D means this article shouldn't consider the F vs. (D ∨ ¬D) situation. That view is simply a fixation upon a particular perspective that ignores another view with close similarities. Brews ohare (talk) 15:02, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Isn't the dilemma contrived?

What is the dilemma? You say:

"I am arguing that the two options the dilemma is forcing a choice between are these:

   Determinism is true, therefore free will cannot exist.

   Indeterminism is true, therefore free will cannot exist."

I'll argue that this dilemma is contrived. Let's propose two propositions, which probably can be arranged to be tautological by defining the term 'free will' appropriately:

   If determinism is true, then free will cannot exist.

   If indeterminism is true, then free will cannot exist.

If these are tautological statements about what various terms mean, these statements do not propose a dilemma. They are 'theorems' about connections between accepted terms. We then propose a third statement.

   Either determinism is true of the universe we live in, or indeterminism is true.

or, maybe:

   Some occurrences in the universe are determined and the rest are undetermined.

This is not offering a 'choice', it is a proposition about what is. Where is the dilemma, then?

There is no 'dilemma' involved here at all. There is no choice involved. If we knew how to establish the last claim about the universe was valid (but, of course, we don't know how to do that), then 'free will' (as defined) does not exist.

Now our intuition of free will is imbedded in our brain, and doesn't agree with the result of non-existence. So, assuming validity of the claim about the nature of the universe, the 'dilemma' is that the defined 'free will' doesn't correspond with our intuited 'free will'. That is not about any 'choice'. It is about the discrepancy between this particular theoretical construction and our intuition. Brews ohare (talk) 13:49, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

See my comments in the section above, and also, I drew a picture to help. --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:16, 31 October 2013 (UTC)
I could use some more explanation here, Pfhorrest. My impression is that you agree that the 'dilemma' disappears in this way, but that talk of a 'dilemma' is "just a loose way of speaking about possibilities", and that the same points are implied. Naturally, a 'loose expression' can be interpreted variously, and the above three-part version is less subject to confusion. In particular, this formulation shows there is no 'dilemma' in the ordinary sense of the word as a choice between two unpleasant alternatives. There is no choice involved, only definitions and matters of fact.
My view is that this 'dictionary approach' to the subject removes any sense of a 'dilemma', and drains all the life from the subject, making a visceral issue into a high-school debating contest. The word 'dilemma' has emotional content, and the dictionary approach stands away from that to debate over usages and nuances. The real drama involved in the dilemma is the struggle to capture our experience, the 'unpleasant alternatives' of choosing to abandon one or the other of two intuitively held beliefs (causation vs. personal autonomy), and it is not about logical comparisons of metaphysical terminology, however useful such activity may be along the way. Brews ohare (talk) 13:17, 31 October 2013 (UTC)
The point here Brews is that this article is not about threats to free will in general. It's about one very specific problem some people have posed which seems to show free will to be impossible one way or another. That problem is a dilemma in that it poses two exhaustive possibilities and then tries to show that either of them is a problem for free will, to show that our notion of "free will" is incoherent, that if we think we have something answering to that name we are mistaken; and since we all presumably want to hang on to the idea idea that we have that thing, then either of the possibilities leads to something we don't want, and we are in a dilemma.
We may not get to actively choose which possibility is the case, but there's still the structure of "there are only two paths, both lead to bad places" which constitutes a dilemma. The fact that we're not being asked to choose between two paths, but just being told that we are on either one or the other, doesn't change anything. The titular dilemma is the claim that we are on one of these two paths and whichever one it is we'll end up in a bad place -- a place where we're shown to have no free will. The dilemma is not a choice posed to us either to go ahead and end up there and or turn back. It's the supposed problem that whichever track we're on, we're going to end up there whether or not we want to.
That's my concern. You seem to keep conflating the two tracks, one of which we are on and both of which are said to go to a bad place, with two options to continue ahead to that place or to turn back and try to avoid it. But the "tracks" we're talking about here are logical possibilities and the "place they go" is the logical implication of them, so there is no turning back or going ahead, there's just which track we're on and where it goes, and arguing about whether the different tracks really go where they're said to go or not. The proponents of the dilemma say "yep, all tracks lead to no free will". The opponents say that one or the other track doesn't go there, so we're not doomed to end up abandoning free will. But whoever's right about where the different tracks go, we're all on the same tracks, whichever they are, and wherever they end up going. And the two sets of tracks are the two horns of the dilemma; the two sides of the argument about where the tracks go are not the horns of the dilemma.
And nobody's arguing about whether to continue down the tracks or turn back. That would, translating back out of this metaphor, just be an argument about whether or not to think about something to its logical conclusion, and no thinker is going to argue "don't follow that argument, because it leads to a conclusion you won't like"; he's going to argue that that argument doesn't inevitably lead there, i.e. that it's not a sound argument.
To expand this track metaphor a bit: We're all on a train barreling down some train tracks. Somebody looks out the window, thinks they recognize the route we're on, and says "This is the D line! This leads to No-Free-Will-Ville! Oh no!" Someone else counter-argues, "No, no, this can't be the D line", and points out other features of the scenery, arguing that they are not therefore bound for No-Free-Will-Ville. That argument continues for a long time, about whether we're on the D line or not, with a side argument from some folks who argue that the D line doesn't actually lead to No-Free-Will-Ville, so there's nothing to worry about; but they're largely dismissed by the other parties because everybody knows that the D line runs straight to No-Free-Will-Ville. None of these people are discussing the dilemma of determinism yet.
Then a guy comes along and says "uh hey guys, you realize there's only two lines that run through this country, the D line and the I line, and both of them go to No-Free-Will-Ville. So it doesn't matter what line we're on, we're headed to No-Free-Will-Ville either way." That guy is proposing the dilemma of determinism. Now the other people who've been arguing turn to him and say various things. Some of them agree and resign themselves to No-Free-Will-Ville. Some of them argue that the I line doesn't just go straight to No-Free-Will-Ville, but forks into a lot of sub-tracks, only one of which goes to No-Free-Will-Ville, so as long as this train isn't headed for that one sub-track we'll be fine. Some others continue to argue that the D line doesn't go to No-Free-Will-Ville either, so we could still be on the D line and avoid going there. Some of them concur with the second group that the I line has lots of forks too and so long as our train isn't going down the one of them that's headed to No-Free-Will-Ville, we're probably fine no matter what.
Nobody on the train gets to choose which track it's on, and nobody gets to stop it and keep it from reaching its destination. All they can argue about are which track they think it's on and where they think those tracks lead. The two tracks are the two horns of the dilemma of determinism. The claim that they both lead to No-Free-Will-Ville is what makes it a dilemma. There are two sides of an argument about whether that claim is true or not, but those sides of the argument aren't the tracks themselves. And the possibilities of ending up in No-Free-Will-Ville or not aren't the tracks either, so the original argument that was just about whether we were on the D line or not isn't talking about the dilemma, because it's not addressing the new claim that even if we're not on the D line, we're still headed to No-Free-Will-Ville.
And of course, the reason people are afraid of heading to No-Free-Will-Ville is because nobody there is held morally responsible for anything. But that's a part of a much broader concern, and has nothing directly to do with the specific claim that there's only two tracks which both lead there. --Pfhorrest (talk) 05:15, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The point here Brews is that this article is not about threats to free will in general. It's about one very specific problem some people have posed which seems to show free will to be impossible one way or another. That problem is a dilemma in that it poses two exhaustive possibilities and then tries to show that either of them is a problem for free will, to show that our notion of "free will" is incoherent, that if we think we have something answering to that name we are mistaken; and since we all presumably want to hang on to the idea idea that we have that thing, then either of the possibilities leads to something we don't want, and we are in a dilemma.--Pfhorrest (talk) 05:15, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

You suggest the dilemma consists in there being two ways that free will is impossible. My point is that this is not a dilemma, because it is not a choice. Some unspecified definition of free will is stated to be contradicted by the term 'determinism' and by the term 'indeterminism'. That is not a statement of a choice - it is an assertion about the contradiction between the meanings of terms. It would seem you recognize that the nail has not been hit on the head here. The dilemma is then switched. It becomes the dilemma of "hanging on to the idea" that we "don't want" this result. That is, the conflict is between an argument and our intuition, which come out opposed. That is actually half of the dilemma. Of course, the argument consists of two claims about definitions:
1.   The concept of determinism contradicts that of free will.
2.   The concept of indeterminism also contradicts free will.
and one claim of putative fact:
3.   In the universe as we know it, some occurrences are governed by determinism, and all the rest by indeterminism.
the combination of which lead to the conclusion:
4.   In the universe as we know it, free will does not govern any occurrences.
Obviously, what we have here is only definitions and an assertion of fact. If there is a choice involved, it is whether we accept this formulation, or not. However, there is a background problem here: it is that our intuition that free will exists conflicts with the last implication of the first three statements, that 'free will' as so-defined does not exist. To retain our intuition intact, we are then faced with revising either the definitions or the putative claim of fact. We still do not have a dilemma. What we have is a need for reformulation. Such reformulation involves four items: revisiting the definitions of 'free will', 'determinism', 'indeterminism', and the possible revision of the putative claim of fact, for example, limiting what kind of event constitutes an 'occurrence'.
Where a dilemma arises is with this putative claim of fact, apparently based not so much upon sifting actual evidence (which necessarily is limited in scope and implications), but upon a second intuition, an intuition about the way nature works, an intuition of the implacable flow of the events of a universe independent of human values and human intervention, governed either by causation or caprice. This notion is a version of ancient beliefs about 'fate' occasionally contravened by the 'gods'. Assuming we have an accurate formalization of this second intuition, now we have a 'dilemma': the apparent need to divest ourselves of one or the other of two hard-held intuitions, neither of which is easily dismissed.
This conflict between two intuitions is truly a dilemma, an unpleasant choice between conflicting intuitions. This dilemma is what sparks academic dispute over logical stratagems attempting to encapsulate these intuitions in formal definitions or, possibly, find an 'out' by reinterpretation of these intuitions. Brews ohare (talk) 15:04, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
You will, apparently, contest this view of what the dilemma is. However, if you so desire, we could engage in a consideration of sources on this matter: William James' Dilemma of determinism, Russell's discussion of Hume, p. 51, and Fischer's discussion of the 'dilemma of determinism'. In such a discussion, the point is not the niceties of various formulations of the above four-point argument, which is the bulk of their discussions. The point is: What is the underlying 'dilemma' that is being formalized? Brews ohare (talk) 15:04, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
A venue for discussing James can be found here and for discussing Fischer can be found here. Brews ohare (talk) 16:27, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I'd suggest, Pfhorrest, that you view the above 'putative claim of fact' (item 3) in a different way, namely, that it is a logical proposition about the usage of the terms 'determinism' and 'indeterminism', and says nothing at all about the universe as we know it. Consequently, the conclusion (item 4) also is stripped of any real-world implications. That viewpoint makes the entire formulation an analysis of usage and formal definitions, and regardless of how the argument is formulated or the definitions modified, the resulting syllogism has no bearing at all upon what is true in fact. It's analogous to different geometries, which exist independent of their applications and, when applied to the real world, some work in some situations, and some in others.
That is why you see intuition as irrelevant to the 'dilemma': the 'dilemma' (in your view, as I see it) is entirely about various analyses of usage, different ways to define terms, and consequent differences in tautological propositions. Nothing is implied as to how such logical argument is or is not tied to the real world in any factual manner, and the entire 'dilemma' remains restricted to an exercise in inventing and contrasting various schema, various formal constructions.
There is this formal aspect to the subject, of course, but it ignores the question of why this exercise has any interest to us, and the answer to that lies with our intuitions about the matter. The formulation of points 1-4 purports a connection to the real world, and thus connects with our intuitions. Brews ohare (talk) 18:16, 8 November 2013 (UTC)

A request for clarification

The following paragraph is can appear self-contradictory, claiming that it is not an exhaustive treatment of possibilities and yet claiming that it is an exhaustive treatment:

"The dilemma does not posit that only total determination and total randomness would undermine free will, nor that those are the only possibilities; but rather, that both determination and randomness, in any measure or combination, each undermine free will to their own extent, and that to the extent that one does not apply (whether to some set of events or some part of the cause of a given event), the other applies instead. The dilemma is not itself a stance on any question of to what extent which things are determined or not, but rather the argument that no matter which stance on that issue is correct, the possibility of free will faces challenges either way."

1. It is said that "The dilemma is not itself a stance on any question of to what extent which things are determined or not, but rather the argument that no matter which stance on that issue is will faces challenges"

- Doesn't "no matter which is correct" suggest that there is no third position? Is the actual point of this remark the implication that 'the extent' to which each applies, or how they divide the universe between them, is left to another discussion? Couldn't this sentence be rewritten so that (if this is the point) the point is made clear?

2. It is said that "total determination and total randomness" are not claimed to be the only possibilities.

- Doesn't this statement contradict the first, that there are only two possibilities: determined, or not? Or is the actual point about the use of the word 'total', implicitly suggesting that 'partial' could be substituted instead? If that is the point, couldn't this sentence be rewritten to actually state its point?

These may be quibbles arising from a very compressed formulation that needs more words to be clear. However, there is a more basic issue that needs to be clarified:

- Isn't there a failure in this paragraph to elucidate the 'logical' property of mutual exclusivity of the terms 'determined' and 'not determined', which by definition are mutually exclusive, as a separate matter from a claim of being logically exhaustive of all possibilities (which property depends upon the precise formulation of 'determinism')? And isn't there a second failure: a failure to separate a logical and theoretical formulation from an empirical position based upon evidence that shows 'determined' and 'not determined' to be mutually exhaustive of all factual possibilities? That elucidation requires (i) a definition of the universe of discourse, and (ii) an argument that this universe is complete, and (iii) that it exhausts all experience of the real world.

To elaborate upon the last point:

Definitions of the universe of discourse can be of two kinds: logical, and empirical. So, denoting the assertion of 'causal determinism' as proposition P and its negation by ~P, a logically constructed universe could be defined as the logical union of P and ~P.
On the other hand, an empirically constructed universe could be an assembly of some set of factual observations, perhaps those studied in the sciences as we know them today. Then an empirical assertion may suggest events in this set are adequately described within the purview of P or of ~P, while others occurrences not in this set lie outside this purview, defying descriptions as P or ~P.

Can this paragraph be rewritten to adequately treat these issues? Brews ohare (talk) 16:21, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

Here is a possible rewrite of the paragraph that seems to me to say what it means to say more clearly:

""The dilemma sometimes is stated as an either/or: either determinism or randomness prevails and each undermines free will; but a more flexible statement is equally damaging to free will: that in any measure or combination, each undermine free will to their own extent, and that to the extent that one does not apply (whether to some set of events or some part of the cause of a given event), the other applies instead. The dilemma need not concern how much each alternative brings to bear, but rather that no matter what mix or combination of the two prevails in any given circumstance, there remains no room for free will."

There remains the point that empirical and logical implications need to be teased apart. Brews ohare (talk) 00:22, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

You continue to attempt to write essays on the subject rather than to summarise sources. You also continue (despite gaining zero support) to attempt to extend this article into a general discussion of free will and determinism. For reasons stated too many times now to repeat your proposed change is not agreed. ----Snowded TALK 10:10, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
This critique of an existing paragraph in Dilemma of determinism is a call for clarification. If such clarification can be achieved by appeal to sources, that is great. It is one way the problem possibly could be fixed. However, the present paragraph is not only unclear, but cites no sources whatsoever. That being the case, criticism of its clarity is not about non-existent sources in the original. Neither is criticism of its language an expansion of its subject matter, or a repetition of the preceding thread, which is concerned with the role of intuitions in the dilemma. Snowded, try to understand what is the issue. Brews ohare (talk) 15:05, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
The issue Brews is that you are writing at seemingly interminable length on the talk page without getting any support - a pattern repeated from other articles. Try and understand that other editors have all said you are trying to expand this article beyond its natural scope. ----Snowded TALK 18:03, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
There is no such issue. There is no attempt in this clarification to "expand the scope" of this article, and your constant repetition of this erroneous and unsupported claim may be a way to sell Pepsi, but is improper here. As for support - there isn't anyone here but you. Pfhorrest has become preoccupied with his real life and has not been present here for weeks. So that leaves you and me - not some crowd making mythical opposition to my suggestions. Brews ohare (talk) 18:27, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest has the patience of a saint and has been trying to explain the problem to you with multiple examples. However you still carry on regardless. No one has stepped in to support you here, this is a small community and dealing with you takes a lot of time and energy as you simply ignore contrary opinions. Its a significant behavioural issue and if your edit warring continues here I am going to ask one of the senior admins who has handled your disruptive behaviour in the past to take a look. ----Snowded TALK 03:45, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Snowded's recent reversions

In this reversion Snowded removed the statement of the 'standard argument against free will' and two published sources for this argument. His one-line edit summary is: Rv to previous text, that is an expansion beyond the range of this article The claim that the statement of the 'standard argument against free will' is an expansion beyond the range of this article is incorrect. The first line of the article Dilemma of determinism says "The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will is an argument...", which clearly places the 'standard argument against free will' as within the subject of this article. Moreover, the sources Doyle's 'Standard argument' and Fischer's 'Dilemma of determinism' present the matter similarly. So, in short, Snowded has removed this material with an incorrect justification, material that is entirely within scope and well sourced.

In this reversion, Snowded removed the discussion of Hume's treatment of the dilemma of determinism as presented by Russell with the one-line edit summary: Again, expansion beyond the scope of the article. This material was in the section History of the argument, and contained the figure used by Russell titled Humean necessity and the dilemma of determinism, which title and the accompanying text containing Russell's commentary clearly refers to the 'dilemma of determinism', and so can hardly be considered beyond the scope of the article. Once again, Snowded has reverted with an incorrect justification.

Snowded has suggested that you have not secured talk page agreement. Well here is my assessment of his actions. I find his edit summaries make patently incorrect assessments of the material, that the material is obviously within scope and and is so attested to by three reliable sources, and that if Snowded wishes to revert this material a second time, it would be helpful (and advisable) to provide some basis for his actions. In particular, he must justify his claims that this material is beyond the scope of Dilemma of determinism despite the cited authors' statements to the contrary. Brews ohare (talk) 18:22, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

You have been arguing for changes to the article for weeks with ZERO support. In particular you have been told repeatidly NOT to extend the scope of the article to the wider issue of free will. You choose to ignore this and I am once again reverting. If you can get another editor to agree with you I am open to persuasion but far too much time is being wasted by you and on you. ----Snowded TALK 20:02, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: You continue to argue erroneously that there is some attempt to extend the scope of this article. That claim is nonsense, as pointed out immediately above by reference to reliable sources. You make no attempt to explain your incomprehensible acts, and are simply being obstructive.. Brews ohare (talk) 21:51, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
No editor has supported any of your arguments above Brews, simply finding the phrase mentioned is not enough. Only two editors have engaged and both say you are trying the extend the article beyond its scope. For the last week or so your multiple and extended postings have simply been ignored as you simply do not listen. As I say if you can get another editor to agree then fine, otherwise you are simply asserting your opinion. I've engaged with you over multiple articles and you have lost the argument on every RfC you have called. Learn the lesson.----Snowded TALK 03:42, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
Just to be clear, if you don't get support for the changes within 24 hours and/or you don't revert then I will restore the long standing text You are ignoring WP:BRD and you are ignoring the fact that none of the discussion to date has supported your position. If we get to that point then it is also time to have your overall behaviour looked into. I am too involved to do that so I will seek advise from other experienced editors. ----Snowded TALK 06:39, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
The additions made are possibly open to criticism, but you have provided none. The statement that they are "extending the scope" of the article is patently absurd, as they are mentioned in the lead sentence of the article. Moreover, Doyle and also Fischer make a parallel discussion the beginnings of their essays on this matter. The later discussion of Hume by Russell also is entirely within scope, presenting Hume's approach to the dilemma of determinism.
Instead of raising any particular issues with these additions to the article, you rant on about my failure to listen to you (About what, pray tell? About your non-existent commentary perhaps?), and threaten me with administrator action, and provide 24 hour deadlines for finding a supporting editor. What is your issue with the contributions, as opposed to your issues with me? Brews ohare (talk) 16:30, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

What is at issue?

Just to keep some focus to the discussion, the first proposed addition follows the leading sentence of the article Dilemma of determinism, which states its subject as:

"The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will is an argument that there exists a dilemma between determinism and its negation, indeterminism, in that both are purported to undermine the possibility of free will."

The explanation of the 'standard argument', which Snowded has twice deleted says:

" A formal statement of the 'standard argument' is roughly as follows:[R 1][R 2]
1. The concept of determinism contradicts that of free will.
2. The concept of indeterminism also contradicts free will.
3. Some occurrences are governed by determinism, and all the rest by indeterminism.
all of which lead to the conclusion:
4. Free will does not govern any occurrences (does not exist).
The first two premises are referred to as the "deterministic" and "indeterministic" horns of the dilemma over free will.[R 3] The third premise is sometimes stated as: "Either causal determinism is true, or it is false",[R 2] which is ambiguous regarding whether 'true' and 'false' are used in a logical sense, identifying mutually exclusive and exhaustive definitions, or are used to describe some empirical claim about how things happen."

The second item Snowded has twice deleted is the discussion of Hume in the history section of the article:

"In 1739, David Hume in his A Treatise of Human Nature directed his attention to the 'dilemma of determinism'. Russell discusses Hume's approach using the figure below:[R 4]
(A) Chance         (B) Humean necessity    (C) Metaphysical necessity
 No regular succession   Regular succession    "Compelling" powers in objects
   ↑           ↑            ↑
             Moral realm?
      Humean necessity and the dilemma of determinism
Russell says:[R 4] "Hume is arguing that a middle path may be traveled between, on the one hand, a confused and unintelligible conception of necessity and, on the other, an erroneous belief in the existence of chance." "In the light of the above diagram, it appears evident that Hume's strategy is to reveal that the dilemma of determinism, presented as an alternative between horns A and C, is a false dilemma. The standard dilemma of determinism is taken to be the choice between A and C and, according to Hume, it is a false dilemma because there is the third choice B.[R 4] The notion is that one must examine more closely the relation between necessity and cause."
  1. ^ Bob Doyle (2011). "The standard argument against free will". Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy. I-Phi Press. p. 27. ISBN 098358026X. 
  2. ^ a b John Martin Fischer (2011). "§4.1 The dilemma of determinism". In Michael Freeman, ed. Law and Neuroscience: Current Legal Issues. Oxford University Press. pp. 41 ff. ISBN 019959984X.  On-line version found here.
  3. ^ In his presentation The dilemma of determinism Fischer uses these terms not in reference to 'free will', but to the closely related issue of moral responsibility for our actions. The 'horns' of the dilemma also occur in Russell's discussion of Hume. Doyle's version of the standard argument refers to the 'determinism objection' and the 'randomness objection' to free will.
  4. ^ a b c Paul Russell (1995). Freedom and Moral Sentiment : Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198025548. 

No criticism of these contributions has been advanced other than one-line edit summaries by Snowded to the effect that these additions are an unwarranted extension of the scope of the article. Just how that can be has yet to be elaborated. Brews ohare (talk) 16:54, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

If you read the responses of both myself and Pforest to various similar proposals over the last few weeks Brews you will see that people have responded to you. You just don't listen. In stead you carry on repeating the same points and then wonder why people fall back to one line edit summaries. Its your call, but its got to the point where if you persist in edit warring without talk page explicit agreement then its going back to arbitration enforcement. ----Snowded TALK 18:26, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
Your view of the 'similarity' of this contribution to earlier discussions of the role for conflicting intuitions is incorrect, as the two are completely unconnected. Your assessments are based entirely upon my being the originator of the suggestions, and not upon what the suggestions are. In the present case, you have made an incorrect appraisal that the material is an unwarranted 'extension' of the topic discussed in Dilemma of determinism, which is patent nonsense, and its silliness is why you refuse to back up these claims of yours with substantive comment. Brews ohare (talk) 21:31, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
My comments are based on your ignoring the lengthy thread in the multiple sections you have initiated above. If we look at the edits you replace a good lede summary of the dilemma with a "roughly as follows" definition by one author. The language is unencyclopaedic and the function of lede is to summarise, you then proceed to add commentary to that definition which extends into the wider area of free will - something that has been explicitly rejected by other editors manny times. You then add your own commentary (essay writing again) in the paragraph "Underlying the dilemma ....". Finally you add extensive commentary on Russell's take on Hume when all that is needed is the existing reference to Hume's position. Again you are extended the article as Russell is concerned with Hume's attitude to responsibility - this is the attempt to extend the article to the question of moral responsibility which has again been rejected by other editors. You simply ignore this and carry on, and carry on, and carry on. Just look at the word count of contributions on this tale page. Other editors are not required to continuously respond to you if you ignore their earlier comments. You have been told this explicitly on another forum where you attempted to argue against short edit summaries. All of this is exactly the behaviour that got you a permanent ban from all Physics articles and is rapidly getting to the point where you are risk of that getting extended.
Now no other editor has supported you changes after more than a day so I am reverting to the stable state. You cannot simply change an article because you think you are right, you need support and consensus. ----Snowded TALK 04:09, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────As Snowded has pointed out, he has reverted this text that explains and sources the 'standard argument', a redirect to this page from Standard argument against free will. His critique of this text is a one-line edit summary that it is an 'extension' of the scope of the article beyond its scope - patent nonsense. On this Talk page, no cirtique is provided at all. Snowded claims to revert to a 'stable state', where the only 'instability' is his personal unsupported reversion of this material. His argument in favor of his actions is that there are other threads on this page about other things where I've been involved, discussion between myself and Pfhorrest on other matters, decried by Snowded because these threads are too long. What irrelevancy! How can WP progress when an author like Snowded can revert whatever he likes, substituting critque with threats to the contributor about behaviour ... rapidly getting to the point where you are risk of being permanently banned, and other hostility1,2 all instead of any felt obligation to support his actions or help with content? Brews ohare (talk) 15:42, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

The proposed text is the lead of two published articles on the subject 1,2 demonstrating its central role, and it is entirely noncontroversial. If a pertinent, plain vanilla, reputably sourced addition like this is impossible to make because of irresponsible actions like Snowded's, it makes WP editing a travesty. Brews ohare (talk) 15:53, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

I went to the trouble of explaining again what had already been explained to you by Pfhorrest (who has the patience of Job) and my myself. I didn't need to repeat it but did you the courtesy; in return for which we get a regrettably all to familiar tirade. The fact that you make similar attacks on arbcom via your talk page means I am less worried that you would like me to be. Otherwise you are edit warring, attacking other editors, carrying on at considerable length despite getting no support. Warning you that this repeats behaviour that has earned you multiple blocks and an indefinite ban from all articles on Physics is simply speaking truth unto a stone. ----Snowded TALK 16:12, 19 November 2013 (UTC)