Talk:Physical determinism

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Common use of Physical Determinism[edit]

We should make effort to collate some sources here to determine the most common definition of physical determinism. I am not aware of the broad definition given by the Oxford source; it appears non-standard. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 04:31, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

See below. About three sources are provided in original text. Brews ohare (talk) 04:36, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
I am only seeing one relevant source... Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 04:56, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Richard: It appears you have no intention to discuss matters (see below), and present yourself as an authority that need be neither polite nor interested in WP policies regarding edit warring. Can't we aspire to something just a bit more mature? Brews ohare (talk) 06:21, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Note the use of this "relevant source" is in fact questionable, it is ambiguous: "all physical events are determined to occur according to physical laws" (p84). Out of context, this could either mean that 'physical events occur according to physical law' (like you have interpreted), or that 'physical events are determined, in accordance with physical law'. Based on its context however (the following sections are titled "Physical Determinism" and "Indeterminism"), I presume it is referring to the latter. The source certainly does not support the original claim... Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 15:01, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

Richard: There are several sources to be referred to here. One is Bishop:

"My primary focus will be upon physical determinism, the thesis that all physical events are determined to occur according to physical laws"

— Robert C Bishop, Chaos, indeterminism and free will, Chapter 4 in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition, p. 84
This has been discussed above. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
It has: you have made the hairsplitting remark that you can't tell if his work means 'physical events occur according to physical law' or 'physical events are determined, in accordance with physical law', a distinction without a difference. Brews ohare (talk) 07:07, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
It is evident the statement is ambiguous, and therefore cannot be used to support the definition of physical determinism you claim it supports: "Physical determinism is a position in philosophy that holds that all physical events occur as described by physical laws". Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
There is no doubt at all about his position here as he goes on to say:

"Physical determinism might be a concept only relevant to the mathematical models of physics and other physical sciences, although its relevance to the world of everyday choice and action is questionable...if thoughts, feelings, and desires are not physical events, it is unlikely that physical theories are appropriate models for thinking about such nonphysical events."

— Robert C. Bishop, Chaos, indeterminism, and free will, p. 84
The fact physical determinism may not be relevant to non-physical events, does not change (or propose) a definition of physical determinism. An alternative definition is not discussed in the article. The reference certainly does not imply your interpretation of the definition. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
I don't know which point you are discussing here. My point is that the usage of physical determinism, proposed by Ginet and by Bishop, makes it distinct from nomological determinism. I think you are changing the subject. Brews ohare (talk) 07:07, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
See my final point below. There may well be another non-standard use of physical determinism that does not imply nomological determinism - but it is non-standard. The quotation however is not proposing this, it is just stating the obvious, ie, that physical determinism may not be relevant to non-physical events. The quotation is not necessarily implying that physical determinism can have loop holes and still be considered physical determinism. As I mentioned in my last edit note, find a reference to support this, and I will be happy to include it. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
In his further discussion Bishop argues at length that the sort of determinism actually found in physical law is not that proposed by nomological determinism:

"Not only are our current best physical theories remarkably unclear about the truth of determinism in the physical sciences, there is a further significant issue regarding their application to metaphysical questions about our world..."

— Robert C. Bishop, op. cit., p. 94

"The contemporary developments in determinism and physical theories surveyed in this essay indicate that the existence of pockets of determinism in physics do not imply that determinism holds sway over all domains of physics. Furthermore, our physical theories are unreliable guides to the ultimate metaphysical character of our world."

— Robert C Bishop, op. cit., p. 96
The fact physical determinism may be false, does not lead us to change its definition. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Again, that is not the point being made here: the point being made is that defining physical determinism as having physical events follow physical laws is distinct from nomological determinism. Brews ohare (talk) 07:07, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
These quotations are not arguing a particular definition of physical determinism, they are arguing against the existence of physical determinism. If deterministic physical law does not hold, then physical determinism does not hold. Richardbrucebaxter (talk)
Although Bishop's notion of physical determinism is more strict than that of Nagel or Ginet, there isn't any doubt that he distinguishes physical determinism from the complete determinism of everything that happens, as described by nomological determinism.
I am not convinced with respect to this: the chapter discusses "physical determinism" then "indeterminism", and they are both positions on the physical universe as a whole. If you could find a reference to back this up I would be interested. As the case is at present, over 50% of the sources discuss everything that happens, and it is implied by the rest of them. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
If you would explain more exactly what "this" is that you want a reference for, maybe I could help. Brews ohare (talk) 07:07, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
My comment is referring to physical determinism being defined with respect to a physical subsystem (ie, not everything) - a claim which I haven't yet seen a reference to back up. Again, if you manage to find one, then I will of course be happy to have it included. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
Another source is Ginet (italics in original text):

A complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time

— Carl Ginet, On Action, p.92
Again, there is no doubt that the author draws a distinction here because the same wording without the insertion of "physical" is said to refer to hard determinism. You will notice the use of the verb "entail" here.
The original text of Physical determinism contains this paragraph:

Sometimes the restrictions to physical events and physical laws are ignored, and physical determinism is used as a synonym for nomological determinism, that all future events are governed by the past or present according to all-encompassing deterministic laws.[3] However, in this article this practice is avoided.

Reference [3] is Steven W Horst (2011). Laws, Mind, and Free Will. MIT Press. p. 98. ISBN 0262015250.
In my opinion this paragraph and this source provide adequate indication to the reader that the usage you advance is out there, viz the usage that treats physical determinism is the same thing as nomological determinism. Obviously, there is no need to describe nomological determinism further in this article on physical determinism, because nomological determinism has its own article.
This is perhaps why there was not an article on physical determinism until you made it (and also why so many specific forms of determinism are contained within the one article Determinism). Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Richard: Your remark assumes the two concepts are the same, and the whole point of this discussion is that they are different, which differences have been pointed out to you but so far you have not addressed. Brews ohare (talk) 07:07, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
You haven't provided a single source which provides a clear definition of physical determinism as different from its primary use (implying nomological determinism). There is some speculation in the Oxford Free Will Handbook source that it might be defined differently, and I don't doubt it might well be, but the point is that they are certainly not standard definitions of physical determinism. Oxford itself takes the standard one: hence the two next sections in the source are titled "physical determinism" and "indeterminism". Furthermore, You haven't provided a single source which provides a clear definition of physical determinism as different from its primary use(apart from the one ambiguous definition in the Oxford source). The only source I have seen thus far to support this claim is Popper's commentary (a source which I myself added), and he directly admits this conflicts with the standard definition of physical indeterminism. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
Some other points are raised in the subsection of this Talk page below, and also in the original text. These arguments all are well documented, and your counters are simply your own opinions, pointed to in the paragraph referring to Horst as quoted above.
Brews ohare (talk) 16:17, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Richard: You say

"You haven't provided a single source which provides a clear definition of physical determinism as different from its primary use"

and repeated this statement several times. I find this statement to be a refusal to understand what is written by Bishop and Ginet. It doesn't help that in your discussion you interchange the two types of determinism at will, as if they are synonyms, when their distinction is necessary for this conversation.

You also wish to discount Bishop's two articles in the Oxford Handbook of Free Will as an "ambiguous definition" despite pages-long accompanying text that removes any possibility of ambiguity: physical determinism is used as a term distinguished from nomological determinism. Period. You also wish to marginalize this difference (even though you refuse to recognize it) by suggesting the question is one of "standard usage", which is a red herring. The usage making no distinction between physical and nomological determinism does occur, and maybe a count would show it has been used that way more often than not, but there is room for a usage that distinguishes the two, as the literature shows, and the adjective physical in physical determinism usefully describes its position.

To illustrate what I consider to be a complete non-sequitor in your presentation, you cite Ginet's definition: "physical determinism holds that a complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature together entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time", and include the italics he introduced to point up the stress on physical. Then you ignore entirely the fact that in the text preceding this definition he uses the same wording without the word physical to define nomological determinism and proceeds to contrast the two definitions. You then conclude:

"Such a position implies nomological determinism"

This statement is completely opposite to the position explained at length by Ginet, and further argued by Bishop. It also makes no sense on the face of it because the italicized physical in the definition sits there unexplained by your wrong conclusion.

How can you construe these authors so far from their meaning? Perhaps you are so swayed by a belief in causal closure as to think everything falls within physical laws? And additionally that physical laws are well described by the presumptions about them assumed by nomological determinism? Those beliefs can be argued, but they are not universally held. Hence the distinction. Brews ohare (talk) 16:04, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Comparison of nomological and physical determinism[edit]

Physical determinism is a position in philosophy that holds that all physical events occur as described by physical laws.[1] Nomological determinism is the notion that the past and the present dictate the future entirely and necessarily by rigid, all-encompassing natural laws, that every occurrence results inevitably from prior events.[2]

The two terms become synonymous only if one assumes (i) all events are physical events, including of course, acts of imagination or creation of art, science, and so forth, and (ii) makes some assumptions about the nature of physical laws that are seldom held today.

The importance of the distinction is pointed out by Bishop. These definitions leave open just what "physical" might include. So, for example, one could limit the scope of physical determinism as:

"Physical determinism might be a concept only relevant to the mathematical models of physics and other physical sciences, although its relevance to the world of everyday choice and action is questionable...if thoughts, feelings, and desires are not physical events, it is unlikely that physical theories are appropriate models for thinking about such nonphysical events."

— Robert C. Bishop, Chaos, indeterminism, and free will, p. 84

As for the nature of determinism in physical law, which differs from the assumptions of nomological determinism, we have the view of Nagel:

"a theory is deterministic if, and only if, given its state variables for some initial period, the theory logically determines a unique set of values for those variables for any other period."[3]

— Ernest Nagel, Alternative descriptions of physical state p. 292

Sources

[1] Robert C Bishop, Harald Atmanspacher (2011). "Chapter 5: The causal closure of physics and free will". In Robert Kane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 0195399692. 

[2] Steven W Horst (2011). Laws, Mind, and Free Will. MIT Press. p. 98. ISBN 0262015250. 

[3] Ernest Nagel (1999). "§V: Alternative descriptions of physical state". The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation (2nd ed.). Hackett. pp. 285–292. ISBN 0915144719. 

Brews ohare (talk) 04:32, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Recent changes by Richardbrucebaxter[edit]

Richard: Your recent changes require further discussion, and appear to be patently incorrect in some respects. In particular, the notion that physical determinism implies nomological determinism is contrary to much of the literature on this subject (cited in the article and on this Talk page), and has been discussed in a section of this Talk page that you have not addressed, and apparently not read. Please make an effort to compare your views on this talk page with the literature and with the comments already presented here.

Your view that Popper's work like his three worlds should not be presented on WP appears to be a prejudice on your part. In any event, the points made in the section on Popper's work can be made using other philosopher's as well, and some such formulation could be worked out here if you were inclined to participate on the Talk page. Brews ohare (talk) 06:53, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

You have reinstituted your beliefs in the revisions here, here, and here, which amount to cramming nomological determinism down our throats, a violation of logic and of NPOV. Brews ohare (talk) 16:22, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Rewrite of Introduction[edit]

I think the dispute here is really one about points-of-view more than black-and-white issues. From that standpoint, here is a proposal to rewrite the Introduction:

Physical determinism in its broadest definition holds that physical events evolve according to physical laws. It differs from the statement that physical theories describe a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the evolution of all events, human choices and actions included.[1] There are a variety of definitions, however, another being that physical determinism holds that a complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature together entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time.[2]

Physical determinism often is used synonymously with nomological determinism. Nomological determinism holds that all future events are governed by the past or present according to all-encompassing deterministic laws.[3][4] Although treated as synonyms by some philosophers, other philosophers distinguishes physical determinism from nomological determinism in two respects:

First, in emphasizing the qualifier physical in 'physical events', physical determinism suggests that a subset of all events is indicated. A commonly held view is that, at bottom, all events are physical events, so the descriptor physical is not necessary. Whether this position is valid is the question of reductionism, and it may be considered an open question for the purposes of definition here.

Second, in emphasizing physical laws, it may be taken that emphasis is placed upon laws used in science, which are not "all encompassing" and rigidly deterministic: rather, all physical laws are limited in scope, and are not all-encompassing.[5] Moreover, some physical laws are probabilistic, not leading rigidly to inevitable outcomes, and some others are statistical, describing macroscopic regularities consistent with a plethora of microscopically different situations.[6]

Putting the above factors together, physical determinism is narrower than nomological determinism, by virtue of referring to a subset of all events, and in restricting these events to those that the selected natural laws are properly proven to describe, and broader than nomological determinism in allowing a variety of types of natural law extending beyond the rigidly restrictive sort entertained by nomological determinism.[7]

Stronger forms of physical determinism also have been used, based strictly upon the predictability of a physical system behaving according to classical mechanics.[8]

Sources

  1. ^ Robert C Bishop (2011). "Chapter 4: Chaos, indeterminism, and free will". In Robert Kane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0195399692. all physical events are determined to occur according to physical laws 
  2. ^ This definition is from Carl Ginet (1990). On Action. Cambridge University Press. p. 92. ISBN 052138818X. 
  3. ^ Steven W Horst (2011). Laws, Mind, and Free Will. MIT Press. p. 98. ISBN 0262015250. 
  4. ^ Vihvelin, Kadri (Mar 1, 2011). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Arguments for Incompatibilism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition). Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
  5. ^ For example, see the article Model-dependent realism, which discusses Stephen Hawking's ideas about a mosaic of overlapping theories that cover a wide range of observations jointly, but no one theory covers them all.
  6. ^ For a rather broad discussion see Lucio Vinicius (2010). "Chapter 1: From natural selection to the history of nature". Modular Evolution: How Natural Selection Produces Biological Complexity. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1 ff. ISBN 0521429641. 
  7. ^ A detailed examination of determinism as it applies to physical laws can be found in Ernest Nagel (1979). The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation (2nd ed.). Hackett Publishing. ISBN 0915144719. 
  8. ^ G. M. K. Hunt (June 1987). "Determinism, Predictability and Chaos". 47 (3). Oxford University Press: 129. The thesis of physical determinism is often supported by an appeal to a mechanical view of the world. This mechanical view derives much of its support from an appeal to classical mechanics. 

I've dropped the lead sentence about a "greater physical system" and its nine footnotes because, to me, this subject is a diversion from defining the topic, and the nine references probably are there to make a point that requires a separate discussion. Please discuss this proposal. Brews ohare (talk) 17:59, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

  • Comment by Pfhorrest transcribed from next thread:

What concerns me more is Brews' implication, above and elsewhere, that physical determinism, unlike nomological determinism, somehow permits nondeterministic physical laws. That seems clearly false from Ginet's definition, and I don't know where else Brews is getting it from. I agree that most contemporary science works with probablistic or statistical laws. That just means modern science is not deterministic. Not even physically deterministic. And that's just fine, but Brews seems to want to distinguish physical determinism from nomological determinism so that he can say that the nondeterministic laws by which we understand the world today are deterministic, and I just don't see the basis for claiming physical determinism allows that. --Pfhorrest (talk) 09:58, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

  • Reply to Pfhorrest by Brews ohare:

Your first sentence is about a question of usage, namely, what philosophers mean by "physical determinism" and whether they intend to expand this term to include all types of physical law. That point requires an examination of the philosophical literature, and probably a key work about this subject is Nagel, who has provided a formulation of determinism applicable to a wide range of physical laws. Later, you suggest that I wish to say that "the nondeterministic laws by which we understand the world today are deterministic". That is not my view nor my purpose. My aim is to introduce physical determinism as the opinion that physical events evolve according to physical laws, and these physical laws are exactly those used in science today. I believe a corollary of this view is that physical determinism is limited to the events dealt with by physical laws, and can be extended only when physical laws themselves expand to include more of the universe. Can you comment? Brews ohare (talk) 17:13, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

  • Comment by Richardbrucebaxter transcribed from next thread:

"I have not stated that physical determinism and nomological determinism are identical... If physical determinism is true, then nomological determinism is true."

  • Reply to Richardbrucebaxter by Brews ohare:

Genet's definition is (italics in original text):

"A complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time."

Generally speaking, the introduction of a limiting modifier like "physical" narrows the scope of a definition, rather than broadening it. Perhaps you wish to stress that physical laws are not restricted to the rigid all-encompassing "laws" often associated with nomological determinism, although Ginet's definition doesn't by itself suggest this until the terms "physical laws of nature" and "physical state of the world" are interpreted. A close reading of Ginet suggests he wished to separate the "physical" from the "psychological", not to broaden the definition of nomologiclal determinism. . Brews ohare (talk) 17:19, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

RfC on two usages of 'physical determinism'[edit]

A question concerning the difference between two forms of determinism has arisen: nomological determinism and physical determinism. All parties agree that the two terms often are used as synonyms. The disagreement is over usage that differentiates between the two terms, with one opinion being that such usage occurs and is significant, and the other that such usage, assuming it does occur, hardly matters. A definition is quoted for physical determinism that is claimed by both parties as supporting their opinion. Please help to clarify these different views at Talk:Physical determinism#RfC on two usages of 'physical determinism' Brews ohare (talk) 16:50, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

The dispute[edit]

According to Ginet the idea of physical determinism hods that (italics in original text):

A complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time

— Carl Ginet, On Action, p.92
Source: This definition is from Carl Ginet (1990). On Action. Cambridge University Press. p. 92. ISBN 052138818X. 

Ginet has inserted the adjective physical deliberately into this definition, and the question arises as to why he did this and why he italicized the word 'physical'.

One opinion is based upon Ginet's explanation. He proposes that determinism itself is described as:

A complete description of the state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the laws of nature entail every truth as to what events happen after that time

— Carl Ginet, On Action, p.92

This definition, the same as the one above but without the adjective 'physical', is that of nomological determinism. Genet says he wishes to make clear that he is talking about physical determinism by inserting the word 'physical' into this definition. It would seem a reasonable interpretation of this act that Ginet considers the adjective 'physical' to mean something. He does this in response to his question: "How much of what happens in the world do the laws of nature determine? Determinism says they determine everything." Ginet has introduced the adjective 'physical' to make clear that he is not discussing everything, but only things 'physical'.

In contrast to this view of the situation, the article Physical determinism says about Ginet's position: "Such a position implies nomological determinism, which holds that all future events are governed by the past or present according to all-encompassing deterministic laws".

Simply put, the dispute is which view of Ginet's position is closer to his meaning? More generally the dispute is over drawing a distinction between nomological and physical determinism.

Comments[edit]

  • For a distinction: The definition of nomological determinism is provided by Horst and also by Vihvelin:
Horst: "Nomological determinsm is a contingent and empirical claim about the laws of nature: that they are deterministic rather than probabilistic, and that they are all-encompassing rather than limited in scope." The description of the 'laws of nature' used here is widely understood to be inaccurate, at best.
Vihvelin: "Determinism is a claim about the laws of nature: very roughly, it is the claim that everything that happens is determined by antecedent conditions together with the natural laws." This definition focuses on "everything" and there is wide agreement that this claim is an exaggeration. It is the subject, for example, of reductionism, and also assumes the debate over causal closure is settled.
On the other hand, in broad terms, physical determinism holds simply that physical events evolve according to physical laws. See Bishop: "all physical events are determined to occur according to physical laws".
I do agree that many authors do not distinguish between nomological and physical determinism, but that is not the point. The point is that the distinction does exist, that Ginet supports a distinction between the terms, and that a distinction between the terms is useful because nomological determinism employs an archaic and exaggerated idea of "physical laws" and insists that they apply to everything. The laws used in science, are not "all encompassing" and rigidly deterministic: rather, all physical laws are limited in scope, and are not all-encompassing. Moreover, some physical laws are probabilistic, not leading rigidly to inevitable outcomes, and some others are statistical, describing macroscopic regularities consistent with a plethora of microscopically different situations. The definition of physical determinism does not specify the nature of these laws and has the flexibility to fit modern forms of these laws.
The difference between these terms, not their similarities, is the reason for a separate article on the topic of physical determinism. Brews ohare (talk) 16:50, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment:
All references I have provided for physical determinism explicitly assert its application to everything (ie, all encompassing). References include Swinburne 1969, blackwell/Bunnin/Yu 2004, Earman 1986, de Broglie 1930, Bishop 2011, Sahakian 2011, Stapp 2009 (note it is only implicit in Papineau 2002). Examples include Popper 1972, Hong 2003, Hoefer 2008
Note, natural law can only apply to nature. Physical law can only apply to physical reality. And physical implies natural. ("a non-physical mind" eg Vihvelin, is not part of nature: but if physical determinism is true, then it is "subject to nature". This is the difference between interactionist dualism and epiphenomenalism).
I have not stated that physical determinism and nomological determinism are identical (even though it is true they are used synonymously in every example I have found thus far - Huoranszki 2011, Hoefer 2008):
The text states that physical determinism implies nomological determinism. If physical determinism is true, then nomological determinism is true (see Horst 2011 quotation - which is his interpretation of Vihvelin: "More exactly, even if there are also some things in the sciences called "laws" that are probabilistic and/or limited in scope, so long as there is some set of laws that is both deterministic and all-encompassing, nomological determinism, as characterized by Vihvelin, is entailed by definition." p98)
Physical determinism is clearly a thesis regarding determinism. All references I have provided assert this; Swinburne 1969, Papineau 2002, blackwell/Bunnin/Yu 2004, Earman 1986, de Broglie 1930, Bishop 2011 (ambiguity has been discussed), Sahakian 2011, Stapp 2009. Examples include Popper 1972, Hong 2003, Bishop 2003, Bishop 2011, Hoefer 2008
I have explicitly stated 3 times I am open to the possibility of alternate (not all encompassing) uses of "physical determinism" if references can be found.
10:06, 7 February 2013: prepare introduction for alternative definitions of physical determinism (which are yet to be declared or referenced)
09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC) As I mentioned in my last edit note, find a reference to support this, and I will be happy to include it.
09:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC) Again, if you manage to find one, then I will of course be happy to have it included.
Note I have added the additional uses of physical determinism referenced by Bishop 2011 (which by the way has occurred independent of your dispute Brews; I have been too busy administering errors on wikipedia).
00:12, 9 February 2013: add alternative definitions of physical determinism (which have now been declared and referenced)
If anyone can find additional examples of use of nomological and physical determinism within a specific context, then this would be very useful.
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 00:39, 9 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Comments:
The distinction Ginet intends to make by emphasizing "physical" is clearly to allow the possibility of the existence of a nondeterministic nonphysical aspect to the universe concurrent with a deterministic physical element; that is, to talk about the determination of the physical universe, without implying anything about determination of nonphysical things. This clearly does not imply nomological determinism, unless the thesis of physicalism is also taken, implying that there is nothing nonphysical, and consequently that the determinism ascribed to the physical universe by physical determinism encompasses the entire universe, as physicalism holds the physical universe to be the entire universe. By contrast, if something like dualism were true, it might be possible for physical determinism to be true, but nomological determinism false, because there are nondeterministic nonphysical minds in the universe as well; however, physical determinism as Ginet defines it (as quoted by Brews) would exclude the nonphysical from having any physical effects, as those physical effects are posited by physical determinism to be predictable entirely from prior states of the physical world and the physical laws of nature, with no interference from anything nonphysical accounted for. Physical determinism as Ginet defines it directly entails causal closure.
As such, there seems very limited point in discussing physical determinism distinct from nomological determinism, since everyone but epiphenomenalists seem concerned with how things cash out in the physical world at the end, and physical determinism says nothing less than nomological determinism about that. So I can see why most sources seem to roll the two together. But, if at least one source (Ginet) really wants to tease the concepts apart, I do not strongly object to respecting that distinction where it's made.
What concerns me more is Brews' implication, above and elsewhere, that physical determinism, unlike nomological determinism, somehow permits nondeterministic physical laws. That seems clearly false from Ginet's definition, and I don't know where else Brews is getting it from. I agree that most contemporary science works with probablistic or statistical laws. That just means modern science is not deterministic. Not even physically deterministic. And that's just fine, but Brews seems to want to distinguish physical determinism from nomological determinism so that he can say that the nondeterministic laws by which we understand the world today are deterministic, and I just don't see the basis for claiming physical determinism allows that. --Pfhorrest (talk) 09:58, 9 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Reply to Pfhorrest from Brews_ohare:
Pfhorrest, I agree with the statements of your first paragraph that Ginet wishes to separate physical events from others and also physical laws from others, and as you say, the consequence is that nomological determinism, which deals with everything is separate and distinct from physical determinism, which deals with physical things and the way that physical things evolve in accordance with physical laws. Your last paragraph introduces the question of what happens when the introduction of physical laws is made. That question deserves a lot of attention, and involves a rather deep and broad discussion that probably includes Reduction (philosophy), Causal closure, and Mental causation among other topics.. This RfC focuses on the much more limited and clear proposition that nomological and physical determinism are not used as synonyms by all philosophers, and in particular Ginet. The misreading of Ginet as being in support of nomological determinism now stated in the Introduction of Physical determinism (by force-fitting a non sequitur) has to be corrected. These points have to be settled before anything further can be attempted. Brews ohare (talk) 16:34, 9 February 2013 (UTC)
As an aside, Phorrest, if you wish to engage in discussion of the implications of physical laws for phyiscal determinism, I'd be happy to engage in this discussion. A logical place to do that is the thread #Rewrite of Introduction, and I've taken the liberty of replying to your concerns in that thread. Brews ohare (talk) 17:15, 9 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Comments:
I considered that particular interpretation of nomological determinism also Pfhorrest. The reasons I rejected it were as follows:
1. Physics: How can natural law possibly apply directly to a non-physical object (eg "non-physical mind")? This is nonsensical. Even if such a law existed, there would be no way of verifying it, as it is operating on a substance which is by definition unobservable (outside of our physical universe). There is no law of nature that asserts such a scope, and never will be. Perhaps some philosophical "law" could be invented - but it wouldn't be scientific. Whatever hypothetical "law" is asserted, it is certainly not going to be one that also claims to offer an all encompassing deterministic account of the workings of the universe (ie, physics). Yet if natural law is deterministic and all encompassing with respect to its scope (ie, nature), then a non-physical mind is "subject to" (Vihvelin: "falls under") natural law - ie epiphenomenalism. This satisfies the definition of nomological determinism.
2. Definitional incompatibility with source context (Stanford free will [1]): if nomological determinism were defined this way (requiring natural law to apply directly to non-physical objects), then an epiphenomenalist desiring to believe in free will would not be required to maintain compatibilism in a physically deterministic universe. They could be a metaphysical libertarianist in a physically deterministic universe. Again, this is nonsensical.
3. Usage in Literature: I have not found a single source that differentiates them in context (yet there are two so far that go so far as to equate them).
For everyone's information, let me now expand this source (Genet) which is apparently being used by Brews Ohare to assert that physical determinism does not imply nomological determinism (despite the fact it does not even mention nomological determinism):
"More precisely, determinism says that, given the state of the world at any particular time, the laws of nature determine all future developments in the world, down to the last detail. Another convenient way of putting the thesis is:
A complete description of the state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the laws of nature together entail every truth as to what events happen after that time.
For our purposes, we can take the determinism we are talking about to be what some philosophers have called physical determinism and have distinguished from what they call psychological determinism. An explicit formulation of physical determinism can be obtained by inserting the word physical before the words state, nature, and events in the preceding formulation:
A complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature together entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time.
Physical determinism is a threat to free will if any determinism is."
Physical determinism satisfies nomological determinism. It is even used by Ginet to categorise free will (compatibilism/incompatibilism), and is therefore is another source that implicitly equates nomological determinism with physical determinism - like Stanford determinism-causal. This makes 3.
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:26, 9 February 2013 (UTC)
Simple version of rationale for reference:
1S. If physical determinism does not imply nomological determinism, then nomological determinism does not exist (bar reductive physicalism). What set of all encompassing deterministic natural laws do you propose that should satisfy nomological determinism?
2S. If physical determinism does not imply nomological determinism, then one could be a metaphysical libertarian in a physically deterministic universe. An epiphenomenalist who believes in free will could be a metaphysical libertarian in a physically deterministic universe.
3S. Considering all references found thus far support the claim (physical determinism implies nomological determinism), what references can be found to deny the claim?
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 01:14, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Richardbrucebaxter: You might address the distinction between Ginet's definition of determinism and nomological determinism, both of which appear to have the same definition, suggesting that Ginet's determinism is actually nomological dieterminsm. It would be preferable in this exercise if you could support your arguments with sources rather than your own unsupported assertions. For example, Vihvelin says:

"In the literature, “determinism” is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a variety of different claims which have traditionally been regarded as threats to free will. Given this usage, the thesis that I am calling “determinism” (nomological determinism) is just one of several different kinds of determinism...Determinism is a claim about the laws of nature: very roughly, it is the claim that everything that happens is determined by antecedent conditions together with the natural laws."

You can find a detailed discussion of Vihvelin's take on nomological determinism in Steven Horst, Laws, Mind and Free will §7.5.

Genet defines determinism as the position that:

"A complete description of the state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the laws of nature entail every truth as to what events happen after that time"

After you pick apart any substantial difference you may see separating these two definitions, you can discuss Ginet's physical determinism and what he meant by introducing the italicized word "physical" throughout his definition. I think Ginet is quite clear himself, but evidently you have a different idea of what he means to say than either myself or Pfhorrest. In this latter exercise it would be helpful to use quotes from Ginet to support your opinion. Brews ohare (talk) 15:52, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

My view, as you know, is that Ginet's use of physical in his definition of physical determinism is meant to distinguish physical determinism from nomological determinism. That is, for Ginet the two terms are not synonyms, they are different, regardless of any quarrels over what exactly is the difference between the terms. Brews ohare (talk) 16:37, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

If you agree with the two terms indeed being different, we could continue to discuss your claim that "physical determinism implies nomological determinism", that is, I guess, that physical determinism is the more general statement and nomological determinism is a particular example of physical determinism. That claim also is debatable, though not exactly within this RfC. Generally speaking, the introduction of a limiting modifier like "physical" narrows the scope of a definition, rather than broadening it. I think it is better discussed along with Pfhorrest's comment in the thread Rewrite of Introduction. Brews ohare (talk) 16:51, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

Quite the opposite in fact - are you familiar with its use in logic [2]? Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 06:25, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
Richard: It is not encouraging that you should choose to nitpick forms of implication rather than make any response to the issues raised. I am left with nothing in defense of your positions. You are flagrantly in denial of Ginet's position, and have claimed a non sequitur states his views in Physical determinism. Brews ohare (talk) 17:59, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment:

Just a comment here, perhaps more arguing about the material than about the article, but might be useful in this discussion anyway: upon further reflection, the statement "given the state of the world at any particular time, the laws of nature determine all future developments in the world, down to the last detail" directly states that the laws of nature govern the entire state of the world, and so seems to imply (or more likely assume) naturalism or physicalism (barring the bizarre scenario Richard argues against where physical laws govern nonphysical things, which I didn't mean to argue for before and which I agree is absurd nonsense).

So if that statement is the definition of nomological determinism, then nomological determinism tacitly assumes physicalism, under which condition (per my earlier argument) physical and nomological determinism are identical. In other words, nomological determinism is just physical determinism plus physicalism, and the only point of distinguishing physical determinism from nomological determinism would be to say "well, maybe, even if the physical world is deterministic, there might be nonphysical nondeterministic things". Nomological determinism in rebuttal to that doesn't say "those nonphysical things are determined as well", it just says "no there aren't". --Pfhorrest (talk) 20:25, 11 February 2013 (UTC)

Pfhorrest: I'd agree that nomological determinism in some forms is 'physical determinism + physicalism'. As such, and for the purpose of this RfC, the two terms are not synonyms. However, I'd also point out that many authors use nominological determinism as referring to a specific form of the laws of nature, such as "all-encompassing", which form is not necessarily implied by physical determinism. Also, the assumption of the existence of nonphysical things says nothing about the nature of these things, deterministic or not. It simply places them outside the reach of "physical determinism", and is another reason to point out that nomological and physical determinism are different. Pfhorrest, thanks for your comment, which is helpful and pertinent. Brews ohare (talk) 22:48, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: Genet is not necessarily assuming physicalism as "down to the last detail" is referring to "in the world", which intellectuals interpret as referring to physical events. (NB this quotation is not necessarily referring to nomological determinism as indicated above). I suggest that the only meaningful interpretation of the Vihvelin source is that "all-encompassing" is referring to nature - it encompasses all of nature. The point of Vihvelin explicitly referencing "non-physical mind", is that non-physical mind generally acts on nature as per substance dualism (thereby denying "all-encompassing" natural law). This is not allowed with nomological determinism. All references support this interpretation (Horst 2011, Huoranszki 2011, Hoefer 2008, Raman 2009, Gomez 2005. Kuhlenbeck 1965 explains why the apparent dilemma with Epiphenomenalism is irrelevant). Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 00:46, 12 February 2013 (UTC)
Richardbrucebaxter: You have simply conjectured upon Ginet's meaning, conjecture hard to accept in view of your unwillingness to address the objections to your earlier conjectures and claims described in detail above. You have not replied to Pforrest's points. You also fail to draw any conclusions about how your remarks attach to the present RfC. Please focus upon the issues here. Brews ohare (talk) 03:25, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

Richardbrucebaxter's reversions[edit]

Richardbrucebaxter: You have again reinstated your personal views. Here you have overridden the standard WP practice of placing the definition of a topic first, and instead have begun with a discussion of a physical universe and a string of twelve footnotes that are a mixture of related and unrelated sources. This edit replaces text that placed the definition first and your "physical universe" second and sorted your 12 footnotes according to their pertinence to the two topics. Here you reinstated your notion that physical determinism and nomological determinism are identical, and subsequently say they are "related", leaving the reader confused as to which is correct. Here you delete reference to Nagel, a key source in this matter, and once more assert your view of the nature of physical determinism, and further advance your views here.

All these changes are made despite an ongoing dispute over your views on this Talk page. So far, you have not attempted to address very specific objections to your interpretation of Ginet's discussion and that of Bishop. Instead you have proceeded to impose your POV on other pages, nomological determinism, mental causation, causal closure, subject-object problem and so forth. On those pages you have not contributed any comment on their Talk pages despite repeated invitations to do so.

Your refusal to participate on Talk pages and your insistence upon placing your views on main pages without any discussion doesn't contribute to a constructive evolution of these articles. Brews ohare (talk) 16:10, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

Physical determinism doesn't imply nomological determinism[edit]

Although a comparison of the terms physical and nomological determinism was made at length on this Talk page, the distinction made there is contradicted in the article physical determinism. Despite the cogency of those arguments, the article Physical determinism as of today insists: physical determinism "implies nomological determinism, which holds that all future events are governed by the past or present according to all-encompassing deterministic laws."

The article Physical determinism uses as its chosen definition that of Ginet[1]:

"Physical determinism holds that a complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature together entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time." (Italics in the original text)

The italics in this definition were introduced by Ginet to distinguish physical determinism from a broader form of determinism defined with the same wording, but without the word physical appearing. Ginet's explicitly stated purpose in introducing physical into the above definition was to separate physical determinism from psychological determinism. That is, he feared that the definition with no italics, namely:

"Determinism holds that a complete description of the state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the laws of nature together entail every truth as to what events happen after that time."

could be construed to include psychological determinism. Inasmuch as the broader definition without the limiting adjective physical commonly is used to describe nomological determinism, it appears clear that, at least from Ginet's viewpoint, 'physical determinism' does not imply nomological determinism.

Sources
[1] This definition is from Carl Ginet (1990). On Action. Cambridge University Press. p. 92. ISBN 052138818X. 

This statement of the introduction to Physical determinism is therefore wrong on three counts (i) it suggests an implication that does not exist, and (ii) it imputes that Ginet holds this position, and (iii) it is a non sequitur that does not follow from its premise.

It would not be necessary to belabor this point except that Richardbrucebaxter has forced this statement into physical determinism and into several other articles (among them nomological determinism, mental causation) in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. Moreover, in lieu of engaging in a defense of his opinions on Talk pages, he decided to achieve his ends by filing a motion [3] [4] at WP:ANI to have me banned outright from all participation on WP. This action has now been carried to ArbCom.

The introduction should be changed. Brews ohare (talk) 01:21, 14 February 2013 (UTC)