Determinism and Choice

~ 5 Minute Read.

One of my foun­da­tion­al be­liefs in life that in­flu­ence my view of the world is de­ter­min­ism.

As a hu­man be­ing I un­der­stand cause-ef­fect re­la­tion­ship: if I throw my plate on the ground, and it breaks, it will be bro­ken, be­cause I de­cid­ed to throw it. In the same spir­it, there is a rea­son for my de­ci­sion to throw the plate. It may be be­cause I was an­gry, or want­ed to make a point or what­ev­er — let’s not dwell on that for too long.

There is a rea­son for ev­ery­thing, any­thing can be traced back to an near­ly in­fin­ite­ly long chain of near­ly in­fi­nite oth­er events. 1 Ev­ery­thing is “chance”.

I had a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions in Ger­man that de­bat­ed whether ev­ery­thing is “ran­dom” or “de­ter­mined”. In Ger­man, the word “Zu­fall” is am­bigu­ous and can mean ran­dom­ness or chance, some­times not dis­tin­guish­able by con­text. Ran­dom­ness as I see it is the “pure ran­dom­ness” that you would ex­pect from look­ing at a par­ti­cle in su­per­po­si­tion 2, some­thing that hap­pens with­out (not just ap­par­ent, but tru­ly) rea­son. Chance is when you roll a dice and it “co­in­ci­den­tal­ly”/”by chance” lands to show a cer­tain num­ber. The lat­er may sur­prise you — but the dice fell in a cer­tain way be­cause of the tem­per­a­ture in the room, the way you threw it, a gust of wind from some­one open­ing the door…

How do I know that this is true? I don’t, but I find it makes sense to build your world view on a fun­da­men­tal idea that is true. Ad­di­tion­al­ly this world view comes with a use­ful cou­ple of re­sult­ing men­tal states:

If ev­ery­thing is de­ter­mined that means that what I de­cide is al­ready fixed by a ba­si­cal­ly in­fi­nite amount of in­flunces from my past. 3 So do I even have “choice” in a sense that it mat­ters what I do? Yes.

Since a de­ci­sion at present is in­flu­enced by your past, you can de­cide to be a part of those in­flu­ences for a fu­ture self. What a con­vo­lut­ed sen­tence:

You can not in­flu­ence your past — it’s… past? —, and the present is al­ready hap­pen­ing, you can mere­ly ex­pe­ri­ence that. You can, how­ev­er, in­flu­ence the fu­ture, which is the present and past each of a fu­ture you. If you make the de­ci­sion now (e.g. be­cause of read­ing this blog post) to be part of the in­flu­ences of some “now” that is yet to hap­pen, that is the key to break­ing out of the cir­cle of hav­ing “life hap­pen to you” and not just be­ing pushed around by de­ter­min­ism.

More re­sult­ing men­tal states will fol­low in up­com­ing blog posts. That’s de­ter­mined by my de­ter­min­ism to do so.

Vir­tu­al­ly in­fi­nite, many more than par­ti­cles in the Uni­verse, but prob­a­bly count­able ;P Had a dis­cus­sion about this once.
So, yes, there is ran­dom­ness al­so, but not that much on a “makro” lev­el…? Had a dis­cus­sion about this once.
An idea I prob­a­bly got from neu­ral net­works in ma­chine learn­ing: a way to train a set of “neu­rons” so that be­have a cer­tain way for a cer­tain in­put set… Your brain is trained by ev­ery mi­crosec­ond of your life and there­fore de­ter­mined by your past.

Writ­ten in 40 min­utes, ed­it­ed in 10 min­utes.