Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Communication with D.Littrell part 4



From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Your latest blog
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>

Hi, Palash:

Thank you for your enlightening response to my question about Nachiketas, Yama, Arjuna and Krishna. Seeing the comparison from your point of view it is easy to understand the differences.

In this regard I would note that some yogic texts are in line with Advaita. Clearly Patanjali's sutras are not, but I think the dualism there can be overlooked as irrelevant to the purpose of the sutras (although probably annoying to Advaitic philosophers!) The Gheranda Samhita, however, appears to be consistent with Advaita non–dualism (and please correct me if I am mistaken)since in the concluding section on samadhi it is written: "Becoming one with bliss, he attains unity with Brahman./By the realization that he is Brahman, nondual samadhi arises." (translation by James Mallinson).

Referring to your excellent essay on Randomness vs. Determinism, I find nothing to disagree with! However I would note that this:

"Even if we can imagine a perfect robot which hits the coin at the same exact angle and strength each time, and the coin is placed in an airless vacuum, and the ground is even, even then we would not be able to produce a head or a tail each time but the result would still be random, because of the quantum randomness at the base."

is not quite correct because such events would be so macroscopic as to overwhelm any quantum fluctuations. This presumes a time frame so short that there is no significant change in the coin, the robot's thrust, the level ground, etc. In very long run everything breaks down and so there would be a point at which quantum uncertainty might affect the result of a coin toss.

In this regard, consider that every time I punch the keys of an electronic calculator in the sequence 2 + 2 = I always get 4. All of the events are too large for quantum effects to enter into the picture.

Best regards,
Dennis





From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Superdeterminism
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 27 January, 2010, 4:20

Hi, Palash:

Here's something to consider: superdeterminism. It's a bit over my head, but the idea is that quantum uncertainties are superseded, as it were. Have you heard of this, and if so, what do you make of it?

Dennis





From: palash mazumdar <palashm@yahoo.com>
To: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Sent: Wed, January 27, 2010 6:09:23 AM
Subject: Re: Superdeterminism

Hi,

No, I havent heard of it , or perhaps I did just hear the word, but dont know anything about it. But I will look it up, although the net is the only place I can get info on this right now I guess.

Regarding the question of the coin, thanks for pointing out the fallacy of the argument, I realize that the way I worded it, it was bound to look like a fallacy. It was due to wrong wording and I will correct it to say what I wanted to say, and send the new passage to you.

Also, I have not read the Gheranda Samhita, though I have a copy of an english translation available to me, I will try to get it and read it, or may read it up on the net.

But coming to the question of your accepting that there is no true theoretical determinism and that it is only a practical determinism, isnt that a come down from your earlier position? You had earlier expressed your belief in strong determinism, hadnt you?

Warm regards,
Palash.





From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Superdeterminism
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 27 January, 2010, 22:10

Hi, Palash:

I used to believe in a deterministic universe. That was before I heard about quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. That was several decades ago. So, no I haven't believed in a deterministic universe in long time.

Where I disagree with you is on the subject of free will. I can't even conceive how humans could have free will! BTW, I haven't yet seen anything in Advaita that would require free will except in the sense that Brahman has free will, but since nothing can be said about Brahman, that would be out of bounds.

Best wishes, as always,
Dennis





From: palash mazumdar <palashm@yahoo.com>
To: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Sent: Mon, February 1, 2010 8:03:14 AM
Subject: Re: Superdeterminism

Hi Dennis,

Firstly, I have studied up Superdeterminsim (on the internet only though) and it is a wacky idea. It basically proposes that something, God or te universe itself perhaps, controls everything that we do and it also ensures that we come to have a false belief in randomness, by ensuring that when scientists do a quantum experiment like the Bell’s theorem experiments to test this, they always set up the experiment in such a way that the result appears to be randomness. This is not really a serious idea, and is the same as saying that God controls everything and put in the fossils only to mislead us about evolution.

Secondly, I have modified the post on randomness on the blog and also added a new post on randomness.

Thirdly, was rather surprised to read that you accepted Randomness. I had got the impression from your earlier communications that you accepted determinism.

In that case, if you accept indeterminism for the physical world but accept determinism for the human will, you do realize that you occupy a quite unique position.

This is because you would accept indeterminism for a process such as a storm, for example, but would accept determinism for human actions.

There is virtually no or little precedent for such a stand. Just to confirm, I did a quick recce of the entries on free will on Wikipedia and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. They both give only three positions on determinism and free will, those who accept determinism and deny free will, those who accept determinism and accept free will, and those who accept indeterminism and accept free will. (you can check out the image in Wikipedia and this extract from Stanford:
“The main perceived threats to our freedom of will are various alleged determinisms: physical/causal; psychological; biological; theological. For each variety of determinism, there are philosophers who (i) deny its reality, either because of the existence of free will or on independent grounds; (ii) accept its reality but argue for its compatibility with free will; or (iii) accept its reality and deny its compatibility with free will.”)



The fourth position that you propose, of accepting indeterminism and yet denying free will, is not considered in any major philosophical treatise on this subject that I have studied till now.

You would have to defend quite a unique position. The fact that no major philosopher holds your views should give you a warning that this is perhaps not a logical position.

It in fact is not a logical position, mainly because if you can accept indeterminism for a storm, there is no reason why you should prescribe determinism for human will.

Perhaps you mean (correct me if I am wrong) to suggest that though human action can be indetermined, it is not guided by a ‘will’. This is in fact the ‘automata’ or ‘zombie’ argument. This is not considered an argument of free will as such, and that is why it is not mentioned anywhere. It is in fact a psychological or neurological argument. This has long since been shown to be illogical and has been quite effectively countermanded, hence it is not supported by any major philosopher that I know of (and is not mentioned as a position in any text on free will). This has been countermanded by demonstrating what is known as 2–stage models of free will, as has been done quite effectively by Daniel Dennett, Robert Kane, among others. This idea has no more legitimacy that the ‘superdeterminsim’ idea.

The explanation I had provided in the book, of free will being demonstrated by the process of learning, is also such a 2–stage model. I had only touched upon it in the book but elaborated it on the blog, since obviously it was unnecessary in the book itself.

In criticizing 2–stage models such as the one I proposed, you should be aware that you are not attacking my personal views only but views expressed by many other philosophers such as Dennett and others.

I would like to know if you have any examples of any major philosopher’s position involving indeterminism for the world but determinism for the human will. I would like to study such positions if possible.

Regards,
Palash.







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