Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Communication with D.Littrell part 5



From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Your latest blog
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Tuesday, 2 February, 2010

Hi, Palash:

It's good that you took a look at "superdeterminism." It sounds like a flashy idea that will be difficult to refute, and so you will hear about it again! Like you, from what little I know, I find it not creditable. For now, anyway.

As for the indeterminism of the cosmos that quantum mechanics has forced upon us, we are in agreement, I believe. At any rate, I don't believe in determinism in regard to either the cosmos or the individual.

Note that to reject the notion of free will in humans is not to say that their behavior is determined in advance. Human behavior is the product of a confluence of prior events, both external and internal. Consequently quantum effects enter the picture. What I reject is the notion that there is some kind of agent or entity that is making choices about what to do or say. There is no ghost in the machine. There is only a bewildering number of influences: neurons, brain modules, neurological networks, hormones, other chemicals, muscles, bones, blood, etc. within that can influence behavior, and sounds, light, pressure, taste, touch, and other events from without that also influence behavior.

And note that any macro behavior pointed to is not a single event. Even if I say only one word, there are a number of events taking place in my body and brain that lead to that utterance.

My position on randomness is that we really don't know what the term means as applied to the cosmos. It is not clear that randomness is the opposite of determinism. In information theory a random message is one that cannot be sent in a shorter form. In physics an event is random if it cannot be predicted. This definition leads to a practical problem in that the onus is on the entity doing the predicting. It may be that some seemingly "random" events are not truly random but seem random because we don't have sufficient knowledge of causal factors.

And this brings us to causality. We cannot say that such an event was caused by such and such prior events. We can only say that such and such an event came after other events. I don't think David Hume's position on causality has been overturned.

Incidentally chaos theory makes it clear that in just about any really complex system including the factors leading to human behaviors it is, as a practical matter, impossible to predict what will happen because (a) we don't know the initial conditions, and (b) we don't know all the factors that might influence a behavior. To know the initial conditions we would have to go back to beyond the Big Bang, which as a matter of science seems impossible. To know all the factors we would have to know and understand (at least) a truly enormous number of events.

Best wishes as always, your indeterministic friend,
Dennis





From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: More on free will
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Tuesday, 9 February, 2010, 2:46

Hi, Palash:

I know you're very busy with your career, your "householder" responsibilities and the like, but I want to call your attention to a couple of things.

One is Benjamin Libet who discovered a 0.5 second differential between the time we start an action and the time that our conscious mind thinks we started the action. This may have some bearing on the question of free will. You can Google his name. I first learned about this phenomenon when reading Tor Norretranders' book, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (1991, 1998)––an excellent book, by the way.

The second is my belief that Advaita philosophy does not need human free will.

Best wishes,
Dennis





From: palash mazumdar <palashm@yahoo.com>
To: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Sent: Mon, February 8, 2010 11:20:51 PM
Subject: Re: More on free will

Dear Dennis,

First of all, I have been actively considering your last mail. The only reason that I have delayed answering is that you made a distinction between randomness and indeterminism, which I intuitively suspect is fallacious, but I have been meaning to read up on this and that is why it got delayed.

I find your views very interesting and enjoy responding to them, as you can see most of my blog posts are in response to your views.

Now, getting to the problem of free will, three points: I think firstly, you are making a distinction between external and internal determinism; secondly, a distinction between the conscious and unconscious parts of our individuality; and thirdly, the most important point is your issues with the decision making process.

Now for the first point:

You will recall the test proposed by someone (I do not recall the name right now) that to test whether a computer has free will, we would take a computer and a human behind a wall and an interrogator would question them. If the interrogator cannot determine which is a human and which the computer, then this would prove that the computer has free will.

Now, I have never been much convinced by the test, there seems to be many fallacies, but what I am pointing out is the basic principle, namely, that the judgment is made on the output alone. If the responses of the computer are such that they suggest free will, then the computer is considered to have free will. It is immaterial what processes the computer made to arrive at its free responses, the entire computer is a unit and we judge its freeness as a unit. What things it did inside of itself to arrive at its free responses is not our concern. If we were to come upon a robot or a space alien, then also we would judge its freeness on its actions and responses alone, we would not try to tear apart its brain to judge this.

Now, coming to the second point, I realize that you would in fact like to tear it apart because you believe in ‘internal determinism’.

This I feel is the root cause of your views, and the root cause of your fallacy in my view. It is here, in tearing apart the human mind to find out where the freeness comes from, that you make a mistake.

This is because you distinguish between the conscious mind, which is the real ‘I’, and the unconscious mind, which drives the conscious ‘I’. You believe the conscious ‘I’ to be our real individuality, but this conscious ‘I’ is driven by our unconscious mind, and therefore it is not free, its actions are determined by the subconscious mind, and hence our ‘I’ is not free.

This is the source of your thoughts on ‘no free will’.
Here, to understand, you will have to make a paradigm of change in your thinking.

What is our ‘I’? What is consciousness? What is our subconsciousness? What is our mind? These are the basic questions on which your views stand or fall.

The paradigm of change that you have to make is that you should not make this sharp distinction between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind.

What do we mean when we say ‘I’? You should not answer our conscious mind only, the answer is this entire complex, both the conscious and the subconscious. This is because there is in reality no sharp distinction between the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, it is a seamless whole. This is most important to understand.

Our mind, our whole mind, is as it were a whirlpool of information, an intense, rotating, vibrating mix of information which makes up our individuality. Out of this, a small proportion of thoughts and sensations is ‘lighted up’, as it were. This small proportion is what we call our conscious mind. Now what exactly happens when it is ‘lighted up’ is difficult to understand, something that we need to solve. But suffice it to say that a part of the thoughts–sensations is lighted up, forming our conscious mind, while the rest remains below the surface, as it were.

For instance, what we ‘see’ at any given moment is only a small part of all the info that our eyes are taking in, our mind ‘lights up’ only a small portion, the most important portion, of all this info. Similarly when we hear, our mind blocks up the traffic sounds, etc. and lights up only the things that are important like voices.

You can imagine it as an iceberg showing a small part over the surface while the major part remains below. But as with an iceberg, we should not call only the visible part as our ‘I’, it is the entire whole. When we say ‘I’, we should mean this entire whirlpool of information, this entire mind, both the conscious and the subconscious parts.

This is because, and this is most important, the whole thing is a seamless whole. You should not imagine the conscious part as something separate from the unconscious part, it is very much seamless. This we can see easily in that we can access the unconscious parts also at any time that we choose, we can make old forgotten thoughts accessible, we can see things which are unimportant, we can hear the traffic sounds, etc. whenever we concentrate on them. Only a small part of the entire mind is conscious or ‘lighted up’ at any particular time, but any particular portion is potentially capable of being lighted up, if the torch light of consciousness shines on it (stretching the analogy).

So you have to get out of this thinking of the conscious and subconscious minds as being two separate entities, and the subconscious ruling as it were, the conscious. They are but parts of the whole, which is our whole mind, and which is our real ‘I. When we say ‘I’, we mean this whole mind, this whole whirlpool of information, both the conscious and the subconscious.

This distinction between the conscious and the subconscious, and at the same time the understanding that they are seamless parts of the whole, is very important for Yoga. In yoga, we recognize that our thoughts originate from the subconscious, and only a small portion of all the workings of the mind is lighted up at any time, and that we need to control this whole mind.

All the initial exercises of yoga is geared to this. Hence pranayam. Breathing is an important function which lies at the juncture between our conscious and unconscious minds, being capable most easily of shifting between being lighted up and sinking into darkness. Hence we need to control our breathing so that the subconscious gets more and more lighted up. Hatha yoga is for controlling the unconscious processes like digestive systems, heart beats, etc. it is said that the true hatha yogi can control all these unconscious process like digestion also. Then finally you will recall the most important exercise, Pratyahara, the fifth step of Patanjali. Here we do nothing but simply observe our mind, letting thoughts flow in and out. In this way, we ‘light up’ the entire subconscious, make all our subconscious thoughts also conscious, so that we have total consciousness. It is only after we can do this successfully, when we have really expanded our consciousness and made a vast part of our mind conscious, that we go on to the next steps of dharana, dhyan, etc.

So you see that if you come to regard this entire mind as a whole, if you cease making artificial distinctions between consciousness and subconscious minds, your problem of what is the determinative factor disappears. It is the entire mind which is the determinative factor, which produces the free will. Somewhere within this mind, some part of it, analyzes the choices it has and makes a random choice. The choice here is truly random.

Now the third point, the actual decision making.

Suppose a man has to make a decision, say which road to take out of three roads. Now in some part of his mind a calculation will be made saying that this road has a 70% chance of reaching his destination, this road a 20% chance and this road 10% chance. But when he makes the choice, it will be a random choice. However, if we can place the man in the same situation a 100 times, we will find that 70% of the time, he will take up the most likely road, 20% the less likely and 10% the least likely. But the individual choice is random, just as with the toss of a coin, even though we may have had two heads in a row, the chances for the third toss is not loaded in favor of tails but is still 50–50, but when we compute the results of a hundred throw, we have 50–50 for the whole series. So also when we study a human being, we cannot know what exact action he will take, and this is random.

But you are right, and I think this is the most important point for you, that simply being random does not mean that the person has free will. A robot can also make these calculations and then be programmed to follow any path randomly. This is correct reasoning.

Where human beings have free will is in the process of making calculations. This is the most important part of the whole argument. It is in the process of making the calculation of relative advantages, in deciding how much weight we give to the different alternatives, that we have free will. And this is because these calculations are made not in a robotic manner, strictly according to a program, but in a whimsical manner, integrating the whole of our experiences in a way which is entirely free. You must understand here that our neurological processes do not work in a strictly yes–no binary process like our computers, but there is an integrative process and the whole of the brain is involved in a way in each decision. The calculations of advantages are made also in this way, integrating the whole of the brain. Here our conscious mind also plays a part, sometimes during the active part of the calculation and often indirectly, by deciding what weight we give to a particular situation. We can certainly decide actively what part we concentrate on in a particular visual scene that is played before us. For example, watching a football scene someone can concentrate on a particular player and note his skill while someone can watch the hotdog man nearby and note how much money he is making. The relative weightage given to different factors will ultimately influence his decision making process in many other situations. Likewise in the actual decision making time also, because the whole of the brain, conscious and unconscious, is a seamless whole, no doubt the parts which are conscious can also influence the parts which are unconscious in the decisions.

It is hence in this decision making that we have our free will.

You should note that there are two ways of looking at this. I have discussed the way which would be most acceptable for you in that the decision making process is indeterminative and the decision itself is random keeping to your view of a difference between indeterminativeness and randomness. In my own view, there is no such difference. I would say that after making a calculation of the different advantages, the mind deliberately picks a particular road, and both these decisions are made deliberately and intuitively, by the brain as a whole. We can look at it either way.

These models of looking at how decisions are made in two stages are called two–stage models. Many different models are described. My reference to the capacity of learning as showing free will is my own attempt at a two stage model, which I have elaborated in my blog.

 

I am familiar with Libet’s findings, and my second point should cover that I think. By the way, his studies are disputed also, but I do not have a problem either way.

You are also right that free will is not necessary for Advaita, but it is certainly necessary for Yoga. Yoga theory and practice rests upon this seamless wholeness of the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind.

But I think it is the third point, the actual decision making, which you dispute the most. For this, I would say that you should read up more on two stage models. For myself, I have only a passing familiarity with the model proposed by Dennett, with which I have issues. The Wikipedia entry on free will also mentions a number of other names like Poincare, etc. but I have not read up any of these. I developed my own two stage model based on learning on my own and it works satisfactorily for me, since then I have not done any reading or thinking on the free will question. I think if you were to read up more on such two–stage models, it might help to resolve many questions in your mind, and we could discuss this also.






From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: More on free will
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 1:05

Hi, Palash:

"You will recall the test proposed by someone (I do not recall the name right now) that to test whether a computer has free will, we would take a computer and a human behind a wall and an interrogator would question them. If the interrogator cannot determine which is a human and which the computer, then this would prove that the computer has free will."

>It sounds like you referring to the Turing Test. I believe that was a test for "intelligence" not free will. The idea was that if a human could not distinguish between a computer and a human by asking them questions, the computer would have passed the test for seeming to have human intelligence. See also "the Chinese Room" for a refutation and a fuller discussion.<

"Now, I have never been much convinced by the test, there seems to be many fallacies, but what I am pointing out is the basic principle, namely, that the judgment is made on the output alone. If the responses of the computer are such that they suggest free will, then the computer is considered to have free will. It is immaterial what processes the computer made to arrive at its free responses, the entire computer is a unit and we judge its freeness as a unit. What things it did inside of itself to arrive at its free responses is not our concern. If we were to come upon a robot or a space alien, then also we would judge its freeness on its actions and responses alone, we would not try to tear apart its brain to judge this."

>Yes. And I agree such a test would not prove free will or intelligence for that matter, as I believe was John Searle's point in his "Chinese Room" thought experiment.

"This is because you distinguish between the conscious mind, which is the real ‘I’, and the unconscious mind, which drives the conscious ‘I’. You believe the conscious ‘I’ to be our real individuality, but this conscious ‘I’ is driven by our unconscious mind, and therefore it is not free, its actions are determined by the subconscious mind, and hence our ‘I’ is not free."

"Here, to understand, you will have to make a paradigm of change in your thinking.

"What is our ‘I’? What is consciousness? What is our subconsciousness? What is our mind? These are the basic questions on which your views stand or fall.

"The paradigm of change that you have to make is that you should not make this sharp distinction between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind.

"What do we mean when we say ‘I’? You should not answer our conscious mind only, the answer is this entire complex, both the conscious and the subconscious. This is because there is in reality no sharp distinction between the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, it is a seamless whole. This is most important to understand.

"Our mind, our whole mind, is as it were a whirlpool of information, an intense, rotating, vibrating mix of information which makes up our individuality. Out of this, a small proportion of thoughts and sensations is ‘lighted up’, as it were. This small proportion is what we call our conscious mind. Now what exactly happens when it is ‘lighted up’ is difficult to understand, something that we need to solve. But suffice it to say that a part of the thoughts–sensations is lighted up, forming our conscious mind, while the rest remains below the surface, as it were."

>So far I am in substantial agreement with this. You are making a good point that I need to keep in mind: the conscious mind is manifestly influenced by the "subconscious" mind. I think it is important to include the rest of the body and its interactions with the subconscious mind as well. We are in substantial agreement here I believe.<

"Somewhere within this mind, some part of it, analyzes the choices it has and makes a random choice. The choice here is truly random."

>I don't think the choice is truly random. The choice is influenced by a host of factors. A random choice would be a choice that is entirely in principle indeterminate or unpredictable. But this is only a definition. As I have said before I don't think we really understand what truly random means when applied to the physical universe.<

"You are also right that free will is not necessary for Advaita, but it is certainly necessary for Yoga. Yoga theory and practice rests upon this seamless wholeness of the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind."

>Agreed! It is a paradox of our existence that although some of us may deny free will we have to behave as though we really do have free will!<


>I think I am able to make the "paradigm" shift in my thinking because I realize that you have apparently separated the individual from the greater whole. It is good to appreciate that the entire brain–body complex of an individual including putative conscious and subconscious minds is part of the decision making process, but it is a mistake to think that it is possible to separate the individual from the larger environment when considering the decision making process. This larger environment includes ultimately the entire cosmos––with diminishing influence I imagine. The error in thinking that the conscious mind is alone in making a decision that you so eloquently point out is similar to ignoring the individual's place in the cosmos when making a decision.

>It is here in the largest context that our decisions are made. And it is here that the Atman or the individual merges with Brahman or the Ineffable.

>I am suddenly very thankful for this discussion because I had a moment of insight while reading and considering your words, something similar to what in Zen is called an enlightenment. In understanding that the individual is part of the whole and cannot be separated from the whole is to understand at the deepest level what is meant by non–dualism.

>I suspect that we are really in agreement about free will, but we call the same phenomenon by different and seemingly opposite names! And I think the reason for this is that the concept of "free will" and allied ideas like "random" and "caused" are really not things that we humans can fully understand. Just as Richard Feynman said that nobody really understands quantum mechanics, I think it can be said that nobody really understands "free will," "determinism," "indeterminism," "randomness," "causality," and other ideas. We have our definitions and they work within limits, but all our science and logic ultimately break down at the extremes. As Russell and Godel demonstrated there is no complex system without paradox or contradiction.<

With appreciation and friendship,
Dennis





From: palash mazumdar <palashm@yahoo.com>
To: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Sent: Wed, February 10, 2010 8:38:35 AM
Subject: Re: More on free will

"it is a mistake to think that it is possible to separate the individual from the larger environment when considering the decision making process. This larger environment includes ultimately the entire cosmos––with diminishing influence I imagine. The error in thinking that the conscious mind is alone in making a decision that you so eloquently point out is similar to ignoring the individual's place in the cosmos when making a decision."

This is really the main point where we differ.

You believe that the entire cosmos is at a deeper level connected and 'everything influences everything'.

I differ from you completely on this point.

This really is the point I was trying to make.

I differ because things do not follow in a strict cause and effect manner. You may recall the kettle pot analogy I had pointed out, in this case nothing else in the universe influences the direction in which the lid will fall off, it is entirely a random event as the forces acting on the lid are the resultant of all the random vectors of individual molecules of steam in the kettle.

In this case, the kettle is acting in a completely independent manner. It is not connected with anything else in the universe, and its action is completely indeterministic, not determined by anything in the universe preceding it.

As can be easily conjectured, numerous such 'kettlepot' events no doubt have a role to play in influencing when a volcano will go off and in which direction, when and where a storm will hit, how the bubbles will form in a wave and so on so that in fact we can extend this to practically the whole environment.

So the cosmos is not really an interconnected whole but a disparate collection of events.

You realize of course that saying the cosmos is interconnected is qualified monosim, something like Jainism or Taoism.

And if we can say that a kettle can act in an independent manner like this, unconnected with the rest of the cosmos, then there is little point in saying that a living individual cannot act unconnected with the universe.

Warm regards,
P.J.M.





From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: More on free will
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 23:42

Hi, Palash:

Thanks for your response. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Let me say first of all that I don't think it is correct to say that the kettle is "acting in a completely independent manner" or that "It is not connected with anything else in the universe, and its action is completely indeterministic, not determined by anything in the universe preceding it." You seem to understand this when you write:

"As can be easily conjectured, numerous such 'kettlepot' events no doubt have a role to play in influencing when a volcano will go off and in which direction, when and where a storm will hit, how the bubbles will form in a wave and so on so that in fact we can extend this to practically the whole environment."

Secondly, I'm at a loss to understand why those statements are not in contradiction. At any rate, you obviously understand that the flap of a butterfly's wings in the Amazon may affect the winds on the Sahara (as we've learned from chaos theory).

Perhaps what is at issue here is the meaning of the word "influence." If kettle pot events "have a role in influencing" other events, I would say they are connected. You find them "disparate." Maybe this is all over my head, but it seems that we've fallen into a Wittgenstein world of semantics.

On the idea that the connectedness of the cosmos is a qualified monism, "something like Jainism or Taoism" I am also at a loss because I don't see how monism and qualified monism differ in regard to connectedness. I thought that the main distinction to be made between monism and qualified monism is that the latter is dualistic in the sense that God and the universe are separate in some sense.

Anyway, I'm not so interested in the meaning of terms like monism or qualified monism as I am in how kettle pot events (nice coinage, by the way) are not connected. I should add that at what temperature a kettle may boil depends on many factors, not least of which is where the kettle is, how high the flame under the kettle, the density of air, the purity of the water, etc. These factors are in turn influenced by (or connected to) other events.

Now I must go run before it begins to rain.

Best wishes as always,
Dennis





From: palash mazumdar <palashm@yahoo.com>
To: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Sent: Fri, February 12, 2010 9:45:27 AM
Subject: Re: More on free will

Hi Dennis,

I like to hear from you too.

Here, I am afraid you have misunderstood me.

Let me say first of all that I don't think it is correct to say that the kettle is "acting in a completely independent manner" or that "It is not connected with anything else in the universe, and its action is completely indeterministic, not determined by anything in the universe preceding it." You seem to understand this when you write:

"As can be easily conjectured, numerous such 'kettlepot' events no doubt have a role to play in influencing when a volcano will go off and in which direction, when and where a storm will hit, how the bubbles will form in a wave and so on so that in fact we can extend this to practically the whole environment."

Secondly, I'm at a loss to understand why those statements are not in contradiction. At any rate, you obviously understand that the flap of a butterfly's wings in the Amazon may affect the winds on the Sahara (as we've learned from chaos theory).

Perhaps what is at issue here is the meaning of the word "influence." If kettle pot events "have a role in influencing" other events, I would say they are connected. You find them "disparate." Maybe this is all over my head, but it seems that we've fallen into a Wittgenstein world of semantics.

Here, my meaning was that the kettlepot may be connected to events after it, but it is not connected to the events preceding it. It is not that the kettlepot itself is not connected, but the direction in which the lid blows off is not connected to anything preceding it. It is entirely random. The lid itself may influence events after this certainly, but since the direction in which it flies off is random, the sequence of events that it can give rise to are entirely random and not connected to anything before it. The lid has, as it were, a large number of sequences of events it can give rise to, and any particular sequence is set off randomly depending on the direction the lid takes. If we imagine such a kettlepot situation deep in a volcano, the direction in which this small kettlepot explodes can decide the timing of the volcano, the direction of lava flow, etc. as in chaos sequences.

It is random events such as these which break up any suggestion of continuity between events in the world. Because of this, even if we know everything there is to be known in the world at a particular moment, and granting that we have infinite mathematical knowledge, we still would not be able to predict all the events that would happen in the next moment, because of numerous such random events. In the context of the volcano, we would not be able to predict the direction or timing of the explosion, for example.

Thus such random events rule out continuity, the theory that everything influences everything, because such random events disrupt any continuity, for example, again in the context of the volcano, nothing influences the timing, flow, etc. of the volcano which remains random because of numerous such tiny kettle pot influences deep within.

 

Continuity does suggest qualified monism, and you will recall the struggles of Buddhist philosophers to rule out continuity by formulating their theory of Pratitya–samutpada, in which the world is destroyed at every moment and reborn again at every moment. But as you say, it is better not to start discussing this now.

Awaiting your thoughts,
Palash.





From: Dennis Littrell <dalittrell@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: More on free will
To: "palash mazumdar" <palashm@yahoo.com>
Date: Tuesday, 16 February, 2010, 2:02

Hi, Palash:

>Here, my meaning was that the kettlepot may be connected to events after it, but it is not connected to the events preceding it.<

In whatever way the kettle pot may be connect to events after it, in the same way it is connected to prior events.

>…the direction in which the lid blows off is not connected to anything preceding it. It is entirely random.<

The direction that the lid blows off is greatly influenced by air pressure, heat distribution, how the lid was manufactured, etc. It is connected to these prior events. This is not to say that we can predict which way the lid will blow off. In this sense the definition of "random" lies in our inability to predict. This is not to suggest that an event by this definition is uncaused or indeterminate. We don't know. It is also not to suggest that such an event could be (even theoretically) predicted. Just because we can't predict an event doesn't mean it's random.

This I think is the crux of our seeming disagreement. It is both the case that all events in the cosmos are connected, however tenuously, with prior events AND these events are unpredictable. They may or may not be random and they may or may not be caused by prior events. We don't know.

Looked at this way we can see a contradiction resulting from our inability to rigorously define "random" and "causation." This, I believe, is part of the profound understanding that David Hume came to.

I realized some years ago that we didn't really understand "random" when I was looking for a way to generate truly random numbers. Frankly I believe that the idea of a "random" event as we generally understand such a notion doesn't exist in the way we think it does. Whether a number that is generated by some device is truly random depends on whether every number in the sample (necessarily a finite sample) has an equal chance of appearing. This is random in probability theory. To determine whether an event from an unknown sample (the natural world) is truly random we would have to know that all events in the sample have an equal chance of appearing. We cannot possibly know that.

Another way to determine whether a device is cranking out random numbers from a sample (say the numbers 1 through 10) is to run the device for a long time and then look at the results. This is statistics, and we will be able to say within a certain "level of confidence" (defined mathematically) that the device really does crank out random numbers or that the device has a bias. When looking at events from the natural world again we are not able to know what our confidence level should be. This is because whereas we know what the distribution of the numbers 1 through 10 ought to be (ten percent each), we don't know from the events we observe in the natural world what their occurrence percentages ought to be.

What Hume said was that we cannot know that A caused B; we can only know that A was prior to B. The reason Hume came to this conclusion was that he couldn't find a "causal" agent between two events.

As far as the connectedness of events in the cosmos goes, we can say that clearly if gravity or light can reach any two objects they are connected in that sense, again however tenuously. In modern physics it is speculated that there are parallel universes about which we can know nothing. Events in those (supposed) universes would presumably not be connected to events in our universe.

> It is random events such as these which break up any suggestion of continuity between events in the world.<

You are assuming the event is random. My point is we can't possibly know that since we can't rigorously define "random" nor can we completely account for causation.

> Because of this, even if we know everything there is to be known in the world at a particular moment, and granting that we have infinite mathematical knowledge, we still would not be able to predict all the events that would happen in the next moment, because of numerous such random events.<

We are in agreement here, but the events that are "random," that is, unpredictable, are quantum events, not kettle pot events. Quantum events are resolved in a probabilistic sense at the macro level. Quantum events cannot in practice nor in principle be observed without affecting the events. They then resolve in the same sense that the wave function famously collapses into a macro event. The very fact of observation implies some sort of interference in the quantum event so that it is no longer the same event.

I think it is enough––as both you and I understand it––to say that because of the chaotic nature of complex events that some events are unpredictable––"chaotic" in the mathematical sense of the word as used in chaos theory. Or it is enough to say that because any quantum event is in principle indeterminate, and because quantum events can influence macro events, we can say that some events are unpredictable.

Best wishes,
Dennis







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* To read more on Advaita Vedanta and Yoga and its harmony with modern science and reason, you can go through my book on Amazon:



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