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Neo-Aristotelian

Law of causality: Why must a non-conscious entity only have one possible action in any given circumstances?

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I agree that causality is derived from entities and not linked by events (this mistake led to Hume's skepticism of causality). However, I disagree with what Peikoff said in OPAR:
"If, under the same circumstances, several actions were possible—e.g., a balloon could rise or fall (or start to emit music like a radio, or turn into a pumpkin), everything else remaining the same—such incompatible outcomes would have to derive from incompatible (contradictory) aspects of the entity's nature. But there are no contradictory aspects. A is A" (14-15).
In other words, the possible number of actions of non-conscious entitiesto not contradict Objectivism's tenet that human beings are capable of choice between multiple possible actions, I've taken the liberty to specify non-conscious entitiesis necessarily one in any given circumstances. How is this validated? I would think that to know how many actions are possible for any entity, conscious or non-conscious, comes much later after discovering these basic axioms/corollaries; it requires study of that entity, and that study requires an accumulation of advanced knowledge.
If we can't be certain of how many actions are possible for non-conscious entities in any given circumstances, are there any negative implications that would prevent us from later discovering the answer?
An interesting rebuttal is that if there are multiple possible actions in any given circumstances, the entity must choose among these actions; thus, multiple possible actions are only available for conscious entities because it's consciousness that produces multiple possible actions. An example of such entities are human beings, but even I doubt that (see my thread on free will). However, such multiple actions of non-conscious entities can be explained by randomness (e.g. quantum randomness). I know it's said that randomness is actually a limitation in knowledge, but that presupposes that non-conscious entities are limited to one action in any given circumstances. So to maintain this in light of this presupposition is circular.

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Welcome to OL, Joseph Brenner.

. . .

. . . my broader formula intended to be the minimum implied by the law of identity did not quite reach the minimum, which would be: “For some given circumstance or other, identical existents will produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.”* As is seen in the link, that picayune revision to the broad formula is occasioned by a consideration that applies to all physical regimes, including the classical regular regime.


The gravamen of the broad formula was captured perfectly well in my 1991 statement: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” In contrast Leonard Peikoff had maintained earlier that year that Rand’s law of identity entails the following: “In any given set of circumstances, there is only one action possible to an entity, the action expressive of its identity” (1991, 14). Dr. Peikoff’s formula can be read as not in contradiction with mine if his phrase only one action possible is taken to mean only one kind and range of action possible. But that is not the plain reading of his text. In his 1976 lectures The Philosophy of Objectivism (Lecture 2), also, he had maintained that Rand’s law of identity applied to action entailed that only a single action was physically possible to a thing in a given circumstance. Rand gave notice that those lectures were an accurate representation of her views, so I expect she shared the erroneous view expressed by Peikoff concerning uniquely determined outcome. (That there is a unique outcome in all cases is not in dispute; the issue is whether in all cases only that unique outcome was physically possible; see my 1997 reply to Rafael Eilon, 159–62.)

So I expect Rand meant “uniquely determined” in her 1973 formula for the law of physical causality: “All the countless forms, motions, combinations, and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved” (MvMM, 25). In any case, the error is easily corrected without major revision to her metaphysics or to its counters to Hume’s account of causation.
. . .

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I think randomness and meaningless chance do exist in nature and sentient life. The universe is filled with literally infinite possibilities. So an inanimate or living entity, under identical circumstances, could act, react, and behave differently at different times. It wouldn't have exact causation. For the living, this is one source of free will.

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Hi Nell,

I just want to say, I agree with Kyrel’s remark. That is, I stand with Peirce on this, and a bit of Nietzsche too, over against Rand and Leibniz. Kyrel mentioned the case of life. I noticed some years back that there has to be real contingency in the organism and in its environment or life would not be possible. The requisite contingency, the requisite non-regularity, non-determinism is right there in the chemistry and physics. I mean classical physics, regular and chaotic, regardless of whether any quantum indeterminacy also comes into play.

I don’t know if you have some physics background, but all the claims about physical determinism in the modern era, including Spinoza too, are really staked on a false view of the way in which and the extent to which physical phenomena is governed by dynamics captured by differential equations having unique solutions. In such equations, initial conditions and boundary conditions have to be specified to get specific unique solutions. (The solutions of these dynamics differential equations are the course the physical system will take.) What is ignored in the widespread intellectual blindness of modern physical determinism is the contingent character of initial conditions and boundary conditions in every physical process in the world. How do those conditions come to be what they are? They are all of them, taken together, in some circumstance of a physical system the result of some single further dynamical equation to which they are parts of the unique solution? Ha! It is with adjustments of such conditions that we do engineering or conduct the day’s business, and it by adjustments in such conditions that nature makes life.

I have written on this in the ’90’s in Objectivity in the paper “Volitional Synapses” (Part 3) which is in V2N4 and in the Remarks section at the end of V2N5. They take a couple of minutes to load.

Stephen

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The universe and "infinite possibilities" is one thing, real human possibilities quite another. Absent actual physics, the former is purely abstract and of no practical use whatsoever except to satisfy a need, innate or otherwise, for mental clarity. Infinite means might as well be infinite as in the universe might as well be itself regarding in kind replications. Infinite not in kind, possibilities if not actualities, is only a jejune idea no more infinite than in the minds thinking it.

--Brant

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Human beings posses a unique ability animals lack.

They are able to choose to act contrary to their nature.

Greg

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Human beings posses a unique ability animals lack.

They are able to choose to act contrary to their nature.

Greg

That's a contradiction unless you mean contrary to the nature of man qua man as opposed to the nature of any particular man. A murdering psychopath is acting quite in accordance with his "nature." It's interesting that you are implicitly claiming objectification of human nature.

--Brant

where'd the subjectivity go to?

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Human beings posses a unique ability animals lack.

They are able to choose to act contrary to their nature.

Greg

That's a contradiction unless you mean contrary to the nature of man qua man as opposed to the nature of any particular man. A murdering psychopath is acting quite in accordance with his "nature." It's interesting that you are implicitly claiming objectification of human nature.

--Brant

where'd the subjectivity go to?

Implied in my statement is right and wrong actions.

An example:

Humans can always make a conscious choice to act contrary to their thoughts and emotions.

Animals can only act according to their nature which is a combination of instinct and environmental cues. So for them there cannot be any right or wrong action.

Greg

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That's just saying other, non-human, animals have no morality (and free will). While what you say is true it does not address objectification vs subjectification, meaning you've gone, as a convenience it seems, objective. I applaud this but it's not your default. (Actually, your default is all the rationalization that's needed--or the ignoring that's needed.)

--Brant

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Maybe this can make it clearer...

It's our nature to get upset... but we can consciously choose whether or not to get upset.

Greg

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I have a blind spot. If someone gets at me from the rear my reaction is instantaneous and angry-upset. My conscious decision then is to ramp it down or keep it up. I have no control over that initial flash of anger.

--Brant

I'm not sure where your previous, above, fits into this discussion, so I'm just taking it as it is

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I have a blind spot. If someone gets at me from the rear my reaction is instantaneous and angry-upset.

There.

That's your nature.And "blind spot" is the PERFECT descriptor. :smile:

My conscious decision then is to ramp it down or keep it up. I have no control over that initial flash of anger.

There.

That's your choice either to act out on your nature, or to behave contrary to it by your own conscious choice.

Animals cannot do that.

Because humans have that ability to consciously choose, everyone is held morally accountable to rise above their nature by choosing to act contrary to it. There are some people who have become self-Conscious enough so that they don't even experience that "initial flash of anger".

Greg

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Road rage is an example of someone who has failed to train himself not to let his anger run away with him.

--Brant

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