On Feb 17, 2013, at 4:32 PM, Kent Barshov wrote:
I've interspersed my comments among your comments.
----- Original Message -----
From: Vitale Frank
To: Kent Barshov
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:10 PM
Subject: Re: more re: Determinism Dilemma
Mine is a bit of a saga. I hope you find it interesting. I appreciate having someone to communicate with who understands and is interested in these ideas.
(I am beginning a new project, which is to turn my ebook into a series of videos. It ‘s a long-term project. I am currently writing the script and taking a course in After Effects to create necessary animation.)
YOUR PROJECT SEEMS REALLY INTERESTING AND I SEE HOW IT CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH COUNTLESS HOURS OF FUN, HARD WORK, AND CREATIVITY. I LIKE THE WHOLE SUBJECT OF URBAN PLANNING AND EVERYTHING IT ENTAILS. I THINK, AMONG OTHER THINGS, YOUR VIDEOS COULD HELP PEOPLE THINK ABOUT AND BE IN TOUCH WITH OUR LARGER ENVIRONMENT, WHICH IS THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT.
The following explanation is part memoir and part philosophy of science. I’ll be interested in what you think of it as a story and your evaluation of the philosophy. Again, I appreciate being able to run it by you. Parts of it I have never communicated to anyone.
In high school, I fell in love with physics. It was my greatest pleasure and I thought I could do anything with it. So, I was blind-sided when I realized the deterministic implication. At the time, I had no idea that I had encountered a long running philosophical problem, so I thought it was a problem with me, that I was not smart enough or was too twisted to come to terms with what didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else.
I CAN UNDERSTAND SOMEONE LOVING PHYSICS SINCE IT HAS THE ELEGANCE OF MATHEMATICS AND YET IS COUPLED TO THE DAY-TO-DAY WORLD WE LIVE IN, AS WELL AS GIVING US A HANDLE ON THE INFINITELY LARGE AND THE INFINITELY SMALL, AS WELL AS GIVING US A HANDLE ON THE LARGELY INVISIBLE FORCES SUCH A ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES, ETC. WHEN WE HAVE PROBLEMS OR DIFFICULTIES IN LIFE, IT'S NATURAL TO FEEL LIKE OR THINK THAT WE ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH OR ENDURED SUCH PROBLEMS, BUT OF COURSE "THERE'S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN," AND WE CAN TAKE COMFORT IN LEARNING HOW OTHERS HAVE HANDLED THE SAME BURDENS.
I LIKE YOU HAVE LIVED A LIFE OF LOOKING FOR MEANING, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE I COME ACROSS SEEM NOT TO BE TROUBLED OR STIRRED UP WITH LOOKING FOR BIGGER MEANINGS. IN MILTON'S "PARADISE LOST," AT ONE POINT WE CATCH OF GLIPMSE OF THE DEVILS IN THEIR LAIR IN HELL; SOME ARE JUST RAMBLING ABOUT OR TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION, BUT MILTON DESCRIBES THAT OTHERS ARE LETTING THEIR THOUGHTS "WANDER THROUGH ETERNITY." IT REMINDS ME WHEN I ONCE SAW A SEMI-TRAILER TRUCK WHICH HAD OVERTURNED IN THE WIDE GRASSY MEDIAN STRIP OF AN INTERSATE THROUGHWAY. THE SEMI-TRAILER WAS HAULING LIVE PIGS--- I ASSUME TO THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. SOME OF THE PIGS WERE MOTIONLESS ON THEIR SIDE, WITH BLOOD COMING OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS. OTHER PIGS WERE ROLLING IN THE PUDDLES OF MUD. AND YET OTHER PIGS WERE STARTING TO ROAM OFF AS THE STATE POLICE WERE ARRIVING AND TRYING TO HERD THEM BACK TOGETHER. WHEN I SAW THIS, I THOUGHT "THAT'S HOW LIFE IS." SOME OF US ARE DEAD AND DYING. OTHERS OF US ARE SIMPLY ENJOYING OURSELVES. AND OTHERS ARE OFF ON A JOURNEY LOOKING FOR SOMETHING.
So, I struggled with it for over a decade.
I THINK A DECADE OF STRUGGLE IS TIME WELL SPENT. ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES IS FROM A RABBI WHO WROTE: "A FAITH LIKE JOB'S CANNOT BE SHAKEN BECAUSE IT COMES AS A RESULT OF HAVING BEEN SHAKEN."
It wasn’t until my 30s that I discovered the discipline of Philosophy of Science where I learned that determinism had been debated for a couple of centuries and was still a matter of “inconclusive controversy.”
It is odd that I could have been struggling ‘in a vacuum’ for all that time. But that is what happened and I think it shapes who I am.
YES, IT'S AN INTERESTING STORY HOW YOU WERE STRUGGLING WITH IT ALL ON YOUR OWN, SO TO SPEAK.
Of course, when I found out that determinism wasn’t just my problem but was the world’s problem, I was greatly relieved and able to move forward with my thinking.
I realized that I had been making an assumption (that many people make, even, I think, very smart ones like Richard Dawkins) that science is THE source of knowledge. And, if that is the case, free will is impossible. But, at some point, I realized that my experience of my free will is just as fundamental as scientific reasoning. That realization allowed me to lift up a corner of science and look around it.
My next step was to do the Einstein Maneuver, as I call it. In Infeld’s book on Einstein, he describes a state of physics where experimental results were contradicting each other. Physicists kept performing experiments and kept getting contradictory results. What Einstein did was accept the experimental results “without further appeal,” and he made the contradictory results his fundamental premises, which he used to develop a new paradigm in physics.
YES, AS YOU PROBABLY ARE AWARE OF, FOR THE PAST TWO OR THREE DECADES, SCIENCE REPORTERS AND WRITERS WHO ARE POPULARIZERS OF QUANTUM PHYSICS SHOW HOW THE CUTTING EDGE OF SCIENCE IS LEADING US BACK TO A MORE MYSTICAL VIEW OF NATURE WHICH ALL CULTURES HAVE HELD IN TIMES PAST.
So, I felt that after a my decade of struggling with determinism, and after world philosophers’ centuries of struggling with it, it was time to accept both horns of the dilemma “without further appeal.”
RIGHT BRAIN THINKING IS COMFORTABLE WITH PARADOX, BUT LEFT BRAIN THINKING IS NOT.
I was gratified when I discovered in Erwin Schrodinger’s “What is Life?” a precise formulation of exactly what I was thinking:
i) My body functions as a pure mechanism according to the Laws of Nature.
ii) Yet, I know by incontrovertible direct experience, that I am directing its motions, of which I foresee the effects that may be fateful and all important, in which case I feel and take all responsibility for them.
It was nice to hear from you that Rabbis say the same thing: that we are free and determined at the same time. I called the acceptance of both horns of the dilemma, the theory of incompatible, co-existent realities.
Since determinism is a direct result of science, I needed to get a better idea of what science is.
THE WORD "SCIENCE" ULTIMATELY DERIVES FROM THE INDO-EUROPEAN ROOT WORD"SKEI'" WHICH MEANS "TO CUT" OR "TO SPLIT." SCIENCE DIVIDES THINGS UP; THAT'S LEFT BRAIN THINKING AGAIN. BUT RIGHT BRAIN THINKING UNIFIES OR SEES THE BIG PICTURE--- OR PUTS THINGS BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO ALREADY, LOOK AT THE 12-MINUTE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE ENTITLED "RSA ANIMATE-- THE DIVIDED BRAIN." WE ACTUALLY NEED BOTH RIGHT AND LEFT BRAIN THINKING TO BE HUMAN AND TO FUNCTION AS HUMANS. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE NEED TO DIVIDE THINGS UP AND TIMES WHEN WE NEED TO PUT THINGS BACK TOGETHER TO GET THE BIG PICTURE.
Peter Medawar in his LIMITS OF SCIENCE makes a very clear and convincing argument that science has limits. As he says, “Science is a house with empirical furniture.” Science is the authority without limit in the empirical world, but it has no sway in the world of, as he calls them, “first and last things,’’ like where we came from or where we are going.
I extend science’s limitation, that is, I think it has nothing to say about human values and all things human.
I UNDERSTAND THE POINT YOU'RE MAKING HERE, BUT I WOULD MODIFY IT BY SAYING THAT SCIENCE HELPS SHAPE OUR HUMAN VALUES, BUT IT IS NOT THE ONLY SKILL OR WAY OF THINKING WHICH SHAPES OUR VALUES.
For Einstein, his maneuver was effective because he developed a new paradigm that resolved the contradiction. When I made the same maneuver, I had no thought of a new paradigm. But, that didn’t make it any less foundational for me. Freewill and determinism are both true and it is fruitless to deny either.
I THINK SOMETIMES WE NEED TO EXERCISE OUR FREE WILL AND OTHER TIMES WE NEED TO "GO WITH THE FLOW"--- ALMOST IN A DETERMINSTIC SENSE.
Though a new paradigm is not necessary, it is desirable, and I have been thinking about the relationship between these two worlds/realities. I see the human word as everything and the science world also as everything. If they were Vin diagrams, they be two concentric circles on top of each other. Add to that, they are fundamentally contradictory.
Though I am no closer to removing the contradiction, I have developed some very speculative ideas of what science is that get closer to understanding the contradiction. I’ll save those for a later time.
I SEE OUR LIFE AS A DANCE BETWEEN DETERMINISTIC WAYS OF THINKING A "FREE WILL WAYS" OF THINKING. WE DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE EITHER/OR BUT CAN RELISH BOTH/AND.
Once you wrote, quite rightly, that it is better to spend our time making the world a better place than speculating on whether a city is an organism or not. I couldn’t agree with you more. However some people, even some notables like Copernicus and Darwin, are consumed by asking what is, rather than what we’d like it to be.
RIGHT BRAIN THINKING IS COMFORTABLE WITH BEING WITH "WHAT IS," AND LEFT BRAIN THINKING MOVES US INTO THINKING ABOUT WHAT WE WOULD LIKE IT TO BE. I'M SORRY THAT I KEEP HARPING ON RIGHT VS. LEFT BRAIN THINKING, BUT FOR ME IT'S A FRUITFUL AREA OF EXPLAINING HOW WE GO BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL. A MEDICAL SCIENTIFIC VIEW IS HOW OUR AUTOMATIC NERVOUS SYSTEM--- CALLED THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM--- IS BALANCED BETWEEN THE SYMPATHETIC AND PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEMS. OR AN OLDER WAY OF SAYING IT IS BETWEEN YIN AND YANG, OR EVEN A RELIGIOUS WAY OF THINKING ABOUT IT, BETWEEN JUSTICE AND MERCY, MALE VS. FEMALE, EAST VS. WEST, MONISM VS. DUALISM, AND SO ON.