The philosophy thread (reminder philosophy is not politics nor conspiracy theories)


@psyber Wow! OK … you bring a lot to review and absorb. Moch appreciated :star_struck:

By the way (yes it’s true… I often use certain emojis but eschew acronyms… guilty with an explanation) No worries about any angst from the conversation on Free Will… I’m on the fence… and you are firmly planted on the deterministic side.

I find the discussion elevating and enjoyable.

AND! now that @far_darrig is in the room… I gotta believe this thread is going to continue to ROCK! :guitar:


This I did not know… but I’m not surprised given how fast things develop. Point your favor on the Reductionist level.

To me this is akin to Newton describing Gravity… in Microbiology, we have yet get to something akin to Einstein or Niels Bohr… and even they cannot explain how Gravity is possible; and yet Gravity is an everyday undeniable fact

A somewhat tortured analogy… but, I believe with merit.

Precisely… I don’t think that at all. I don’t understand at all how Free Will can be possible. I don’t understand how Gravity can be possible either… but there it is. I don’t believe anybody else knows either. Do I believe it’s possible to know? I want to say yes… but I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m open to the possibility that Free Will does not exist, and possible to prove it. It’s only that, at the moment the evidence is not conclusive… and not even compelling to me, in the face of my knowledge and experience.of the apparent obviousness that I’m confronted constantly with choices and making them. Not to mention stuck to the Earth by Gravity.

This may well be an illusion… (Free Will and Gravity both!) but then, as you pointed out we could resort to claiming it’s all an illusion and that you and I and this discussion etc. don’t exist.

There’s no resolution in the “Illusion” premise.

So much for the “Universe is Computable” side of the discussion. If one insists that all is computable, and points at myriad computations as proof… that seems circular to me.

Point Chomsky! If nobody thought any different… THAT would be compelling evidence of Determinism!

Not sure what happened there… but my humble apologies.

Thanks again for the enlightening and stimulating discussion… and the videos! I will check them out. :sunglasses::sparkles:



This “choice” … is it made by you via Free Will? Or is it predetermined by the inevitable computations of the molecules in your cells?


Well… ahem🤔 Artificial? Certainly… Intelligent? Hardly… notwithstanding the complexity and cleverness of the programming, these appear to be elaborate examples of GIGO… and instantly recognizable as derivative by this mere mortal.

I’m not judging the work on it’s content, or style… but on the lack of creativity In applying the resources to express a thought. Not to mention that no thought is expressed. (Except maybe for the reference to the famous “Dog Poker.” I suppose the computer may be expressing irony… but I doubt it… more likely the programmer thought that this would be cheeky.)

This sort of exploration into the lowest levels of the hierarchy of thought is, no doubt, valuable… but seemingly far from imitating, much less mirroring, how humans actually think.

It’s like discovering the wheel… but far from the internal combustion engine… which, by the way, has no Free Will. So this may be a dead end in that respect.

This does, however, bring up the subject of AI as it relates to Free Will.

If and when machines reach a point where they are undeniably functioning in the same way and at the same level as human intelligence. Then I would say that is compelling evidence, perhaps even proof of Determinism.

In fact it would imply that Human Intelligence is Artificial as well and that we :star_struck:and the Robots :robot: are peers and even moral equals.

I can imagine that possible outcome and even accept it should it arrive… but at the moment I have serious doubts. Interestingly enough… these doubts are not by choice… I’m compelled to doubt by lack of conclusive evidence.

I believe we have Free Will to chose what to believe… but we don’t have Free Will to chose what is Real. :sunglasses::sparkles:


There’s nothing special going on, if there were, the notation for describing chemical reactions wouldn’t work, computers wouldn’t work, because they rely on the regularity and predicability of electricity (over the quantum scales).

And our cells are way bigger than the quantum scale.

It is so far an established fact that the visual representation of the world we perceive is itself an illusion. We use the same circuits during the day to perceive the world as we do to perceive dreams, because what we are looking at is like some sort of virtual reality that is constructed by the mind, and informed by the senses.

Yet, is it not also such an obvious everyday fact that we can see the world directly?

Yet biologically, and even philosophically, we cannot observe the world directly, only by proxy of our mental representations, which are not necessarily compatible with a representation of the external world.

I don’t. I point to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, the Halting Problem, and various other demonstrations that the classical semantics of mathematics break down when you actually try to run them.

So, this is good evidence that the universe itself must too obey these rules, for if that is the case, then no language can ever be constructed that describes it – maybe some people like that idea, but there’s no good reason to take it up, when so far our experiences with trying to model the world computationally have been very successful.

Perhaps, but just pointing this out is no argument. It’s just pointing out that things are open to debate – of course they are, it doesn’t actually add anything to our understanding the processes that are happening.

On second parse I noticed I misinterpreted this, never mind!

Of course they! That’s not the point!

Someone generated these by just plugging in an image, but the source image is not what I’m talking about.

Creativity is not the reason I posted this, in fact, your entire paragraph misses the point of why I posted them!

The point was, as I did say, is that they look incredibly biological and continuous.

I didn’t suggest it was! The part that is similar to how our brains work that I mentioned was the hierarchy of classifiers that exist at the lowest levels of our visual perception – at this point there is no thought in our brains, it is just a mental representation of some abstract structure that classifies and describes the visual input – these are the parts that are processing the basic geometry of our visual input.

The point is that they look like something a human might see on some sort of experimental psychedelics.

They look incredibly biological in natural – not creative, or artistic, but that’s not the point.

If we counted the number of points that count as evidence toward each outcome, there are a far greater number of reasons to believe that computation is sufficient than there are to the contrary.

It seems the only reason to believe otherwise is doubt on its own accord, since if we are to take the stance with the strongest evidence, then doubt of its own accord is not sufficient.

It has to be reasonable doubt.

I think there is reasonable cause to avoid seeing it as conclusive, but so far, its the only model that satisfies all of the constraints.


@1roomstudio – something else I was thinking was that there is a logical fallacy in the heart of the idea of free will.

If our will is independent from events in the world, that implies there can only be a one-way flow of information. But if that is so, we could not learn.

So, how do we learn? We use our free will to decide to allow the external world to influence our actions?

Well, if that’s the case, that implies that we can break the laws of physics.

Because consider if I inserted an electrode into your brain, and started activating random neurons, influencing your actions, your thoughts, your behaviour, and your imagination.

If our will was independent from the external world, this should have no effect on us, unless we choose to allow it.

But, what would make us choose to allow these electrodes to have an effect on our brain’s operation?

Why would we choose to do so, except by some necessity?

But what is this necessity? Physics?

If so, then the ultimate determining factor of what determines our actions is not the internal operations of our brains in of itself, but the interconnected feedback loops that occur between the operations of our brains and the external world (including physics), the thing that is our mind cannot exist without the external world to support it, as they are intrinsically linked, and share the same threads of causality, and could be argued in some way (as in the ultimate reduction: we are just one thing, and we are looking at different aspects of it).

The only other explanation that isn’t contradictory is that we have a “soul”. Some thing we have not yet detected, but which can exert physical control over our brains machinery to impart our free will which is piped in from some external world, and if the machinery itself is broken, then the soul cannot use it.

But that’s a tad contrived, is it not?

There’s no other way to construct a logically consistent concept of free will which isn’t inherently tied to events in the world.


I’ve been checking out Joscha… fascinating… love it! Thank you so much for sharing.

I was hooked as soon as he stated that Mathematics does not compute etc. I had this epiphany when I was 13… I can remember it clearly. I’ve been saying such ever since… with few who will indulge the thought.

from Computation to Consciousness wouldn’t load… some message that YouTube took it down for copyright strike…

I especially enjoyed and could relate to Meta Psychology… most Excellent reasoning and beautifully arranged presentation.

I thought Machine Dreams was a stretch and was impressed when at 51 minutes he states that much of what he says is speculative. Specifically “none of this is really proven…” and whether the Universe is a “discrete tape machine…”

I need to re listen to Ghost in the Machine… I was distracted … but I did notice he discussed Free Will.

Back to my trepidation about Determinism… if everything is determined then everything should be predictable.

Randomness seems to preclude that… in an earlier post you mentioned “… if Randomness even exists…” well… if it doesn’t than the limits of human knowledge are further from the Horizon than one might imagine… and physicists have a lot I work to do. I’m waiting patiently…:sunglasses:

This discussion has caused me to consider… “what would convince that there is no Free Will…?”

If and when an artificial intelligence can predict whether or not I will choose the red pill or the blue pill infallibly over many times then I may suspect there is no free will… but first I will suspect that it’s a trick… I’ve seen magic shows before! :sparkles:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…

Thanks again for sharing :+1::sunglasses::sparkles:




Love this bit of demonstration of QM effects, Feynman describes in detail and (much like the Koans) cautions against attempting to understand it… but rather to accept it as reality and move on.

A question I’ve always wondered about: In observing the single electrons entering the slit… what causes the electron to enter one slit versus the other? Or neither? Randomness? If so then what is the mechanism of this “random” function? Perhaps the observer?

Perhaps acceptance is the best resolution… dunno :man_shrugging:


@far_darrig, @1roomstudio

With respect to the term “observer” – I’ve never liked how the word is used to describe taking a measurement. When videos use observer to describe this, it makes it sound like the particles know when we’re looking at them. That’s not the case.

What observation means, is literally taking a measurement. You fundamentally cannot observe anything unless you interact with it, to see how it responds to your interaction. Whether that be by touch (electro-magnetism), or light (photons, electro-magnetic waves). When the thing hits it, and bounces off onto a detector, we know its there. Or if we detect its effect on an electro-magnetic field (electron microscopy).

Until such time as something interacts with the matter, it has an undefined state, and can only be expressed as a distribution of probabilities over the set of possible paths.

And the Zen Koans (Douglas Hofstadter writes about them in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach – though there are good reasons to dispute his idea of Strange Loops). This cuts into the fundamental division between the two sides. What is computational, and what is not, and is our universe computational? There have been many linguistic paradoxes that have come about over the years that don’t have a solution, but this is because they are specifications for a system which cannot be implemented. However, they are just that, linguistic paradoxes, but don’t have any relation to something that can exist.

They are self-contradictory. But they only seem like a paradox because we assume that the classical semantics of mathematics is true, and that we can have infinities and stuff like this. Even if we don’t believe in infinity itself, it is a common thing to believe in things and generally act and reason as if it did.

Interestingly, these linguistic paradoxes have been some of the sparks that gave birth to Set Theory, Type Theory, the Principia Mathematica by (Russel and Whitehead), Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, the division between constructive and non-constructive mathematics, and computationalism. All of these are either attempts to prevent or describe paradoxes and contradictions arising, or fields/philosophies that emerged as a consequence.

That’s the thing though, we don’t actually know whether the noise we see in QM is truly random, or if it is just a measurement problem. We don’t know whether the universe is doing non-computable mathematics.

Then there’s the Cellular Automaton Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics by Nobel physicist Gerrard 't Hooft, which shows great promise in replicating the dynamics of QM in a complete computational and deterministic system.

You might have seen Conway’s Game of Life, that’a s type of cellular automaton. It has actually been proven that certain cellular automata are Turing-complete. Which means they are capable of performing any arbitrary computations (constructive ones).

With respect to multiple possible states existing simultaneously, that I don’t dispute as a possibility. In fact, t’ Hooft’s model has this. So does Stephen Wolfram’s model. This is also where much of the division lies between the different interpretations of QM. Some interpretations reason that these different possible paths in the integral (which I describe more below) actually happen, and cause these exponential branches of possibility that form parallel universes at each branching. Other interpretations reason that it doesn’t actually happen.

However, we also don’t know whether the problem of how the universe appears to do super computational operations in QM is simply a matter of whether it is a polynomial problem. This relates to the P vs NP problem, which relates the nature of complexity and computational irreducibility.

We have no proof that P != NP. We also have no proof that P = NP. It may be that due to Incompleteness, there is no proof. It may even be true but not provably true. This is one of the things about Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, that when you allow any form of self-reference, which we can’t avoid when we want to do non-constructive mathematics, then these systems will always be incomplete, and there will be properties about the system that cannot be proven, but this only includes the subset of statements that make self-reference.

The main point is, this means that the classical semantics of mathematics lead to contradictions when you try to run it.

If you follow Type Theory, it does indeed allow you to circumvent these kinds of problems. The same goes for computational mathematics, computational systems.

So, the computational descriptions are the only ones that doesn’t lead to contradictions when you try to run them

Now, it could be that being a part of the universe, that is emergent from its mechanics, not being its underlying mechanics, we are confined to only ever enact the constructive. Perhaps that is so, however, there is no good reason to believe this is the case.

The non-computational descriptions make more assumptions about the nature of the underlying substrate to reality than the computable ones. So if we are to assume the model containing the fewest assumptions, then the computational one is the one we should be preferring.

These are also very new ideas, being stitched together and connections being made between these different fields like this. Joscha Bach did an informal survey among foundational physicists at a conference, and a growing number of them believe that a computational model is needed going forward. Gerrard 't Hooft does, and he’s not talking about things that have no evidence or justification like Penrose has been doing.

Indeed, but what he was talking about was that it is intuition-defying. We cannot use our intuitions to understand it, we can only understand it when we look at it in its mathematical form. Now, admittedly, I do not posses the expertise necessary to understand all of the mathematics. However, all you need to understand these concepts abstractly is to understand calculus, some basic geometry, complex numbers, some wave mechanics, to then have a decent idea of what the path integral is doing, and of what the wave function means and what the probability amplitude distribution means, and how it differs from a conventional probability.

So, what does it mean for a bunch of different things to be in multiple states at the same time? Well, they kind of are, but they also kind of aren’t.

This is where our intuition breaks down. Because what the path integral is doing is effectively considering all possible paths, and from the aggregation of these, you can form these wave functions that describe the probability distribution of a particle, and until there is an interaction (i.e., an observer), this is all it is. But when something does interact with it, we can then know its state, as the wave function “collapses” and the final state becomes known.

And then you can start to get a basic idea of the concepts at play.

But he’s still right, you can’t understand it, except by proxy of the mathematics. Nonetheless, one can begin to reason about these concepts despite this, without really truly understanding them.

In exactly the same way as we cannot understand 4-dimensional objects.

There’s still no good reason to accept any of this.

If we did that, we wouldn’t be talking about this now. We’d have never invented anything, probably wouldn’t exist as a species without a fundamental drive to see the world as not being how it should be, and doing what we can to make it that way. Whether that arise abstractly, in that what the world should be is “understood”, or as some injustice done by our own kind.


I’m pretty sure that’s the same guy from What The Bleep Do We Know who goes on to say, “Therefore, everything we dream turns into reality!”


Life is like a giant rub goldberg machine…


That’s amazing!

And it reminds me of something I have not yet mentioned, and I often forget to remind myself to have gratitude and to state the positive.

To me, the idea that life might be a “just” a big Rube Goldberg machine, is no less beautiful than one in which life is inherently unpredictable.

In a sense, there is more beauty to see when we are able to comprehend it in the first place.


Something I’ve been thinking, as I’ve found videos like this, is that there’s this very weird trend of people so incredibly caught up in their ego that they’re livestreaming themselves doing things, and betting so much of their pride and self worth on it, and fumbling around defending themselves against themselves.

The most recent examples I’ve been watching are chess grandmasters. While I will not claim to be able to follow Hikaru commentating on these chess games, it’s fascinating how frequently you see people who are dominant in a field acting incredibly competitive, and so caught up in their own expectations of themselves which are themselves a reflection of the exceptions they perceive others having of them.

You can see just how fixated on the chat he is, and fumbling around trying to figure out this 5D chess game – which I’m quite sure had he simply tried learning it to himself, without applying the pressure of the internet and the trolls that are clearly present and taunting him, he’d have gotten this in a fraction of the time he spent defending his ego with these dismissing comments of the game and random nonsensical commentary.

I don’t mean this to judge them badly, but I certainly think people that do this aren’t doing themselves any good. Not everybody that livestreams invests their ego so deeply into it, and it shows in the language they use, the emotions they show, they emotions they don’t try to hide.

Mr. Beast playing chess against Hikaru. Mr. Beast trys to deflect his reactions as drama, but it bleeds through quite clearly just how much he’s investing his ego into it – not to mention quite hastily moving onto dominate in his field of expertise: clickbait titles and thumbnails. That’s not to say he isn’t still good at it!

And here two chess grandmasters comparing themselves from opposing angles – it’s unreal just how much emotion is invested into this!

What I think is interesting further is that people like this are good for us. It is often ego that is the driver of motivation and hard work. Without people that pour their 110% into everything, we would’t be as technologically advanced as we are. That’s not to say smarts hasn’t played a part – no doubt Hikaru is a genius, and frankly so is Levy – but smarts and ego together gets shit done, even is sometimes a little cringy.

I can’t recall, I’ve been meaning to look for it, but there’s a book I saw recommended about the role ego has played in science. I shall have to find it.


Though conversely, it must be said: evil, smarts and ego really don’t make for a good mix.

I wonder, if we could do some rough utilitarian comparison between the good and the evil that has been done as a result of each side (if we were to to reduce it to a polarity), which side would yield the highest absolute value?

I wonder how much the difference would differ depending on the comparative operator, assuming it treated each side equally as the exact inverse of the other.


I want to follow my above posts up again, with something that I can relate to: after about 10:30 he hints at a few things about this. There’s a self awareness of this whole thing.

It’s like this certain idea, status, or subject becomes the ground on which some people’s lives, meaning and personality are built. What this ground is, and what its relationship to the mechanisms from which it emerges is, gives birth to a unique identity.

It seems that for some people, their life’s work is primarily their social relationships, but for others, it’s their deeds – though to some degree I think there is always a mix. I think though, within “deeds” lies acts and creations, for what is a creation but an act of imposition on the world or an act of giving?

That takes me to a thought: is there really any such thing as true altruism? Can we really disambiguate the aggregate intentions that lead to an act? Probably this is another place where the ultimate nihilism means we can’t – at least not in a “right” way. But, it begs the question: why even bother? Let a good deed be a good deed – perhaps an element of acceptance isn’t a bad thing. :slight_smile:


I don’t believe so. The definition of altruism I’ve always been given is something along the lines of “a selfless act”. But, assuming you made a choice that’s perceived as altruistic by others, if you did it willingly I would have to assume that you did it, at bare minimum, because you believed it would make someone else happy, which you deemed as a good thing. The way I think about it myself, is if making other people happy makes me happy enough to go out of my way to do things for them, then nothing I can do is truly altruistic - because making those other people (or animals, or trees, or that rock, whatever) made ME marginally happier or I don’t think I would have done anything “altruistic” in the first place. In the end, I do something because it makes me better off, and sometimes that happens to make someone/something else more better off. But there’s still ‘me’ in the equation, it’s not selfless.


@White_Noise – Well put. It’s interesting isn’t it.

I think this is also yet another of an infinite number of examples of nihilism permeating all of reasoning about meaning.

For one, its actually very difficult to analyse our own awareness of ourselves and garner much certainty about the underlying processes, for what we are conscious of is an abstraction emergent out of far more intricate, and not necessarily isomorphic to our conscious impressions of them, unconscious thought processes.

Then, if we’re trying to define altruism (as well as all of the philosophical hurdles surrounding complete definition of concepts in language, but you know we’re being practical here), then we also need to define its dependencies. For example, intention to do good. What is intention?

I think it’s on intention itself that we get stuck on (though if we hadn’t made our prior assumptions to do practical philosophy we wouldn’t have even gotten this far), because at the level of the imprecise probabilisitic neurological operations occurring in our brains, how can we point to a specific pattern of these neurons, correlate them to our definition of intent, and draw an actual causal link between this region of neurons and the subsequent processes that lead to a good act?

The thing that really complicates this disambiguation is that any given region of neurons is not strongly tied to any particular concept or idea. These things are emergent out of lower-level operators that are themselves composed out of aggregate neuronal structures.

Without agreeing on some arbitrary interpretative framework that may or may not have any true identity with how our brains work, you cannot meaningfully disentangle this process, so you cannot ever even say whether or not an intention to do good is “pure” or not.

It is likely that, depending on the specific framework employed, you would even get different answers!

So yes, if I think I’m not an arsehole, then that’s just as valid as you telling me that I am! So yes, my ignorance is indeed as good as your knowledge! :stuck_out_tongue: (/sarcasm)

I am a practical nihilist, and I like choosing a bloody line, if I think its a good one – but here it’s bloody hard work finding even a contender! Ha!

When the nature of the solution of the problem depends upon the assumptions (propositions, axioms) we made being valid, despite having made those assumptions to begin with, I’m not sure even a practical nihilist can find a good answer, let alone a true nihilist.


I want to add, much of all of this debate is my working through what I really think about all this. Writing helps me to learn, and better yet debating and having other people point out flaws in my thinking is a good thing – though I don’t always agree, though I’m not disagreeing for defensive reasons, and I hope that does come through my occasional frustrated tone (maybe I need to side chain the enthusiasm into the frustration so it punches through the mix! :stuck_out_tongue:)

I am very consumed by ideas and the nature of the world, of existence and being.

It’s funny I spoke of how much emotion those guys in those videos poured into stuff I saw as silly, when it’s probably the case there are others that see how much emotion I pour into thought and ideas that see me as the silly one. And all opinions on this are equally valid. About all you can do, as 1roomstudio has already wisely said, accept it and move on.

I must say, a weird self-awareness of one’s own flaws can be a frustrating, but also incredibly humorous thing. When I’m in a good mood, I often burst into laughter at myself, and other times I feel frustrated at being unable to control certain aspects of my compulsions.