Indifference Needs a Decision Rule

What do you do when you can’t decide which of two or more alternatives you prefer? The question assumes you have all the information you need to judge your subjective utility from each alternative, but that two or more of them are equally satisfactory to you. The technical term for this is “indifference,” and its meaning is different than the common usage.

Dictionary definitions for indifference give meanings like “of not particular interest or concern,” and “marked by no special liking or dislike for something.” But the economic concept of indifference can apply equally well to two or more alternatives which are of particular interest and for which you do have a special liking (or dislike). Choosing between a Smithwick’s Irish Ale and a Boddington’s Pub Ale, for example–both are of particular interest to me because I particularly like each of them. Conversely, if I had to choose between watching an Adam Sandler comedy or a Chevy Chase one, I would again be indifferent because I have a special dislike for each one.

Making decisions is easy when we can rank order the alternative; then the decision rule is “take the highest ranked” (or more simply, “take the best”). But when we are indifferent we give two or more items the same ranking (i.e., they tie), so how do we decide then?

On the one hand, indifference is good because you’ll be satisfied with your outcome whatever you choose, no less than if you had taken the best. On the other hand, indifference is bad when you can’t find an appropriate decision rule for choosing between equally good alternatives.

This long-winded explanation was spurred by my daughter’s problem with indifference at the theater snack bar yesterday. With a crowd building up behind us, she found herself indifferent between her options and lacking a decision rule. In plain English, she couldn’t make up her mind. The choice certain was of particular interest and concern because her sisters were also getting snacks and she desperately wanted a snack, too. She was indifferent between types of snacks, but had a clear rank ordering of “snack -> no snack.”

Being tired and headachy, my first attempt to help her was less than helpful. Amazingly, “There are a lot of people waiting on us, so just choose one or you get nothing” is not a helpful decision rule to an indifferent 9 year old. But I had more success with my second attempt, “Name one thing you like.” M&Ms it was, and satisfying they were.

This event reminded me of a time I was blocked in a gas station snack aisle by someone who couldn’t decide between Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch chips and Doritos Salsa Verde chips. I pointed to the Salsa Verde chips and said, “Take those.” I wasn’t thinking about decision rules; I just wanted the guy to decide so I could get through the aisle. He looked up in surprise and asked, “Are they good?” “I don’t know,” I said, “But if you haven’t tried either one, then one’s as good a pick as the other.” He happily agreed, grabbed a bag, and headed for the counter. And then I began thinking about decision rules….

The problem for both that guy and my daughter was the fear that they wouldn’t get the best, that they’d end up disappointed. But being indifferent, they really didn’t need to worry about that outcome. Granted, the man might have felt disappointed if he hated the Salsa Verde Doritos, but he wouldn’t be in a position to know that he wouldn’t have disliked the Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch just as much. (He could have played it safe and gone for the Nacho Cheese Doritos, but apparently his rank order that day was “try something new -> same old thing.”) My daughter was in a much better position–she was going to enjoy whatever she got, so disappointment could only be an irrational response, buyer’s remorse. My daughter, or course, is perfectly rational–as demonstrated by her inability to choose when indifferent–so that wasn’t a concern.

I had trouble making decisions when indifferent until that fateful day in the gas station. But that funny little moment taught me two important things: 1) Indifference means it doesn’t matter* what I choose, so I can stop stressing over the fear of being disappointed; 2) All I need then is some kind of decision rule–any rule that doesn’t result in perverse outcomes will do. Interfering strangers rarely volunteer a decision rule, but I have on occasion asked another shopper, “which one do you like,” and gone with their response (I would, of course, do just as well going with the opposite of their response, and might get additional utility out of watching their confused expressions). Flipping a coin works just as well, when you have only two options, but sometimes there are three or more (damn Frito Lay for making so many tasty Dorito varieties!), and sometimes I drop the coin and it rolls under the display case.

I’ve found that two decision rules work very well for me in the case of indifference. “Choose the one you thought of first” and “grab the nearest.” The first one sounds psychological, as though maybe the one I chose first is really most preferred, but it’s really not. It’s just a tie-breaker. “Grab the nearest” has the advantage of being ergonomically efficient.*

Yes, I am overthinking this. It’s an occupational hazard, you know. But it’s good that I did, because I actually used to worry about whether I should have gotten the 4 cheese pizza instead of the Pepperoni and Sausage one, and my enjoyment would suffer from fear that I maybe could have done better. And of course I spent an inordinate amount of time standing in front of the pizza case (or in the video store) expending great mental energy in making a decision that didn’t actually matter. And I see other people doing this on occasion, so I know my daughter and I are not the only ones.

I’ve experienced great satisfaction in overcoming indifference. Hopefully you never let it bother you. But if you have, choose a functional decision rule and take heart in knowing you can’t actually go wrong.

____________________________________________________________________
* Which is, I’m glad to say, one of the dictionary definitions.
* In The Compleat Strategyst, an example is given, iirc, of watching an ant crawl across a floor, while keeping an eye on your watch. If the ant crosses the line before the second hand reaches the number 6, take the first option; if it crosses the line after the second hand passes 6, take the second option. The weirdness of the rule is intentional, to emphasize that how you choose in cases of indifference (or, as in the book, when your odds are 50-50, which is much the same thing) doesn’t matter.

Advertisements

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
This entry was posted in Economical Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

68 Responses to Indifference Needs a Decision Rule

  1. D. C. Sessions says:

    Coin flipping is a time-honored approach.

    The fun part comes when you run up against the “greener grass” effect: the alternative you haven’t chosen is immediately more attractive, or fear that it might be. This happens a lot.

    To which my rule is: you can only change your mind once, which shows what you really wanted. Whether the initial tie-breaker is a coin or a bystander, that’s the rule in advance.

  2. Scott Hanley says:

    Speaking of overthinking things, you might enjoy this analysis of the economics of the Death Star.

  3. Of course, the Salsa Verde are the best.

  4. ppnl says:

    I’m reminded of the old joke about the donkey stuck exactly between two equal sized piles of hay. It starves to death. I really don’t think “over thinking” is the problem.

    Anyway starving is too kind a fate for anyone who even considers ordering a cheese pizza.

  5. Lance says:

    Four cheese pizza isn’t as lame as cheese pizza, but it isn’t much better.

    I hold a “bonus pizza review” session for my students each semester. I buy the pizza.

    I tell them I will buy various pizzas to satisfy their tastes, religious exclusions (no pork or ham or meat at all) and dietary restrictions.

    But I ant buyin’ no damn cheese pizza.

    I tell the students “This isn’t third grade and we’re not going to Chucky Cheese’s. Expand your horizons. An actual topping isn’t going to kill you.”

  6. Lance says:

    The religious have the additional choice of appealing to prayer. Of course how they decide whether they have made the choice that their favorite deity has nudged them towards is in fact another decision. Not too mention that perhaps their wires got crosses and the “evil one” has lead them down the path of perdition.

    Also you left out the possibility, at least for non-exclusionary choices, of choosing both, multiple or all options. The Dorito guy could have gotten both flavors unless he was completely indigent and then buying Doritos was probably a bad choice to begin with. Your daughter could have purchased multiple snacks and saved some for later, unless mean old, skin flint dad prevented resolving the dilemma with this more expensive option.

    Of course that is in itself a choice, and consumes more resources, but at least there would be no wishing you had chosen the other options remorse.

  7. D.A. Ridgely says:

    How, absent such a (necessarily arbitrary) tie breaking rule, we can be trapped by indifference is a problem that goes back as far as Aristotle and is probably best known in medieval philosophy as the Paradox of Buridan’s Ass, less a joke, ppnl, than a criticism in the form of a reductio ad absurdum of Buridan’s claim that mere free will can lead to, as it were, an inability to choose. It pops up again as an implication of Leibniz’s “Principle of Sufficient Reason” (roughly, that if there is no sufficient reason for one thing to happen instead of another, the initial situation will not change).

    What I find interesting is how we can square what appears to be choice of any sort with the prevailing preference for determinism. Given the latter position, the apparent paradox isn’t that we sometimes find it difficult to choose but that we usually don’t. (Like a conscious arrow in flight that, having reached the highest point of its trajectory, says to itself “I think I’ll start to descend now.”)

    Anyway, just to stir the pot a bit more, consider the following: as I noted already, tie breaking rules or procedures are necessarily arbitrary. Assuming, then, that two or more such rules can be chosen, doesn’t it follow that we should be indifferent as to which rule to use and thus just as perplexed, albeit at a higher level of abstraction?

  8. ppnl says:

    What I find interesting is how we can square what appears to be choice of any sort with the prevailing preference for determinism.

    Well the problem is that we can define determinism and often recognize it empirically. How do you define this thing you call “choice”? How do you recognize it any way but subjectively? The prevailing preference for determinism is simply because it is well defined and allows coherent arguments.

  9. James K says:

    What I find interesting is how we can square what appears to be choice of any sort with the prevailing preference for determinism.

    It’s not that hard really. You make a decision based on your preferences, information, endowments and constraints. But all of these things are deterministically caused, and therefore your choice is determined as well.

    Or, to put it another way, you can choose whatever you want, but you can’t choose to want whatever you want.

  10. ppnl says:

    Or, to put it another way, you can choose whatever you want, but you can’t choose to want whatever you want.

    But notice how you have entangled the subjective with the objective. Objectively a waterfall cannot do other than what it is deterministically driven to do. But we do not usually speak of a waterfall wanting anything or wanting to want something different. It just is. Or maybe the water does want to fall. How could you tell?

    So it is this wanting thing that is confusing the issue. What is it?

    Our subjective experiences seem to make us helpless observers to events that we have no control over. Like the water wanting to fall. Yet if that is so then how do we explain the existence of discussions of subjective experience?

  11. Matty says:

    Our subjective experiences seem to make us helpless observers to events that we have no control over. Like the water wanting to fall. Yet if that is so then how do we explain the existence of discussions of subjective experience?

    I don’t (subjectively) feel like a helpless observer, I’ve never stepped out the door thinking ‘where the fuck are my legs taking me?’.

    Anyway I think what James K is getting at is that the subjective want is part of the chain of causality not the start of it and not a separate observe powerless to affect events.

  12. I was thinking a little more on the basic differences between Capitalism and Socialism.

    Maybe that’s what James Hanley has in mind.

    In a Capitalist free market, the store owner would come up with a strategy to keep the line moving while making everyone happy. In an economy with a Socialist central planning the choice would be up to the government.

  13. ppnl says:

    I don’t (subjectively) feel like a helpless observer, I’ve never stepped out the door thinking ‘where the fuck are my legs taking me?’

    Well yes but if determinism is true then you are as helpless as the waterfall and given that you have subjective experiences you are an observer. Thus helpless observer.

    Anyway I think what James K is getting at is that the subjective want is part of the chain of causality not the start of it and not a separate observe powerless to affect events.

    Maybe the subjective is part of the chain of causality. But that does not explain what it is or by what mechanism it affects the chain of causality. Nor do we even have the tools to recognize it when we see it. We can’t even say if it is deterministic or not. Possible explanations range from a supernatural soul to simply a cognitive illusion. In other words pretty incoherent. We don’t seem to have the tools to deal with the hard problem and all attempts are really just ways to reconcile that failure with our prior philosophical commitments.

  14. James K says:

    ppnl:
    I’m looking at the brain from a mechanical point of view. Your preferences are encoded in your brain, your brain weighs up its preferences when confronted with alternatives, and the outcome of having made a decision is an emotion we call desire. Your brain’s decision-making process is of course determined, because what you want has been determined by your genetics and experiences.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure what you mean by “what mechanism it affects the chain of causality.”, why do we feel fear when our amygdala lights up? Because that’s how other parts of our brains experience an active amygdala. It probably doesn’t have to be that way, but for us it is. I suspect the reason the the hard problem is proving intractable is because it’s an incoherent question in the first place.

  15. ppnl says:

    I think you are still entangling the subjective with the objective. For example:

    why do we feel fear when our amygdala lights up? Because that’s how other parts of our brains experience an active amygdala.

    Examining the details of brain activity can explain the algorithmic nature of fear. It in no way explains the experience of fear. You use the language of causality and then throw this word “experience” in as if you weren’t introducing an elephant into the room.

    For example if you are playing chess against a computer you may say “It wants to capture my rook.” and this may be a good high level description of what the computer is doing algorithmically. But this is only a metaphor since we usually don’t think of the computer “wanting” anything really. But how could we tell?

    When you say a human “wants to take my rook” it also may be a good high level description of an algorithmic process. That process may be as deterministic as the computer program. But we also experience that deterministic chain as a series of choices driven by desire. Understanding the algorithm explains the game but does not explain the experience.

    Now when Matty suggested that “want” was part of the causal chain what sense of “want” was he using? The high level objective description of an algorithm that is applicable to the chess computer or the subjective sense applicable to humans? That’s what I mean by entangling the subjective with the objective.

    Does it even matter? The chess computer suggests that you can play a very good game of chess without experiencing it as a chain of free choices. The fact that we experience the game simply makes us helpless observers to the process. Except if the fact that we experience the game has no objective effect in the world then what are we to make of the fact that a discussion about it objectively exists?

  16. Dr X says:

    This is why we have tapas bars.

    Seriously, though, in psychology we call the position between equally attractive alternatives an “approach-approach” conflict or situation. Between equally unattractive alternatives it’s called (you guessed it) an “avoidance-avoidance” conflict. The research suggests that “approach-approach” conflicts are more quickly resolved.

    I don’t think I have any consistent system of my own for resolving either type other than “why don’t you order the oysters, I’ll get the calamari, and we’ll share.”

  17. James Hanley says:

    It’s good to see you can all enjoy yourselves in my absence without trashing the place. I’ve just returned from an anniversary trip to Toronto with my spouse of twenty years. Believe me Toronto is not a place to be lacking a decision rule. In the two block commercial district on which our B&B sat there were enough restaurants that it would take more than a week of suppers just to exhaust the ethnic options available.

    A few responses:

    Lance:Your daughter could have purchased multiple snacks and saved some for later, unless mean old, skin flint dad prevented resolving the dilemma with this more expensive option.

    A) Of course I’m a skinflint. B) Eliminating the demands that children make choices is probably the worst “nice” thing parents can do. C) My daughter was undecided between at least three different snack items, and I have three children–you do the math!

    Re: Pizza. It’s a good product for teaching students to think critically about government. I tell them I’m going to tax them for pizza, and I’ll decide the cost per person and the toppings. Surprisingly, they never like either the price or the choice of toppings, so I let them do it democratically. Amazingly, most still end up unhappy about it.

    DAR: tie breaking rules or procedures are necessarily arbitrary. Assuming, then, that two or more such rules can be chosen, doesn’t it follow that we should be indifferent as to which rule to use and thus just as perplexed, albeit at a higher level of abstraction?

    Shades of infinite regress! Knowing the decision rule and the choice of one were essentially arbitrary, I just acted efficiently and adopted the first one I thought of. Alternatively, I occasionally seek utility by exercising a decision rule that happens to amuse me at the moment (like, take the item with the funniest name or, take the one that is most likely to make others gag).

    But of course it probably all is deterministic–there’s no little homunculus up there–but as long as I have the psychic experience of choosing, I don’t really mind that it’s not real.

    ppnl: we do not usually speak of a waterfall wanting anything or wanting to want something different.

    Poets do, which demonstrates once again that poetry is mankind’s most sublime art.

    Examining the details of brain activity can explain the algorithmic nature of fear. It in no way explains the experience of fear

    The experience is just the emotional feeling, no? So when the brain goes through its calculations and comes up with either “fear” or “want,” it then directs our autonomic nervous system to do whatever it does that gives us such feelings. It tells the hair on the back of our neck to stand up and our heart to start beating faster, etc., etc. At least that’s the explanation I prefer because it remains wholly mechanical, and rather than entangling the objective and the subjective it keeps the subjective as nothing more than a part of the cognitive illusion of free will and “selfness.”

    Dr. X. in psychology we call the position between equally attractive alternatives an “approach-approach” conflict or situation.

    Just think how much clearer on the subject psychologists would be if they’d read the economics literature first!

  18. Lance says:

    Usually those that are pleading for “free will” and against determinism are doing so to justify their religious world view. Which is odd since they usually also believe in an omniscient deity.

    If there is an omniscient deity it knows the outcome of every event and thus the world is by definition pre-determined and your every action pre-planned and inescapable. “Choose” at the last minute to get a fruit parfait instead of a banana split? Well, He knew you would do just that.

    How they square this with a “judgement day” and a “just God” is beyond me.

    I am quite at ease with living as a being constrained by my genetic predispositions and experiential characteristics. Intellect is a wild card in this process. You learn from your past choices (if sometimes slowly) and make “better” choices. Like rats in a big maze looking for cheese. The cheese still tastes good even if the path that led you there was in the strictest sense determinate.

    I have read cockamamie appeals to quantum mechanics used to claim that free will exists but I have yet to read an account that was anything more than pseudo-spiritual gobbledygook. Since quantum events are stochastically predictable over large numbers of trials it doesn’t follow that free will is at play, just randomness.

  19. ppnl says:

    The experience is just the emotional feeling, no? So when the brain goes through its calculations and comes up with either “fear” or “want,” it then directs our autonomic nervous system to do whatever it does that gives us such feelings.

    And what exactly is that “what ever it does” and how do I recognize it when I see it? If I build a robot body with hair on its neck that stands when directed by a computer brain going through its calculations does that mean it feels fear?

    You are still entangling the subjective and objective because you still have not differentiated between the different usages of “experience” or “feel”. I can say that a chess computer is afraid that I am about to check mate its king. As evidence of this I can point to the fact that it just castled. But am I really attributing the experience of fear to the computer?

    The human fight or flight response is an objectively observable phenomena just like a computer choosing to castle. But nothing about it requires a subjective component any more than a computer castling suggests a subjective component.

  20. ppnl says:

    Lance,

    Our attachment to the idea of “free will” is caused by the way we experience the world. We experience our path along a causal chain as a series of choices. We experience it this way probably because we create predictive models of the future that influence our causal path. That makes our causal path more complex but not necessarily any less deterministic.

    Anyway it is the power of this illusion that drives many to build strange theories to account for it. Not all of these are totally silly but they are poorly motivated and so suspect. The free will question itself has no draw for me.

    For me the central question is the fact of experience itself. With or without free will. With or without determinism.

  21. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    I agree with your point about free will.

    “For me the central question is the fact of experience itself. With or without free will. With or without determinism.”

    What exactly are you questioning about experience?

  22. ppnl says:

    What exactly are you questioning about experience?

    What is it? How can I write a program that feels? And how could I tell if I succeeded?

    Our perception of free will is largely an illusion. But what gives us the ability to have experiential illusions? How would we be different if we didn’t have them?

    Basically it is just existential angst, being trapped by causality while being immersed in the experience and immediacy of our choices.

  23. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    So are you trying to define consciousness or sentience?

    Among my favorite creatures are jumping spiders. These tiny predators are fearless and aggressive, mostly. They are also fairly intelligent. Really, for such diminutive little monsters they display impressive decision making and even individual personality.

    I had one that came to recognize me and would jump onto me. I would take him/her around the yard and then take them back to their spot on the wall of my garage. At first it feared me and would hide in a crack in the wall. I slowly coaxed it out to investigate me and finally it jumped on me. At first it startled me but I resisted the urge to swat it or flick it off.

    I brought it flies which it would readily accept.

    I tried this with a few other jumping spiders but they wouldn’t come out to play.

    I’m not saying that this little critter was on the level of a human or even a mammal but it definitely was thinking and experiencing.

    Was it conscious? Was it sentient?

  24. Matty says:

    It’s good to see you can all enjoy yourselves in my absence without trashing the place.

    Yeees, look about those wine glasses….

  25. James Hanley says:

    Matty, it’s ok, I have plenty more where those came from.

    ppnl, there’s a set of physical experiences that are what we “feel,” or “experience.” I’m no biologist or neuroscientist, but I believe it has something to do with the autonomous nervous system. It’s not just that the hair on our neck stands up, although that’s part of it, but that we notice that it stands up, that our hands get clammy, that our stomach feels queasy, that our startle reflex is enhanced, and that there’s that hard to pin down but known by everyone sense of dread or danger. Our experience of that seems to us to be subjective, but those are all objective facts about the state of our body, all produced by our brain and the nervous system. If the purely physical perspective is right, there is no “subject,” really, and the term is just a linguistic device. It’s not so much that subject and object are getting entangled as that our inability to let go of the concept of the subject muddies up our thoughts.

    To say subject and object are entangled is to assume that subject is real, but the determinist argument brings that assumption into question, doesn’t it?

  26. Lance says:

    So far this discussion of subjective vs objective is well behaved.

    If it persists it will inevitably stray into the different meanings of subjective and objective. Two ways of defining the words are metaphysical vs epistemological.

    I have to go help a friend mend a leaky chimney so I don’t have time right now to delve into this interesting and conceptually slippery subject, but here is a link to what I think is a well though out response to the issue.

    http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/subjective_objective.html

  27. ppnl says:

    James Hanley,

    You may be trying to wander into John Searl territory here.

    Lets say you cut the brain loose from the body and plugged it into a computer that furnished all the electrical signals to fool the brain into thinking it still had a body. If the brain attempts to move a finger then the computer sends back the same electrical signals a body. If the brain directs the body to pinch itself then the computer sends back the appropriate signals. The computer could even furnish a virtual environment for the body to walk and talk in.

    Can the brain still feel fear? If so the the actual hairs and actual clamminess of skin are irrelevant.

    And we don’t have to stop there. Say we start removing your neurons one by one and replacing them with an electronic device that produces the same electrical outputs. Would you still feel fear? John Searl would say no. He argues that you may continue to act and talk normally and even make sense but you would cease to mean anything by it. Seems like total nonsense. Searl never was able to follow the implications of his own argument and so it becomes incoherent.

    But we can continue the process and replace the brain with a program running a software body inhabiting a virtual world. The entire causal chain is then contained in a box. From our reductionist logic it is hard to see why you wouldn’t still have a person that can feel fear. Is that fear still just a linguistic device? Would you unplug the computer? After all from the outside the only thing that exists is a bunch of capacitors (memory) charging and discharging in a particular pattern.Yet reductionist logic tells us there is a person there.

    In the end I find this position nearly as incoherent as Searl’s. Yet there is no way around it.

  28. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    I think the “replacing a component with a like component” requires that in the end the object is not somehow fundamentally different. If it is, then either some of the components were not actually alike, or else we have to posit something non-material and non-demonstrable, a soul or (what may be the same thing) a subject that is in some way distinct from, but inhabiting, the object. I think that’s where the logic necessarily leads, so the reductionist (or as I prefer, materialist) argument doesn’t seem incoherent–the objection to it seems to me an argument from disbelief, not a logical refutation. Is the brain anything fundamentally different than a “bunch of capacitors…charging and discharging in a particular pattern”? It suits us to think so, but I’m not aware of any evidence that it’s really more than that.

    The only way around it, it seems to me, is the assumption of a “soul” of “subject,” but both of those are big assumptions. If there’s no materialist way around it, I’m not sure why it’s “incoherent”–it just violates how we seem to naturally “feel” about ourselves.

    Of course this kind of statement from me is the signal for DAR to come in and (yet again, and correctly) remind me that I’m no philosopher.

  29. Charles Wolverton says:

    This site is devoted to the FW-determinism issue – in case anyone wants to pursue it in depth in the company of specialists (which I don’t):
    http://agencyandresponsibility.typepad.com/flickers-of-freedom/

  30. ppnl says:

    I think the “replacing a component with a like component” requires that in the end the object is not somehow fundamentally different.

    Need to be careful what you mean by fundamentally different here. You need an object that instantiates the same mathematical calculation. From a deterministic point of view everything can be reduced to a calculation.

    And I prefer to talk about reductionism and determinism rather than materialism. That’s because non-material is pretty much incoherent anyway and so talking about the material is redundant.

    –the objection to it seems to me an argument from disbelief, not a logical refutation.

    Yes mostly except that there is no way to tell if the computer box is feeling anything by following the causal chain of its operation. In fact unless someone told you you would not be able to tell that it was instantiating a functioning brain at all.

    –it just violates how we seem to naturally “feel” about ourselves.

    And I think this is where you keep missing my point. I have no problem with violating how we feel about ourselves. Much and maybe most of what we feel about ourselves is wrong. We feel like we have free will yet I think that has been shown to be wrong. We are subject to massive numbers of cognitive illusions.

    The mystery is not how we feel about ourselves or the accuracy of what we feel about ourselves. The mystery is that we feel anything at all. That we feel seems to not be required to explain anything about the causal chain nor does the causal chain seem to predict that we will feel anything.

    Calling it an illusion misses the point. If I see an oasis in the desert it is reasonable to suspect it is an illusion. Every thing I see could in principle be an illusion. But what could I make of the claim that my ability to experience illusions is an illusion? That’s where it gets incoherent.

  31. James Hanley says:

    there is no way to tell if the computer box is feeling anything by following the causal chain of its operation.
    True, so we’re left with analyzing it logically. Equally there is no way to tell if the box isn’t feeling anything, so it seems to me the most plausible conclusion is that if it’s designed just like us then it is just like us.

    The mystery is that we feel anything at all.
    I’m not sure what’s mysterious about that. It seems to be the norm for sentient life, to varying degrees. There’s probably an evolutionary explanation.

  32. ppnl says:

    I’m not sure what’s mysterious about that. It seems to be the norm for sentient life, to varying degrees. There’s probably an evolutionary explanation.

    Well yes maybe it is the norm for people but that does not explain the mechanism. And I assume but cannot prove it since the subjective is out of reach of objective inquiry. In fact I have this theory that there are two kinds of people. There are conscious people who experience the world around them and mindless zombies that act as if they are conscious in every way except in their ability to engage in discussions about consciousness. One day we conscious people will have to kill off all the unconscious drones in order to make room for more of us. But don’t worry. They can’t feel it as we burn their still living bodies. Remember that no matter how much they scream.

    If we could read minds I’m pretty sure there would be an evolutionary explanation for why we developed that ability. But that fact does little to explain the mechanism of mind reading. It is a non sequitur.

  33. James Hanley says:

    OK, I get you now; it’s the mechanism of feeling that’s mysterious, not the fact of feeling. I have no argument with that. Most of the things about our mind/brain/cognition/consciousness are still mysterious. And potentially unknowable. It’s an annoying gap in our knowledge, but then there are lots of those. They’re worth discussing, but then again philosophy is our way of talking about things we haven’t yet empirically explored.

  34. ppnl says:

    OK, I get you now; it’s the mechanism of feeling that’s mysterious, not the fact of feeling. I have no argument with that.

    But it is worse than that. The very structure of the problem seems to defy any possible explanation. Think about it. What would an answer look like? Experience is subjective. Empiricism and causality is about the objective. It is a conundrum.

  35. Lance says:

    James Hanley,

    They’re worth discussing, but then again philosophy is our way of talking about things we haven’t yet empirically explored.

    Unfortunately, from my perspective, most of these philosophical discussions have little in the way falsifiable conclusions to say which is on the right track and which is clever word play.

  36. James Hanley says:

    ppnl, The very structure of the problem seems to defy any possible explanation.

    Yep. That’s why, while I find it fun to argue, I don’t take it too seriously. It’s the kind of question best argued over a few beers, eh?.

    Lance, Yep, that’s why it’s a question best argued over a few beers, eh?

  37. Lance says:

    James,
    Sure! I’ll take a creamy porter and strict materialism please.

    My first classes are today. How ’bout you? I’m teaching a pre-calc trig course for the first time this semester. I’m pretty excited.

  38. James Hanley says:

    Yes, classes are starting this week. My first class was 6 p.m. yesterday evening and required no real prep (Career Seminar)–yet I was moving non-stop the whole day. Today is my exhausting day: Political Economy, Atomic Weapons and Power, American Government, and Global Health Policy. Fortunately Atomic Weapons and Power is team-taught so I only have to do about half the preps, and I’m only assisting in Global Health Policy so I’ll only have about two preps all term–still, it’s a long time to be on campus. Then it’s followed by Wednesday, when I have no classes and there are never any meetings scheduled, only two classes on Thursday, and only my Senior Sem on Friday, which doesn’t actually normally meet because they’re working independently. It’s not a bad schedule considering I’m actually involved in two extra classes. But our rules require advisers signatures for adds and drops, and instructor signatures for adds, so in the first week I’m usually giving away as many signatures as Cristiano Ronaldo after a game. Plus I had to have a meeting with my colleague before he left for Vienna for his year’s sabbatical and meetings with each of our two adjuncts, etc., etc. I swear sometimes we need to take the second week off just to let faculty recuperate from the first week.

  39. Lance says:

    I like the sound of the Atomic Weapons and Power course.

    My favorite movie is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    It seems to me that nuclear weapons constrain a country as much as they empower them. Unless of course that country has an Armegeddon style, religion inspired death wish. I’m looking at you Iran and Michele Bachmann.

  40. Lance says:

    Oh, and just an observation, “Atomic” sounds very 1961. Why wasn’t the word nuclear used?

    Which reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons, in National Lampoon I think. It shows a warning sign at the gate of a nuclear power plant that reads,

    No one who says “nuculer” allowed past this point.

  41. ppnl says:

    James Hanely,

    Sorry I don’t drink so discussions will have to be unlubricated. I never could figure why some people would want to put an industrial solvent into their fruit juice. With beer you don’t even have fruit juice. You just have carbonated juice from rotten grain. I also hate carbonated water.

    Lance,
    The problem with the subjective is that there are no objective consequences. Except maybe the existence this discussion. In any case maybe this parrot could say hello to your spider:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2340#comic

  42. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    Funny cartoon, except for people that have interacted with an African grey parrot or any number of other creatures that display a disturbing (to anthrocentrist types at least) level of self-awareness and intelligent interaction with their surroundings.

    Go out in your backyard and spend an hour or so interacting with a jumping spider and then get back to me.

    And as to your remarks about beer; I suppose that ice cream, fellatio and the Beatles don’t impress you either.

  43. Lance says:

    A little Google searching reveals that I am not alone in discovering the intellect of these tiny terrors.

    The traditional view of spiders, Pollard writes in a forthcoming book, is that, “being so small and primitive,” they must be automatons. In view of recent research, that conclusion has to be re-evaluated. “It is clear to us,” he continues, “that when we look into Portia’s dark, bulging eyes, the lights are on, somebody’s at home, and a lot more than an eight-legged automaton is staring back.”

    If you think we are the only “intelligent” creatures that walk the earth you are mistaken. Can they play chess or write poetry? Probably not, but neither can most humans.

  44. ppnl says:

    Lance,

    Oh I have spent time with jumping spiders. I am deeply impressed. I will say that a spider has neither the brain power nor the visual equipment to recognize you. But in a sense that makes what the spider was doing all the more impressive. As for what it experiences I just don’t know. Worse, it seems I can’t know.

    I’m watching “Blade Runner” as I type. I still don’t know what electric dream of.

    And as to your remarks about beer; I suppose that ice cream, fellatio and the Beatles don’t impress you either.

    Comparing all these things with the carbonated juice of decaying grain seems to be doing them a disservice. Sorry I just never developed a taste for ethyl alcohol. It ruins the taste of anything it is in except maybe rotten grain. I am willing to entertain the possibility that it actually helps that.

    It is amazing what people will consume to get ethyl alcohol. Kumiss for example is fermented horse milk. Apparently Mongolians drink it by the gallon. Then there is chicha. Basically women chew corn or maze and spit it into a bowl. Let this age so that the enzymes in the saliva work on the starch and sugar and then drink it up.

    Now should I get that blow job or maybe have a nice tall glass of warm fermented spit. Decisions decisions…

  45. Lance says:

    Almost all cultures enjoy some form of alcoholic beverage. Many have embraced a fermented grain of some sort. In my wife’s native Ethiopia they drink talla a home brewed grain beverage usually wheat or barley with hops and spices. They also drink tej which is basically mead, a fermented honey wine.

    For most people beer is an acquired taste due to the initial bitter taste of ethyl alcohol. You may have noticed that coffee also has a bitter flavor. That hasn’t stopped it from being one of the world’s favorite beverages behind water, tea and beer.

    Taste is of course subjective so arguing over what tastes “better” is somewhat pointless. I found beer to be bitter and unappealing until one hot day when I went to the fridge and was so thirsty that I popped open one of my dad’s Miller High Lifes. It was so refreshing, with out being overly sweet like soda, that I was taken aback.

    It was many beers later before I could enjoy one when not parched. The effect of the alcohol was the motivation until I learned to appreciate the many subtle flavors of beer. Even now beer will strike me as unpleasant if I’m not in the mood. Although that “mood” is infrequent.

    NOVA did a program on why some people enjoy bitter tasting things and some don’t. I recall that it was genetic. So natural selection has doomed you to never enjoy a pint of Guinness.

    Poor bastard.

  46. Dr X says:

    Nice. A civilized INTP type discussion. In graduate school, we spent a good deal of time on history and systems of psychology, with an emphasis on assumptions of causation that are built into the major clinical models of pathology and treatment. Every model suffers limitations in this area because of the problems integrating the objective and subjective frames. What I learned is that the subject studying itself as object can lead to the need for beer.

  47. Matty says:

    You may have noticed that coffee also has a bitter flavor. That hasn’t stopped it from being one of the world’s favorite beverages behind water, tea and beer.

    Behind? in my limited experience most people who don’t drink alcohol do drink coffee and those who do enjoy both. I alsoo heard a (possibly untrue) rumour that a few years ago someone tried to do a study looking at the effects of caffeine on humans and couldn’t find a large enough population who had never encountered it.

  48. James Hanley says:

    Lance–Dr. Strangelove is required viewing for the students. We’re considering a single-question final exam: “Name all the characters Peter Sellers played.”

    Re: Nuclear v. Atomic. The idea was that atomic is broader than nuclear. But somehow a) neither of us remember which we actually decided on, and b) somehow the registrar listed the political science section of the course as Atomic Weapons and Power, but the chemistry section of the class as Nuclear Weapons and Power.

    The Beatles? Compared to fellatio? I can only assume you’ve never experienced one of these things.

    ppnl- MMMMM, “carbonated juice from rotten grain,” (Homer Simpson gargling/drooling sound). Or, more intellectually, there again is the reality of subjective preferences. As long as we don’t try to legislate each other’s drinking habits we should continue to get along just fine, especially as you are a co-enthusiast of SMBC. But of course that particular cartoon demands a response from Alex. My own pet conure has surprisingly identifiable tastes in music.

    Dr. X- Would you be willing to expand on your doubts about the Myers-Briggs for us layfolks? I’m inherently dubious of psychological typologies (perhaps wholly due to ignorance of the field, mind you), yet I was struck by how accurately the MB typology seemed to reflect me, and how much most (although not all) of the people I know who’ve taken it say it reflects them; and I can only make sense of that beautiful but otherworldly person who sleeps next to me by reading about her type (trying to understand her type also leads to a need for beer, or in her case, trying to understand my type leads to a need for a glass of wine). So I’m dubious about such systematization, and so curious about a psychologist’s critiques, and yet I can’t escape the fact that it just seems so darn right.

  49. ppnl says:

    Almost all cultures enjoy some form of alcoholic beverage.

    Yes but the take home point is the disgusting things people are willing to drink to get it. It isn’t about taste.

    You may have noticed that coffee also has a bitter flavor.

    Another disgusting thing people drink that has a pharmacological effect. I see a pattern here.

    The effect of the alcohol was the motivation until I learned to appreciate the many subtle flavors of beer.

    Yeah, the brain knows how to get what it wants. As a result people have parties where they do nothing but wax philosophical over the subtle flavor of rotten fruit. It probably feels like free will.

    NOVA did a program on why some people enjoy bitter tasting things and some don’t. I recall that it was genetic. So natural selection has doomed you to never enjoy a pint of Guinness.

    That would be Phenylthiocarbamide. To some people it has an intense bitter taste while others can’t taste it at all. Basically plants produce many noxious and biologically active substances to try to control the insects that eat them. Humans developed the ability to taste some of them as a bitter taste in order to warn them off of eating the plant. And so nasty tasting plants are more likely to have some pharmacological effect.

  50. Dr X says:

    There are serious validity and reliability issues associated with MBTI. Regarding the former, the only construct that holds up well under scrutiny is the I-E construct. As far as predictive validity goes, there have been many claims (e.g. relationship compatibility) that haven’t stood up to experimental examination. And reliability–the correlation between repeated measures or alternate forms of the test—is weak.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator#Validity

    Despite a great deal of research, there just isn’t much support to warrant professional use of the MBTI. Nonetheless, it has enormous popularity with counselors and laypersons doing organization development work. I think that results in part because the construct claims are relatively easy to grasp without a great deal of background in assessment.

    I haven’t run into many clinical psychologists or I/O psychologists that feel comfortable relying on the test–and these these are the two disciplines within psychology that actually have advanced training in test construction, measurements and interpretation (and are also trained to develop new instruments and legally qualified to use any instruments on the market).

    Standing beside a high quality psych eval, MBTI interpretations of personality look a little too much like fortune cookie results for many examinees who take the test.

  51. Lance says:

    James Hanley,
    I have experienced both the Beatles and fellatio and even the Beatles and fellatio at the same time (highly recommended).

    I wouldn’t rate listening to the Beatles higher than all fellatio but higher than some fellatio, depending on the Beatles song and the fellator. For example Susan “Sand Paper Tongue” (name withheld) below For No One but above Yellow Submarine.

    I have not experienced fellatio from, or on, a Beatle. You might ask Linda, Yoko or Barbara Bach.

  52. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    Yes but the take home point is the disgusting things people are willing to drink to get it. It isn’t about taste.

    if that were true all of us alcohol consumers would just buy pure ethyl alcohol and mix it with water. It is relatively cheap and readily available. Also there would be little selectivity between alcoholic beverages were your theory correct. Just the opposite is apparent by even a casual survey of the available alcoholic beverages and the very selective tastes of consumers.

    I routinely leave a liquor store and abstain from consuming beer at all if none of my favorites are available.

    You are dismissing a great deal of the experience and values of a huge segment of humanity based on your limited personal tastes.

    Never a prudent idea.

  53. James Hanley says:

    You are dismissing a great deal of the experience and values of a huge segment of humanity based on your limited personal tastes.

    Never a prudent idea.

    Never prudent, but often prurient.

  54. ppnl says:

    if that were true all of us alcohol consumers would just buy pure ethyl alcohol and mix it with water. It is relatively cheap and readily available.

    No people will find the most pleasant way to drink it as possible.

    You are dismissing a great deal of the experience and values of a huge segment of humanity based on your limited personal tastes.

    I’m not trying to set myself as final arbiter of what tastes good. After all I like hot foods. The heat is from chemicals that plants produce to prevent animals from munching on them. By what twisted logic can I claim to like it?

    The point is that our experiences, likes and dislikes are a post hoc justification for our actions. It has no more (or less) of a basis in reason or truth than our experience of free will. Examined logically most of what we do makes little sense. In a deterministic world there are no decisions. You don’t need decision rules any more than a waterfall does.

    Only you get to watch and make up stories about what happens. A helpless observer deluded into believing you are in control.

  55. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    You need to be more consistent. If the effect is all that drives alcohol drinkers then knocking back a pure ethanol shot would be the easiest and least distressing means of application. For Christ’s sake you don’t see heroine addicts mixing it into spiced cakes to get their fix.

    Can’t you even conceive of the idea that people actually enjoy alcoholic beverages for the sake of the entire experience?

    How do you explain non-alcoholic beers like O’Douls or Sharps? Their is NO alcohol in either but beer drinkers that have sworn off alcohol and even people that have never indulged by the stuff by the millions of liters.

  56. ppnl says:

    Lance,

    You need to be more consistent. If the effect is all that drives alcohol drinkers then knocking back a pure ethanol shot would be the easiest and least distressing means of application.

    I need to be more consistent? In a deterministic world all that exists is cause and effect. It is the only thing that drives anything. I’m simply driving this position to its ultimate conclusion. You OTOH seem to be going back to something like free will. Or at least you are making the subjective want part of the causal chain. But we have no empiric grasp on the subjective.

    And what do you mean by “less distressing”? Would a shot of tequila really be less distressing? Have you ever had a short of tequila?!? And lets not talk about everclear at all. Yet people do claim to like it. There are vodka snobs just like there are wine snobs.

    Can’t you even conceive of the idea that people actually enjoy alcoholic beverages for the sake of the entire experience?

    Yes I can. It is the easiest thing in the world to conceive of. I can also easily conceive of my path through a causal chain as free will. That is how I experience it. How could anyone deny their experience of free will? That does not make it true.

    How do you explain non-alcoholic beers like O’Douls or Sharps? Their is NO alcohol in either but beer drinkers that have sworn off alcohol and even people that have never indulged by the stuff by the millions of liters.

    I’m not claiming that people don’t like the taste. After all I like hot food that contains a substance that inflames the tissues and causes pain. Whats up with that?!? I am saying that our experience isn’t an explanation of anything. It is a high level post hoc justification of a complex process that takes place out of sight.

    And yet what is this experience stuff anyway? If it really has no effect then how are we talking about it?

  57. Lance says:

    OK.

    So every action is involuntary and inescapable and we are automatons.

    So it is pointless to discuss it. Or any other topic except to amuse ourselves, except that amusement must also be deterministic so their is no relief from our fate in it either.

  58. James Hanley says:

    Now aren’t we all depressed? I’d consider suicide, except that now I know I wouldn’t really be “considering” it.

  59. ppnl says:

    Lance:

    So every action is involuntary and inescapable and we are automatons.

    Like a waterfall. That is what I have been saying about determinism. This is the unavoidable conclusion from a determinist stance. The complexity of the chain of causality in the brain does not change that fact. If subjective experience has no effect then again we are helpless observers to events that we have no control over.

    Yet what is this subjective experience stuff anyway? And if it has no effect then how can we be talking about it? That is the conundrum.

    Also it should be noted that the universe technically appears not to be deterministic. It is hard to see how this changes anything but it should be acknowledged.

    James Hanley:
    Now aren’t we all depressed? I’d consider suicide, except that now I know I wouldn’t really be “considering” it.

    But you don’t experience the world that way so there is no reason for you to be depressed. And so you aren’t considering suicide. Actually that last logical connection isn’t justified. If what you experience has no causal control over what you do then it seems possible for you to experience happiness with your life until you watch in horror as you deterministically blow your brains out. Being a helpless observer is a bitch.

    We don’t seem to have the tools to deal with the hard problem and all attempts are really just ways to reconcile that failure with our prior philosophical commitments. I don’t know if determinism is true or at least sufficient. I don’t know if materialism is true except that I’m not sure what to make of a claim that something is non-material. If God exists then can’t we just say he is made of material God stuff? Philosophical materialism just seems like a pointless word game. And is the quantum wave function a material thing? I don’t know what free will could be. What is it free of? And it is clear that at least much of what we think of as free will is an illusion.

    All I can say is that I experience the world. This is just Descartes “I think therefore I am.” The problem is that despite his poor attempts and all the poor attempts since nothing really follows from this. It is a conundrum.

  60. James Hanley says:

    if it has no effect then how can we be talking about it?

    You mean like angels and demons?

    I was just joking about the suicide business, trying to be funny about the concept of engaging in “consideration,” given the course of this thread. Then again, I’ve always been known for my lousy delivery.

    But I do agree that we don’t experience the world as deterministic–I just don’t think that has any bearing on whether the world is or not. And for me determinism is just a parsimonious interpretation. I remain open to evidence contrary to it; and just because we can’t yet imagine how we could actually know such evidence is not real good evidence that we can’t in the future figure such things out. (I mean distant future–if humans live 5 – 10,000 more years, they’ll likely have figured out innumerable things that seem impossible to us right now.)

  61. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    And is the quantum wave function a material thing?

    Finally, out of philosophical hoo ha and into physics.

    The answer to that question is

    NO!

    The wave function,Ψ, is not a “physical” wave. The square of the (complex valued) modulus |ψ|2 is equal to the probability density (not just the probability) of finding a particle in an infinitesimal space element surrounding a point in space and time.

    Ahhh, that felt good.

    Let’s stick to physics and avoid metaphysics.

  62. ppnl says:

    You mean like angels and demons?

    er?

    I was just joking about the suicide business,…

    Yeah I didn’t suspect you were feeling suicidal. But it is an actual objection to determinism. There is Steven Weinberg’s “The more the universe seems understandable the more it seems pointless” for example.

    But I do agree that we don’t experience the world as deterministic–I just don’t think that has any bearing on whether the world is or not.

    I agree. We would need to know what “experience” is in order to reach any conclusion.

    And for me determinism is just a parsimonious interpretation.

    Again I agree except that we know that in an absolute sense the universe does not seem to be deterministic. But it isn’t clear how that helps anything. Anyway I’m just using determinism as a foil for understanding the problem. Even assuming non-determinism does not help unless you can say exactly how.

    …just because we can’t yet imagine how we could actually know such evidence is not real good evidence that we can’t in the future figure such things out.

    Yes but the problem is that the subjective seems to violate the rules. I’m not saying that it cannot be solved. I am saying that it is so hard that most people just try to find a way to ignore it. I enjoy the conundrum.

  63. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    I enjoy the conundrum.

    I enjoy it until it descends into circular word soup.

  64. ppnl says:

    Lance,

    The wave function,Ψ, is not a “physical” wave.

    Yes I agree but that isn’t what I asked.

    Imagine you have sighted an asteroid in deep space. There will be some uncertainty in the position of that asteroid that can be represented as a probability distribution. Over time that probability distribution can evolve and change shape as the asteroid interacts gravitationally with planets.

    But we don’t usually think of the probability distribution as being an ontological thing in the same sense as the asteroid. It is just a mathematical representation of what we know about the asteroids position.

    We can do the same with subatomic particles. The difference is that the function involve complex numbers that can have positive and negative values along with phase information. This is what gives the wave function its strange wave like shape. You are correct in saying that there is no physical wave here. It just has a wave like shape.

    The question I asked was is the probability distribution of the particle an ontological real thing in a way that the asteroid probability function was not? Well at first you would think not. But it turns out that knowledge of the wave function can have real consequences for the particle in ways that knowledge of ordinary probability distributions cannot. Thus you have some level of control over the particle without interacting with the particle at all. Also it is impossible even in principle to say where the real particle is between measurements.

    It turns out that we can invert which entities we call real. We can accept the wave function as a real field and what we call particles are just a consequence of how the fields interact. A particle is just an event in time that has no existence before or after the detection event. Thats why a particle cannot have a real position until it is measured. It has no ontological status between field interaction events.

  65. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    “The wave function,Ψ, is not a “physical” wave.” – me.

    Yes I agree but that isn’t what I asked. – you

    Since you are a literal fellow, or gal, here are your exact words.

    And is the quantum wave function a material thing?

    Now, if you are going to equivocate to the point of separating the words “physical” and “material” then I am going to find something more interesting to occupy my time.

    Since I’ve had a few of those “disgusting rotted grain” beverages I’m going to inspect your post further to make sure that ethyl alcohol has not interfered with my understanding of your argument.

    (Done)

    OK, I’m going to ruthlessly hold you to a “physical” vocabulary and if you drift into “metaphysical” jargon I’m going to call you out and make you define that quantity or property in a physical sense.

    Fair enough?

    Let me know if you agree and we’ll “get it on”.

  66. ppnl says:

    I don’t think there is an important difference in saying “physical” and saying “material” in this context. What I’m saying is that it isn’t a wave. It is a field. It looks wavey simply because it is a complex number field but that does not mean anything is waving like water. That is a classical visual aid that will likely get you in trouble.

    Now a pure probability distribution like with the asteroid is not usually considered an ontologically thing in itself. It is not a physical or real thing out there. It is a description of your state of knowledge. It describes the physical state of your brain as much as it describes the physical state of the asteroid.

    The quantum wave function is different in that it seems possible to think of it as a physical or material thing out there. This is the approach of quantum field theory. The ontological status of the particle is reduced to being just a consequence of how the fields interact. It is just a kink in the field caused by the fact that when fields interact they must do so in a quantized way. When you are not looking there can be no kink because by definition of “not looking” there is no field interaction to cause the kink. Thus it is senseless to talk about the state of particles between interactions. They don’t exist.

    Now maybe the objection you have is that if we consider the quantum field to be a real thing then can’t we say that it is really waving and thus we have a real wave? As I said before I think this will get you in real trouble. One thing is that you cannot know the absolute phase. All you can know is the phase differences and it appears to make no sense to talk about absolute phases. But this is really getting in over my head.

    So what really really exists? I dunno and maybe I can’t know. Instead I worry about what is useful.

  67. James Hanley says:

    Instead I worry about what is useful.

    Not to carp, since I’ve enjoyed this thread, but you seem to have been the commenter most worried about this subject/object and determinism issue. So that last line does jar the reader a bit.

  68. ppnl says:

    I plead innocent on the determinism charge since I don’t really care if the universe is deterministic or not. With a first glance at QM it appears not to be. Determinism is just a foil for judging other assertions. As I said at the beginning the determinism stance allows you to construct coherent arguments. That makes it a useful simplification even if it turns out to not be true. Determinism is just a way to present the conundrum. If you don’t like determinism you can present an alternative but you will be asked to explain how it solves the conundrum.

    As for the subjective/objective question I plead guilty to an extent. It is true that subjective experience at first appears to make no difference. But then how do you explain this discussion about it? If it does make a difference then it is fair game. Yet as I said before the very question appears to break science.

Comments are closed.