Exchange with T. P. Uschanov
on Determinism


You write:

There is an excellent argument for free will based on the distinction between reasons for truth and reasons for belief; for the determinist must admit that, if determinism is true, then the determinist believes in determinism because that belief is caused, like everything else in the mind.

I am a bit puzzled by your critique of determinism, which uses a rather strange definition of the term. Philosophically, determinism is nothing more than the belief that everything has a prior cause. My sending you this e-mail note has a prior cause, it has a prior cause, and eventually the causal chain extends to the time before my birth. _Ratio veritatis_ does not enter into it; neither do such things as economics, sociology or biology, no matter what humanists like Marx, Freud or Popper may believe.

So, what I would like to get is an example of an event that occured, but didn't have a prior cause -- as I've never, in many years of debating with non-determinists, heard about one. Doubtless you have your candidates, and I'd very much like to hear about them.

Furthermore, Dewey and other American pragmaticists base their whole body of work on arguing from the possibility of a proposition's being believed being more important than its being true, as it is the former that is more liable to affect most of everyday human action. I don't think I've ever seen a libertarian critic of determinism address their remarks; you're welcome to be the first.

Yours faithfully,

T P Uschanov
Department of Philosophy
University of Helsinki


At 04:46 AM 6/25/97 -0700, you wrote:

I am a bit puzzled by your critique of determinism, which uses a rather strange definition of the term. Philosophically, determinism is nothing more than the belief that everything has a prior cause. My sending you this e-mail note has a prior cause, it has a prior cause, and eventually the causal chain extends to the time before my birth. _Ratio veritatis_ does not enter into it; neither do such things as economics, sociology or biology, no matter what humanists like Marx, Freud or Popper may believe.

Dear Professor Uschanov:

Thank you for your response to materials at the Friesian School site.

Defining determinism as the principle that everything has a cause in unobjectionable. But there is a further point: a cause, ever since Aristotle, is a kind of *explanation*. Therefore, everything that happens, as it happens, is to be *explained* by its cause. Thus, such a determinism will hold that the reason for my believing a certain thing is *explained* by its cause, e.g. I believe that cats are evil because I was frightened by a cat as a child (a Freudian causal explanation). Now, if beliefs are to be explained in such a way, then truth, as you say yourself, "does not enter into it," which returns us to my original argument: determinists must admit that they believe something, not because of evidence of its truth, but because of causal grounds that are not relevant to truth and of which they themselves may be unaware. Determinism means that, strictly speaking, there are no ad rem arguments, which means that an ad rem argument for determinism is itself paradoxical.

Aristotle could believe that "everything has a cause" without being a determinist in the present sense because he believed that there were final causes as well as efficient causes. Something could happen *because* of its purpose and not just because of its efficient antecedents. A modern determinist like Spinoza, however, expicitly rejects final causes in general, even for human behavior, so that by the time we get to Hume and Kant, determinism clearly means that the explanation of the character of every event is to be found in an efficient cause.

So, what I would like to get is an example of an event that occured, but didn't have a prior cause -- as I've never, in many years of debating with non-determinists, heard about one. Doubtless you have your candidates, and I'd very much like to hear about them.

Truth would be such an event, if it is possible for human beings to evaluate propositions ad rem, without that just being a "mystification" produced by their class, their childhood, their chemicals, or their genetics. But most important, as Kant understood, free will is about moral praise and blame. A person whose actions are wholly determined by efficient causes is not responsible for those actions. Thus, the determinist Hume simply saw punishment as a way of causally altering action: a train of reasoning that easily leads to the violation of the *moral* principle that punishment should be proportional to the crime. For, indeed, if the behavior of a shoplifter can only be altered by capital punishment, then that would be appropriate. True punishment, as retribution, however, must be morally proportional to the *mens rea*, and that requires that a person be conscious and responsible for a wrong: causes don't even require consciousness.

Furthermore, Dewey and other American pragmaticists base their whole body of work on arguing from the possibility of a proposition's being believed being more important than its being true, as it is the former that is more liable to affect most of everyday human action. I don't think I've ever seen a libertarian critic of determinism address their remarks; you're welcome to be the first.

Reasons for prudent belief ultimately, to be credible, must themselves rest on reasons for truth. If it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, this is because it is *possible* for the basis of medical science to be independently examined on its own merits. Pragmatism represents a desire to avoid the genuine epistemological issues that continue to arise when one gets back to foundational questions; and it is not surprising that contemporary "pragmatism," in the form of people like Richard Rorty, progresses to the logical conclusion, that after all, one's view actually are determined by one's race, class, or gender, etc.

More conscientious defenses of Pragmatism usually point out that the great Pragmatists were NOT entirely unconcerned about truth. Indeed, people like Rorty are their own *reductio ad absurdum*.

Thank you for your comments, though I don't understand why my parenthetical remarks about determinism should leave you "puzzled." But then the *reason* for you being puzzled, would not, I am sure, have any logical relevance to the truth or falsehood of determinism or libertarianism.

I might ask, in turn, why it would make a difference if determinists like Freud or Marx are "humanists"? You do not explain the difference between "humanistic" determinism and whatwever non-humanistic determinism you may subscribe to.

Kantian theory, of course, is that our understanding of phenomenal reality is necessarily deterministic, while issues like free will and purpose imply that phenomenal reality does not capture *all* of reality, so that among things in themselves various unconditioned things, like free will and morality, are possible.

Yours truly,
Kelley L. Ross


Kelley L. Ross wrote:

Defining determinism as the principle that everything has a cause in unobjectionable. But there is a further point: a cause, ever since Aristotle, is a kind of *explanation*. Therefore, everything that happens, as it happens, is to be *explained* by its cause. Thus, such a determinism will hold that the reason for my believing a certain thing is *explained* by its cause, e.g. I believe that cats are evil because I was frightened by a cat as a child (a Freudian causal explanation). Now, if beliefs are to be explained in such a way, then truth, as you say yourself, "does not enter into it," which returns us to my original argument: determinists must admit that they believe something, not because of evidence of its truth, but because of causal grounds that are not relevant to truth and of which they themselves may be unaware.

What is so insurmountable here? For example, not even an autopsy can reveal the causes of everyone's death, but everyone dies all the same. Therefore the cause is relevant even if we do not know it, or which Aristotelian category of cause it can be said to belong to. Somewhere, a book, titled A Vindication of Determinism, may presently exist that contains an accurate and detailed description of my every action from July 1, 1997 to my death. Of course, I don't think this is very likely, but my not thinking it's likely doesn't mean such a book absolutely cannot exist.

Aristotle could believe that "everything has a cause" without being a determinist in the present sense because he believed that there were final causes as well as efficient causes. Something could happen *because* of its purpose and not just because of its efficient antecedents. A modern determinist like Spinoza, however, expicitly rejects final causes in general, even for human behavior, so that by the time we get to Hume and Kant, determinism clearly means that the explanation of the character of every event is to be found in an efficient cause.

But every major academic philosopher to defend determinism today accuses the likes of Freud of exactly the opposite: of magical thinking by clinging to the unfounded concept of final cause, by means of introducing morals and other metaphysical concepts into determinism, something which Spinoza and Hume strongly warned against. (The same goes for Hegelian and Marxian philosophy of history.)

So, what I would like to get is an example of an event that occured, but didn't have a prior cause -- as I've never, in many years of debating with non-determinists, heard about one. Doubtless you have your candidates, and I'd very much like to hear about them.

Truth would be such an event, if it is possible for human beings to evaluate propositions ad rem, without that just being a "mystification" produced by their class, their childhood, their chemicals, or their genetics.

Truth certainly isn't an event. Truth doesn't belong to agency at all, e.g. in a proposition of predicate logic -- unless you want to say that "Truth truths" or "Truth is truthing", which is Heideggerian nonsense, already overturned by Wittgenstein 75 years ago.

But most important, as Kant understood, free will is about moral praise and blame. A person whose actions are wholly determined by efficient causes is not responsible for those actions. Thus, the determinist Hume simply saw punishment as a way of causally altering action: a train of reasoning that easily leads to the violation of the *moral* principle that punishment should be proportional to the crime.

This isn't a problem when it is also determined, as it presently is, that the free world's legislators and criminologists are largely Kantian rather than Humian. (Permit me to use a figure of speech: If determinism is to survive in these increasingly Darwinist disciplines, it is in the interests of determinism to include causing certain people to believe it itself isn't true.)

For, indeed, if the behavior of a shoplifter can only be altered by capital punishment, then that would be appropriate. True punishment, as retribution, however, must be morally proportional to the *mens rea*, and that requires that a person be conscious and responsible for a wrong: causes don't even require consciousness.

(Aside: why is it, then, that some prominent subscribers to the Friesian school advocate the abolition of the insanity defence?)

Furthermore, Dewey and other American pragmaticists base their whole body of work on arguing from the possibility of a proposition's being believed being more important than its being true, as it is the former that is more liable to affect most of everyday human action. I don't think I've ever seen a libertarian critic of determinism address their remarks; you're welcome to be the first.

Reasons for prudent belief ultimately, to be credible, must themselves rest on reasons for truth. If it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, this is because it is *possible* for the basis of medical science to be independently examined on its own merits.

True; but once again, people like Marx, Hitler, Locke, and Popper all believe that while it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, it isn't pragmatically to be recommended that one's community and fellow members of one's society be trusted-- without even attempting to demonstrate a difference in degree or in kind between these two situations. For example, a Burkean critic of libertarianism of course says that the state represents the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of all previous generations of humanity; what is the libertarian's answer?

More conscientious defenses of Pragmatism usually point out that the great Pragmatists were NOT entirely unconcerned about truth. Indeed, people like Rorty are their own *reductio ad absurdum*.

People like Rorty and other equally pointless relativists are pragmatists, not pragmaticists. As you must know, Dewey and his students coined the latter term because the likes of William James, founder of a vastly degenerated line of pragmatic thought extending to Rorty, had stolen the former from them.

I might ask, in turn, why it would make a difference if determinists like Freud or Marx are "humanists"? You do not explain the difference between "humanistic" determinism and whatever non-humanistic determinism you may subscribe to.

Antihumanistic determinism (Spinoza, etc.) does not attempt to run against Hume's guillotine; in believing that the Aristotelian concept of final cause is defensible, humanistic determinism (Freud, Marx, Kant, Popper, etc.) does so.

Or, loosely to paraphrase Heidegger: both the humanist and the antihumanist believe more people should be like himself; but in erroneusly believing that something can effectively be done to bring this about, the humanist's everyday actions are usually far more futile.

I await your reply with interest.

Yours faithfully,
T P Uschanov
Department of Philosophy
University of Helsinki


At 11:47 PM 6/30/97 DST, you wrote:

Kelley L. Ross wrote:

Defining determinism as the principle that everything has a cause in unobjectionable. But there is a further point: a cause, ever since Aristotle, is a kind of *explanation*. Therefore, everything that happens, as it happens, is to be *explained* by its cause. Thus, such a determinism will hold that the reason for my believing a certain thing is *explained* by its cause, e.g. I believe that cats are evil because I was frightened by a cat as a child (a Freudian causal explanation). Now, if beliefs are to be explained in such a way, then truth, as you say yourself, "does not enter into it," which returns us to my original argument: determinists must admit that they believe something, not because of evidence of its truth, but because of causal grounds that are not relevant to truth and of which they themselves may be unaware.

What is so insurmountable here? For example, not even an autopsy can reveal the causes of everyone's death, but everyone dies all the same. Therefore the cause is relevant even if we do not know it, or which Aristotelian category of cause it can be said to belong to. Somewhere, a book, titled A Vindication of Determinism, may presently exist that contains an accurate and detailed description of my every action from July 1, 1997 to my death.

Shades of Laplace! Determinism with a vengeance.

Of course, I don't think this is very likely, but my not thinking it's likely doesn't mean such a book absolutely cannot exist.

I don't think I get your point or how it would be relevent to my comments. In Kantian philosophy, there is no objection to complete causal explanations, since the scientific explanation of phenomena is necessarily deterministic. The barrier to your "Vindication of Determinism" book now is not Kant but Heisenberg and Bohr. The question is whether, whether Laplace or Bohr, this would capture all the features of experience and of life, and it would not.

Aristotle could believe that "everything has a cause" without being a determinist in the present sense because he believed that there were final causes as well as efficient causes. Something could happen *because* of its purpose and not just because of its efficient antecedents. A modern determinist like Spinoza, however, expicitly rejects final causes in general, even for human behavior, so that by the time we get to Hume and Kant, determinism clearly means that the explanation of the character of every event is to be found in an efficient cause.

But every major academic philosopher to defend determinism today accuses the likes of Freud of exactly the opposite: of magical thinking by clinging to the unfounded concept of final cause, by means of introducing morals and other metaphysical concepts into determinism, something which Spinoza and Hume strongly warned against. (The same goes for Hegelian and Marxian philosophy of history.)

If Freud was not a perfect determinist, that is a mark in his favor, not a criticism. Why the "concept of final cause" would be "unfounded" is the problem. If you want to assume determinism in act of reductionistic a priori reasoning, you are welcome to it. But there is no virtue in it. Determinism is not a given onto which we then graft concepts that will be "founded" to your satisifaction. Determinism itself is very much a species of "metaphysical concepts" and so is no more to be recommended to natural reason or common sense than Aristotle's less reductionistic system.

It is curious for YOU to invoke Spinoza, since his reasoning is overtly and unapologetically a priori and metaphysical. Spinoza's determinism, indeed, is in the service of God: as part of his purpose to erase the self and its egocentric conceptions, so that we can be lovingly absorbed into the Perfection of God. Hume, in turn, is a determinist because of his certainty about the principle of causality. He uses that certainty to rule out chance and miracles as well as free will. But then, Hume's virtue is his recognition that the principle of causality cannot be proven and is not known through reason. He finds no ground for it because of his empiricism, but then his empiricism is not proven either--see my essay, "Hume Shifts the Burden of Proof" (http://www.friesian.com/hume.htm). You may be ready to use Hume's determinism and anti-metaphysical epistemology without acknowledging the absence from his epistemology of any foundation for metaphysical principles like, indeed, that of causality. Those who read Hume's epistemology as allowing for *indeterminism* at least recognize the groundlessness of his causal principle.

So, what I would like to get is an example of an event that occured, but didn't have a prior cause -- as I've never, in many years of debating with non-determinists, heard about one. Doubtless you have your candidates, and I'd very much like to hear about them.

Truth would be such an event, if it is possible for human beings to evaluate propositions ad rem, without that just being a "mystification" produced by their class, their childhood, their chemicals, or their genetics.

Truth certainly isn't an event. Truth doesn't belong to agency at all, e.g. in a proposition of predicate logic -- unless you want to say that "Truth truths" or "Truth is truthing", which is Heideggerian nonsense, already overturned by Wittgenstein 75 years ago.

Truth doesn't have to be an "event," but it is what you cannot account for with a determinismistic epistemology. The "agency" lies in the evaluation of propositions by cognizant subjects. Which was my original point, to which you responded, it seemed, that truth was an unncessary hypothesis.

And Wittgenstein has now been thoroughly "overturned" by Jerrold Katz in (cf. http://www.friesian.com/katz.htm).

My original point was the *logical* distinction between reasons for truth and reasons for belief, which was made to defend traditional *fallacies*, like an argument *ad hominem*, as NOT fallacies if viewed merely as reasons for belief. But they certainly ARE fallacies if viewed as reasons for truth, which the thrust of your complaints appears to deny. Hence you seem to deny the *logical* difference between an *ad rem* argument and a genetic argument which is logically irrelevant to truth. This is a logical confusion whether you are a determinist or not; but confusing the issue with determinism would involving confusing *conscious* reasons for a proposition with possible *unconscious* causes of belief, which is an entirely different level of logical fallacy.

But most important, as Kant understood, free will is about moral praise and blame. A person whose actions are wholly determined by efficient causes is not responsible for those actions. Thus, the determinist Hume simply saw punishment as a way of causally altering action: a train of reasoning that easily leads to the violation of the *moral* principle that punishment should be proportional to the crime.

This isn't a problem when it is also determined, as it presently is, that the free world's legislators and criminologists are largely Kantian rather than Humian.

When legislators think that the purpose of punishment is to "deter," which means that draconian penalties for things which are not *mala in se* are appropriate, then they are Humeans, not Kantians, since Hume thought that the purpose of punishment was to causally change behavior. This is a moral error. But it is of a piece with Hume's denial of free will and his notion, consequently, that punishment is to effect some kind of outcome in the future. Morally, punishment can only be retribution for a wrong. It is thus directed at the past, not at the future. If a person's character and future behavior is affected by that, so much the better; but it is a separate issue. Many criminals are only hardened by punishment, viewing it as undeserved. Sometimes they can only be changed by a conversion experience, as with Malcolm X.

Permit me to use a figure of speech: If determinism is to survive in these increasingly Darwinist disciplines, it is in the interests of determinism to include causing certain people to believe it itself isn't true.)

I don't see the point.

For, indeed, if the behavior of a shoplifter can only be altered by capital punishment, then that would be appropriate. True punishment, as retribution, however, must be morally proportional to the *mens rea*, and that requires that a person be conscious and responsible for a wrong: causes don't even require consciousness.

(Aside: why is it, then, that some prominent subscribers to the Friesian school advocate the abolition of the insanity defence?)

Beats me.

Furthermore, Dewey and other American pragmaticists base their whole body of work on arguing from the possibility of a proposition's being believed being more important than its being true, as it is the former that is more liable to affect most of everyday human action. I don't think I've ever seen a libertarian critic of determinism address their remarks; you're welcome to be the first.

Reasons for prudent belief ultimately, to be credible, must themselves rest on reasons for truth. If it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, this is because it is *possible* for the basis of medical science to be independently examined on its own merits.

True; but once again, people like Marx, Hitler, Locke, and Popper all believe that while it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, it isn't pragmatically to be recommended that one's community and fellow members of one's society be trusted-- without even attempting to demonstrate a difference in degree or in kind between these two situations. For example, a Burkean critic of libertarianism of course says that the state represents the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of all previous generations of humanity; what is the libertarian's answer?

Why you think that a libertarian would not think that the "community" should be trusted betrays some misunderstandings. You evidently view those in political authority as Hegelian reifications of the "community," but of course they are not. It is those in power, with the power to use force again the citizens, against whom distrust is directed, as a healthy scepticism should be directed against even trustworthy doctors, etc. Prudential judgments do not deliver one into child-like dependency. Since Burke was a Whig, and so distrusted government far more than most living people, those were precisely his sentiments, even if he thought that they were evolved by history. I examine the complexity of Burke's views in "Conservatism, History, and Progress" (http://www.friesian.com/conserv.htm).

More conscientious defenses of Pragmatism usually point out that the great Pragmatists were NOT entirely unconcerned about truth. Indeed, people like Rorty are their own *reductio ad absurdum*.

People like Rorty and other equally pointless relativists are pragmatists, not pragmaticists. As you must know, Dewey and his students coined the latter term because the likes of William James, founder of a vastly degenerated line of pragmatic thought extending to Rorty, had stolen the former from them.

A distinction between "good" pragmatists and "bad" pragmatists doesn't illuminate what you are claiming, especially if you don't think there is a difference between an argument *ad rem* and one that commits a logical fallacy of relevance.

If Rorty's relativism is reprehensible, it must be because we have moral knowledge, but you don't sound like the person to advocate *that*.

I might ask, in turn, why it would make a difference if determinists like Freud or Marx are "humanists"? You do not explain the difference between "humanistic" determinism and whatever non-humanistic determinism you may subscribe to.

Antihumanistic determinism (Spinoza, etc.) does not attempt to run against Hume's guillotine; in believing that the Aristotelian concept of final cause is defensible, humanistic determinism (Freud, Marx, Kant, Popper, etc.) does so.

Hume, of course, would have no use for Spinoza and his God. Nor does Hume any longer represent any serious "guillotine," since his epistemology is question-begging. I am sure Freud and Marx would be appalled to be accused of using final causes, though if they did, so much the better--but since they did not do so honestly and overtly, the distortions of their thought are understandable. Kant's allowance for final causes was no contradiction to science, nor does it need to be "defensible" any more than the deterministic principles you may postulate. At the same time, your juxtapositions of people like Popper and Freud, or, even worse, Locke and Hitler, bizarrely obscure the most fundamental differences. If you want to argue that Locke and Hitler are essentially the same for believing in final causes or being "humanists," I think you have adopted an extremely grotesque worldview.

Or, loosely to paraphrase Heidegger: both the humanist and the antihumanist believe more people should be like himself; but in erroneusly believing that something can effectively be done to bring this about, the humanist's everyday actions are usually far more futile.

Again, I don't see the point here. Since Heidegger was a Nazi who countenanced a totalitarian police state to make "more people...like himself," by instantiating "uncoverings" of Being, this seems to me very much "anti-humanist" in the most appalling sense and much more conformable to *deterministic* confidence in the efficacy and appropriateness of social engineering. Liberal principles deny that the innocent purposes of people are anyone else's business, which means that their *purposes* are unique expressions of will that transcend causal determination and morally are protected from political control or interfence.

Another determinist, Schopenhauer, although rejecting Spinoza's God, nevertheless thought that free motivations and actions that transcend causal determination were possible through the denial of the Will itself--a rejection of ego similar to Spinoza's. Perhaps you are not interested in that kind of determinism any more than that of Spinoza's God

I await your reply with interest.
Yours faithfully,
T P Uschanov

Yours truly,
Kelley L. Ross


To save space, Uschanov's reply to the previous is omitted, as it is included in its entirely in Ross's following answer.


At 03:26 AM 7/3/97 DST, you wrote:

Kelley L. Ross wrote:

What is so insurmountable here? For example, not even an autopsy can reveal the causes of everyone's death, but everyone dies all the same. Therefore the cause is relevant even if we do not know it, or which Aristotelian category of cause it can be said to belong to. Somewhere, a book, titled A Vindication of Determinism, may presently exist that contains an accurate and detailed description of my every action from July 1, 1997 to my death.

Shades of Laplace! Determinism with a vengeance.

That's right.

I don't think Laplace has been credible for quite a while.

Of course, I don't think this is very likely, but my not thinking it's likely doesn't mean such a book absolutely cannot exist.

I don't think I get your point or how it would be relevent to my comments. In Kantian philosophy, there is no objection to complete causal explanations, since the scientific explanation of phenomena is necessarily deterministic. The barrier to your "Vindication of Determinism" book now is not Kant but Heisenberg and Bohr. The question is whether, whether Laplace or Bohr, this would capture all the features of experience and of life, and it would not.

But the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics only concerns itself with epistemology, not metaphysics -- which observation was itself part of the very argument you're responding to. I haven't ever seen Heisenberg, Bohr, or any other leading 20th-century physicists claim that anything unknowable, if it exists at all, can solely exist in a more vague state than something knowable. Indeed, Schroedinger's classic book Science and Humanism (Cambridge University Press, 1951) is largely devoted to critiquing this apology for libertarianism.

No, that is the most interesting thing about quantum mechanics: it is not just epistemology. If individual electrons go through BOTH slots in Young's classic interference experiment, then the Copenhagen Interpretation is that the electron does not have a definite location. Until it is observed, that is. Uncertainties or undecidabilities of knowledge correspond to indeterminacies in reality: that is one [of] the things purportedly established by Bell's Theorem, which ruled out "hidden variable" theories which tried to maintain that something determinate existed to be known in the states of particles, even if there were limitations in the circumstances on our knowing it.

Schroedinger did not like Heisenberg's Uncertainty and the Copenhagen Interpretation, so I doubt that his book, especially from 1951, is going to be representative of the way things tend to be viewed now.

But this issue goes beyond quantum mechanics. If there is really chance in the world, this introduces an indeterminacy into events. All quantum mechanics has accomplished is to build such indeterminacy into the foundations of physics.

Libertarianism (free will), however, needs more than indeterminacy, so there must be more to the metaphysics than quantum mechanics allows--though as a contradiction of determinism, it is a good start.

But every major academic philosopher to defend determinism today accuses the likes of Freud of exactly the opposite: of magical thinking by clinging to the unfounded concept of final cause, by means of introducing morals and other metaphysical concepts into determinism, something which Spinoza and Hume strongly warned against. (The same goes for Hegelian and Marxian philosophy of history.)

If Freud was not a perfect determinist, that is a mark in his favor, not a criticism. Why the "concept of final cause" would be "unfounded" is the problem.

Because the Freudian has a Freudian argument for a Freudian final cause, the Marxist a Marxist argument for a Marxist final cause, the Christian a Christian argument for a Christian final cause, the Jehovah's Witness a JW argument for a JW final cause -- and all on equally defensible evidence.

If Freudians, etc., try to translate final causes into efficient causes, it is clearly because they want to save the phenomena. The problem with their approach is that there is no reason for such a translation. If your argument is that there are no phenomena to save, when it comes to final causes, then I think you are mistaking a reductionism for a given.

Determinism is not a given onto which we then graft concepts that will be "founded" to your satisfaction.

There would be no need at all for me to use the concept of foundation, especially in its Aristotelian form, if libertarians would be able to perceive the determinist view of the universe without it, like determinists do:

"If there were a law of causality, it might be put in the following way: There are laws of nature. But of course that cannot be said: it makes itself manifest." (Tractatus 6.36)

You act in a foundationalist way, whether you use the concept of a foundation or not, if you think there is something obvious and unproblematic about determinism--that it is some kind of given--so that libertarians must justify themselves in a way that you do not need to justify yourself. Wittgenstein, in his own obscure and oracular way, seems to be claiming that his view of things is a self-evident truth ("makes itself manifest"). This is not something anyone else need take seriously. Why should libertarians NEED to perceive question begging arguments except as question begging?

It is curious for YOU to invoke Spinoza, since his reasoning is overtly and unapologetically a priori and metaphysical. Spinoza's determinism, indeed, is in the service of God: as part of his purpose to erase the self and its egocentric conceptions, so that we can be lovingly absorbed into the Perfection of God.

But my God is the same as Spinoza's: Deus sive Natura. And I find Spinoza's definition God to my satisfaction precisely because it is the only one not to succumb to the problem of theodicy, sinking into a swamp of apologist and scholastic speculation about its attributes and intent, and hence the existence of a final cause.

Before you get too excited, just don't forget that Spinoza's God THINKS, and that the divine attribute of THOUGHT is infinite. Spinoza's theodicy is that all the acts of God, which are all the acts of all things, exhibit Divine Perfection. Many find this theodicy as offensive as the more conventional ones with final causes. It is, indeed, responsive to the questions about meaning that you seem to disqualify from consideration. But the most important point about Spinoza's determinism is that it is an axiom of the system. HE would not be afraid to claim it as self-evident, without the obscurantism of someone like Wittgenstein.

Hume, in turn, is a determinist because of his certainty about the principle of causality. He uses that certainty to rule out chance and miracles as well as free will. But then, Hume's virtue is his recognition that the principle of causality cannot be proven and is not known through reason.

(Another aside: aren't you now praising Hume for having a thought you simultaneously seem to find undesirable in Wittgenstein? Or the logical positivists who grossly misinterpreted him?)

If Hume recognizes that the principle of causality cannot be proven, this simply means that it is a first priniciple of demonstration, which Aristotle didn't think could be proven either. Hence Kant's statement that Hume's critics tried to prove that which he never thought of doubting (the quid facti) and didn't bother to address the real issues he raised (the quid juris). Wittgenstein still seems to rely on his own version of self-evidence, which makes him less sophisticated than Hume, let alone Kant.

Since Hume didn't think that the causal principle was either self-evident or provable, this is what made him a SCEPTIC. Since, as an Academic Skeptic, he BELIEVED in the causal principle nevertheless, in a rather uncritical way, this means, for practical purposes, that he treated it as self-evident.

He finds no ground for it because of his empiricism, but then his empiricism is not proven

I don't think anything is proven, but that's exactly why I have several of my central beliefs. I'm an agnostic because thinking the existence of a supreme being is not proven leads to thinking there is no reason to act as if one existed -- which is ostensibly exactly the same as acting if one knew a supreme being doesn't exist. This leads to some people's believing that I'm an atheist instead of an agnostic, but I'm not.

Similarly, I'm a determinist because having seen no proof in favour of free will leads to thinking there is no reason to act like free will existed, etc.

Hence, for you free will needs to be proven, but determinism is the unproblematic, default given. This is question begging. I have no reason to believe that determinism is true, and you have certainty not given me one. On the other hand, I do have a sense of my own ability to make choices, which sounds like the basic experiential datum for free will. And I do perceive the epistemological paradox that determinism rules out the *ad rem* evaluation of truths.

either--see my essay, "Hume Shifts the Burden of Proof" (http://www.friesian.com/hume.htm).

There you write:

Now if we produce an idea, like power or necessary connection, that we maintain is not derived from an antecedent impression, it is not incumbent upon Hume to produce the impression or abandon his empiricism. Instead, Hume can say this means that our idea is "without any meaning or idea,"

Hume didn't mean what you represent him to have meant. What he meant is this: concepts like "power" or "necessary connection" are not "without any meaning or idea" because some people using them do not give any antedecent impression for them, but because some other, equally trustworthy people using them nevertheless do, and the impressions they give for the same term often vary wildly (think of a nuclear physicist's "power" and then a Trotskyist's "power"); therefore the impression-no impression battle ends in a draw, along with the looming this impression-that impression debate.

No, Hume does not think there ARE impressions antecedent to the use of "power" and "necessary connection," the way HE uses them, since later in the Enquiry he has whole sections showing that there is no basis for such notions. If your interpretaton were true, Hume would discuss the antecedent impressions that your "equally trustworthy people" give for them, but he doesn't. There is nothing in Hume like the modern linguistic analysis you have cited of the different meanings of "power." You have supplied that to make your own point. The contest is NOT a "draw" in Hume's estimation: he sees himself as simply refutting the claim that there are impressions behind "power" and "necessary connection." That is entirely consistent, indeed, with his overall sceptical claim that there is no rational justification for the causal principle or the laws of nature.

So, what I would like to get is an example of an event that occured, but didn't have a prior cause -- as I've never, in many years of debating with non-determinists, heard about one.

Truth would be such an event, if it is possible for human beings to evaluate propositions ad rem, without that just being a "mystification" produced by their class, their childhood, their chemicals, or their genetics.

Truth certainly isn't an event. Truth doesn't belong to agency at all, e.g. in a proposition of predicate logic -- unless you want to say that "Truth truths" or "Truth is truthing", which is Heideggerian nonsense, already overturned by Wittgenstein 75 years ago.

Truth doesn't have to be an "event," but it is what you cannot account for with a determinismistic epistemology. The "agency" lies in the evaluation of propositions by cognizant subjects. Which was my original point, to which you responded, it seemed, that truth was an unncessary hypothesis.

And Wittgenstein has now been thoroughly "overturned" by Jerrold Katz in (cf. http://www.friesian.com/katz.htm).

That piece, and what you write above, merely seems not to keep in mind the pragmaticists' notion that Tarski's definition of truth becomes compatible with post-war Oxonian philosophy of language when "meaning is usage" is taken not as "it is true that meaning is usage" but instead as "it is true that people think they mean something when using language". This is anthropology, not logic -- and what it means to say is that anthropology is the way to understanding language, not dissecting propositions logically, as Russell and the positivists believe.

I don't care about Oxonian philosophy of language or your distinctions here. I have referred you to Katz, who is neither Russell nor a positivist but a logician and linguistic scientist. You can take up your argument with him. The hypothesis that "meaning is usage" fails to account for the facts, indeed, of linguistic usage.

My original point was the *logical* distinction between reasons for truth and reasons for belief, which was made to defend traditional *fallacies*, like an argument *ad hominem*, as NOT fallacies if viewed merely as reasons for belief. But they certainly ARE fallacies if viewed as reasons for truth, which the thrust of your complaints appears to deny.

No. What I hold suspect is the doctrine that there are any reasons for truth that can be successfully communicated through natural language, and are hence valuable in philosophical debate.

Which means that truth cannot be determined through language (where natural languages are clearly better than artificial ones), which is the *reductio ad absurdum* of this debate. NOT for me, but certainly for you. So I don't see why you bother. If our debate cannot communicate reasons for truth through language, then there is obviously no point in communicating--except for the company. No claim of yours can be a claim of truth. But that was my original point about determinism.

And I don't see what comfort you can derive from logic when you deny what I have never seen any logican deny: that an *ad hominem* argument is a logical fallacy because it is not relevant to the *ad rem* determination of the truth.

But most important, as Kant understood, free will is about moral praise and blame. A person whose actions are wholly determined by efficient causes is not responsible for those actions. Thus, the determinist Hume simply saw punishment as a way of causally altering action: a train of reasoning that easily leads to the violation of the *moral* principle that punishment should be proportional to the crime.

This isn't a problem when it is also determined, as it presently is, that the free world's legislators and criminologists are largely Kantian rather than Humian.

When legislators think that the purpose of punishment is to "deter," which means that draconian penalties for things which are not *mala in se* are appropriate, then they are Humeans, not Kantians, since Hume thought that the purpose of punishment was to causally change behavior. This is a moral error. But it is of a piece with Hume's denial of free will and his notion, consequently, that punishment is to effect some kind of outcome in the future. Morally, punishment can only be retribution for a wrong. It is thus directed at the past, not at the future. If a person's character and future behavior is affected by that, so much the better; but it is a separate issue. Many criminals are only hardened by punishment, viewing it as undeserved.

So, to you, someone who punishes a criminal to get enjoyment from his suffering is moral, while someone who punishes a criminal to prevent future crime is immoral? Most people hold the reverse view, except perhaps in authoritarian cultures like the United States and China.

There is a difference between what the criminal deserves and the motive of the one who inflicts the punishment. Punishment from which the one who inflicts it derives enjoyment, if it is in fact a just punishment, means that the agent is morally guilty for the *mens rea* but not for the *actus reus*, which is just. No wrong is thereby commited, but an improper *mens rea* certainly means that some other person should be found for the job.

The problem with punishing a criminal to prevent future crime is that any moral limit to the punishment is removed. It no longer need be proportional to the crime. It simply must be whatever is EFFECTIVE to prevent the future crime, which, as I have said, could just as easily be the death pentalty for shop lifting. THAT is the theory of punishment, not necessarily in an "authoritarian" culture, but certainly in one that begins to accept determinism (which would include Marxist China and "progressive" legal theory in the United States and elsewhere).

Reasons for prudent belief ultimately, to be credible, must themselves rest on reasons for truth. If it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, this is because it is *possible* for the basis of medical science to be independently examined on its own merits.

True; but once again, people like Marx, Hitler, Locke, and Popper all believe that while it is pragmatically to be recommended that one's physician be trusted, it isn't pragmatically to be recommended that one's community and fellow members of one's society be trusted -- without even attempting to demonstrate a difference in degree or in kind between these two situations. For example, a Burkean critic of libertarianism of course says that the state represents the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of all previous generations of humanity; what is the libertarian's answer?

Why you think that a libertarian would not think that the "community" should be trusted betrays some misunderstandings. You evidently view those in political authority as Hegelian reifications of the "community," but of course they are not. It is those in power, with the power to use force again the citizens, against whom distrust is directed, as a healthy scepticism should be directed against even trustworthy doctors, etc.

But most people living in western democracies today, while as sceptical of their doctors as Hayek and Popper, think Hayek's or Popper's scepticism towards their own community is not healthy, whereas they nevertheless think their own scepticism towards the same is healthy -- and absolutely necessary. That is the difference.

Again, you use "community" as though it is identical with "government." People who trust their "government" as though it is the "community" mistake one group of persons for another, and therefore become the dupes of political rent seeking.

But I also supect that "people living in western democracies today" have become so corrupted by rent seeking themselves, in strongly socialized states, that they actually do form communities that are untrustworthy, in the sense that political conflict reproduces the Hobbesian war of all against all. This is all ripening nicely in France, where the response to depression levels of unemployment is the demand for even more privileges and the beginning of xenophobic attacks on foreigners.

A distinction between "good" pragmatists and "bad" pragmatists doesn't illuminate what you are claiming, especially if you don't think there is a difference between an argument *ad rem* and one that commits a logical fallacy of relevance.

The only reason I think so is that I haven't yet been offered scientific evidence to the contrary. You're welcome to offer some.

I think most logic books count as "scientific evidence." Your problem with logic is that you think an a priori principle of causal determinism is somehow "scientific," overriding the difference between an argument *ad rem* and a fallacy of relevance. It is not science. It is metaphysics, of a rather uncritical sort.

If Rorty's relativism is reprehensible, it must be because we have moral knowledge, but you don't sound like the person to advocate *that*.

To you Rorty's relativism is reprehensible because you think you have moral knowledge; to me it is reprehensible simply because many of the moral acts done under Rorty's direct influence cause or may cause me to suffer.

The dentist may cause you to suffer, but he does not thereby necessarily wrong you. But perhaps you are an Epicurean. That will still be question begging, if you might claim that greater pleasure in the future justifies lesser pain in the present. That sounds like a final cause.

If you do not have moral knowledge, then of course you would not say that anyone inflicting suffering on you ever WRONGS you. But perhaps you can use "wrong" without claiming to know what it is. You are welcome to that, but it strikes me as a great perversity.

I might ask, in turn, why it would make a difference if determinists like Freud or Marx are "humanists"? You do not explain the difference between "humanistic" determinism and whatever non-humanistic determinism you may subscribe to.

Antihumanistic determinism (Spinoza, etc.) does not attempt to run against Hume's guillotine; in believing that the Aristotelian concept of final cause is defensible, humanistic determinism (Freud, Marx, Kant, Popper, etc.) does so.

Hume, of course, would have no use for Spinoza and his God.

Hume, however, does have use for nature, which is the same as Spinoza's God. Thinking that Spinoza's concept of God somehow refers to a supreme being generally died in Europe with the Encyclopedistes.

So you are not actually talking about Spinoza. I was.

Nor does Hume any longer represent any serious "guillotine," since his epistemology is question-begging.

But that's exactly what makes Hume's guillotine possible! Values cannot be derived from facts because equally informed people can derive different values from the same facts (see Hume discussion above).

Now we are on the fact/value distinction. But this "different people" business has nothing whatsoever to do with Hume. Hume's argument that "ought" cannot be logically derived from "is" means that NOBODY can "derive different values from the same facts." In modern terms, the point is that matters of value are AXIOMATICALLY INDEPENDENT of matters of fact. Which is simply another version of Hume's point that necessary truths cannot be justified by reason, and is consistent with an Aristotelian view that the first principles of ethics are going to be different from the first principles of some other science.

This would seem to reduce your "Hume's guillotine" to the bare point that the first principles of ethics are NOT self-evident and that reasonable persons can disagree about them. That doesn't mean that certain principles aren't true or that everyone is right in such disagreements. For Hume, the distinction between virtue and vice is real, even if there is no rational justification.

I am sure Freud and Marx would be appalled to be accused of using final causes, though if they did, so much the better--

Freud's final cause is childhood sexual development.
Marx's final cause is the value theory of labour.

Childhood sexual development sounds like an efficient cause to me; and Marx actually doesn't have a "labor theory of value." See Thomas Sowell's Marxism. Any theory of "value" would actually violate Marx's determinism, though there is no doubt that Marxists themselves like to speak of what the workers are "owed" as a matter of right. They don't notice that their moral indignation owes nothing to the official structure of Marxist theory.

All major contemporary critics of both start from these theses.

Then this seems either confused or inaccurate, and irrelevant in any case to my argument since I must regard the attempts at determinism by Freud or Marx as incoherent if humanistic purposes are to be served.

If you want to argue that Locke and Hitler are essentially the same

I don't -- what separates me from them is precisely that I don't believe any two people can ever be "essentially the same".

When you lump them together, you are either making a claim or you are not. Your response here is simply evasive.

for believing in final causes or being "humanists," I think you have adopted an extremely grotesque worldview.

I indeed have -- and the reason is that I live in an extremely grotesque world. Albert Camus, after all, got a Nobel prize for advancing my worldview, so it can't be that forbidding.

So you are some kind of Existentialist? Then you actually live in a meaningless world. Which is forbidding enough. No wonder you are a determinist. One kind of reductionism leads to another.

Or, loosely to paraphrase Heidegger: both the humanist and the antihumanist believe more people should be like himself; but in erroneusly believing that something can effectively be done to bring this about, the humanist's everyday actions are usually far more futile.

Again, I don't see the point here.

Since Heidegger was a Nazi Who eventually got the boot and was sent to dig trenches because of his unfaithfulness to the Nazi doctrine and regime...

??? In the 70's he was still referring to National Socialism as a proper response to the evils of modernism (e.g. liberalism, democracy, and capitalism). The Nazis were in general too stupid to understand that Heidegger's system was their best apologia. But then he didn't write clearly enough even for non-stupid people.

who countenanced a totalitarian police state to make "more people...like himself," by instantiating "uncoverings" of Being, this seems to me very much "anti-humanist" in the most appalling sense and much more conformable to *deterministic* confidence in the efficacy and appropriateness of social engineering.

A true determinist cannot truly believe in social engineering in the sense libertarians say they believe in some social policy; whether a determinist gives or does not give his support to social engineering has, of course, an external cause, like everything else. But this external cause isn't necessarily biological or social, as pseudodeterminists like the Nazis believe.

It doesn't matter whether it is "biological or social," as long as it is a cause, then there is no ground for the determination of the truth. So if you are externally caused to be a Nazi, you will simply support their engineering without it being good or bad or true or false or anything else. Sounds like Existentialism sure enough. But I though that Camus at least believed in free will? Or is that just Sartre?

Someone who believes in free will, whether they are Adolf Hitler or Jesus Christ, will at least claim they are doing something for an evaluative reason. The determinist does things just because he must.

Another determinist, Schopenhauer, although rejecting Spinoza's God, nevertheless thought that free motivations and actions that transcend causal determination were possible through the denial of the Will itself--a rejection of ego similar to Spinoza's. Perhaps you are not interested in that kind of determinism any more than that of Spinoza's God.

That is my determinism. (Where did I give a picture of my determinism being something else?)

Your determinism is Schopenhauer's rejection of the Will? Where did you give a picture that your determinism was anything of the sort? But the denial of the Will is freedom. You have said nothing like that. And it is the supposedly self-denying people who have committed the most murders this century.

This isn't generally known, but Finnish is the only European language that has a genuine passive form for the verb meaning "to be"; that that verb form can be used daily with it making sense and being of use to the speakers means that ego is not an indispensable concept.

Passive verbs optionally take agents in any languages I have ever hear of, while many languages can use verbs without subjects, implying, I suppose, that subjects don't exist for them.

Kelley L. Ross

As always, I would be extremely interested in your further comments to mine. Also, many thanks for the comments you have made so far. They become more interesting all the time, and you're certainly more honest than most tenured philosophy professors.

Yours faithfully,
T P Uschanov


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