Thursday, March 10, 2016

607: The first Materialists

A lot of thinking about ourselves begins historically with creation myths. Creation myths address questions deeply meaningful to the society that shares them, 
revealing their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context. 
Homer and Sophocles showed us a situation, where man has a great deal of freedom of action, 
however, there are limitations, either created by himself like by going to war or by an unavoidable fate due to a prediction of a god.
Yet, there is freedom within this frame of fate and prediction, thinks Sophocles, but then you need wisdom to make the right choices.
Oedipus  could not.  Paradoxically he cannot escape the fate the gods have predicted for him because he thinks he can escape it. 
His fate thus is the outcome of the interaction between his character and inexorable laws which for Sophocles characterize human life.
Due to the specific way the Greek treated religion and their relations with their gods there developed another line of thinking.
On the one hand man began to wonder about his relation with fate and on the other hand he began to wonder about his relation with nature and the universe.
To mention a name: Anaximander (c. 610 – c. 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia in modern-day Turkey.
He was an early proponent of science and tried to observe and explain different aspects of the universe, with a particular interest in its origins, 
claiming that nature is ruled by laws, just like human societies, and anything that disturbs the balance of nature does not last long.
Most essential here is the consciousness of the existence of natural laws, some order in the universe and thence necessary causal relations.
It meant, that man was not only subjected to a fate but also part of a physical world which is ruled by a given order, a LOGOS.
The materialist philosophers Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) and Leucippus (5th century BC) , again with extraordinary prescience, claimed that all things, including humans, 
were made of atoms in a void, with individual atomic motions strictly controlled by causal laws. 
He and Leucippus originated two of the great dogmas of determinism, physical determinism and logical necessity, which lead directly to the modern problem of free will and determinism.
Democritus conceived of the soul as consisting of spherical atoms, this being the shape best adapted to penetrate and move things.
Yet the picture of determinism is incomplete here. There is little known of ideas, that can be attributed to Democritus, which talk about a behavioural causality based on physical causality.
So, though he was a materialist he did not develop a well defined view on the logical consequences of his materialism with respect to free will.
For an elaborate analysis of this issue we have to wait till Plato and Aristotle, which will be our guests of our next lecture on Tuesday, March 8.
Till then you can find me on the beaches of the smallest inhabited island in the Netherlands.
Thank you…the floor is yours … :-)

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995

Free Will, Ilham Dilham, 1999
On Free will, J.J.C.Smart, Mind 1961
Of Liberty and Necessity, James A. Harris, 2005
Free Will, A very short Introduction, Thomas Pink, 2003

The discussion

[13:18] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa there
[13:18] herman Bergson: As you see, the debate on free will and determinism is as old as the Greek...
[13:18] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): It seems so
[13:19] herman Bergson: the interesting part is that there is a a kind of juxtapostion of fate and physical laws as limitations of our free will
[13:19] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): did they know what atoms were in those days?
[13:20] herman Bergson: That is one of the amazing things Beertje....
[13:20] CB Axel: I'm sorry, but I have to go. Family emergency. I'll see you on the 8th.
[13:20] herman Bergson: The pre-socratics first thought of 4 elelments as basis of the universe...
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu Cb
[13:21] herman Bergson: and Democritus thought of small particles.....
[13:21] herman Bergson: why?
[13:21] herman Bergson: nobody knows....
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sort of like EInstein, ahead of their time but right on the spot still
[13:22] herman Bergson: that is one option....
[13:22] herman Bergson: on theother hand it can be the proces of abstraction....
[13:22] herman Bergson: leave out all qualities of an object....
[13:23] herman Bergson: in fact you end up where Descartes ended up...
[13:23] herman Bergson: what is left of matter is only extension...
[13:23] herman Bergson: it takes space to least that
[13:23] druth Vlodovic: perhaps extrapolation, very big things are made of smaller things, so maybe everything is made of even smaller things
[13:23] herman Bergson: SO maybe Democritus and Earlier Leucippus performed the same thought proces
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:24] herman Bergson: indeed Druth....
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however not even the LHC have been able to divide quarks and electrons, however it have produced much heavier versions of these
[13:24] herman Bergson: So, it is highly improbable that they had any idea of nuclear physics :-)
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed, those things, accelerators and nuclear reactors as well as the neccessary computer power needed to be able to see and analyse everything was not invented yet
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): first now we are able to study these things at these details
[13:26] druth Vlodovic: as far as applying it to free will, you can see that a person acts a certain way when alone,a different way around specific small groups, and very differently when gathered into nations and mobs
[13:26] herman Bergson: I think the Ancient Greek would not have much use for them:-)
[13:26] herman Bergson: No electricity :-)
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but the theory have been around very long
[13:27] herman Bergson: that Democritus must have had some nuclear knowledge?
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least a hint of something
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it seems
[13:28] herman Bergson: I think that the extrapolation idea and the attribute reduction method are more probable explanations
[13:28] druth Vlodovic: actually I think the biggest advance is the concept that things have to act a certain way due to "natural laws" or "this own nature"
[13:28] druth Vlodovic: without that you can't have science
[13:28] herman Bergson: Indeed Druth...
[13:28] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): did he calle it 'atoms'or did we translate his writings?
[13:29] herman Bergson: But in fact that also can be result of extrapolation...
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): Atom means individable I think in greek or something
[13:29] druth Vlodovic: so we used the greek word,rather than the other way around
[13:29] herman Bergson: For centuries man knew already astronomy....
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): because the name was couned before we discovered radioactive decay or started to build particle smashers
[13:30] herman Bergson: the sky was predictable....
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): coined
[13:30] herman Bergson: so there have to be  kind of rules up there
[13:30] druth Vlodovic: the sky was so predictable that they were willing to base their economies and food supplies on it
[13:30] herman Bergson: and by observing WE can discover these rules
[13:31] druth Vlodovic: which is where (I suspect) we get the idea of the heavens ordering the world
[13:31] herman Bergson: indeed....
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:31] herman Bergson: so in general this all doesn't sound that strange....
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): are we as humans acting according these rules?
[13:32] herman Bergson: The "strange" thing here is that this line of thinking only evolved in Europe into real science and individualism
[13:33] druth Vlodovic: but humans must have an instinct of predictability, infants like repetitive things (like movies), and we don't act randomly even when we don't know the rules
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes the explenaition for the existence of the natural laws can be questionable
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:34] druth Vlodovic: take any "pre-scientific" culture and you don't find people planting out of season because "something may happen"
[13:35] herman Bergson: That leads to a typical phenomenon: experimenting
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): to try find out how it really works
[13:35] druth Vlodovic: most animals will also prefer a routine,suggesting that the prediction that the universe is guided by laws ought to be the rule rather than the exception
[13:35] herman Bergson: in a number of cultures experiments are even forbidden....
[13:36] druth Vlodovic: well, information becomes the purview of a ruling class "knowledge is power"
[13:36] druth Vlodovic: unless you have a different take on why that happens?
[13:36] herman Bergson: in relation to free will the concept of "law" is interesting....
[13:37] herman Bergson: a universe guided by laws...
[13:37] herman Bergson: what is meant by law these laws influence my freedom directly?
[13:37] herman Bergson: questions like that
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): physical laws I guess
[13:38] herman Bergson: Good for next lectures :-)
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and physical laws can NEVER be broken
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its impossible
[13:38] herman Bergson: Shouldnt I yell now ...Quantum Mechanics, Bejiita? :-)))
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont):
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well thats an odd thing indeed but also very interesting
[13:39] herman Bergson: we'll get to that subject definitely :-)
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:40] herman Bergson: let's enjoy now first a short vacation however :-)
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): walk on a snowy beach.....brrrrr
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:41] herman Bergson: May I thank you all again for yoru participation and interest
[13:41] herman Bergson: I did in 2010 Beerje
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): great as always
[13:41] herman Bergson: Class dismissed....^_^
[13:41] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes me too..there was ice on the sea then
[13:41] druth Vlodovic: fate is a peculiar method of laws,
[13:41] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): fijne vakantie:)
[13:41] herman Bergson: there was !
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): have a nice vaccation now
[13:42] druth Vlodovic: rather than saying how something will happen it says what will happen, then the how is almost random
[13:42] herman Bergson: Sophocles would agree with you Druth :-)
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aa
[13:42] druth Vlodovic: maybe that is where quantum string theory comes in
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): maybee, its a such complex theory
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it just can work
[13:43] herman Bergson: I leave that to Bejiita to comment on, Druth :-)
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:43] druth Vlodovic: lol
[13:43] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thank you herman & class :-)
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): have a nice vaccation now Herman
[13:43] herman Bergson: thnx Bejiita:-)
[13:43] druth Vlodovic: yes,have fun on your vacay herman
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu then
[13:44] herman Bergson: I will Druth :-)
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Goodnight everyone:)
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Gute Nacht
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Welterusten
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont):
[13:45] druth Vlodovic: 'night all
[13:45] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye´s:-)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Bye Druth, bergie


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