The Ten Dogmas of Determinism
Philosophy today has become hopelessly dogmatic.
These were all reactions by modern thinkers against the orthodoxy of tradition.
Information philosophers too must waken philosophy from its "dogmatic slumbers." This will require both a modern rethinking of what we can know and a frank post-modern recognition of the tentative and relative foundations of that knowledge.
As with Kant, our method is critical. We must put limits on these dogmas to make room for freedom and creativity, God and values, and knowledge of the external world.
Limits will make room for the only kinds of constructed knowledge that is possible to man - by nature, by convention, and by abstraction.The ten dogmas of determinism are:
These dogmas are closely interrelated and frequently conflated. Some philosophical dictionaries and encyclopedias define them in terms of one another or sometimes equate them. We will see that some philosophers make these dogmas so fundamental that they ignorantly declare that science, knowledge, and even thought itself would not be possible without one or more of them being "true."
Determinism is not true. The world is indeterministic. There is only an adequate physical determinism in the world. The physical world we see is made up mostly from atoms in continuous motion. While less constrained than atoms in a gas, those in a liquid and solid are still moving with thermal motions, and they are still subject to the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.
Certainty is an ancient concept that grew out of logic. It is often equated with Truth. Today it is a key concept in probability theory. Certainty describes outcomes with probability equal to one.
Three very important certainties are logical certainty, mathematical certainty, and physical certainty. We shall see that all three have been called into question, and for different reasons.
There are many more determinisms, but they perhaps do not deserve the stigma of being called dogmas. They are hypotheses for which there is modest to significant experimental evidence. Consider behavioral (nature), biological (nurture), language, psychological, religious, and social (economic) determinisms. And this is not to discuss chemical dependencies and mind-altering drugs which clearly put significant limits on human freedom. These might best be regarded as external causes, a kind of virtual bondage of the will.
What do all these determinisms have in common? They deny any randomness in the operation of the world. They deny chance. They turn their eyes away from the underlying chaos in the universe.
In so doing they fail to see the magnificent greatness of ergodic creative processes that can build adequately determined information structures despite, and essentially on top of, that ever-present chaos. Ergodic processes control, contain, constrain, and co-opt entropic chaos, using it to their own teleonomic ends of biological creativity, and, in the case of animal intelligence, human freedom.
It therefore quite ironic, and a fitting capstone to all the failed dogmas of determinism, that today we have a chaos and complexity theory which is entirely deterministic! Chaos theory studies the fascinating patterns that emerge from calculations when non-linear effects become important, like the turbulent flow in hydrodynamics.
When chaos theory models are run in a computer program, the results are as random as pseudo-random number generators. That is, the randomness has all the characteristics of true random phenomena, the same deviations from the mean value, etc. But when you start the program from the very same point, it produces the very same pseudo-random sequence.
This seems to be the view that many philosophers have of the world. Underneath it all, God, or one of their determinisms, could rewind the world and have it play out in the very same random chaotic way. Some more scientifically minded philosophers think it could even play backwards, if time were reversed.
As William James said succinctly, they have "antipathy to chance."
1. Aristotle, in his De Interpretatione IX, raised the question of whether the logical truth of a statement about the future might entail the necessity of the future event:
"What is, necessarily is, when it is; and what is not, necessarily is not, when it is not. But not everything that is, necessarily is; and not everything that is not, necessarily is not. For to say that everything that is, is of necessity, when it is, is not the same as saying unconditionally that it is of necessity. Similarly with what is not. And the same account holds for contradictories: everything necessarily is or is not, and will be or will not be; but one cannot divide and say that one or the other is necessary. I mean, for example: it is necessary for there to be or not to be a sea-battle tomorrow; but it is not necessary for a sea-battle to take place tomorrow, nor for one not to take place—though it is necessary for one to take place or not to take place. So, since statements are true according to how the actual things are, it is clear that wherever these are such as to allow of contraries as chance has it, the same necessarily holds for the contradictories also. This happens with things that are not always so or are not always not so. With these it is necessary for one or the other of the contradictories to be true or false — not, however, this one or that one, but as chance has it; or for one to be true rather than the other, yet not already true or false. Clearly, then, it is not necessary that of every affirmation and opposite negation one should be true and the other false. For what holds for things that are does not hold for things that are not but may possibly be or not be; with these it is as we have said."