[lit-ideas] Re: Logical Corpuscularism

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 13 Sep 2015 09:53:36 +0000 (UTC)

If it's not random, p = 1. >
Before considering anything else further, we should perhaps get clear why this
claim by JLS is wrong, and reveals a fundamental error.
Where 'p' stands for probability, when we say 'p = 1' we mean the highest
probability possible (using a scale of '0' to 1' to rank all probabilities) -
so if we are talking about the 'probability' of an outcome and the probability
is '1', we mean the so-called 'probability' of that outcome is so high that the
outcome is _inevitable_. (Likewise an outcome with 'p = 0' is an outcome that
cannot happen, and an outcome with 'p = 0.5' is a probability with a 50/50
chance of occurring).
To describe something which is inevitable as merely 'probable' would be unusual
or a mistake or confusing in ordinary life (e.g. it is not merely 'probable'
that each of us shall die), and we must therefore be clear that when we speak
of 'p = 1' we are not referring to what we normally refer to in terms of
probabilities but to what we might normally refer to in terms of 'certainties'.
Both 'p = 1' and 'p = 0' do not refer to normal "probabilities" but to
certainties at the extremes that mark the scale of probabilities  - with an
outcome of 'p = 1' being an outcome certain to occur and an outcome of 'p = 0'
being an outcome that is certain not to occur.
This understanding of 'p = 1' and 'p = 0' is (I understand) quite basic to any
proper understanding of probability.
Now we turn to JLS' claim >If it's not random, p = 1. >
JLS' claim amounts to saying that all outcomes, other than random ones, are
certain ones. In other words, the only alternative to a certain outcome is a
random outcome.
This claim is not defended by JLS by any significant argument and it is wrong:
there are many probabilities less than '1' and greater than '0' that are (or
may be) "non-random". The true position is that some probabilities between '1'
and '0' may arise in a way such that outcomes are "random", but many others
arise such that outcomes are not "random" even though they are not certain.
We may even argue that truly random events are a small, perhaps tiny, subset of
the set of events that have probability between '1' and '0'. In general terms,
we may argue the universe is highly probabilistic in character (where
'probabilistic' here denotes only probabilities between '1' and '0') but very
little of its character is "random". Everything we know about cosmology, from
the 'Big Bang' and its aftermath to the course of natural history on earth,
fits the picture of a highly probabilistic universe but not a very "random"
But divisions on how much or little probability derives from "randomness" may
be left aside; all sensible minds may unite in saying that, however much or
little it is, it is false to say >If it's not random, p = 1. >* 
DThe best Donal on this list, probably*And this claim is false unless the
proposition "all non-random events have probability 'p = 1'" itself has a
probability of 'p = 1'. Which it doesn't.

On Thursday, 10 September 2015, 18:34, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx"
<dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Schroedinger's cats were made of corpuscules. 

So how does Popper reconcile corpuscularism at the quantum level with  free

Let's consider the quotes from Doyle's  site.

Popper writes:

"First of all, I do of course agree that  quantum-theoretical INdeterminacy
in a sense can NOT help, because this  leads MERELY  to probabilistic laws,
and we do not wish to say that such  things as  free decisions are just
probabilistic affairs."

Oddly,  that above is one of the instances where 'way' seems to do better
than  'sense'. I was arguing that if p =1 we can still may wish to say that 
such a thing as a free decision is a probabilistic affair. Or perhaps 
Popper is having trouble with 'law', because, as such, there are no 
psychological laws  (Only legal laws, as Hart would say).

Popper  continues: "The trouble with quantum-mechanical INdeterminacy is
twofold.  First, it is probabilistic"

-- as opposed to what? Popper seems to be  implicating that there is
indeterminism which is not probabilistic. 

"and this doesn't help us much"

-- a little?

"with the  free-will problem, which is NOT JUST a chance  affair."

But does  include as per logical necessity, a chance affair, when we say
that  something stands no chance there's little will (free or other) can  do
about  it.

Popper: "Second, it only gives us INdeterminism,  not openness to World  2."

Chomsky used 'openness', but this must be  a different way of using
openness. It's openness to w2.

Popper:  "However, in a roundabout way I do think that one may make use  of
quantum-theoretical INdeterminacy without committing oneself  to the thesis
that free-will decisions are probabilistic  affairs."

How? Here is Popper's way out:

"The selection of a kind  of behaviour out of a randomly offered repertoire
may be an act of choice,  even an act of free will. I am an indeterminist;
and in  discussing  INdeterminism I have  often regretfully pointed out that
quantum  INdeterminacy does not  seem to  help us [...]." "For the 
amplification of something like, say,  radio-active disintegration  processes
not lead to human action  or even animal action, but  only  to random

This seems to relate to G. E. M.  Anscombe on brute facts, or a behaviour
"under a description". Grice  hitting the cricket ball may be seen as a
movement  (involving chance,  in that Grice could never HAVE known if each
cricket game he was going  to engage in would have him as a winner or a loser
cfr.  billiards).

Popper: "I have changed my mind on this issue (See p. 540 of  J. C. Eccles
and  K. R. Popper, The Self and Its Brain (Berlin,  Heidelberg, London, New 
York:  Springer-Verlag,  1977).

It's in the final Popper's quote by Doyle that we get the keyword: 
downward causation.

Popper: "A choice process may be a selection process,  and the selection
may be from some repertoire of random events, without  being random in its

If it's not random, p = 1.

"A choice  process", such as Grice's choice to attend a cricket match
rather than an  important lecture by an important philosopher, "may be a
process"  (for Grice must deliberate: "what will be good for me in the end?
To attend a  boring lecture by a boring professor or enjoy myself  at

"[A]nd the selection may be from some repertoire of  random events" -- 
'attend a cricket match, attend a philosophy lecture,  stay home, ...' "without
being random in its turn".

It may still be  deemed random as long as the colloquial phrase, Grice
"could have done  otherwise", APPLIES. For only ex-post-facto, does Grice
attended a  cricket match rather than a philosophy lecture attend some
degree of  necessity.

If Aristotle seems to have had a problem with the future  naval battle, 
Popper seems to be wanting to find a way out for the alleged  problem of the
past naval battle?

Popper concludes: "This seems to  me to offer a promising solution to one
of our  most vexing problems, and  one by downward causation."

So, Popper is not offering the solution,  but telling the reader that this
may LEAD to a solution -- a solution, he  adds, without providing the
specific steps of analysis -- that relies on  the concept of 'downward
-- by which, in this context, Popper  seems to mean that items in w2 (e.g.
Grice's freewill  decision to attend a  cricket match rather than a boring
university lecture)  CAUSE  (non-deterministically) Grice's 'action' (and not
'movement') of  heading for Lords rather than Merton?



To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: