Paul_Cockshott wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Tue Jun 20 03:43:37 MDT 1995

Howie wrote:

The only way to obviate the distinction, whether by new discoveries or new
interpretations of old discoveries, between first and second order phenomena
is to embrace a form of determinism. This is how I understand the
implications of Rahul's string theory example. The problem here is that
obviating such a distinction abolishes the possibility of agency. And
without agency I cannot see how we could have science. And without science,
well... In other words, I don't think that it is logically consistent to
defend science and to be a determinist. Science depends on some notion of
discovery, which would seem to possess an irreducibly contingent component.
To the extent that there is this contingency there is not determinism.

I do not see that there is any inherent contradiction
between an idea of determinism and of science.
In a deterministic view, the state of the world
is such that at certain points in time the corpus
of scientific knowledge contains some given amount
of data. This prescribes the experiments and
investigations possible in the next time period.
The underlying reality determines the results of
the experiments, and together this deterines the
state of knowledge in the next time period.

But a thing that is interesting about modern physics is
that qustions about the nature and degree of
determinism start to become experimental rather
than philosophical.

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