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humans build models of nature using mathematics and then use those models to predict the future.My question is that wheather nature also uses mathematics to decide what to do next? if not how does nature decides what to do next in any situation?

asked Jan 19 '12 at 23:52

entropy51's gravatar image


edited Jan 20 '12 at 01:01

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Mathematics is a human invention for the sake of gaining knowledge about nature. Nature doesn't use math. Math is used to understand nature.

Nature doesn't "figure out", or "compute", or "decide" what to do next. Nature as such is not conscious, nor alive, and so has no use for mathematics.

Actually, since nature (meaning reality/identity) is not alive, nature has no goal nor purpose, and so nature never uses nor achieves anything. Nature, as such, is just things being what they are, and doing what they do (and, for the record, one of those actions, for some of those things, is choosing.)

Aspects of nature (such as animals) are alive, and so can use things, but only human beings use mathematics.

answered Jan 25 '12 at 17:19

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Jan 25 '12 at 17:31

hi,i simply don't understand what you mean when you say that nature does not compute (or,does not use maths to figure out) while part of the nature (humans) do it. Is it not correct to say that even though nature knows math (i.e. humans,part of nature knows it),it has a method which is better than Matematical method for figuring out.wheather Nature knows it or not, events have to unfold and something somewhere sometime has to choose,knowingly or otherwise,How that comes about?

(Jan 25 '12 at 23:55) entropy51 entropy51's gravatar image

Mathematics is a field of study, i.e. I field of intellectual endeavor, i.e. learning. The universe as a whole is not a conscious entity. Human beings are part of the universe, and they have consciousness, but the universe as such does not. To be alive is to be able to die. The universe isn't alive, it isn't conscious, it can't "know" anything, it has no use for math. It is the object of mathematical study. It is not the student.

"Events have to unfold and something . . . has to choose." No. Existence and identity determine action, without choosing.

(Jan 27 '12 at 19:14) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

and one of those actions (for volitional entities) is choosing.

Nature (i.e. the identities of things) does not choose. Nature is identity. It is a fact, not a conscious thing. Nature is what you rely on when you boil water on the stove. If it were able to choose to boil at 90 degrees F, nature would, then, cease to be a fact. It would be a crazy, unpredictable universe.

Nature is exactly that which there is no choice about.

(Jan 27 '12 at 19:24) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image
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Making a decision implies making a conscious choice; an exercise of free will.

Nature doesn't have free will, so it doesn't make choices. It doesn't decide what to do next, nor does it "compute". Nature just IS; it happens. What happens may follow some physical laws that we can discover and model, but that doesn't mean nature is using those laws to make decisions. Actions in nature happen simply as a result of what and where things are.

answered Jan 20 '12 at 04:09

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦

i was looking for an answer which was not someone's opinion.I do respect your opinion Rick,but i do not find what a i am looking for.Sweeping generalisations like "nature does not have a freewill","nature may have physical laws which she does not employ to decide", etc. are simply stunning.I was only inquiring about mechanisms of unfolding of nature.Is nature static or changes with time?.what are the tools of nature which she uses to unfold herself.

(Jan 20 '12 at 23:35) entropy51 entropy51's gravatar image

In my opinion, if nature does not have a free will, neither does Man. This is under the assumption that men are nature as much as a tree, bird, or atom of helium. "It doesn't decide what to do next, nor does it "compute"." Man is superior than anything from any other evolutionary point in nature, but that does not mean that our decisions are more than Nature's basic laws. It logically would follow that Man's free will follows the exact same physical laws as nature, only on a more advanced level that allows much quicker evolutionary changes.

(Jan 21 '12 at 00:40) JonSnowDanEF JonSnowDanEF's gravatar image

The difference is that nature is not conscious. Only a conscious, living being capable of reasoning can exercise free will. A rock has no will at all, free or otherwise.

(Jan 21 '12 at 08:25) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Yes, but I am saying That the physical laws evolution as well as set environmental factors in time(also based on the physical laws of nature)leave only one possible answer to any one choice, that man makes...but when looked at through our own minds, it leaves the impression of free will, or illusion. Which is natural because clearly this concept would demotivate people. Math: If there is only one infinite line called time, each point on that line is alone and unique, but predetermined by the line itself, because of the laws that only allow for one line.(unless there are alternate dimensions(

(Jan 21 '12 at 15:09) JonSnowDanEF JonSnowDanEF's gravatar image

Philosophers call the idea that free will is an illusion "determinism." Objectivism rejects that concept. Free will is real and is not an illusion. You can see that for yourself, if you just look.

(Jan 21 '12 at 16:14) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Yes that is how I feel, But I can not find the flaw in the logic. How can there be free will if everything that is ever chosen, is a result of something that has already happened in the past, for instance: i became aware of objectivists through; the decisions of Ayn Rand, My mother for loving my father(which makes no sense btw,)and my "own choice" to read as often as I do...help me here..?

(Jan 21 '12 at 17:13) JonSnowDanEF JonSnowDanEF's gravatar image

Choices are not the result of what happened in the past. The metaphysically given is not a choice. Choice happens in the presence of alternatives; choice is cause, not effect. In your example, you did not become aware of Objectivists through the decisions of Ayn Rand or the actions of your parents; you became aware of it because you chose to listen, to read, to see, to understand.

(Jan 21 '12 at 19:05) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

JonSnowDanEF: I was once caught in the physical determinism bind. It's the idea that "the atoms made me do it." To reject physical determinism, you have to see that your consciousness does things, and isn't just an epiphenomenon. And your consciousness is a matter of your choice.

Physical law does not imply that only one thing can happen in the universe, given its past history. That's a philosophical statement. The discovery of physical law required many geniuses to choose to think a lot about physics.

You are not a mindless, mechanical system. You are a person, not a machine.

(Jan 25 '12 at 17:28) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image
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In case the questioner (or anyone else) is still puzzled, here is my own answer.

humans build models of nature using mathematics and then use those models to predict the future.

Where do the models come from? Objectivism holds that they ought to come from man's observations of nature, as man's identifications of how nature behaves. If one is using models of that kind, and if they are accurate descriptions of reality, then it should not be surprising in the least to find a high degree of agreement between the models and the actual reality.

I suspect, however, that the questioner may be troubled by models that do not come directly from reality, but nevertheless seem to predict reality reasonably well. It is entirely valid and appropriate to ask how that is possible. I've already indicated my own answer on that issue in another thread, here.

My question is that wheather nature also uses mathematics to decide what to do next? if not how does nature decides what to do next in any situation?

Others have already pointed out that this formulation implies that nature is conscious and makes conscious decisions. If "nature" includes man, then certainly man is conscious and makes conscious decisions. Non-human nature, however, does not. Ayn Rand referred to non-human nature as "insentient nature":

When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of an organism, the term "goal-directed" is not to be taken to mean "purposive" (a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness) and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature.

(See "Goal-Directed Action" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

As a simple example of how man's ideas can relate to reality, consider the mathematical relation, 2 + 2 = 4 (or "two pairs make four"). If one derives this from reality, one probably will base it on the concept of counting, which depends on "countable units." One will observe that pairs have a count of two, and that when one combines two pairs, the resulting count of the combination turns out to be four. Does "nature" somehow use "2+2=4" to "decide" that combining two pairs should give a count of four? No. Nature (insentient nature) is what it is. If two countable units are combined with two other countable units, all the original units still exist. One can count them and get four. The rest of mathematics and the other sciences ought to be built up in similar fashion, and had to be built up that way at least implicitly by some observers, in order to endure and be applicable to reality.

To be sure, man can imagine other possible relationships and project their implications as one moves ever higher in levels of abstraction from reality. But as long as there is a definite path of connections back to the most concrete level, man's science will be on a sound footing. The context of his identifications will remain well defined, and cases where past identifications are checked against new contexts will either expand man's understanding of the context of applicability of his principles, or lead him to discover new principles in operation in reality.

If the questioner has never done this -- conscientiously and consistently connecting his scientific abstractions to reality -- confusion about why or how the abstractions apply to reality is bound to persist.

answered Jan 27 '12 at 02:01

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Jan 19 '12 at 23:52

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Last updated: Jan 27 '12 at 19:24