[hist-analytic] Mele 3/uncertainties and indeterminacies

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Feb 12 14:49:27 EST 2011

Mele takes the position that "all decisions about what to do are prompted by uncertain about what to do." (IE p. 8) This assertion, goes back to Mele's earlier work, will not be explored in depth. However, it does afford me the opportunity to distinguish two concepts, where as far as I can tell only one has received a prominent position. The distinction I wish to make is between uncertainty and indeterminacy. Take a look at the following URL: 


Examine K1. Restrict yourself to nodes {a,b,c}. They are connected by arrowed lines. Set aside interpreting them as, say, vectors; concentrate on the philosophy. Let's just say they are "connected." Notice that from any element of this set you can get to any other, regardless of where you start. But now suppose you start at d. Nevertheless, once you get into the "loop" you cannot find your way back; you've lost the ability to trace back to from whence you came. Information is lost; it is a nonconservative system: information is lost. Next, examine the diagram below, K1(B). In this diagram, the arrows have all been reversed. Still, from any one node within the class {a',b',c'} you can get to any other. Unlike K1(A), however, you can return to the point of origin, d'. Information is not lost, and this is a fundamental difference between (A) and (B). However, in the case of K1(B) we have introduced a very different kind of structure, for in this structure we have one node, a', which branches! There were no branching nodes in K1(A). When there is a branching node, I will say that we have reached a point of indeterminacy. Indeterminacy does not assume information is lost; in fact it has been added since in principle there is a probability associated with returning to our point of origin. So we have a distinction. 

The distinction is what I would describe as that between uncertainty and indeterminacy. But now suppose we attempt to conjoin these two systems into a single structure. Examine K2. The node c connects two uncertain systems, <a,b,c> and <a',b',c'>. But notice in particular that in doing so we have had to introduce a branching node, c. If we are allowed to generalize, then we might want to say that systems under uncertainty can be conjoined but only by introduing indeterminacy. It may turn out that that in the real world indeterminacy assumes uncertainty. For the time being forget the difference between classical and non-classical physics, and return now to Mele's point and philosophy. I would maintain that decisions stand to explanations as indeterminacies stand to uncertainties. I will be making further use of this distinction in examining Kim's reply to Ned Block's "drainage" and "seepage" arguments against supervenience. 

Let's stick to the philosophy. 


Steve Bayne 
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