# Special relativity and Determinism?

According to a paper by Wim Rietdijk, a scientist and philosopher, this interesting thought experiment and argument is put forth that special relativity implies the truth of determinism or a “lack of free will”.

Putting aside the problems of defining free will in a way that actually makes sense and is useful for the purposes of these sort of discussions, and because I don’t have a JSTOR access and can’t read the entire article yet; let’s focus on the core idea here:

Apparently according to special relativity, two people can experience the same event at different times. Spacetime is ‘one thing’ and it makes no sense to try and separate out the time component from the space component, both are integrated into a larger grid or continuum according to Lorentz transformations. Based on this idea, it is apparently the case that if an event happens in one person’s frame of reference it is possible, and from the frame of reference of another person, to increase the relative velocity of the second person such that the event occurs in the second person’s frame of reference before or after it occurs in the first person’s frame of reference.

An event that is actually simultaneous in reality (from a greater frame of reference) can be experienced at two different points in time by person A and B. For person B, the event hasn’t occurred yet, but for person A it has; for person B, the event is therefore entirely determined and cannot be changed, because it has already occurred for person A.

Basically I think this is the idea: the events we experience are subject to relativity effects such that from other hypothetical or actual frames of references those events have already occurred. We don’t know this from our own point of view, that the event which we have not yet experienced as occurring has already occurred within another point of view. Apparently this is theoretically true of every possible event we might experience, namely that for any event we experience it is possible to view ourselves as traveling at a certain sufficiently high velocity relative to another observer in another frame of reference such that, to the other observer, the event in question already occurred before we actually experienced it ourselves.

What do you think, does this imply determinism? If it is the case that for everything we experience there is some other possible or actual frame of reference point of view observer that would experience the same event as having already occurred (before we experienced it), what does that say philosophically-speaking about our world in a causal sense, in terms of determinism and ‘free will’? Rietdijk might be correct that this does indeed imply the reality of determinism.

"Special Relativity and Determinism

C. W. Rietdijk
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 43, No. 4 (Dec., 1976), pp. 598-609 (12 pages)

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I think there’s a lot of conflation going on, between macro/micro dynamics and the world at large/in general.

Well the idea is really simple: everything that happens to us has already happened. We always experience things with a lag of sorts.

Since time and space are united in ‘spacetime’ as one thing, one continuum x-y of x-y coordinates, (y is time, x is 3D spatial location) and since c remains constantly, special relativity basically says spacetime ‘bends’ between frames of reference with different velocities. This can mean, apparently, that an event in one frame can occur before it occurs in another frame. Even causally speaking, the event and its physical effects literally occur later or lagged.

Basically our intuitive grasp of reality as one single thing where everything happens simultaneously everywhere in each instant of time, is not accurate.

So I ask again, if everything we experience comes to us through a lag, or there exists other perspectives from which, extremely velocity different from our own, those events already occurred or have not yet occurred, this would appear to imply determinism. How can any event have degrees of metaphysical or volitive freedom if according to other perspectives it has already occurred? The event itself is not going to change. It is what it is. So it would appear reality is deterministically set. I already believed that, but this is another interesting argument in favor of determinism.

In a way this seems little more than the basic argument of predeterminative causality, the fact that whatever we do is caused by things that existed and occurred prior to ourselves actually doing that; because the causes of our actions were prior in time to our actions themselves they cannot be changed by those actions (although there is at least one physicist I know of who would disagree, and thinks our conscious actions do alter the past, instantly reconfiguring causal reality in such a way as deterministically creates the causal background reasons for why we did what we did… but that’s another topic).

So just the basic acknowledgement that what we do, say, think, what we are in any given moment, arises from prior causes, already seems to imply hard determinism. At some point “us” as the agent or free individual runs up against a border beyond which it makes no sense to claim we are affecting or causing anything, at least not outside of the linear movement of time from past to present.

You know those movies where there’s this one person/team who can move super fast (against flow of the timeline) so that everybody else moving along the regular stream (with the flow of the timeline) is “frozen”/paused and the quick can change little things about the scenery so that when things move at normal pace for those in the flow, it seems like things just appear out of nowhere in a different place than they were before? Well before I say the whole point of why even started, I would just like to see a movie where the people aren’t just frozen, but start doing things backwards (reversing the flow of the timeline) because the quick are just that fast. I mean, if going fast is all you need, why not play around with it?

Anyway. If the timeline is created whole and every point of the timeline is created independently of the others so as to give the appearance of a linear flow… And our actions “in” the flow are like the quick who move things around in the scenery…

Then our actions are part of the past that builds up to now, but they are introduced in now… not the past… unless the one who sustains it whole… is quickest… and can not only move things around in a frozen frame, but between frames. So if you take a point and consider all the other points moving relative to it, and you can do that with every single point, treat “now” the same way. Every point/now is both an independent variable and a dependent variable. That is Schrodinger’s cat. Er… I mean… Galileo.

Open to correction.

Oh that.

Ok, but I would say that biological life is separate from that… it is not susceptible to determined cause. Animals in the wild can vouch for that.

A boxer who gets into a ring, may or may not die from a punch… not determinable.

A lion may or may not catch dinner, at every single hunt… not determinable.

Every-day human life and events, and its complexities… not determinable.

Each moment is a prior cause …ad infinitum, we are constantly making decisions from one moment to the next… that doesn’t sound like hard determinism to me, because if it was we wouldn’t be making any decisions at all.

Determinism indicates being a slave to others’ whims, but we are only slaves to our own… though shalt not do many/immoral-things, but people still do.

…but sure, in a modern constructed world -with its restrictions rules and regulations- then a man-made determinism is in play… to go with this man-made world, but outside of that constructed world free-will prevails.

It’s more simple than that. Hard determinism would make all being non sentient.

All awareness is self recursive…. Free.

Well, absolute freedom or ‘freedom as such’ doesn’t technically exist, although it would not be inaccurate to say something like “freedom itself is inherently a kind of self-recursivity”.

Or, self-recursion as such is very close to what the word “freedom” truly means. Orders and layers of self-recursive loops that spiral and fractally build up and down from themselves, forming both physical and metaphysical structures that change the hard-deterministic dynamics and calculus. It doesn’t mean we escape from determinism or become non-deterministic. But it does mean we have begun to engage in a different kind of determinism, one that is more subtle, more far-reaching in both space and time, more powerful, more ethically responsible, more “self-expressive/self-cathartic”, more truthful by allowing us deeper access into the universe of ideas, and more “self-causal” (begins to center causal threads more and more upon things which are in fact closer to the phenomenological-metaphysical core of what it means to be us, both as individual and as such and such type of thinking-conscious-sentient being) as well as quite literally giving us new degrees of freedom which we didn’t have access to before.

Freedom isn’t against determinism. People fail to appreciate this because their notions of freedom and of determinism are so simplistic and black-and-white. Reality doesn’t conform to silly human linguistics, certainly not to the most simplified low-resolution “either this or that” types of word formulations. Such formulations are little more than (mis)using language utterances as an excuse to avoid thinking.

Well sure. Nobody can type a message here without being some sort of existent.

That’s called a condition. No freedom for anyone or thing there.

So you know you can’t bootstrap.

Glad to see you have literally zero to say about anything I wrote. Not that I’m surprised of course. But confirmation is always nice.

condition for the possibility of self-determinism

Can you expand on this? What do you mean?

In order to make a determination, there must be an actual context with perceivable options that —at the time of decision— are actionable.

Regret and guilt (whether justified or distorted) would not exist if we didn’t gut-know we were free (the actual conditions existed) to have done better (not just “otherwise” but better in some sense), but chose the less optimal conditions.

No. I mean, I think determinism is likely the case (I’m not ultra committed to that in any way, I just think it’s likely), but this aspect of relativity doesn’t necessitate that in my view. Relativity of simultaneity only applies to events separated in space - local causality is still normal regardless of your frame of reference, and there’s still room for randomness or “indeterminism” regardless of relativity. I think.

You’re not free. People are trying to be freer by not letting anyone define them. Everyone can be defined. For example …. I can call you a cat toy sexual. You’re not a they them, we have definitions for you.

There are two sides of this coin.

People trying to escape the wrath of bigotry and people trying to make consent violation obsolete because they want to rule.

I’ve seen a lot of worlds. This one is very primitive. You’re growing into a new stage.

It’s called growth pains for a reason.

I still remember on earth when my bones hurt as my body was growing.