Laplacian tautology

Laplacian demons are not arguments for determinism but concrete expressions of what determinism means or entails. When one says that an intellect with knowledge of the positions of the particles and of all physical laws would know all future states, he of course assumes the laws that intellect will know are deterministic and not heuristic, probable, dialectical or subordinate.

Heuristic: By “heuristic” I’ll here mean any rule understood to work up to a point, which requires prudence and/or experience to apply well, and is known more clearly when known with its exceptions. Spelling rules are heuristic in this sense (especially in English), as are legal axioms, tax law, canon law, etc.* As we go up from physics to chemistry to biology to life science the laws get more and more heuristic. This increase is often assumed to be nothing but an index of our ignorance of “the real law” or the prohibitive complexity of applying physics to anything more complex than a hydrogen atom, but it’s an assumption all the same.

Probable: This is perhaps the point at which Laplacian demons are most vulnerable to attacks within their own domain of physical science.** Physical laws are frequently probable as opposed to determinist and how to understand this probability – i.e. whether it arises only from ignorance or whether it is a feature of nature – is a very high-level philosophical problem demanding more precisions and deeper theories of matter and change than are usually on offer.

Dialectical: Dialectical discourse is a mix of different domains. Physical law clearly does this by imposing algebra and conventional measures on physical action which exaggerates the degree of simplicity, precision, and controllability physical events can have since physical action can’t have algebraic precision and we can’t control it like an apparatus or convention we will into existence.

Subordinate: Physical laws reduce to immaterial action as to something more true, casual and scientific. Physical law only applies simpliciter to the inanimate world and outside of this it explains activity as an instrumental cause. Like any instrument its causality requires the preservation of its nature, and so physical law can only be a value to life if it preserves, say, conservation laws, the electrical structure of matter, and the interactive activity of physical systems, but as instruments the physical is subordinate to higher orders of causality.

*In fact, this whole last sentence and all its clauses are heuristic.

**NB The laplacian demon as such is not a finding of physical science or even a conclusion or axiom within it but a metaphysical entity, using metaphysics in the broad sense to include both ontology and epistemology.

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