Is there a term or set of concepts regarding what one might call non-materialistic determinism? The possible idea determinism might not only apply to sets of interacting physical 'things' but also to identifiable patterns ( however complicated ) in the changing dynamics of a 'set of things'. One could call such identifiable , possibly predictable patterns 'meta- things' or 'emergent-pattern dynamic constructions'. {Emergent or non-reducible in the sense if 'further' analysed and only 'parts' of the pattern are 'focused' on the whole pattern as it is 'existing' will have some of its features 'out-of focus' or partly obscured and as such the 'whole' pattern will not be 'properly observed'.} So these 'meta things' or 'meta - objects' involving actual dynamic systems of physical objects if they are identifiable and 'independent' ( in the sense they as a whole have qualities that are not only dependent on 'parts' of their 'sub-systems'); these meta - objects could 'interact' with other 'meta - objects' and/or objects in ways that are describable by deterministic principles. Is all this feasible?

1 Answer 1


If the patterns are made up of deterministically-acting things, then their interactions will ultimately be deterministic. "Ah", but you say, "I know that but I want to forget about all the components and only work at the higher level of patterns!"

Then it's feasible...until it's not.

Colliding billiard balls make a good example. They have, to a good approximation, elastic collisions, and so their trajectories can be described deterministically (at least if they are on a very slippery surface like teflon). You can even come up with nice deterministic terms to correct for imperfect elasticity and so on. This works until you smash them together too hard, at which point they start undergoing plastic deformation and cracking, and exactly when that happens and which pieces fly off in what direction is determined in part by the microstructure of the balls that was completely irrelevant at lower speeds.

For the high-level pattern to be true in all cases you would need the internal binding energy of the objects to be drastically greater than any externally imparted energy, and/or (for dynamical systems) you'd need attractor dynamics with such a deep well that no perturbation could push you out of it. (You may need other things as well; details matter a lot here.) I am not aware of a way to guarantee such a thing in a real-world situation, though of course one can always make toy models with this property.

  • But isn't recognizing and manipulating patterns of info. of real processes of processes involved in mathematics and how they can predictably and 'deterministically' interact a big part of physics and mathematical analysis?
    – 201044
    Jan 8, 2015 at 22:23
  • Non-materialistic determinism could apply to ideas and recognizable sets of patterns of interacting ideas and how prediction models could apply to them..
    – 201044
    Jan 8, 2015 at 22:27
  • @201044 - There are no dynamics there in the usual sense of the word (once you are entirely mathematical). Also, this is what I characterized as a "toy model". Maybe just "model" would be more charitable. It represents something, but it you push too hard the real thing will break in not-high-level-deterministic ways, and then the model won't be a good model any more (so it's kind of beside the point how deterministic it is).
    – Rex Kerr
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:40
  • If one can successfully manipulate recognizable 'non-reducible' patterns of info. by using certain deterministic methods one is actually manipulating ideas that are non-materialistic or 'abstract' and one is using deterministic methods ; so 'non-materialistic determinism'.
    – 201044
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:57
  • @201044 - I still don't understand what you're getting at. Are you trying to reinvent group theory? Are you just noting that mathematics is normally described non-temporally but without randomness so that if you apply it temporally you get a deterministic process? I strongly suspect that the use of the word "determinism" is hindering rather than helping matters.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jan 9, 2015 at 19:24

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