In lectures on free will, often a dichotomy between determinism and random is alluded. This dichotomy always is not a true dichotomy, there are some known and even trivial examples of non-random indeterminisms in specific contexts, which are not physicalist reductionism.
Some articles discuss the fine print of definitions, such as:
Some examples for non-random indeterminisms:
- Divine intervention in an otherwise deterministic universe could be non-random, non-deterministic (depending on whether given gods themselves are deterministic/random).
- Same for actions done by human souls in the religious sense, or dualist views about a strongly emerging mind (weak emergence maintains determinism/random of physical matter)
- Non reductionist strong "downward causation". Which is non-reductionist, duh, and I am not sure if it's significantly different from strong emergence.
- At high level of abstraction, insurance agents might distinguish damage done by machine as caused by a construction flaw (deterministic), caused by a freak accident like lightning strike (random), or the result of foul play (human choice). But those would reduce to the dichotomy in physicalist reductionism.
- To a human observer of the universe, processes might be impossible to measure exactly in practice, making it impossible to decide whether results were determined or random, requiring ternary logic for reasoning, breaking the dichotomy for practical matters
- In mathematic theory of random, observations of indeterministic processes might still not qualify as random given one precise definition of random or another. Those are mere technicalities interesting to mathematicians only.
- time travel (to the past) causes all kinds of issues with definitions and timelines
- supernatural true prophecy, predeterminism and fatalism all cause no end of issues
I am not interested in answers about such contexts, so I mention them here. I like to stay strictly physicalist and reductionist for this question.
So if we can pretend that we have a huge lab with all tools that we want, and boxes with all non-living ingredients taken from nature, metals, liquids, gases, rare earths. We might also have some simple pre-made devices, like thermometers, batteries, cables, transistors, pipes, valves, whatever you like. We can also pretend that some of those materials or devices have truly random output, like a quantum random source (everyones favorite source of true random even though the jury's still out). Is there a way we know we can assemble any device at all that exhibits properties that do not reduce to either random or deterministic events?
Can we conceive any other new base material property that could be used to create such a device?
Else to allow for the famous "third choice" in the determinism vs. random dichotomy, it would follow that we have to abandon either reductionism or physicalism, meaning assuming against Occam's razor the presence of forces in nature that have never been scientifically observed.
I am aware similar questions have been asked before, like:
- Is free will a third option aside from chance and necessity?
- Can a materialist accept indeterminism? Can a reductionist?
But it seems recently people start debating much more loosely on this site using a third alternative to determinism and random liberally as if it came at no costs and did not require scientific scrutiny.