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About james_h

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  • Birthday 01/17/80

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    Main interests: Mathematics, Philosophy, Minor Interests in many areas of Science/Technology

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  1. Knowledge as an end in itself, an ultimate goal

    I said knowledge should not be regarded as a higher value than your life, so we are in agreement there. A value is rational if it does in fact contribute to the life of the person valuing it. In other words, if it is good by the standard of his life. It is irrational if it is harmful to him. My point was that you can try to support your life in a way that gives you alot of opportunity to study things you are interested in.
  2. Knowledge as an end in itself, an ultimate goal

    In a certain sense I don't think there is anything wrong with regarding gaining knowledge as your highest value. I dont think it should be regarded as more important than your life, (ie don't die in order to learn something). But it can be your highest rational value. I don't think anything is wrong with pursuing a career that allows you to pursue knowledge that you find interesting, even if you are not directly involved in developing applications of that knowledge. Or there are no current, immediate applications of the knowledge. Other people may develop applications for it. If your source of emotional satisfaction is just from knowing it then I see nothing wrong with just studying it and not getting directly involved in other applications. It could be potentially useful. Even if you don't have any specific applications in mind at the time of studying it. And it could be of value to other people who pursue knowledge "for its own sake", meaning without specific applications in mind. Even if the applications/potential applications of an area you find interesting are sort of in doubt, if you go into academia and also teach then that is how you make your money - so you can just study whatever you want to without having to justify its worth to others. I'm not sure if this helps or not but it is an issue I have thought about and it sounds like you might be having similar concerns.
  3. Actually I seem to have remembered this incorrectly. I was thinking there was some offical way of stating the axioms, I thought it was this.
  4. Would there be any harm in rephrasing this axiom from "consciousness exists" to "my consciousness exists"? Meaning: for any individual person it is axiomatic that his own consciousness exists. It seems clear to me that there is no harm in doing so, but the reason I ask is because Objectivism just uses the phrase "consciousness exists". But I was arguing with someone recently and it was convenient for me to rephrase the consciousness axiom in these terms. What do you think, is this a misrepresentation of the philosophy?
  5. Volition of Animals

    Ok - I would find it convincing if we could completely and fully explain animal behavior by reference to various automatic systems. I have heard about various aspects of animal behavior explained by reference to such systems, but I have never heard anyone claim animal behavior is fully explained by them. Could you describe what you mean by 'fully explained', or give a reference to an article or something explaining it? For instance can we put an animal in a certain environment, control aspects of the environment, and predict how it responds with complete accuracy? Or are there different experiments for each type of behavior, and it only undergoes certain types of behavior?
  6. Volition of Animals

    The reason I'm still somewhat skeptical of what you are saying is that as far as I know studies of human biology/physiology have similar results. There are mechanistic/automatic models of various aspects of our bodies/minds. (How our eyes work, ears, neurons, etc) But we know we have volition based on our experience with our own minds (ie: you can observe your own mind, see it, then assume other people have volition also) As far as I know there are no experimental studies of people claiming to show they have volition. (I do not know that much about the field so maybe there is something to it other than mechanistic models of various aspects of our bodies/minds, that does take volition into account) So if we can't experimentally detect volition in ourselves, and we can construct mechanistic models of many aspects of our own bodies/minds, then how does the fact that we can do this with animals rule out that they have volition? At any rate I will look around in the field of Physiological Psychology. I had never heard of it before so thanks for letting me know about it. Maybe I will be convinced when I study it.
  7. Volition of Animals

    I think this clearly shows that they do not function on the conceptual level like we do. So if you agree that 'preconceptual is nonvolitional' then they are non volitional. But it's not clear to me why you think 'preconceptual is nonvolitional'. Could you tell me specifically what scientists/experiments you are referring to? I have never heard of any scientific study of volition. I would be very interested in reading about it.
  8. Volition of Animals

    By 'perception' I mean just looking at something with the senses. But I would include certain introspective actions in this category (so some other 'senses' besides eyes, nose, etc. are used to introspect). For instance if I am remembering some concrete experience (like what my desk looks like) or imagining something in my head, the thing I am observing in my head is immediately given to me, just like looking at things in external reality in my immediate vicinity. By 'imagine' I mean the usual meaning. There are some pictures appearing in the mind, for instance. I guess I would say a thing has 'volition' if more than one course of action is possible from it under a given set of circumstances. External circumstances and past things not completely forcing it into one course of action. And a 'choice' must occur when it takes one of the possible actions. Note that regarding images appearing in the mind we have some volitional control over them, but in other ways they are somewhat automatic (my mind seems like this anyway). I don't know anything about the physiology of the brain. But it does seem like concepts are not required for the brain to create images resembling what the outcomes would be. Because dogs and other higher animals can clearly anticipate the future consequences of their actions, at least a relatively short distance into the future, for a relatively simple course of action. Perhaps this is done by way of some visualization of what the outcome would be. Maybe animals minds are capable of generating images of possible outcomes (since my mind's visualization functions seem to some degree automatic) and then the animal might choose its actions based on this. I don't know. And even if they are not capable of forming concepts like we are they can recognize some perceptual similarities/differences between things, like us. I realize I'm speculating and maybe the reason Rand thought this is because of some knowledge of physiology/biology that she had that I lack. I would definitely be interested in hearing about experiments which claim to show animals have no volition. I don't know what an experimental demonstration that an animal has no volition would consist of. I don't know what an experimental demonstration that it does have volition would consist of either.
  9. Volition of Animals

    In "For the New Intellectual" she makes some remarks which indicate that this is her view. She describes certain human mentalities as "a consciousness held down to the perceptual method of functioning, an awareness that does not choose to extend beyond the automatic, the immediate, the given, the involuntary, which means: an animal's epistemology or as close to it as a human consciousness can come." In the next paragraph: "Man's consciousness shares with animals the first two stages of its development: sensations and perceptions; but it is the third state, conceptions that make him man." Later in the same paragraph she says "the preconceptual level is nonvolitional; volition begins with the first syllogism". So if the preconceptual level is nonvolitional, and conceptions are unique to man, it would follow that animals have no volition. This is the only reference directly to her writing I can find right now. But I've seen other objectivists express this view also, that animals have no volition.
  10. Volition of Animals

    Why can't some form of volition be posessed by animals which only function on the sensory-perceptual level? For instance how do you rule out that an animal could perceptually imagine the outcomes of 2 fairly simple courses of action and then choose one of them? It could just directly see images in its head resembling what the outcomes might be.
  11. Volition of Animals

    One of the things I do not understand about Rand's writings is how she could claim that animals have no volition. Clearly they do not possess a conceptual conciousness like man's - the differences between their actions and ours are just too profound. And they would have to make use of symbols in a sophisticated manner like us which they clearly do not. But why identify volition exclusively with the use of abstractions? After all I can often observe myself going for periods of time without conciously thinking about what I am doing, yet my actions still seem 'chosen'. For instance if I am jogging or washing dishes, I am volitionally choosing my actions even though I am not conciously thinking about them. But why could they not possibly make choices between various concrete possibilities, both available to them in a given instant? For instance if a dog has a bowl of water in front of him as well as a bowl of food, how do you know he does not 'choose' to eat, drink or do neither? I am not claiming to know that animals do have volition - I just don't see how you can rule it out.