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Objectivism and determinism

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Please, explain further. What does a "choice on a fundamental level" mean?

Please, explain further. What do you mean by, "We don't know the details of how that comes about biologically"?

Do you think that man's mind is fundamental?

Did you choose to ask these questions, or did you burp them up without thinking about them? Did you read my post -- er, sorry -- did you scan my post optically and then a preset program operated that led to your fingers typing a reply, or did you think about it at all? Did you have any choice whatsoever in replying to me or doing something else? If you could have done something else, why didn't you choose that option? If you chose the option of asking me a question, why did you do that? Presumably you wanted an answer, but what if I choose not to answer you? After all, I never claimed to be deterministic, so I have a choice in the matter, don't you agree?

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I'm a little bit annoyed by your question dodging. I have gone through the effort to try to get some dialog with you. I want to discuss this with you and find out what you mean. INSTEAD, you preach the same claims to me nonstop from your very first post in this thread, even though I honestly want to know what you're saying.

Did you choose to ask these questions, or did you burp them up without thinking about them?

I suppose the neural net between my ears had something to do with it. Since when people use it they happen to go through the process of thinking. So, I guess I did think and choose these questions. I'm not sure what you mean when you say, "burp them up". Is it supposed to make sense? I'm getting the feeling that you're putting effort into making it seem like thinking doesn't nvolve a physical process. Care to explain yourself?

Did you read my post -- er, sorry -- did you scan my post optically and then a preset program operated that led to your fingers typing a reply, or did you think about it at all?

Your sarcastic comment doesn't make sense. Reading your post entails optical scanning. Also, thinking is a physical process.

Did you have any choice whatsoever in replying to me or doing something else?

I thought about my options (what I have the potential to do) and decided to reply because it was my highest desire.

If you could have done something else, why didn't you choose that option?

It was my highest desire.

If you chose the option of asking me a question, why did you do that?

It was my highest desire?

Presumably you wanted an answer, but what if I choose not to answer you? After all, I never claimed to be deterministic, so I have a choice in the matter, don't you agree?

You don't have to make another preaching post. Rather, make one that explains the claims that you are making so that I can get a picture of what you're saying. I have provided a sound argument for free will and determinism. Won't you do the same for me?

Also, even though you deny that your brain follows the laws of physics, your brain still follows the laws of physics. And of course you have a choice in the matter. If it's your highest desire make a post, you'll do it. If not, you won't do it.

If you can, would you explain what you meant by "a choice on a fundamental level"? Because, I can't imagine a fundamental chooser being anything but a soul. And a soul is supernatural. So, what do you mean?

In addition, explain how "a choice on a fundamental level" can come about through biological details. Why do you think a bunch of biological cells, made up by smaller particles, can make "a choice on a fundamental level"?

Please, answer my questions. I don't want to have to deal with another question-dodging-sarcastic-post.

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I think we might be discussing this with different definitions of determinism at this point.

Determinism means that every event has a cause.

Indeterminism means that not every event has a cause.

Free will means that our actions are caused by our self, but our self has no cause.

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I think we might be discussing this with different definitions of determinism at this point.

Determinism means that every event has a cause.

Indeterminism means that not every event has a cause.

Free will means that our actions are caused by our self, but our self has no cause.

I think you're right, because I don't think that that explanation of free will is correct. As far as I can see, it is synonymous with saying that a soul exists. Because, it seems like that is the definition of a magical event. But let me explain what I think free will really is.

Sure, our actions are caused by other things. But our brain exists in a way so that it is isolated from physical interactions, meaning that in normal cases the "hardware" (brain) is not being changed by external forces. Also, our minds are influenced only by interaction with information that it receives, for that is what a mind needs to think about. But this is okay, because that's what rational minds do. They record information and through rational processes to make a choice. For example, if you were eating a sandwich and I showed you proof that I spit in that sandwich, you can stop eating it or continue eating it. You'd probably stop eating the sandwich because most people are disgusted with other people's saliva. So, your mind is *technically* determined by this information, but only in the sense that it helped you make a choice. But you weren't compllled by the information to make a certain choice; it was based on what your brain, your will, thought was important. Determinism still applies. This is a hard topic to discuss, so if you have any disagreements, they are probably just misunderstandings from my explanation. But I want people to respond with any disagreement that they might have.

Now, when I said that the brain is isolated in normal situations, it is still able to be physically changed by external forces. For example, lobotomies were done on people with mental disorders. A lobotomy involves scratching up a person's frontal lobe. As a result, there was dramatic personality *changes*, which we accept as affecting the mind. There are many other examples that can happen as well and might include: physical damage leading to a coma, alcohol, antidepressant pills, brain damage, amnesia from trauma, and so on. All these things affect the brain, and at the same time, affect the mind. This means that the mind is, in reality, constructed by materials, and changes in those materials affect the mind. So to say that a choice is made on a fundamental level that is uncaused, is not valid in light of this evidence.

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I'm a little bit annoyed by your question dodging.

<snip>

Please, answer my questions. I don't want to have to deal with another question-dodging-sarcastic-post.

Did you consciously and deliberately consider the issues I raised and did you consciously and deliberately consider your replies and how to phrase them? Or did all of that "just happen" with no control on your part? When you explain your position more thoroughly, are you doing that deliberately and with conscious intent? Or is it merely a programming that you got somehow? Or did you decide to act the way you did in your consideration of the questions and how to reply? Did you have a choice at all about whether or not you are going to reply to this serious of inquiries?

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Did you consciously and deliberately consider the issues I raised and did you consciously and deliberately consider your replies and how to phrase them?
Yes, given your stimuli and the way his brain has been making connections with regards to its environment it made the 'decision'. Cause-->Effect.
Or did all of that "just happen" with no control on your part?
Nope, it was all laws of physics fundamentally, but they were 'his' matter so however you look at it. Maybe his particles decided to act a certain way, of course it's the only way they can.
When you explain your position more thoroughly, are you doing that deliberately and with conscious intent?
Same as first answer...
Or is it merely a programming that you got somehow?
Of course. But just because we can't calculate all the information he was composed of at that instant and give a probablistic determination of his exact course of action due to the uncertainty principle doesn't mean we should invoke magic.
Or did you decide to act the way you did in your consideration of the questions and how to reply?
He did this also, he(his particles) 'decided' the only way they know how: according to physical laws, albeit giving a very complex result given the sheer number and various connections they have with one another. A loose pattern of condensed energy.
Did you have a choice at all about whether or not you are going to reply to this serious of inquiries?
There is no choice but to be what you are, and I mean that quite literally...in fact, only literally.

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I hate long posts, so let me apologize ahead of time for the two that follow. For those who have validated and accept volition there may not be much value in what follows -- except maybe entertainment value.

And truthfully, for the determinists, there can't be much value here either. First because value doesn't exist and second because it will only challenge your view, and what could possibly be the purpose of that? You wouldn't want to change your mind. :thumbsup:

I don't see what honesty has to do with it.

Ahh, I see your point. If our actions were determined, honesty wouldn't exist -- so maybe this is where we will part company. You see, I think honesty has everything to do with it. If you aren't going to be honest, how are we to have a fruitful discussion? Do you honestly believe the stuff you are saying or are you saying it just to argue? I've had to remind you twice now of what you said, is that because you honestly can't remember which arguments you have put forth?

You are misrepresenting my position by assuming what my claim is. I said I accept volition AND determinism.

I know that you have stated this but you are trying to have it both ways. Everything else you say denies free will, do I really have to remind you of what you said:

I'd like to point out that a computer is capable of making a choice

Determinism: the idea that all events are causally determined by their antecedents and therefore in principle predictable

yes, all actions are determined.

things must have happened one way

And then there is this one:

My identity is pre-Determined.

What is your identity? Is it simply your body, your skin color, your genes? What is it that essentially defines you as you?

In general, the defining characteristic that makes man, man is: rationality. Rationality is logically dependent upon volition and this is also what defines each of us as individuals: our volitional actions, our character. Our character is the sum of our volitional choices. So I have no problem using the word "soul" as long as it is defined properly: man is a being of "self-made soul" -- no mysticism here.

Indeed, things must have happened one way (or it would be random). Why do you propose that it would have happened differently? To say that a person acted differently then to what he would have chosen based on his identity, is nonsense.

So things must happen one way, not because we don't have a choice but because we can only choose one way, based on our identity. Or: we have a will so we have the ability to choose, but because of our identity, we will only choose one way. Which denies that a drug addict can ever rehabilitate himself or that a baby can ever become a man.

If our identity is predetermined and all of our actions are determined by our identity, then, as babies, something was already programmed into us, telling us what to choose, some a priori knowledge. This program must be located in the genes = genetic determinism. Was Hitler right? If not in practice, at least in theory?

(Now listen, I'm not trying to be insulting. I'm just trying to point out the logical consequences of your ideas. 'Round here we take ideas seriously)

So now I suppose you will say: "yes, identity equals character and our choices are always in character". Sorry, this is not true either, though it is the closest you have come to making a point this entire thread, so let me comment on it.

First of all you haven't said this and in fact you deny it by saying one's "identity is predetermined" and by comparing the choices of a volitional being with the output of a computer or the movements of a bouncing football, however...

...If character is the sum of our choices, then one does tend to act within one's character, but not always. A drug addict tends to stay high, but not always. A rational man tends to act rationally, but he does so of his own free will. I'm sure you will come up with some deterministic reason why this is so but these aren't even the hard choices to refute. What about all of the choices we make that are in character?

Fundamentally volition is the ability to focus and to shift your focus and this can be done while remaining in character.

When I asked you to wiggle your finger there was no deterministic force and nothing in my identity or character forcing me to tell you to wiggle it 3 and 10 times and not 4 and 7 times. Also there was nothing forcing me to make that particular suggestion instead of asking you to slap your own face -- this is probably the suggestion I should have made because it is more illustrative.

Did you perform the experiment? Why or why not? Did you wiggle your finger 3 times? Why? How about 10? When you wiggled your finger x times, what was x? Why? What is it that caused you to wiggle your finger? Was there some purpose to it? What was that purpose? What was my purpose in asking you to wiggle your finger? Can you answer these questions? If not, then let us use the more illustrative example:

Slap your face as hard as you can. Did you do it? Why or why not? Now even if you didn't slap yourself you realize you could have, right? What could possibly be the purpose of slapping yourself? Was there a purpose in me asking?

Continued...

**************************

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**************************

...to continue

For your second question, yes, all movements must obey the laws of inertia. Are we debating the validity of physics now?

For your third question, yes, all actions are determined.

I don't know, are you including man's volitional movements in the laws of inertia? Oh wait, no, you choose not to accept volition so this should be easy.

The law of inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by another force. So the astronaut is moving in one direction through space. He is in a prone position with his feet pointed in the direction of movement arms at his side. Then his hands move in direct opposition to the direction of his body's movement as he reaches to unsnap his helmet. What is the force causing this movement? Does it violate the law of inertia? Are his actions determined?

We don't see these minute changes. So, the difference in the bounces coupled with the seemingly no difference in its motion leaves us to believe that it has the ability to bounce in any way it pleases because it has free will.

I don't know of any sane person who believes that a football has free will. This is what determinism does though. It looks at a football or a computer and sees no difference between how they act and how man acts. Again, refuting the evidence of your senses.

You are speaking in terms of information when you say there is a disagreement. No contradictions? Information can contradict.

Metaphysically speaking, that is: in reality, there are no contradictions. Two true statements cannot contradict one another. True information does not contradict.

Also, infinite loops are fine, we used to program games with one long repeating loop. There is no problem with this, an infinite loop isn't necessarily wrong. But in this case, your loop doesn't even apply.

No, you are wrong. Long loops are fine. An infinite loop, that is: one without an exit, is a bug that will halt the program and for a professional programmer is probably a fireable offense.

(Because the opposite of determinism is randomness).

Wrong again. The opposite of determinism is indeterminism.

I think there is a big misunderstanding of what Determinism is.

Yes, and the misunderstanding is all yours, this is not determinism:

As for the crystal ball, there is no problem. That is because if the crystal ball gives information to a mind, that information will change the mind. Causing different outcome. This is explained entirely though the principle of determinism. It is only possible (by possible I mean able to if we had enough computability and information, which we absolutely do not have) to affect minds that are not given additional information to change. There is no loop.

Let me get this straight: a certain course of events is determined (actually you have said all events are determined), then something happens and that course of events is changed? Really? is that what determinism means?

I thought you said all "things must have happened one way" and that "all events are causally determined by their antecedents" and are therefore predictable.

So when you go to the crystal ball, that was determined and accounted for by the crystal ball. You ask a bunch of questions of the crystal ball, they were all predetermined and accounted for by the crystal ball. A piece of information changes your mind, but that was determined and taken into account. This is determinism.

You see? Determinism not only contradicts what you observe everyday but it also forces you to consider the actual question posed by the crystal ball example: can you alter a predetermined outcome? Which is self contradictory; just like determinism.

I merely propose that, just like all that we have seen in nature, our materialistic parts follow the same laws, and that our mind is the emergent property based on these laws.

A-okay. What I really want you to do, is to explain where volition comes from. Because, electrons, protons, neutrons and such will still act according to their natures (like you said, cause and effect). What makes them act otherwise to become "animated". What makes the brain have this property and everything else not? Or perhaps, they follow their natures to come together to form this emergent property called the mind?

Let us take these two quotes together. The first was made at the beginning of this post, the second appears at the end.

First of all, as has been pointed out, you are starting with a fallacious premise, namely: that the properties of the whole must be equivalent to the properties of the parts. There is no evidence for this. And, in fact, the premise is not only refuted by such properties as life and volition -- but it is also refuted by the properties of inorganic molecules.

Previously you denied that the mind was an emergent property, and indeed at the end of this post you even deny that there can be life (the property of being "animated"). If the brain is the organ that acts deterministically to determine how you act, then why would you need to introduce a new concept like the mind?

If I can't explain how a snowflake is formed, does it logically follow that god must have done it? You see? Not only do you contradict yourself but you find yourself asking me to prove the existence of god. That's when you know you are beaten.

Finally, I find it interesting that the argument left untouched by every determinist here is hierarchical one. All knowledge is connected and hierarchical, meaning: all concepts are connected and are arranged in a certain epistemological order. All concepts, except axiomatic ones, are logically dependent upon previously formed concepts for their definitions.

Concepts such as: good, bad, right, wrong, justice, civilization, argue, knowledge, disagree, responsibility, along with every other ethical and political concept and every field of scientific endeavor; have no meaning, cannot be defined and would not exist apart from the concept of volition and its existence in reality.

Maybe on some level of understanding (perhaps an honest one) the determinists realize that they would have to eliminate a major portion of our vocabulary if what they said actually comported with reality and this is why they cannot confront this argument.

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If you can, would you explain what you meant by "a choice on a fundamental level"? Because, I can't imagine a fundamental chooser being anything but a soul. And a soul is supernatural. So, what do you mean?

I'd like to clarify something, though I still refuse to participate in this Free Will/Determinism issue (though Martian doesn't seem to think that it's an issue). Not so much now about the previous ad hominem, but that this isn't an issue that someone's going to be convinced about in a thread discussion either way. Martian and other Determinists (Hard and Soft) will have to consider this on their own time, in their own minds.

Within Objectivism, the soul (spirit) is one's mind, one's consciousness--the terms are heavily related, and can be treated as more-or-less equivocal. So for us, souls are not supernatural, they do not exist on their own and they certainly don't fly off to "heaven" or such nonsense.

Our type of soul, or consciousness, is capable of many unique capacities when contrasted with the abilities of all of the other animals, and this serves as evidence (though not complete) of our possession of free will (as I've said, introspection is the means to solidify the case). Though it is not determined, it is not random either, since we are capable of self-directing (Harry Binswanger has called it "cognitive self-regulating") our actions in one path or another.

To sum up, the soul is our natural consciousness; it is not supernatural, as Martian has stated numerous times in his posts (I have been keeping up with the debate). And free will is the capacity of self-directing our actions, in the form of choices. Our actions are not a more complex version of the conscious actions capable to animals--ours are conscious actions of a whole different level.

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To sum up, the soul is our natural consciousness; it is not supernatural, as Martian has stated numerous times in his posts (I have been keeping up with the debate). And free will is the capacity of self-directing our actions, in the form of choices. Our actions are not a more complex version of the conscious actions capable to animals--ours are conscious actions of a whole different level.

This is the hard part for me to understand. When you call consciousness 'natural' you are saying that it exists based on understandable laws. If you say that consciousness is not understandable based on physical laws, then it is supernatural. There is no difference between saying that a clump of matter has free will and saying that a soul exists to direct that matter. You cannot have it both ways. Only if the mind is based on natural laws, can it be understood to be natural. See the problem? You can't claim that matter can act in an uncaused manner (not natural) without making an equal claim on the existence of the soul. I need this to be clarified, because it doesn't make any sense.

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You can't claim that matter can act in an uncaused manner (not natural) without making an equal claim on the existence of the soul. I need this to be clarified, because it doesn't make any sense.

Your whole idea of causality is wrong, and you are not basing your proclamations on observations.

The reason I asked you those series of questions earlier was not to be a smart-ass, but to get you to introspect and realize that you have free will in the sense of having control over your consciousness; and if you would have said, "Yes, I am in control of my consciousness," then I would have said, "congratulations, you have discovered your soul -- i.e. your consciousness." But, you didn't say that, so I don't know if you even have a consciousness or not.

The axioms of Objectivism can be summed up in one sentence: There is (existence) something there (identity) that I am aware of (consciousness). These three fundamentals are there for your every grasp of anything. A corollary for identity is causality, that a thing is what it is and acts accordingly. A corollary for consciousness, for man, is free will, the ability to control one's conscious mind. All of this is verified via direct perception or introspect; you don't need a big fancy theory and volumes of writing to get that, just make an observation.

The biological means by which we have consciousness and free will are not known in the details; but since they are axiomatic, that detailed knowledge is not necessary. It is a fact of man's nature that he is aware of existence, aware of his own mind, and aware that he can direct his conscious mind. All of those abilities are there naturally; it's what we can do because we are man.

If you want to go into the bio-physiology of consciousness, well that is a barely emerging field of research -- we don't have the answers, yet. But just because we don't know how it is that consciousness and free will come about due to a biological process doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

But, Account Overdrawn is correct. You have to discover that for yourself via introspection; nobody can do that for you; and all this arguing with you won't do that for you either.

So, you are on your own. You will have to resolve your confusions for yourself, since I have no idea what will give you a clue about your nature as a man if you don't see that for yourself.

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This is the hard part for me to understand.

Well, I suggest you start over with your thinking, as I did. Going off of your understanding of what I'm talking about, of course what I'm saying is hard to grasp.

When you call consciousness 'natural' you are saying that it exists based on understandable laws.

No, and please don't interpret me in the future: take what I'm saying at face value. I say that consciousness is "natural" because it is a fact that I am conscious in various moments of my life, such as right now while I'm typing this message. It's a fact that I can observe by becoming self-conscious, through introspection. My ability to look at this laptop I'm typing on is another fact that I can observe, making it self-evident that I possess a consciousness. The existence of something predates a scientist forming a law to explain it: case-in-point, Sir Newton and his observations about gravity leading to his law of gravitation. Gravity was natural, but until Newton no one could formulate what was going on with that kind of force.

If you say that consciousness is not understandable based on physical laws, then it is supernatural.

On who's authority? Why don't you define "supernatural," and I'll give you my definition of "supernatural," and then we'll try once more to work this out.

My position is that consciousness, memories, concepts, thoughts, etc. have certain characteristics which matter (physical things) does not; therefore, we won't be able to form physical laws to explain what they are and how they operate (to do so necessitates that they have physical characteristics, such as spatial location). There is, as of yet, no law which explains concepts, but you use then in your responses. You've implied that supernatural things don't exist, and concepts seem to fit into the category you've created of "things not understandable based on physical laws = supernatural." So do you deny that you have and use concepts, including those in your posts? And if not, on what basis? It certainly could not be on a scientific basis, as I've indicated.

There is no difference between saying that a clump of matter has free will and saying that a soul exists to direct that matter. You cannot have it both ways.

I certainly can make such a distinction; it's because I don't accept the reasons you've given for saying there's no distinction.

[i'm about to discuss an idea that Objectivism doesn't accept or deny, to my knowledge; consider it as my own thinking]

My position on free will is that it depends on matter; for instance, Terry Schiavo's brain damage subsequently lead to her being in a persistent vegetative state, and based on her actions during that time, it could be inferred that she no longer possessed free will, along with many other functions of her brain. In other words, matter can have effects on one's consciousness. This isn't too hard to understand: imagine someone getting hit by a lead pipe, and subsequently being knocked out. Physical interactions lead to a result in a non-physical level: namely, the victim losing consciousness.

But there's more to it than that. Human actions are not just involuntary reflexes. For example, my typing of these characters on the keyboard is not a series of involuntary motions which just happen to make cognitive sense to readers with adequate knowledge. I'm directing the process; I could just as easily start typing gibberish, but I'm choosing to make a point here. My other point is that the mental realm can have effects on the material realm. My conscious decisions have physical effects, such as my desire to see what's happening at this site, and my subsequent physical typing of the website's url.

Neither of my points about free will require that it exist as an independent soul, as religions typically speak of. In my view, once a person dies, his free will stops existing as well; it is not independent of matter in that sense.

Only if the mind is based on natural laws, can it be understood to be natural. See the problem?

This isn't a scientific approach at all. Newton, again for example, made observations about natural facts, and induced a law; he didn't mystically come up with his law, and then deduce the existence of gravity from it. What you're proposing is some kind of rationalism, where the existence of something is deductively concluded from a general principle the origin of which is not known.

The complete opposite is the truth. One has to observe the natural fact of consciousness, and thereafter form (inductive and deductive) rules and guidelines--and even laws-- which explain consciousness and its functions. Ayn Rand's book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is her explanation of how our consciousnesses should forms concepts, but it refers to no natural laws in its explanation. Should this regarded as "supernatural" as well?

Edited by Acount Overdrawn

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