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VECT

Difference between human emotions and animal instinct

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I say rationality makes it possible for me to safely exist with a much more powerful emotional capacity.  

 

Do YOU have evidence to support YOUR assertion?

 

Much more powerful, in what way? Compared to what, animal instinct? How would you know? Is your measurement objective? Can you prove it?

 

I started this thread to fully understand Objectvism's model on this subject, which I accomplished a page back. My statement you quoted represent my original perspective before adjustments resulted from insightful post made by other members in this thread.

 

While I don't have a problem with people interested in knowing my premise for my views, I find your hypocrisy funny that you would accuse me lacking evidence while your own assertion is just as barren.

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[quote name="VECT" post="326292" timestamp="1403118

While I don't have a problem with people interested in knowing my premise for my views, I find your hypocrisy funny that you would accuse me lacking evidence while your own assertion is just as barren.

1. I POLITELY ASKED FOR EVIDENCE TO BACK YOUR ASSERTION. YOU CALLED ME A HIPOCRIT BECAUSE I THEN MADE AN ASSERTION WITHOUT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT IT. I DID NOT SAY "People who make assertions without supporting evidence are douchebags." I was interested in learning about the way you came to your conclusion. I gave you the benefit of the doubt that it was not an arbitrary postulate. Now, sInce you dIdn't offer a sIngle sentence to defend your statement, I suspect it was.

Since you asked me to provide evidence defending my assertion, I will: I didn't always use my rational faculty. Drugs alcohol and a deathwish allowed me to act on my emotions, without filtering them through logic. My actions landed me in prison, in and out for the past 20 years (in for 16 of that). My emotions (unchecked by rationality) got me in a lot of fights--most of which I lost. Nowadays I employ my rational mind to calibrate my value system so that my emotions are in synch with reality. It works. And since I am fallible, I also use my rational mind to double check my emotions before I act on them. I don't suppress my emotions, my feelings are stronger and my passions are greater than ever.

I am willing to read your evidence to back your statement. The only reason (asIde from the fact that I type all thIs on a tIny phone, whIch Is tedIous) Is I didn't assume you were interested in reading more about my assertion.

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I am always interested in learning about the reason of another's view as long as they are up for debate; it's an effective way of improving my own knowledge.

 

And yes, my original view on this subject which you quoted is a postulate with assumptions. I am aware of that which is why I made this thread in the first place to solicit Objectivism (and possibly other view) on this matter so I can improve my knowledge. I would think this intention is apparent given my initial post when I am asking for criticism/addition.

 

And that's why the intention of your original post can be so easily misunderstood: You ask me to defend my original belief when it was obvious that was a postulate posted for the sole purpose of letting people know what my beliefs were at the time on the matter so they can give better criticism. Your assertion came with no reason with which I can think on. And your assertion came with no clear context, leaving me wondering just exactly what were you trying to say.

 

So now I see that your assertion have to do with your own personal experience. The reason/evidence is your own self introspection. The context is that you can safely exhibit stronger emotions now compared to your past irrational self, and that the context is not that you as a human begin, due to having a rational faculty, can safely exhibit stronger emotions as compared to an animal's instincts.

 

I thank you for sharing.

 

And I will withdraw my claim of hypocrisy now that it's apparent no ill intent was meant in your original post.

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I'm resurrecting in this thread because it's so obvious to me that human beings did not evolve by natural selection and I don't get how other people don't see it. To be precise, note the fundamental assumptions of natural selection:

1) It involves genetically heritable traits.
2) These heritable traits should statistically increase the organism's chance for reproductive success.

Now consider two species surviving in the arctic region: a polar bear which has a thick layer of fur and has the capacity for hibernation. Then there are some human beings who have built a house and lit a fire to keep themselves warm. Both species have a high degree of reproductive success.

Now consider the African Savannah: there is a lion which uses its claws during hunting. Then there are some humans who hunt using spears. Both have a high degree of reproductive success.

Here is the problem: humans don't satisfy 1) and 2) simultaneously for the same trait. Here, the trait involved (for humans) is the usage of shelter and spears. Neither are heritable genetically. The next generation of humans could burn down the house in the name of living in harmony with nature. They would die within a few days. The other group could stab themselves with a spear. Essentially, a human being can act against its own nature. The capacity of reason, which allows you to do either (survive or commit suicide), has no statistical survival advantage.

Now what trait do human beings inherit? The capacity of reason. Human beings inherit a potency, not an actuality. The capacity that allows us to be rational also allows us to be irrational. A human being can act against its own nature. There is no statistical survival advantage to the faculty of reason. There is only a potential for advantage. Then what allowed human beings to survive? The usage of the faculty of reason to the purpose of survival. This is the specific trait that improved the reproductive success of humans. To sum up:

a.) The trait that humans inherit is a potency: the faculty of reason. It has no statistical survival advantage. You could create or burn down a house. You could hunt animals or stab yourself with a spear. This faculty gives us the possibility of an incredible survival advantage as well as the ability to act against your own nature. This trait satisfies 1) but not 2).

b.) The trait that allowed humans to survive is rationality (the specific usage of the capacity of reason for your survival). This trait increased the reproductive success of humans. This trait isn't heritable. This trait satisfies 2) but not 1)

What this means for evolution: human beings evolved the trait of reason solely because they chose to be rational. Human beings evolved because of a non-heritable trait (essentially, the identification of the right philosophy, in some rudimentary, perhaps preverbal, form). Humans evolved because they chose to. If they had chosen not to be rational, they wouldn't have existed. The physical capacity of reason was selected because early humans chose to use it rationally. The tribes, races and other human-like species which did not use that faculty rationally perished. Humans do not currently possess the heritable trait of reason by natural selection. (Of course, humans acquired the trait of immunity and certain other things by natural selection, but not the trait of reason).

The trait of reason was artificially selected by a specific number of humans who chose to use it rationally. This does not ensure our future survival (the faculty of reason does not change our statistical, amoral chance of survival). By chance alone, we could potentially perish in the future (since reason does not statistically improve our chances of survival). Of course, this wasn't purposeful artificial selection. These early humans chose to be rational and nature did the rest. But the term (artificial) highlights the fact that a choice was involved. Human faculty of reason could not have evolutionarily survived without some human being making that choice in the past. This is a fact. An extremely simple fact (if it was automatic, it would not involve reason). And there's no way around this. Humans do not possess the faculty of reason by natural selection (just so someone gets ideas: I'm not talking about the mutation that gave humans the faculty of reason. That was out of our control. I'm talking about what selected for this trait. That was a choice. If it wasn't a choice, it did not involve reason).

For those saying I'm twisting Rand's philosophy, just ignore Rand's philosophy here. Just examine the facts. I had this theory way before I heard of Rand (at around 8th or 9th grade, years before I read Rand).

However, some Rand quotes are relevant here:

Quote

Man's unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself.

Quote

Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals.


Why is this important? Because adaptation to the environment is heritable. It is a fixed relation requiring no choice. On the other hand, "adjusting his background to himself" is a non-heritable trait (the inherited trait, reason makes it possible, but doesn't cause this. It is only a potential). Reason, since it enables rationality, is the faculty that survives or perishes with rationality or irrationality. The only way humans could use reason is by choice. Hence choice is the distinguishing element in human evolution. Reason cannot be used without volition. It cannot survive genetically if you don't use it rationally. The specific choice (rational/irrational) you make isn't genetically heritable (you or your progeny could have done otherwise) but it is this trait that gives you reproductive success. Human beings did not evolve by natural selection (the reproductive success wasn't given by a heritable trait) but by a primitive form of artificial selection.

I don't know in how many permutations I can state the same thing. This assertion seems so obvious to me and the more I think about it, the more obvious it seems.

In summary, the essential human trait, reason, did not evolve by natural selection. And this does not involve any complicated arguments. Reason was not selected by natural selection by the fact that it does not function automatically and is a faculty that can contribute to life or death (and its survival depended on a specific non-heritable human choice in the past). Pretty much every fact about the nature of reason points to this (by simple logic).

Until you actually make a choice as a baby, what you have is only a potential. A potential cannot be involved in any kind of evolutionary selection. It has to be actualized by a choice. In order to evolve as a human being some of our early ancestor had to have made a choice (otherwise, your capacity would only exist as a potential and could play no role in evolution). The choice had to have been rational for the presence of the rational faculty to be of any survival advantage. This choice is not heritable. However, human beings still survived. Human evolution (of reason) was driven by this choice, not by any heritable element involved in natural selection.

The faculty of reason was a trait riding on the choices our ancestors made. It was artificially selected in a primitive way. It was not subject to natural selection because every time it was exercised, it involved choice (which could have gone either way if you talk about the faculty of reason itself. It's survival required an additional, non-heritable trait, the actual choice of being rational. This trait was not subject to natural selection simply because it was not heritable).

And in case you didn't know, I already got variants of "you're rationalizing", "you're trying to fit science into philosophy", blah, blah... as replies to my above arguments. I don't need more of it. I you suggest that I'm taking concepts to the extreme, I'll take that as a complement. If you say that I'm using these concepts out of context, I'll say that you're wrong. If you care to, reply to the essentials of my arguments (which I've stated in different forms).

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Also I earlier (3 years ago) argued that the faculty of reason was not an adaptation to the environment. I'm not making that argument now (although I still believe it). There's no point in following that line of thought (or a line of thought involving evolution of instincts) unless we can agree that human reason did not evolve by natural selection. So I won't pursue that line of thought now.

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8 minutes ago, human_murda said:

a.) The trait that humans inherit is a potency: the faculty of reason. It has no statistical survival advantage. You could create or burn down a house. You could hunt animals or stab yourself with a spear. This faculty gives us the possibility of an incredible survival advantage as well as the ability to act against your own nature. This trait satisfies 1) but not 2).

This satisfies 2 also. Reasoning: If you had no capacity of reason, you'd be unable to make a spear to protect yourself or find food with measly hands and two legs. With the capacity of reason, protecting yourself is an option, thus your survival chances are a little better at least. As it turns out, reason is more than a "little better". It goes beyond what natural selection enables. Sure, there's no promise one will use reason, but it works so well that all people end up using it to some degree. Reason improved survival of the species in sum - and it does more than aid survival!

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

With the capacity of reason, protecting yourself is an option, thus your survival chances are a little better at least.

Killing yourself is also an option. So, no. You essentially cannot remove choice from the equation. Then it won't be reason. If choice is involved, death is also involved. Statistically/amorally, the faculty of reason has no survival advantage or disadvantage. It is a potential. It cannot affect anything in reality. You're equating a potential "option" with an actuality. It simply cannot be done.

(A better term to use would have been "volitional consciousness", but the point remains the same: it can be used to act against your nature, it doesn't function automatically and it is only a potential until you use it to make a choice.)

Edited by human_murda

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It's an option, but the capacity of reason is a greater capacity to survive just as running faster is a greater capacity for cheetahs to survive. Cheetahs don't merely react, they do have a rudimentary ability to choose to run, albeit not a human-like type of choice. If one had NO capacity to reason, there is less ability to survive. WITH the capacity, it is possible to do things like make spears. I know you don't intend it, but your idea suggests reason is impotent as far as a means to survive, it doesn't help you exist, and killing oneself is an option that reason doesn't help prevent. Reason does so well that people harness it all the time though. Thus, more people survive. Now, spearmaking isn't passed down, of course, but reason enables it.

Natural selection is all potentiality anyway. Quills on a porcupine only potentially helps a porcupine survive better, and some porcupines still fail to defend themselves. But it's sure as hell better than no quills at all.

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41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

It's an option, but the capacity of reason is a greater capacity to survive just as running faster is a greater capacity for cheetahs to survive. Cheetahs don't merely react, they do have a rudimentary ability to choose to run, albeit not a human-like type of choice. If one had NO capacity to reason, there is less ability to survive. WITH the capacity, it is possible to do things like make spears. I know you don't intend it, but your idea suggests reason is impotent as far as a means to survive, it doesn't help you exist, and killing oneself is an option that reason doesn't help prevent. Reason does so well that people harness it all the time though. Thus, more people survive. Now, spearmaking isn't passed down, of course, but reason enables it.

Volitional consciousness is necessary for all distinctly human achievements. But it isn't sufficient. It is impotent without actually making a choice. That is the only aspect needed for my argument. Your statistical statements are wrong though. Without choice, a volitional consciousness is absolutely impotent.

 

41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

If one had NO capacity to reason, there is less ability to survive.

Only because of the choices you make. You could have done otherwise. It has no inherent, automatic survival advantage. It does not function for your benefit automatically ("In regard to any man-made fact, it is valid to claim that man has chosen thus, but it was not inherent in the nature of existence for him to have done so: he could have chosen otherwise.").

The choices you have made to survive wasn't metaphysically necessary. This is why a volitional consciousness has no inherent evolutionary advantage. The existence of volitional consciousness is a metaphysical fact. Its survival advantage is a man-made fact. There is a difference. The man-made survival advantage makes the selection process of 'volitional consciousness' artificial/man-made.

Your assertion seems to amount to: 'if it gives no advantage without choice, it is impotent'. This is untrue. Just because something requires choice doesn't make it impotent. Man-made things aren't impotent.

Rand: "Nothing is given to man on earth except a potential and the material on which to actualize it. The potential is a superlative machine: his consciousness; but it is a machine without a spark plug, a machine of which his own will has to be the spark plug, the self-starter and the driver; he has to discover how to use it and he has to keep it in constant action."

 

41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Natural selection is all potentiality anyway.

No. The actual evolution of quills involved concrete events.

In the case of humans, the concrete event is 'choice'. The potential is 'volitional consciousness'. 'Volitional consciousness' is the heritable trait. The specific choice isn't.

Edited by human_murda

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14 minutes ago, human_murda said:

 The existence of volitional consciousness is a metaphysical fact. Its survival advantage is a man-made fact. There is a difference. The man-made survival advantage makes the selection process of 'volitional consciousness' artificial/man-made.

Because it is advantageous. That's the inherent advantage, that possibility.

"The actual evolution of quills involved concrete events."

The incidental evolution of quills came about biologically. The use of quills takes some mental capacity. The capacity of reason, or biologically speaking, the human brain and how it enables use of concepts and complex thought processes, came about without anything people -chose-. Reason as a capacity doesn't just appear according to one's will or creation. Its -use- does.

Your points are fine when directed at evolutionary psychology, though.

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30 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Because it is advantageous. That's the inherent advantage, that possibility.

It might as well be an "inherent disadvantage". Why are you disregarding the other possibility? Also, the advantage is not inherent (Rand: "...it was not inherent in the nature of existence...). The possibility was conceived by you. Of course, the nature of your mind allows you to carry it out, but it was still conceived by you. The possibility was not inherent in the nature of your mental faculty before you conceived of it (to say otherwise is to assume that the metaphysical facts of reality could have been otherwise. This is wrong. There are no different possibilities for metaphysical facts. They are what they had to be. The possibility is not inherent/metaphysical). It was a choice.

Also, before further discussion: do you agree with the distinction Rand made between the metaphysical and the man-made?

 

30 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

The capacity of reason, or biologically speaking, the human brain and how it enables use of concepts and complex thought processes, came about without anything people -chose-. Reason as a capacity doesn't just appear according to one's will or creation. Its -use- does.

I already said this: "just so someone gets ideas: I'm not talking about the mutation that gave humans the faculty of reason. That was out of our control. I'm talking about what selected for this trait. That was a choice."

 

30 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Your points are fine when directed at evolutionary psychology, though.

How so? Which specific parts are you talking about?

Edited by human_murda

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A possibility of using reason at all enables far more possible ways to survive, thus someone with the ability to reason is in a better condition to survive. Indeed, that doesn't promise one will survive, but by and large people want to survive. If one had a desire to survive as a dog might, yet lacked the ability to reason, one would be as able to survive as a dog. There is no possible disadvantage in using reason - it's not as though reason ever causes death. Its use only provides advantage and people desire the advantage.

Think of it this way.

If it is possible for a Martian to do X, it is a metaphysical fact it is able to do X.

If it is possible for a Saturnian to do X and Y, it is a metaphysical fact one is able to do X and Y.

If X and Y are both tools of survival, the Saturnian has more tools of survival. It is therefore a metaphysical fact that Saturnians are better equipped to survive than Martians. That's enough for natural selection to work in favor of Saturnians compared to Martians. As for additional advantages provided by civilization or particular creations, that part is all man-made.

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8 hours ago, human_murda said:

Now consider the African Savannah: there is a lion which uses its claws during hunting.

 

8 hours ago, human_murda said:

Because adaptation to the environment is heritable.

 

Non-human animals are not automata nor are survival or adaptive strategies "heritable".  All animals possess a degree of volition, and many also have a capacity to learn.  Higher animals who engage in complex behaviors in order to exploit a particular environmental niche are not just simple organisms reacting to stimulus-bond triggers in their environment.

At some point in the past evolution moved away from "instinct" and developed within certain animals (including Man) the capacity to hand-down generationally information about how to survive.   A lion must learn to hunt by observing and participating in the complex, coordinated hunting strategies of their pride.  If a lion (or a wolf) is raised in captivity it will not automatically or "instinctively" see other animals as prey - even those animals which are their traditional food source.  Similarly, birds do not just migrate by "instinct" - migration is a learned behavior (think semi- or fully-domesticated domesticated ducks that don't migrate where food is provided by humans -- even though their wild brethren do migrate in the same region).

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3 hours ago, New Buddha said:

A lion must learn to hunt by observing and participating in the complex, coordinated hunting strategies of their pride.  If a lion (or a wolf) is raised in captivity it will not automatically or "instinctively" see other animals as prey - even those animals which are their traditional food source.  Similarly, birds do not just migrate by "instinct" - migration is a learned behavior (think semi- or fully-domesticated domesticated ducks that don't migrate where food is provided by humans -- even though their wild brethren do migrate in the same region).

And these learned behaviors are called instincts. They are inherited in the sense that the things which cause them are inherited. They have no choice in what they learn.

Even tribal behaviour in lions are probably learned, but these behaviors are still inherited by the nature of the faculties they have to use to survive. You (not me) are assuming a false dichotomy: either something is a mindless automata or it has volition. It is your assertion that animals are mindless automata if they don't have volition. Not mine.

Animals can make decisions, but they have no volition. They couldn't have acted otherwise. Volition acknowledges the fact that you acted someway in the past but could have acted otherwise. No matter how complex animal learning is, everything from the signing of a chimpanzee to the "math" done by an African grey parrot is non-volitional. They couldn't have done otherwise. These behaviors don't exist in the wild but they are instinctual: they are automatic. They are learned, but they have no choice in that learning. They can make decisions but they have no choice in making that decision.

Animal behaviours are learned, instinctual, and automatic. How they learn these behaviors is determined by their natures and hence is indirectly inherited.

Behavior of domesticated animals is actually an example of instinct. Your assertion is that an instinct needs to be independent of the environment for it to be a true instinct. Basically, you've created a false dichotomy where if an action is contextual, it cannot be automatic and if it's automatic, it cannot depend on context. This is false: like pretty much anything in the world, instincts are contextual. You might be thinking of fixed pattern action but even that is contextual. Your argument is irrelevant to everything from human choice to human reflexes (and is irrelevant to animal reflexes, learning and instinct).

Animal decision making is entirely perceptual. They aren't capable of error because they don't deal with anything that isn't the "given" in decision-making.

Animals learn instinctually. They have no doubt about what they learn (because they couldn't have erred. Hey couldn't have done otherwise. There was nothing more they could do). The sign language, the math, the hunting are the "given". They are instinctual to animals because it is in their nature to do sign language and math (if sign language and math are introduced to them perceptually). They couldn't have done otherwise. This instinct is inherited: given their mental faculty, given the sign language in their "environment", given the reward system, they would invariably pick it up. This instinct is automatic and contextually invariable (the word contextually is unnecessary here. But you made this error before when talking about domesticated animals). In this context, sign language is an instinct: for an animal, it is an unerring, automatic action that results in rewards. It couldn't have done otherwise because that is its nature. For the chimpanzee, the sign language is the given. It doesn't know a universe without sign language. It is the perceptually evident and the animals grasps it unerringly: as a percept.

A crucial question I want to ask you before further discussion: do you believe that decision making in animals involve volition (that is, do you think they could have acted otherwise)?

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

A possibility of using reason at all enables far more possible ways to survive, thus someone with the ability to reason is in a better condition to survive. Indeed, that doesn't promise one will survive, but by and large people want to survive. If one had a desire to survive as a dog might, yet lacked the ability to reason, one would be as able to survive as a dog. There is no possible disadvantage in using reason - it's not as though reason ever causes death. Its use only provides advantage and people desire the advantage.

Think of it this way.

If it is possible for a Martian to do X, it is a metaphysical fact it is able to do X.

If it is possible for a Saturnian to do X and Y, it is a metaphysical fact one is able to do X and Y.

If X and Y are both tools of survival, the Saturnian has more tools of survival. It is therefore a metaphysical fact that Saturnians are better equipped to survive than Martians. That's enough for natural selection to work in favor of Saturnians compared to Martians. As for additional advantages provided by civilization or particular creations, that part is all man-made.

I've already answered this several times. Any product of your choice is not a metaphysical fact. You are evading the choice involved. You are also equivocating between the two uses of the word "able", first as a capacity to prove that martians/saturnians are "able" to do something. Once you "proved" it, you swapped the meaning to introduce choice (survival advantage pertains to the real, the concrete. That concrete is the actual choice they made. The possibilities are your conceptions that you attributed to it. It doesn't exist in reality yet.)

If you attributed to a martian the "possibility" of going to space or jumping into a volcano and if, in the future, you observed the martian jumping into a volcano, the other possibility of going into space isn't real. It is your conception. It doesn't exist. It can't affect anything in reality including survival advantage. What affects survival advantage is the actual choice: jumping into a volcano. The possibility of going to space doesn't exist now. It has no survival advantage.

Just because you conceived of a possibility doesn't mean that it can affect reality. The finite choices X or X and Y are concrete bound. You aren't talking about volitional consciousness anymore. The possibilities of a volitional consciousness are potentially infinite (infinities don't exist in reality. These possibilities are potentials) and these possibilities can go either way (life or death).

A saturnian may be better equipped to survive than a martian in the cold. These are metaphysically given. But in terms of their volitional consciousness, one is definitely not better than the other. Infinity has no nature and no survival advantage. The only metaphysical difference between the saturnian and the martian is the material on which they can act, the metaphysically given faculties they possess (and you swapped a faculty with a finite potential for a faculty for an infinite potential in your post when talking about X or X and Y).

Edited by human_murda

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Natural selection is about survival advantage in general, so we only need to talk about abilities to allow for survival. Having quills is only a potential survival advantage, in the same way reason is. The only difference is that using reason is far more complex than using quills. An advantage is a potential, a potential to do better than something else. Having stronger leg muscles is an advantage in a race, but succeeding at a race is not a guarantee - even for a cheetah. Likewise, survival is not -caused- by a capacity. The successful use of a capacity causes survival. Natural selection operates by all sorts of added potentials.

Natural selection alone doesn't explain evolution or why an animal uses their capacities.

9 hours ago, human_murda said:

Just because you conceived of a possibility doesn't mean that it can affect reality. The finite choices X or X and Y are concrete bound. You aren't talking about volitional consciousness anymore. The possibilities of a volitional consciousness are potentially infinite

But I'm talking about reason, not any possible choice at all. You're rather questioning if the ability to choose is a survival advantage. That too is an advantage though, as should be clear in the race example. An ability to notice a volcano as you walk and then turn before you fall in is better than going straight forward.

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19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You're rather questioning if the ability to choose is a survival advantage. That too is an advantage though, as should be clear in the race example.

Strong muscles and the ability to see are the material upon which the ability to choose acts. Strong muscles don't constitute an ability to choose. They are the material. The ability to choose is volitional consciousness.

As to the assertion that quills are only a potential survival advantage in the same way as volitional consciousness, that's wrong. Quills are a potential survival advantage but their possible relation with any particular environment is fixed. The standard by which the quills of an animal act automatically is life. They have an automatic, objective survival advantage. Volitional consciousness does not automatically act on the standard of life.

The potential of a porcupine acts on the standard of life. The potential of a volitional consciousness does not automatically act on the standard of life.

The potential of a volitional consciousness isn't just more complicated. Natural selection fully explains the selection pressure on animals. Saying that animal faculties in the present are just a potential like reason is confusing between the past and the present.

The way animal faculties can potentially act in the present is exactly the same way they have actually acted in the past. The way volitional consciousness can potentially act in the present is not exactly the same way it acted in the past.

The reason 'volitional consciousness' survived as a trait is because someone was rational in the past. That is not the potential of that trait for the present or for the future. The potential function of a quill or perceptual consciousness or animal learning or animal flight is exactly the same as the animal's history. The potential for a 'volitional consciousness' is different from the concrete events of the past. It need not even have been conceived yet. The difference is not one of "complication".

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As for the assertion that animals "exploit" their environment.

Beavers build dams? Great. So will future beavers. Suppose there are no streams or forest/wood materials available in the future. Beavers aren't equipped to deal with it.

Humans building dams is different from beavers building dams. It's irrelevant whether beavers learn to build dams. They couldn't have done otherwise. It is still an instinct. It is inherited.

Just because there is a superficial similarity (dam building) doesn't mean the processes involved are the same. Beavers building dams is an adaptation to the environment (they can't function without streams or wood materials). It is a concrete inheritance (learned or not). Humans building dams is not an adaptation to the environment. It has no concrete inheritance (we don't do it because our ancestors did so or because we are imitating something).

Nonhuman animals inherit their concrete method of functioning. From tribal warfare to signing chimps,  it is the the same, inherited concrete method of functioning determined by their evolutionary past. Birds learn to fly? Great. They couldn't have done otherwise. Nobody said that a perceptual consciousness cannot learn. But given their, perceptual consciousness, environment, parenting, etc, they couldn't do anything else.

The potentials involved are simply not the same. The present potential of an animal is determined by their evolutionary history at a concrete level.

Humans do not have the same concrete method of functioning generation after generation. Humans used to be hunters and gatherers. We are not hunters and gatherers now. Humans do not inherit a concrete method of functioning (even though all generations of humans actually possess a specific concrete method of functioning).

The inheritances involved are different: one involves concrete inheritance (whether prewired or imitated from parents or imitated from humans or through perceptual learning). The other involves 'volitional consciousness'.

Natural selection can only act on concrete inheritance (since survival only involves concrete events). Natural selection simply cannot work without inheritance. This inheritance has to be concrete if it refers to the same entity in reality.

Human traits proceeding from volitional consciousness do not follow concrete inheritance and cannot be acted upon by natural selection (simply because they change from generation to generation). Of course, this is a superficial way to say it. The reason some traits differ from generation to generation is choice.

Other human traits which do not proceed from 'volitional consciousness' were acted upon by natural selection.

However, humans did evolve. How? Through a rudimentary artificial selection. Some humans chose a certain concrete, rational way of living. It wasn't the concrete method of functioning that survived but the source that gave rise to it: 'volitional consciousness'. The trait (the concrete way of living that made our ancestors survive) wasn't inherited. The trait was man-made. It needn't have existed meaning that humans needn't have existed meaning humans (as a species) exist by choice. There was an artificial selection involved in our evolutionary history (this artificial selection acted on the inherited trait of 'volitional consciousness').

The fact that humans exist by choice is even more obvious now: we can potentially make our own species extinct using atom bombs. Animals cannot possess such a trait after the action of natural selection (any concrete inheritance [through learning or otherwise] that makes an animal kill itself will be negatively acted upon by natural selection).

Suppose one animal in a herd acts suicidally (by accident) and other animals learn this behavior, that would be acted upon by natural selection. Since animals learn perceptually, this behavior has concrete inheritance. The species can go extinct. Something like this happened to dodo.

The same cannot be said for humans. Humans don't learn by imitation. Other members of the same generation need not follow this behavior. Moreover, the next generation could be entirely rational. Natural selection simply cannot act on this (there is no concrete inheritance for these traits).

Animals acquire traits concretely (with or without learning) and retain it by natural selection. Humans do not acquire (man-made) traits concretely.

Why is everyone pretending that these facts have no consequences in reality? How could these facts possibly have no consequence?

What consequences do you think these facts have, in terms of evolution of human beings vs evolution of other organisms. Are these irrelevant? If so, why?

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Further application of the fact that humans need not function by concrete inheritance:

Several people inherit the religion of their parents. But they don't have to.
Some people wear a certain brand of shoes simply because others wear them. But they don't have to.

This fact was the determining factor in the evolution of 'volitional consciousness'. This choice to be rational. The choice which eliminates concrete inheritance (or the chance, perceptual acceptance of ideas). But it is still a choice: it could have been otherwise. Automatically, it has no survival advantage.

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2 hours ago, human_murda said:

Why is everyone pretending that these facts have no consequences in reality? How could these facts possibly have no consequence?

 
 

I wouldn't mind participating in this post, but I'm hesitant to do so because of the type of statement above.

The biggest problem with your approach to the subject is that you are using terms in a way that are not commonly accepted.

Terms such as volitioninheritance, evolution, and instinct are a few examples.  The term "instinct" would, in my vocabulary, be limited to say, in human infants, such things as suckling, clinging (closing their fist when an object is placing in it), not falling off of a ledge, etc.  A beaver does not "instinctively" build a dam- this is a learned behavior due to observation and learning and is passed down generationally.  A beaver raised in captivity, released in the wild, would not "instinctively" build a dam.  However, a horse or a gazelle will "instinctively" begin to walk almost immediately after it is born -but for dogs, cats, humans, and many other animals, walking must be learned - often with encouragement by parents, etc.  Being a good mother is not an "instinct" among chimps.  A young chimp raised in isolation, who gives birth, will not be a good mother.  Mothering for many animals is a learned behavior. 

Another area where I disagree with you is your narrow definition of the the term "volition".  There is a difference between a dog acting volitionally and a human's volitional capacity for reflection and imagination and "abstracting from abstractions", however, ALL animals possess some capacity for volition.  I posted this link to a paper by an Objectivist Psychologist that you might find interesting.  Volition is not to be equated with thinking about long term investing in a 401k.  All animals act volitionally thousands of times a day.  Every step you take, every sofa you avoid while walking, every thing you pick up, involves volition.  Volition is not unique to human beings.

From the Abstract:  What is Consciousness for?

Abstract: The answer to the title question is, in a word, volition. Our hypothesis is that the ultimate adaptive function of consciousness is to make volitional movement possible. All conscious processes exist to subserve that ultimate function. Thus, we believe that all conscious organisms possess at least some volitional capability. Consciousness makes volitional attention possible; volitional attention, in turn, makes volitional movement possible. There is, as far as we know, no valid theoretical argument that consciousness is needed for any function other than volitional movement and no convincing empirical evidence that consciousness performs any other ultimate function. Consciousness, via volitional action, increases the likelihood that an organism will direct its attention, and ultimately its movements, to whatever is most important for its survival and reproduction.

Edited by New Buddha

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2 hours ago, human_murda said:

The same cannot be said for humans. Humans don't learn by imitation.

Certainly young children do.  Children don't really begin to engage in the unique form of human abstract reasoning until 6 - 8 years of age, and yet they do learn a great deal before then, if properly nurtured.  The human brain continues to grow into the late teens and maybe even in the early 20's.

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7 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Certainly young children do.

That quote was taken out of context. I had said: "The same cannot be said for humans. Humans don't learn by imitation. Other members of the same generation need not follow this behavior." Of course children can imitate just like adults can. They don't have to. Besides, even if they imitate, it doesn't need to be permanent. The fact that young children could imitate or even hypothetically "have to" imitate is irrelevant. The fact is that young children aren't hunters and gatherers now.

Dragging in children serves no purpose. Ayn Rand said that "Man is an is end in himself". Yet children are dependent on their parents. Do you disagree with Ayn Rand's statement? If not, that should show you why my own statement isn't wrong. You have some "unique form of human abstract reasoning" to do.

 

Quote

Children don't really begin to engage in the unique form of human abstract reasoning until 6 - 8 years of age, and yet they do learn a great deal before then, if properly nurtured.

No, conceptualization begins way before six and you can't reason without concepts (there is no such thing as 'pure reason').

Edited by human_murda

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1 hour ago, human_murda said:

No, conceptualization begins way before six and you can't reason without concepts (there is no such thing as 'pure reason').

 
 

How could you have possibly concluded that I'm advocating any form of "pure reason"?  How did that creep into the discussion?  Lol.

My argument (unlike yours) is that animals (including humans) are volitional agents -- and that inherited/instinctive knowledge plays a minuscule role in animals (including humans) who's survival in challenging environmental niches requires the learning of complex behaviors.  Knowledge of how to survive in these types of niches is not mindlessly/automatically/instinctively "inherited" as you claim.  It is handed down generationally and acquired through nurturing/observation/learning.  And it can also be lost.  My position is the exact opposite of any form of "pure reason" or "instinct" that YOU are advocating.

What young children (and animals) are NOT capable of doing is "abstracting from abstractions".  The ability to "abstract from abstractions" is what separates mature, adult humans from the other animals and is the line of demarcation between childhood/adolescence/adulthood.

A wolf (through experience/learning) forms first-level abstractions for bears, rabbits, elk, etc., but what a wolf cannot do is form the concept "animal".  This is true too for very young children.  Every rabbit that a wolf encounters is not a unique percept -- it is a generalized abstraction (i.e. a concept).

 

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11 hours ago, human_murda said:

 

Further application of the fact that humans need not function by concrete inheritance:

Several people inherit the religion of their parents. But they don't have to.
Some people wear a certain brand of shoes simply because others wear them. But they don't have to.

"Concrete inheritance" doesn't make sense. Eye color, the capacity of reason, quills, wings, diabetes, sex, height, etc. are all inherited through genetics and/or epigenetics. This would make sense as concrete. But building dams, making nests, human babies saying "dada", dogs listening to "sit", being a Christian, etc. are in no sense inherited. Some kind of mental activity is needed besides perception. Rand was wrong to say animals work automatically, but she is right about animals lacking long-term conceptual thought. If a bird learns a song, they have to -learn- it through a manner similar to humans. It is not a reaction to stimuli, or imitation of stimuli. A baby bird babbles like human babies on their way to fluency. There is no "perceptual acceptance", except to say that a bird is simply not capable of forming full-blown human concepts.

A bird doesn't "have to" learn a song any more than a baby human "has to" learn a language.

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I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between man and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty.

This has been quoted here once, per a search of this forum. Harry Binswanger in Selected Topics in the Philosophy of Science touches on biology, zeroing in on biology, evolution vs. natural selection, the role of DNA. In short, this is not a philosophic topic, rather a biological exploration.

His argument on life as mechanistic is augmented with a brief exploration of consciousness and volitional consciousness as adjuncts to it.

Having read Darwin's Origin of the Species in the light of it being ranked with Newton's Principia (and I would add my more thoroughly read Newton's Opticks) with regard to examples held up by Objectivist Intelligentsia of inductive reasoning, the question that comes to mind is "Where's the beef?"

Philosophy deals with the broad generalities. As such, when it comes to specifics within the special sciences, the philosophical import is often lost within its application to a specific particular.

Given what has been presented thus far, I concur with Binswanger in life as being mechanistic in nature. The axiomatic nature of consciousness still leaves it outside the purview of proof. 

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