Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Severinian

Free will and intelligence

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Ayn Rand, as we know, held that we have free will, and that virtue consists of focusing on reason, etc. 

How much does free will affect intelligence, according to this view? Ayn Rand was extremely rational and virtuous. If she was born into a family that had bad "IQ genes", and she was malnurished and beaten as a young child, would she still be as rational as she was? Could she have developed a high IQ? Is any of Ayn Rand's theories contradicted by modern neuroscience? I'm very curious about how all these things work together. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From my experience, I would say that the exertion of free will is the primary determinant of a person's intelligence (at least the logical part of cognition anyways) and this is probably true for all neurotypical adults. I also think that keeping your mind active influences the "automatic", subconscious functions of the brain.

 

I don't know what can happen during mental retardation. Obviously a lot of underlying physical things necessary for cognition don't function as they should. Even assuming your capability for free will is unaffected by the damage, your subconscious processes, which are supposed to "record" and extend the functioning of your free will over time, are disrupted. So of course you can expect yourself to be less rational for the same amount of effort you put in through your free will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO, intelligence is the expression of thought.  Free-will is the expression of intelligence. Spirit is thought itself. Therefore, free-will, thought, intelligence, and spirit are co-determinant.

 

We simply employ the terms 'ontology' and 'metaphysics' to describe thought in its two fundamental aspects: 'will' and 'spirit', respectively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps, as well, the ability to question what is possible?

 

That's more appropriately considered a rational capacity.  All volitional creatures have free-will, or the ability to act non-instinctively, but many consider man to be the only animal capable of questioning what is possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's more appropriately considered a rational capacity.  All volitional creatures have free-will, or the ability to act non-instinctively, but many consider man to be the only animal capable of questioning what is possible.

Animals would appear to question the limits of the possible by submitting to the process of domestication. What, for example, are the risk-cost-benefits of begging for scraps as opposed to becoming a meal for the resident h.sapiens?

 

On a related note, nesting crows here in Salamanca routinely attack underneath joggers as eagerly as those back in Cambridge. By contrast, the same species, both in the wilds of the Hispanic and New England countryside, quickly flee at the sighting of humans--thereby leaving the nestlings to their own fate.

 

So crows, as a species, learn to accommodate themselves to particular human behaviors relative to place. But they refuse domestication, as the old saying suggests: "Cria cuervo...."

 

Andie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Animals would appear to question the limits of the possible by submitting to the process of domestication. What, for example, are the risk-cost-benefits of begging for scraps as opposed to becoming a meal for the resident h.sapiens?

 

On a related note, nesting crows here in Salamanca routinely attack underneath joggers as eagerly as those back in Cambridge. By contrast, the same species, both in the wilds of the Hispanic and New England countryside, quickly flee at the sighting of humans--thereby leaving the nestlings to their own fate.

 

So crows, as a species, learn to accommodate themselves to particular human behaviors relative to place. But they refuse domestication, as the old saying suggests: "Cria cuervo...."

 

Andie

 

Yes, well I said many but I exclude myself, and good on you for pointing to domestication as a cooperative interaction between species that suggests some level of non-human volition beyond mere fight or flight instinct.  Now prove that crows question if it's possible to save their nestlings from the resident h.sapiens and we'll have something to go on.

 

Google Translate wasn't up to the task of interpreting "Cria cuervo", but being a fan of old sayings, I'm interested in learning this one if you can give it to me in english??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Try Cria Curevos, title of a Spanish film.

 

The title Cria Cuervos comes from the Spanish proverb, "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos". This translates as, "Raise ravens, and they'll take out your eyes" and is generally used for someone who has bad luck in raising children, or raised them badly. It may also imply rebellious behavior or that every bad act will return to haunt you.

 

The phrase "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos" is said to originate with Don Álvaro de Luna of Castile during a hunting expedition. In the course of the hunt his party came across a beggar with terrible scarring in the place of eyes. The beggar explained that he had raised a raven for three years with affection and great care, but it attacked him one day, leaving him blind. The bon mot was Don Álvaro's reply.

 

Cría Cuervos was originally released as Cría! in the United States and as Raise Ravens in the UK, but the original title Cría Cuervos is now used in both countries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, well I said many but I exclude myself, and good on you for pointing to domestication as a cooperative interaction between species that suggests some level of non-human volition beyond mere fight or flight instinct.  Now prove that crows question if it's possible to save their nestlings from the resident h.sapiens and we'll have something to go on.

 

Google Translate wasn't up to the task of interpreting "Cria cuervo", but being a fan of old sayings, I'm interested in learning this one if you can give it to me in english??

DA,

 

Thanks for the response.

 

In my Philo of Consciousness course, I was literally propagandized by Nagel as the definitive, bottom-line statement re animal intelligence: we simply cannot know what it's like to be  bat. In this sense, your query remains beyond proof. All we have to rely upon is observed 'intelligence' that stems from an unlike consciousness.

 

'Cria' translates as "The crow cries and tears your eye out." It's an old medieval story (loved by Cervantes) about a boy who saved a baby crow, then tried to raise it as a domestic pet--with dire results.

 

As such, the expression has come to mean that part of growing up involves an understanding what is changeable, and what isn't. Of course, every culture has its own version of this just-so tale. For example, my BFF from high school constantly used that of her Greek ancestry: 'The color of the eyes never changes".

 

More to the point, crows, like many other animals, have 'decided' not to become domesticated.

 

Andie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

 

More to the point, crows, like many other animals, have 'decided' not to become domesticated.

 

Andie

 

I've never been much of a fan of crows, so I couldn't say.  Proving a negative, that a crow 'decided' not to do anything, would be a difficult task. I'm more of a dog person and convinced they are not only volitional but also consider possibilities, like whether or not a treat is worth a trick.  Just don't ask me to prove that...

 

Thank you for sharing this interesting story.  It makes me think of two I'm more familiar with:

1) A leopard can't change it's spots, and 

2) No good deed goes unpunished.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand, as we know, held that we have free will, and that virtue consists of focusing on reason, etc. 

How much does free will affect intelligence, according to this view? Ayn Rand was extremely rational and virtuous. If she was born into a family that had bad "IQ genes", and she was malnurished and beaten as a young child, would she still be as rational as she was? Could she have developed a high IQ? Is any of Ayn Rand's theories contradicted by modern neuroscience? I'm very curious about how all these things work together. 

 

Merriam-Webster gives the definition of intelligence as "1.(1) :  the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations :  reasonalso :  the skilled use of reason(2) :  the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests) c :  mental acuteness :  shrewdness "

 

The incorporation of free will into the concept of intelligence instead of the usual "dumb" deterministic view of it as a simple, flat quantity that you're born with doesn't dictate how much free will affects intelligence as such.

However, if intelligence is as the definition states above, and I agree it is, and the use of one's mind and reason is a volitional activity, volition plays a pivotal role in the determination of intelligence. One's will would be the driving force of intelligence and the attribute which defines its function. 

 

Yet, when people speak of intelligence, they usually mean the comparative IQ standard. In which case, how much is a question of neuroscience.

 

 

As per your second question, I think it would have been harder for her to stay rational in those abusive conditions and with a comparably lower IQ, whatever that means, but her rationality would still be up to her. I'm guessing it would be something like comparing Dagny to Cheryl.

The rest of your questions are also based on neuroscience, which I don't know much about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to this forum, Sheppie.

 

The phrase no good deed goes unpunished expresses a similar meaning to Cria Cuervos described in posts #9 and #11.  The basic idea is that kind actions often don't produce pleasant results, particularly when those actions are misdirected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand, as we know, held that we have free will, and that virtue consists of focusing on reason, etc. 

How much does free will affect intelligence, according to this view? Ayn Rand was extremely rational and virtuous. If she was born into a family that had bad "IQ genes", and she was malnurished and beaten as a young child, would she still be as rational as she was? Could she have developed a high IQ? Is any of Ayn Rand's theories contradicted by modern neuroscience? I'm very curious about how all these things work together. 

 

Late in but I'm catching up for the month :)

 

As my signature says, volition equal cognition.  You cannot have one without the other as free will is a prerequisite for advanced concept formation.  It is integral to integration.  Or to put it negative, if you did not have free will, you would not be smart enough to know you did not have free will.  

 

Free will is absolutely essential.  

 

As for the affect of Ayn Rand's (or any one else's) childhood and the light it shines on their choices...  That is a completely different subject. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand, as we know, held that we have free will, and that virtue consists of focusing on reason, etc. 

 

Doesn't free will equal to Freedom of choice  ?

 

How much does free will affect intelligence, according to this view? Ayn Rand was extremely rational and virtuous. If she was born into a family that had bad "IQ genes", and she was malnurished and beaten as a young child, would she still be as rational as she was? Could she have developed a high IQ? Is any of Ayn Rand's theories contradicted by modern neuroscience? I'm very curious about how all these things work together. 

 

Despite childhood absue, unless one's ability for cognition is destroyed, it is only a choice to practice rationality or not to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Free-will is simply an ability to do what is possible.

I would argue free-will is an illusion, strictly speaking. If we accept that we live in a deterministic universe which we do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To answer the OP, I would not put too much emphasis on IQ test, every test has a methodology of data collection, some argue IQ tests are flawed a good example would be doing an IQ test on a non-English speaker or someone who does not have English as a first language. I scored poorly on them as I was dyslexic, and the condition wasn't that well known at the time, which baffled the teachers, since I was in the top tier in every-single academic subject apart from English and Math. In science I was attaining the highest possible results. At one point they thought I was cheating. In any case, I now have a certified stanford binet IQ which puts me in the 'gifted' category. My brother incidentally, has a much higher score than me, I think he is somewhere in the 160s he works in the defence industry designing weapons go figure.

With regards to develop a higher IQ that isn't possible you either have it or you don't. Now that does not mean one can't be intelligent through knowledge retention or learning but that is something different to an IQ test. Humans are complex and the brain is susceptible to delusion, so no matter how intelligent you're you can still be deluded. And therefore I don't necessarily agree everything with what Ayn said. I would go as far as to say I was conflicted at times with her views, to the point of even entertaining the idea of whether or not she is a Russian agent, or that she has taken Marxism removed socialism from it, and added capitalism to it. After reading Prof. Richard Dawkins books I was sure that I don't want to live in a ultra "non-altruistic" world. Not to mention she pretty much had a crusade against Kantianism. And actually that tit-for-tat form of cooperation is the optimal strategy, in game theory. You lose less in a tit-for-tat strategy then you do in an always selfish strategy, i.e. attempting to maximum your own benefits every-single time.

But I sure agreed with her on a lot of other things.

Edited by Amirtut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would argue free-will is an illusion, strictly speaking. If we accept that we live in a deterministic universe which we do.

You'll never convince anyone of that though. After all, it's safe to assume that you see through the illusion because of some complex of factors that determined that you would see through it. However, if someone else does not see through the illusion because of the millions of determining factors that influenced their life, an input like this -- an argument from a stranger -- is unlikely to be a sufficient determinant to make their system switch "views".

 

In fact, argument seems pretty futile really. What is the probability of an input like an argument undoing years of all sorts of interactions and determinations by atoms of all types. ;)

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You'll never convince anyone of that though. After all, it's safe to assume that you see through the illusion because of some complex of factors that determined that you would see through it. However, if someone else does not see through the illusion because of the millions of determining factors that influenced their life, an input like this -- an argument from a stranger -- is unlikely to be a sufficient determinant to make their system switch "views".

 

In fact, argument seems pretty futile really. What is the probability of an input like an argument undoing years of all sorts of interactions and determinations by atoms of all types. ;)

When I made my post I was thinking against the religious sense (idea) that there is an omniscient entity, that has given humans free will. No then free-will is an illusion. I should have made that clear. Also there isn't a real consensus in quantum physics that determinism is inaccurate or true. So, I'm going to scratch the bit where I said we do live a deterministic universe, because that wouldn't be accurate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Amirtut,

If you and I got together and both agreed that we do not have freewill, how would that change anything?

In a physical sense non at all. A psychological change maybe but this is only an opinion let me explain why. It comes down to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, Einstein and Niels Bohr argued this for years, Einstein pretty much said we leaved in a deterministic universe, and ridiculed Bohr's arguments, saying that what Bohr is arguing for is something spooky, that atoms are communication with each other through space-time no matter the distance and they would have to do this faster than the speed of light which would be impossible due to Einstein's equations of mass–energy equivalence, i.e. that somehow atoms have conciousness and were doing spooky (magical) things, and Einstein dismissed this and said that it was actually Entanglement which was causing this, which was convincing at the time, but eventually even Einstein was at a loss, because it seems Bohr was right (it seems like something spooky is going on), and this was like 10 years or so of debates they had on this subject. And we're still not any closer to explaining what is actually going on. It's a problem for both physicists and philosophers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... it seems like something spooky is going on...

But, just because it feels spooky does not mean it is, not when we stop and think about it. Unexplained perhaps, but why spooky?

A few times, my garage door just opened spookily, like it had a will of its own. A middle-schooler who doesn't have the context to know why, might be spooked out; but, an adult will shrug it off as caused by some radio-wave that happens to be at the right frequency. However, if the adult did not have a clue to the reason, the event would be unexplained, but not actually spooky in an intellectual sense.

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×