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Life, Mind and NIOF principle

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#1
Leonid

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Life, Mind and NIOF principle


Objectivism defines life as “a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action” (Galt speech, AS).
I’d add that life is also a process of self –organization of the matter.
In their book “Biological Self-organization” Camazine et al. (2001: 8) define self-organization:

‘‘As a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower level components of the system. Moreover the rules specifying interactions among the system’s components are executed using only local information, without reference to the global pattern. In short pattern is an emergent property of the system rather than being imposed on the system by an external ordering influence.’’

From this definition one may conclude that if life is self-sustained, self-organized process then it is non-deterministic process, that is-without antecedent cause. Or, as Robert Rosen observed, life doesn’t have efficient cause, this is a process of self-causation. Therefore, any interaction of living entity with its environment is self-initiated, goal-orientated response. (SIGOR)

“Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.”
(Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 16.)

SIGOR exists on any level of biological organization-from viruses to men. It’s manifestation of essential biological feature-the ability to projects goals into the future and to act to achieve them. This is a mechanism of biological self-causation. On the preconscious levels organisms use preprogrammed codes (DNA and others) for this purpose, but on conceptual level the tool is human mind, the only tool of human survival. On conceptual level self-initiated, goal-orientated action becomes volitional-that is by using concepts mind able to make choices about goals or rather purposes. Desire is a goal, projected into the future which is chosen according to Man’s needs. Free will is not an illusion but attribute of Man’s consciousness which is developed from very basic property of living being-the ability to project goals and to initiate an action to achieve them. From other hand, for the same reason a living entity is NOT a mechanism, NOR is mind a computer. .W. Tecumseh Fitch observed i” A crucial difference between a cell (including but not limited to a neuron) and a transistor on a silicon chip is that the former arrangement of matter can autonomously and adaptively modify itself in response to its circumstances, whereas the latter cannot. An everyday example of this biological capacity is provided by the healing response: a damaged organism can often stem the loss of precious bodily fluids, stitch itself up, and (with some scar perhaps) continue living. We all witness this capacity regularly in our own bodies and it is worth stopping for a moment to realize how amazing it is…eukaryotic cells which possess a crucially intrinsic aboutness I dubbed nano-intentionality “ (Nano-intentionality: a defense of intrinsic intentionality, Biology and Philosophy, Media B.V 2007).
It is not difficult to see that Fitch’s nano-intentionality is what I call SIGOR and that what is makes living organisms alive. Human cognition as any other biological process is self-regulated, self-organized, self-causated process.. It is an attribute of the living entity-human being, and as such it doesn’t have any efficient cause. Actually antecedent causes can be only harmful to the living process and to the mind. The ethical consequence of this biological fact is the principle of non-initiating of force. Human mind is an essence of human existence and cannot be separated from it, as one cannot separate from a plant its ability to turn its leaves to the light. Any attempt of application of antecedent cause, a force, on mind will be a hindrance, will impede its functions or stop it altogether. Initiation of force therefore is an act which prevents man to live qua man or to live at all.

Edited by Leonid, 01 May 2010 - 12:33 AM.


#2
Jake_Ellison

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Life doesn't have antecedent cause

Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly. (Peikoff, OPAR)

Seems like pretty straight forward logic to me. Shortest thread ever?

#3
Leonid

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Jake Ellison "Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly. (Peikoff, OPAR) Seems like pretty straight forward logic to me. Shortest thread ever? "

Not so fast. First, according to Peikoff, not every thing does have a cause. Existence, for example doesn't. (OPAR). Second, my claim is not that life is causeless but is that life doesn't have antecedent or efficient cause. By the virtue of life's unique identity life causation is also unique. Since life is self-organized, self-generated phenomenon the only causation of life could be final cause which is self-generated goals projected into the future. In other words it is self-causation.

Edited by Leonid, 01 May 2010 - 05:51 AM.


#4
Eiuol

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Not so fast. First, according to Peikoff, not every thing does have a cause.


All actions have a cause, though. Life is an action (or a process if you prefer), not an entity.

Edited by Eiuol, 01 May 2010 - 08:07 AM.

"Soldiers: don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder!" -Charlie Chaplin

#5
Jake_Ellison

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Not so fast.

Damn it. Oh well, I'll get my chance some time.

#6
Leonid

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All actions have a cause, though. Life is an action (or a process if you prefer), not an entity.


Life is a self-generated action of the living organism which is self-organized structure of matter. Such a structure possesses emergent properties of self-initiated, goal orientation action which all other material structures don't possess. "The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature." (AS). Emergent identity of the living organism as self-organized entity determines its mode of causation which is self-causation. Self initiated action of such an entity cannot be driven by antecedent cause, that would contradict its nature.

Edited by Leonid, 01 May 2010 - 10:43 AM.


#7
Grames

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From this definition one may conclude that if life is self-sustained, self-organized process then it is non-deterministic process, that is-without antecedent cause. Or, as Robert Rosen observed, life doesn’t have efficient cause, this is a process of self-causation. Therefore, any interaction of living entity with its environment is self-initiated, goal-orientated response. (SIGOR)

There are a million and a half things that could be said about what is wrong with the whole essay in the OP, but lets start with this: "without antecedent cause" is the same as saying "without cause" and is illogical. Non-deterministic cannot be equated with non-causal. The therefore sentence is a non sequitor to anything that preceded it.

You are in the odd position of a mystic trying to justify himself with rationalism, or in other words a crank.

#8
Leonid

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Serial thinker "lets start with this: "without antecedent cause" is the same as saying "without cause" and is illogical. Non-deterministic cannot be equated with non-causal."

Let start. Cambridge dictionary defines "antecedent" as "someone or something existing or happening before, especially as the cause or origin of something existing or happening later"
Life defined in Objectivism and elsewhere as self-generated process. Therefore to use antecedent causation as explanation of the life’s process would be contradiction in terms. Life process is self-determined .You imply that antecedent causation is the only possible mode of causation which is incorrect. Already Aristotle described 4 different modes of causation: The material cause: “that out of which”, the formal cause: “the form”, “the efficient cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, the final cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”." ((Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Obviously that only final or teleological cause is applicable to life since life is an end in itself. Observe that teleological cause cannot be antecedent since it doesn't exist before or even at the time of action. You work in order to be paid in the future. Your salary is the cause of your work and obviously it is not antecedent cause. It doesn't exist in reality before your action. It exists only as your mental projection into the future.
If I'm a mystic then so is Aristotle, Ayn Rand and Harry Binswanger, Objectivist philosopher and biologist who dedicated whole chapter in his book “The Biological Basis of teleological Concepts" to explanation of teleological causation. You yourself are also a mystic if your actions aren't driven by any antecedent cause, but simply by your own decision, desire or wish. In other words, according to your position, you are a mystic if you acknowledge existence of your own free will.

Edited by Leonid, 02 May 2010 - 05:29 AM.


#9
brian0918

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Isn't the choice to focus supposed to be causeless? Or, at least, Objectivists have taken that position in past discussions.

Edited by brian0918, 02 May 2010 - 05:38 AM.

The problem with reality is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work. ;)


#10
Jake_Ellison

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Isn't the choice to focus supposed to be causeless? Or, at least, Objectivists have taken that position in past discussions.

Who said that? Let me at 'em, let me at 'em.

#11
Grames

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Aristotle was wrong about final causation or teleology being metaphysical. He made a similar error in claiming essences were metaphysical. Both are epistemological, ways to understand. There is no teleological principle operating in insentient nature.

edit: “The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts" explains teleology as caused by attempting to understand biology, not biology as genuinely caused by teleology.

Edited by Grames, 02 May 2010 - 10:24 AM.


#12
Plasmatic

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Leonid, are you saying that in the same way matter is considered to be eternal that life is too? That is, there's always been life, just like there's always been matter?

Edited by Plasmatic, 02 May 2010 - 10:46 AM.


#13
Leonid

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Leonid, are you saying that in the same way matter is considered to be eternal that life is too? That is, there's always been life, just like there's always been matter?


No, life is not eternal. That exactly why it needs self-causation, to keep itself alive.

#14
Leonid

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Aristotle was wrong about final causation or teleology being metaphysical. He made a similar error in claiming essences were metaphysical. Both are epistemological, ways to understand. There is no teleological principle operating in insentient nature.

edit: “The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts" explains teleology as caused by attempting to understand biology, not biology as genuinely caused by teleology.


Do you mean you don't act in order to achieve goals? If so why to act at all? If by metaphysical teleology you mean some divine primary mover, you are right. But what I mean is that primary mover is every living organism. It moves itself. This is simply observable metaphysical fact of reality. Life is primary mover by definition, that is-by it metaphysical essence.

Edited by Leonid, 02 May 2010 - 03:09 PM.


#15
Eiuol

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Isn't the choice to focus supposed to be causeless? Or, at least, Objectivists have taken that position in past discussions.


No, but that choice is irreducible to any other choices, and there is no "why" behind the choice. It would be *caused* by your brain, or more specifically, your consciousness. To clarify, I'm only pointing out that an entity is the cause of action here, not that the choice is deterministic.

Edited by Eiuol, 02 May 2010 - 08:31 PM.

"Soldiers: don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder!" -Charlie Chaplin

#16
Dante

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If I'm a mystic then so is Aristotle, Ayn Rand and Harry Binswanger, Objectivist philosopher and biologist who dedicated whole chapter in his book “The Biological Basis of teleological Concepts" to explanation of teleological causation.


Binswanger, on causation in relation to (consciously) purposeful action.

This general analysis of purposeful action facilitates the resolution of a paradoxical feature of teleological causation: the appearance of a reversal of cause and effect. In teleological processes it seems that the final state, or end is a cause of the action directed toward the achievement of that end...

If taken literally, the idea of final causation, of causation by a future end or goal, is absurd. How can an event which is to take place in the future be the cause of a present action? On a metaphysical level, the suggestion of a future event acting as the cause of a present action is contradictory: the future event does not exist yet, and what does not exist cannot act as a cause. On an epistemological level, explanation in terms of final causes (taken literally) presents us with a vicious circle: the action is to be explained by the future event, but the future event's realization is to be explained by the action...

...what causes and explains purposeful actions is not actually the future goal, but the agent's present desire for the future goal. The future goal does not exist yet--and may never exist--but the agent is able to conceive or imagine a future goal, and it is this present mental content which causes him to undertake the action he hopes will bring about his realization of that goal...

An important consequence of this analysis is that "final causation" in the paradigm case of purposeful action is seen to be a species of ordinary "efficient" causation, rather than constituting an alternative kind of causation. --Binswanger, The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, pp. 36-38


Teleological causation, on Binswanger's view, is not a separate and distinct type of causation. It can still be validly explained in terms of proximate causes, but teleological causation has the additional characteristic that the ultimate causation involves the "value-significance" of the action to the organism.
"What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world." - Salman Rushdie

#17
Dante

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Life defined in Objectivism and elsewhere as self-generated process. Therefore to use antecedent causation as explanation of the life’s process would be contradiction in terms. Life process is self-determined .You imply that antecedent causation is the only possible mode of causation which is incorrect.


The argument is not that antecedent causation (proximate causation) is the only type of causation, but rather that it is always present. Even IF, say, some future goal is involved in making an action happen, that future goal, as the final cause, works through physical processes in the brain, and those processes are the antecedent causes. To say that final causation has occurred without actually acting through any antecedent causes is to elevate that final cause to a mystical, supernatural status. Final causation does exist, but it never occurs except through antecedent causes.

Obviously that only final or teleological cause is applicable to life since life is an end in itself. Observe that teleological cause cannot be antecedent since it doesn't exist before or even at the time of action. You work in order to be paid in the future. Your salary is the cause of your work and obviously it is not antecedent cause. It doesn't exist in reality before your action. It exists only as your mental projection into the future.


Yes, but my desire for my salary has to work through antecedent causes. I must have that mental existent of the desire, for instance. I must have knowledge which leads me to believe that this action will bring about the desire. My brain must function correctly, with all the chemical reactions and electrical operations running smoothly. If a wire gets crossed up there, my desire for money may very well not translate correctly into the proper action.

An example of this would be aphasia. In this language condition, I may know perfectly well what I want to say, but I am not able to say it or write it down, because of brain damage. The antecedent causes must be functional, or a would-be final cause is impotent.
"What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world." - Salman Rushdie

#18
Leonid

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Dante quotes Binswanger”...what causes and explains purposeful actions is not actually the future goal, but the agent's present desire for the future goal. The future goal does not exist yet--and may never exist--but the agent is able to conceive or imagine a future goal, and it is this present mental content which causes him to undertake the action he hopes will bring about his realization of that goal...”
Future goals exist as mental projection. Mind and its content is also part of reality which is self generated by man. Moreover, living organisms generate such projections on any level of evolutionary development. See “Nano-Intentionality” by W. Tecumseh Fitch1 Biology & Philosophy@© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 200710.1007/s10539-007-9079-5 and also Rosen’s Anticipatory Systems Theory: “The Art and Science of Thinking Ahead”
http://journals.isss...ticle/view/1249
http://www.asa3.org/...Cottingham.html

To say “that final causation has occurred without actually acting through any antecedent causes is to elevate that final cause to a mystical, supernatural status” is as to say that process of life as self generated action has mystical status. Life qua life doesn’t have antecedent cause, cannot be reduced to the physics or chemistry. Living entity is not collection of “conditional chemicals” as Ayn Rand negatively put it in AS. It is emergent property of certain self-organized material structure which able to sustain itself far from equilibrium by the virtue of self-generation of goal-orientated action. Therefore goal is the cause of living process. Since goal also generated by the organism, this is the obvious case of self-causation. The fact that living process could be described in terms of biochemistry is irrelevant to the metaphysical essence of life. Most of the biochemical reactions could be reproduced in vitro, but that doesn’t make such a reaction alive.

#19
Dante

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To say “that final causation has occurred without actually acting through any antecedent causes is to elevate that final cause to a mystical, supernatural status” is as to say that process of life as self generated action has mystical status. Life qua life doesn’t have antecedent cause, cannot be reduced to the physics or chemistry. Living entity is not collection of “conditional chemicals” as Ayn Rand negatively put it in AS. It is emergent property of certain self-organized material structure which able to sustain itself far from equilibrium by the virtue of self-generation of goal-orientated action. Therefore goal is the cause of living process. Since goal also generated by the organism, this is the obvious case of self-causation. The fact that living process could be described in terms of biochemistry is irrelevant to the metaphysical essence of life. Most of the biochemical reactions could be reproduced in vitro, but that doesn’t make such a reaction alive.


"Life" is a shorthand for the billions of processes occuring within the living organism. Each of those is scientifically explicable. Life as an emergent property has as many causes as the specific processes it emerges from. To say that the antecedent cause of life in a particular organism is partly this or that process is NOT to claim that that process, in any other context, also produces "life."

The "end" to which life aims exists entirely in the future, but all the mechanisms by which a living organism or organisms within a species act towards that goal are completely explicable based on causal, past events. This is the gap which natural selection fills in explaining why many organisms' processes are aimed at future goals without being consciously directed. Saying that the "goal," more than being the organizing principle of the organism, has causal efficacy, is just nonsense. The goal itself has no causal efficacy. Every process which furthers it is encouraged by natural selection, and each of those individual processes are completely explicable by science.
"What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world." - Salman Rushdie

#20
Jake_Ellison

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Life qua life doesn’t have antecedent cause, cannot be reduced to the physics or chemistry. Living entity is not collection of “conditional chemicals” as Ayn Rand negatively put it in AS.

Pretty much what Dante said about evolution, but I'm also curious about the exact AS quote you are referring to. I think you may be a bit liberal in your paraphrasing.

#21
Leonid

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"Life" is a shorthand for the billions of processes occuring within the living organism. Each of those is scientifically explicable. Life as an emergent property has as many causes as the specific processes it emerges from. To say that the antecedent cause of life in a particular organism is partly this or that process is NOT to claim that that process, in any other context, also produces "life."

The "end" to which life aims exists entirely in the future, but all the mechanisms by which a living organism or organisms within a species act towards that goal are completely explicable based on causal, past events. This is the gap which natural selection fills in explaining why many organisms' processes are aimed at future goals without being consciously directed. Saying that the "goal," more than being the organizing principle of the organism, has causal efficacy, is just nonsense. The goal itself has no causal efficacy. Every process which furthers it is encouraged by natural selection, and each of those individual processes are completely explicable by science.


And by what natural selection is encouraged? If you reject goal-driven self-causation then you have to involve some supernatural cause. But this is obviously not a case. Life is result of self-organization of material system. In their book "Biological Self-organization" Camazine et al. (2001: 8) define self-organization:
‘‘As a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower level components of the system. Moreover the rules specifying interactions among the system’s components are executed using only local information, without reference to the global pattern. In short pattern is an emergent property of the system rather than being imposed on the system by an external ordering influence... Natural selection molds the complex ends achieved by self-organization,’’
From this definition follows that 1. A process of self-organization doesn't have antecedent cause. 2. Emergent properties of such a system are different from the properties of its components and therefore cannot be explained by means of reductionism. "The system has properties that are emergent, if they are not intrinsically found within any of the parts, and exist only at a higher level of description."
http://www.calresco..../sosfaq.htm#1.2
One cannot describe life in terms of death. Since life is metaphysically irreducible axiomatic phenomenon, the science which can explain life is not biochemistry or genetics but sound philosophy. Objectivism is most suitable for this task. Complexity theory also could help to overcome philosophy of determinism and reductionism in regard to life.
http://www.calvin.ed...plexity2003.pdf
http://informationr....is/colis31.html

PS. I provide links for a purpose. The topic is too big and too important to be covered in details on this thread. Please read the stuff. From your response I understood that you don't.

#22
Leonid

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Pretty much what Dante said about evolution, but I'm also curious about the exact AS quote you are referring to. I think you may be a bit liberal in your paraphrasing.


“The boy shook his head with a glance that was almost apology” I won't make it Mr. Rearden...I know I'm through...Man is only collection of conditional chemicals..."
“You know better than that"
"Yes, I guess I do...its crap, all those things they taught us...Dying...it wouldn't make any difference to chemicals...but it does to me".

"Then his head fell back...and Rearden went on slowly, even though he knew that no caution was necessary any longer because what he was carrying in his arms was now that which had been the boy's teachers' idea of man-a collection of chemicals." (AS, pg 920; 922).

Every Objectivist who attempts to explain life in terms of death should re-read this.

Ant here is another quote: “I know what I want and to know how to want isn’t it life itself?” Ayn Rand, “We, the Living”

Not only man but every living being “knows” how to want. This is the essence of life.

And if we one day will wonder whether some unimaginable material system somewhere in the galaxy far away is alive or not this is the litmus test which will help us to decide.

Edited by Leonid, 07 May 2010 - 11:55 AM.


#23
Jake_Ellison

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Man is only collection of conditional chemicals..."
“You know better than that"

Great. You took out the word man and you replaced it with life. Why life, why not shoes?

Ant here is another quote: “I know what I want and to know how to want isn’t it life itself?” Ayn Rand, “We, the Living”

Yeah, she's still referring to her own life, not to plants.

#24
Leonid

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Great. You took out the word man and you replaced it with life. Why life, why not shoes?

Yeah, she's still referring to her own life, not to plants.


Man is living being and shoes are not. Or maybe you imply that man is not alive? If man doesn't belong to the realm of the living, then to what realm he belongs? Man is rational animal. Rationality doesn't exclude vitality. On the contrary, rationality, human mind represents essential property of every living being-self initiated goal orientated interaction with environment which operates on conceptual level. In "We the Living" Ayn Rand referred to the "life itself", that is-life as metaphysical phenomenon. Please note that your attempt to separate life from mind is acknowledgement of the notion of mind-body dichotomy which completely incompatible with philosophy of Objectivism. "You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake. Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil." (Galt speech)

#25
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  • Real Name:Jake Ellison
You are habitually assigning statements to Rand, that she never made, by changing words to fit whatever nonsense you're trying to prove. I pointed out that this last time you replaced man with life. That's all, I don't care about any of this, beyond that. If you can't quote Rand accurately, you shouldn't mention her at all.

"You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake. Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil." (Galt speech)

Again, that's a statement about people, not life in general. Your claims are about life.

Edited by Jake_Ellison, 08 May 2010 - 02:32 PM.



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