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Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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Everything posted by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

  1. Very well, why don't you post something regarding what you think is objective versus subjective in this thread, because I do think that is one of your mistakes. You do seem to be making some attempt at going by the facts (re: evolution), but you are not starting at the first-level observations you can make. This, in part, is an issue of context. And I'd like to have more of your context regarding objective versus subjective, so please give some good examples. In my example of the doctors and the fly, the family members -- the wife and daughter of the patient -- are rational to come to the conclusion that their family member is dead given what they observed. Just as we can each, individually, be rational regarding what we observe, though have to change our minds once we get more of the context (re-assess the facts as we get to know more). Another good example of this is Atlas Shrugged whereby Dagny wanted to shoot John Galt on sight. In her context, she was being rational; though later, once she got more of the facts regarding John Galt -- especially once she met him in person -- she had to re-evaluate her conclusions (but even that took a while before she joined him fully). So, please give us more context as to what you think is objective versus subjective.
  2. I may reply to you further in private message mode, though I'm hesitant to do so because I, too, have already said what I think needs to be said. Either you are directly aware that you have free will or you are not, and either you are aware that you are replying by your own free will or you need to have someone change your programming. I don't mean to be too flippant here, but if you are a biological machine, then why are you engaging in this debate anyhow -- I mean what are you going to be getting out of it?
  3. I haven't replied to this thread in a while because I've been deciding how to reply. Well, we do observe that different animals have different abilities that they can utilize for their own survival, and the closest evolutionary branch to us is the various species of apes and monkeys, which are definitely very intelligent. One can see the evolutionary links from one species to another leading to greater and greater intelligence, and to a certain level of self-awareness. However, for our particular branch of evolution, the immediate links (the so-called missing links) simply aren't alive today for us to observe. But evolution isn't the key issue here anyhow, because our ability of volition is self-evident. Did you have to know that our fingers came from the fact that the fish have several bones in their fins and that we evolved from these fish before you became aware that you have fingers? I doubt it, because the fact that you have fingers is a self-evident observation. Volition is the same way -- it is something you observe directly about yourself. I can't be directly aware of your consciousness, but I can observe how you reply to my post; and I observe that you are claiming that you are not replying by your own choice. So, what do you want me to do -- write a response in some programming language that will give you volition? Heck, if that works, maybe I should try to program some marvelous woman to fall in love with me -- do you think that will work? Actually, even if it did work, I'd rather be dealing with intelligent volitional beings who would write clearly and non-self-contradictorily; and I want love to be loving me for who I am rather than a programmed response anyhow. In other words, by taking your stance, you are automatically discounting any sort of earned admiration, which has to be earned by choice -- both because you chose to be a certain type of individual and so did the person who has the capacity to admire you. And this goes double for romantic love. By denying volition, you are leaving all the goods things out of your life. Mistakes might be made, but one can choose to correct those mistakes. However, this last requires a lot of understanding -- or a choice to try to have an understanding, which can only be work out via chosen communication. But to do that you would have to admit that you have volition. Self-awareness and the awareness of volition are not subjective, so long as one has one's ideas based on existence. Your position, if you are going to be consistent, would have to be that all of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is subjective, since the only way to verify that book is through self-introspection and comparing how your own mind works to the insights of Ayn Rand. But, you see, that is an objective process because you are comparing an internal process to the facts of existence (what is written in that book). I never said that everything is constant. As a matter of fact, we live in a very dynamic universe. And one of the dynamics is that we can change our minds, depending on the facts and our understanding of them (i.e. context). And actually there is a funny commercial that makes this point. It has two doctors standing over a patient and a fly is buzzing around bothering them. So one of the doctors zaps the fly with the heart shocking paddles. Just as he looks down at the patient with the dead fly on his chest and says, "That killed him!" the wife and daughter of the patient walk into the room thinking that their family member is dead. I think it's done by a mortgage company and their motto is: Don't judge too quickly, we won't. Intellectual and other mistakes can well be made, but only because we have volition. If we didn't have volition, we would simply be acting the way we do because we were some sort of biological machines instead of being human. In fact, you couldn't even say it was a mistake unless you understand that we have volition. At this point, I am willing to say that you made a mistake; that some idea is preventing you from understanding the facts -- the fact of volition being one of them because you are caught in an intellectual loop. Change your mind volitionally to be aware of that which is a first-level observation -- that you replied to me by choice. In other words, I do think that you are being rationalistic. However, this is a mistake that can be corrected.
  4. By the way, those three lines you presented are not a syllogism. To say that apes don't have volition, and that we evolved from apes, does not lead to the conclusion that therefore we have volition. Evolutionarily, volition is really our ability to be a ware of what is going on with our minds about our minds. Apes and other consciously aware animals seems to have a grasp of self-awareness insofar as they can respond to themselves in a mirror, but they don't seem to be aware of what is going on in their minds. That ability to be aware of what one's mind is doing and being able to therefore control its functioning is the next evolutionary step that our ancestors took. I'm not sure when, but maybe as long ago as one million years (when the physical structure of man is almost identical to our own physical structure). In other words, having volition is was an evolutionary advance that gave us an advantage (i.e. reason) that other animals don't have. I think the attempt to reduce volition down to a physical thing inside of us may be a throwback to Aristotle's idea that the essence of something is metaphysical rather than epistemological. Our minds are not a physical thing, but rather is our awareness of existence (via our senses) coupled with the awareness our minds and its functioning (via some internal process). In other words, grasping existence (and further grasping our grasping of existence) is something we do -- it is an action or a change that we are capable of doing (like changing our minds). The physical details of how this functionality works or how it came about evolutionarily is beside the point that our having volition is a metaphysical fact -- it is an aspect of what we are (and we have no choice about that, short of getting seriously wounded). So a philosopher can righteously say: I don't know the details, and I don't have to, because volition is self-evident (and non-subjective); however, since it has become clear that we did evolve, somehow this ability came about, just as somehow life arose and evolved into beings such as ourselves. In other words, one doesn't need omniscience to know something -- and to know something (on the human, conceptual level) requires volitionally adhering to the facts of existence; one of those facts being that we have volition, even though a great many things that exist do not have volition. Our mind is not something that is super-added onto our physical being, and does not come about due to some yet undiscovered particle, since we are made up of the same fundamental stuff that everything else is made from. We have the ability or the power of volition due to the fact that we are what we are.
  5. I'm against the idea of determinism because it does not say that an entity acts according to its nature, but rather says that a thing acts the way it does due to other thing acting upon it. The argument as presented sounds logical, and one can even come up with a syllogism for it, but there is a flaw in the observations that tend to be both over-gneralizations, the fallacy of composition, and an inversion of the knowledge hierarchy. The syllogism would be something like this: matter does not have volition we are composed of matter therefore we do not have volition The over-generalization is that we observe some things comprised of matter that do not have volition and the observation is abstracted too far to include all things composed of matter. The fallacy of composition comes in because one observe that sub-atomic particles do not have volition, and conclude that those things composed of matter cannot have qualities or abilities not found in the constituent parts. The inversion of the hierarchy comes in because the existence of free will is introspectively self-evident, but that matter does not have free will is not directly observable (it's an advanced higher-level conclusion). When we are small children between the ages of one years old to two years old, we begin to realize that we have volition and begin to tell our parents that we don't have to do what they tell us to do. It is after that time that we realize that our toys do not have volition, because our toys cannot choose not to play with us, unlike some of the neighborhood children who can choose not to play with us. In other words, the very idea of determinism is to set itself apart from volition and relies on the concept of volition -- i.e. our toys do not have free will or volition, and therefore are different from ourselves and from the neighborhood children. So, making a statement about determinism without referencing it to volition is dealing with that concept as if it was a stolen concept (Which I think is the whole point of the idea of determinism anyhow, at least how it is generally presented). It is better to have the conception of causality that a thing acts according to its nature -- according to what it is -- rather than saying that everything (including our minds) acts according to how things impact on it. And actually, even when applied to billiard balls the concept that they are predetermined to act according to the eight-ball impacting on it denies the fact that if something else where put in its place -- say an egg -- that one would get a different result because the item is different (i.e the egg would break instead of going into the corner pocket). Saying that we can't have volition because the sub-atomic particles we are comprised of don't have volition is like saying that a bird or an airplane can't fly because sub-atomic particles don't have airfoils! Please check your premises, and you will have to use your volition to do that
  6. I have been attending our local Objectivism socialization meetings recently and I have not seen some of the people there for over twenty years. This gives an interesting time-scale by which to judge intellectual progress. One such interesting encounter was with someone I used to argue insistantly with about volition. Now, Ayn Rand held that free will is introspectively self-evident, and I agree with this. However, it is quite possible for someone to be thrown off-track by intellectual endeavors prior to understanding Objectivism, and this is a case in point. As it turns out, he has no religious background whatsoever, and so questions about the soul (consciousness) were never really an active issue with him -- hence he became somewhat of a materialist (in the sense that he thought that the soul was whatever that thing was that religious people speak about, but he rejected their mysticism). When I would ague with him about free will, he would counter that we are made of matter which is deterministic and therefore we did not have free will or volition. I even went so far as to back him into a corner from time to time and ask him if he chose to accept that position or was it automatic knowledge? What may seem rather strange is that he was a teacher of small children, so I would ask him if he thought they were learning by free will or was it being implanted in them by his actions. Though he would hesitate a bit, he never came out and affirmed volition in either himself, his students, or other people that he knew -- including myself. But, all is not lost. After being at our last meeting for a while, he came over to me excitedly and wanted to explain something to me. He had discovered that he has free will after all! How did this transformation come about? Basically, what was throwing him off was a primitive version of causality that has been handed down to us since the Renaisance -- the idea that causation involves one thing impacting on another, like billiard balls. This is Aristotle's efficient causation, which is about all that remains of his rather complex conception of causality in terms of explicitly accepted philosophy handed down to us after Thomas Aquinas. Or is it? My friend got interested in evolution one day and began to study it in earnest by reading books and watching some of the science shows available on TV. And that is how he discovered free will in man. Most people don't realize this, but Aristotle was very influential in biology (including Charles Darwin), though he doesn't often get the credit for it. And in Aristotle's understanding of biology, a living being has the powers that it has (the powers it needs to live) due to the fact that it is the type of living being that it is. This, too, is an aspect of Aristotle's conception of causation. This is part of how we get the idea that a thing acts according to its nature -- which applies to both animate and inanimate matter. After realizing that a bat has sonar and wings, and can therefore fly and catch bugs in the dark; and other actions unique to a bat; my friend began to realize the more abstract conception of causality -- that a thing acts according to what it is. Nothing hits on the bat (or other living beings) getting it to do those complex actions. No, the living entity is a certain type of entity -- it has identity -- and therefore can do what it does to survive. Well, if that is true of the bat and other animals, isn't it true for man? doesn't man have certain powers brought about by man being what he is qua living entity? what if this identity gives man the power of volition? And so my friend came to understand that volition (an aspect of human consciousness) is there qua man: because man is what he is, he can have volition as an aspect of what he is metaphysically. So, there is room for long-term optimism, even though it may take a few years for the right ideas to become accepted. And this also goes to show how all knowledge can be integrated with all other knowledge -- especially for those who can correct an error by going from evolution to volition in one giant leap, so to speak.
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