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Onar Åm

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Everything posted by Onar Åm

  1. Why on earth would you accept a definition without accepting the basis for that definition? That's called a floating abstraction. This is simply untrue. And when not faced with that alternative? That's true, but only goes to show that biological values have been encoded into our psyche. That's true, but why would an immortal robot need to have the ability to feel pain? That's like saying that you think it is pointless to look in nature for principles as the foundation of physics, but you think knowledge about physical systems can offer interesting insights into why physical systems behave in certain ways. self-realization presupposes physical survival, but is more than that. It is survival in accordance with your nature. Survival of man qua man, Ayn Rand would say.
  2. Oh yeah, absolutely. It just so happens that evolution has encoded self-interest in a *circular* manner such that *your* self-interest coincides with that of *your children*. In particular, you are born with a need for self-realization through having children (or the equivalent). Therefore there's a good chance you won't be happy if you do not attend to this aspect of your nature. I'd like to put it this way: reproductivity is a subset of the virtue of productivity. As Ayn Rand pointed out sloth is not a path to happiness. You have to produce to be happy. Now, one of the things you need to produce in order to lead a full, happy life is another life. Reproduction is an important path to self-realization. I do no such thing. First of all, your child is not "the species." Second, "foundation of ethics" implies that reproduction goes *above* the needs of the individual. I say no such thing. The life of an individual is not a mere means for the genes to reproduce. However, if there was no reproduction there would be no individual. Therefore reproduction is every bit as much a part of you as any other aspect of your nature. Why does Roark want to build skyskrapers? Self-realization. Due to an entrenched 4 billion year long habit reproduction is a major avenue for self-realization.
  3. Take a step back and consider this: you are the last link in a 4 billion year long unbroken chain of survivers. You exist today because every single one of them successfully lived out their individual lives and reproduced. Are you saying that now that you have discovered rational self-interest, it may be time to break that chain and end four billion years of biological existence!? I'm sorry, but if that's the case then you simply have the wrong concept of survival. One way of looking at it is this: due to this 4 billion year long chain of continuous biological existence you have been fortunate enough to gain a limited time here on Earth, 80 or so years if you're an average guy. 20 of those years you need to invest in downpayment on that life you were given, namely making sure that the chain continues, preferably in a better state. Also notice that since you are a rational, intelligent being with free will, you are equipped with an enormous power to improve that chain of life dramatically. What a shame that just now, after 4 billion years of emancipation from the collective survival strategy of reproduction you decide to end it all by not reproducing. That's not rational, that's wreckless.
  4. Hold it right there. You admit that life is a precondition for value. Only living beings can have values. WHY? What is it that enables life and nothing else to have values?
  5. I was not talking about the species, but the individual organism and the lineage to which it belongs. Reproduction most definitely served the interest of the individual when its parents created it. Reproduction is thus part of the individual's nature. To defy it is to defy our nature. Now, this doesn't mean that everyone *has* to reproduce themselves in order to be moral, but everyone should try to pass on their genes to future generations to ensure some continued existence. This can be done indirectly through nieses and nephews etc. No, it's not pure altruism. One is not releasing scarce resources to the moon or to volcanoes, but to an individual that is very, very closely related to you. You are doomed to die because you are mortal, yet some part of you can live on through your offsprings. I agree that it is part of your self-interest to reproduce, if you include your offsprings in your notion of self-interest. If you only look at each individual separately then there will be some conflict between reproduction and the individual.
  6. Correct. That's a false dichotomy. In order to reproduce, one also needs to exist and prosper as an individual. But in any case, reproduction amounts to a very small percentage of the time an individual exists. To trumpet this short period of the whole chain of existence as the "more ultimate end" is to blatantly ignore the rest of biological existence. The correct view is of course that ALL parts of the chain are equally important. Survival does not merely consist of reproduction. In fact, each and every one is part of a billions of years long unbroken chain of successful individual lives. Each of them must have lived at least long enough to reproduce and secure the well-being of their offsprings. That's a whole lot of existence! Reproduction is not more fundamental. Reproduction can be viewed as a necessary evil that comes straight out of our mortality. The very fact that we are mortal means that reproduction is the ONLY means of long term survival. For if we didn't reproduce we would at some point ensure our own extinction. Looking at the lifespans of bacteria, extinction would have been imminent 4 billion years ago without reproduction. If it hadn't been for reproduction, we wouldn't exist as individuals. But reproduction also lead to the fantastic ability of evolutionary learning. By the process of natural selection new individuals that are better at individual survival could be shaped. And look how far that has gotten us. From primordial goo to rational animals with a healthy lifespan of over 70 years. If reproduction was the ultimate goal we'd all still be primordial goo reproducing at an insane rate. Notice that no animals sacrifice their own lives for arbitrary causes. They don't sacrifice themselves so that volcanoes or distant species relatives may live. No they do it for their nearest genetic relative, usually their offspring. Obviously that's no coincidence, or what? WHY do they do this? Because they are repeating the instinctive actions of their ancestors which lead to their own successful existence. Again this goes to show that *total survival* is the ultimate end of life, not individual survival alone, not reproduction alone. No it does not. Does it explain why chimps relax in the shade, enjoying life, socially picking flees off each other? Does it explain why humans build skyscrapers? Nope. Viewing life only in terms of reproduction gives an incredibly impoverished view of life. Sure, reproduction is a necessary evil to ensure the continued existence of someone very similar to yourself, but life is more than reproduction, something we humans are vivid examples of. And I think he managed to demonstrate this very well. If an organism is allowed to live 10 successful years because it is born with a suicide gene, then sure it is to its survival advantage in the 10 first years of its life. So because life didn't ask to evolve on Earth it is meaningless? C'mon! Most organisms can't "ask" anything, they're pretty unconscious about their own existence. This does not change the fact that they exist as mortal beings, and no matter how they came into existence, this mortality gives their existence value. You said it yourself: no life, no value. (that's what "value presupposes life" means) Hence existence/non-existence IS the fundamental alternative in the value significant sense. I hope I've shown that this is false. Reproduction is a necessary evil that derives directly from our mortality, but I see evolution as evidence that the individual is striving to gain more and more existence in the form of longer and more individually oriented lifespans. Some life forms such as trees, turtles, elephants and humans have achieved individual lifespans that corresponds to millions of generations of bacteria. Obviously there's a lot more to life than mere reproduction.
  7. Actually, that is not as obviously true as it sounds. There is significant evidence that with rather simple genetic modifications many species can live dramatically longer. Aging it seems is not simply a passive accumulation of errors, mutations and "rust", the organism actually actively turns its self-maintenance off. Organisms commit organizational suicide, and live much shorter than they otherwise would. Why is this? Because death has survival value. Not for the individual that dies of course, but for the next generation. The next generation benefits from the previous generation dying off, thereby releasing scarce resources. This is a wonderful example of how the survival of the individual needs to be balanced to maximise the long term survival of the lineage. Even though an individual obviously has to take care of itself, it will be a dead end if it does not also takes step to reproduce. Reproduction is every bit as much part of human nature as individuality. A philosophy of individualism that does not also take into account genetic survival is incomplete. From a survival point of view, not reproducing is irrational.
  8. This is absolutely correct. Value is a fundamentally biological concept. However, Friedman does make valid arguments against rand. Even though value is a biological concept it is a far stretch from there to "life as man qua man." I'm not saying it is wrong, just that Rand makes such large leaps that it is easy for the likes of Friedman to jump in and point out the gap.
  9. Harry Binswanger has a good reply to this in The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts. (an excellent book, btw. Highly recommended to people interested in biology.) In condensed form his argument is that animals owe their existence due to the actions of our parents, and since they are their genetic copies they will behave similar to them. Thus, if an offspring exist because its mother ate its father, then that offspring is going to repeat that pattern in order to ensure the existence of its own offsprings. Thus, this kind of "altruistic" behavior can be considered evolutionary payback for the service that provided its existence. Of course, there are serious issues with this line of reasoning, but we need not delve into them right here. Suffice it to say that "survival" must be interpreted to mean TOTAL survival, which can be defined as total survival=individual survival+genetic survival. Individual survival is the "individualistic" component of survival, whereas genetic survival is the "altruistic" component. I use quotation marks because these are not philosophies, but rather behaviors. I have no better term for them at the moment. "Individualistic" can be defined as "an organism acting in the interest of its own physical self" whereas "altruistic" can be defined as "an organism acting in the interest of one or several other individuals than itself to the detriment of its own physical self." In my view Rands philosophy needs to be revised to accommodate the notion of total survival.
  10. The facts of the matter are: 1. in one moment you have two arms and two legs 2. some time later you have only one arm and one leg Regardless of the cause of your loss of an arm or a leg you are objectively worse off in 2 than in 1. You may argue that you this is a floating abstraction because 2 is real whereas 1 is now only a faint memory with no reality. Nevertheless, I don't think the past is just a floating abstraction. It is real in the sense that it creates an objective context. For instance, if A murders B and then sometimes later A is convicted for the murder, is it legitimate to say that what is that the past is the past and convicting A of murder is therefore a violation of his rights? I absolutely don't think so. The past creates objective context for the present. This of course is not just true for the judgments of actions, but of any incident. I therefore think it is valid to say that one has objectivelt lost value when one loses an arm and a leg. Of course, one has also *gained* value by the trade that prevented one from losing two legs and two arms. Well, understanding reality is really, really hard work, and even the most brilliant minds often fail to do so properly. You yourself gave Ayn Rand as an example of someone who only by the sheer force of her intellect in combination with her moral convictions managed to create what brilliant minds prior to her failed for two millennia. I'd say there is room for honest mistake in there. But how do you *know* that it's wrong to refuse to think when no-one in society tells you otherwise? You can always discover it on their own, but as you say, not many people do. What if you switch off your mind before you have experienced that this is a bad thing to do? But how do you come to the conclusion that you should question authorities if no-one tells you that this is a good thing. In fact, what if you are told explicitly by the people who care about you NOT to question authority?
  11. Yes, completely agreed. Now apply the same logic to "objectivity" rather than "optimal."
  12. I am not disputing this. In fact, I stated it explicitly. However, while it is obvious that being able to keep an arm and a leg is a value gained, it is also equally obvious that losing the other arm and leg is a loss of value. So you have one loss of value (2 arms and 2 legs) simultaneously with one gain of value (1 arm and 1 leg) adding up to a net loss (1 arm and 1 leg). You face the same problem of level of objectivity in defining optimal health. On the one hand we are faced with the fact that we are mortal and that we age. This is natural, it is in our nature. Using our biology as a standard then we can make the claim that a 70 year old is in good health, even though he clearly is much less healthy than a 25 year old. So then if you use *peak health* as the standard you have optimum health around 20-25 years and then gradually decline in health. You may argue that this kind of optimal health is not real, aging is real, not an unrealistic peak health. But how then do you compare the health of a 25 year old with a 70 year old? Would you say that both are in good health even though the 70-year old is clearly in a much worse physical state? For the sake of the argument you can assume it is free. Really? No socialist can exist without being non-objective? As I understand it, objective does not require omniscience. But in any case, my point was not to argue that socialists can be honest, only to juxtapose the notion of someone doing objective evil due to honest mistakes. How is this resolved? I still haven't got a good answer. But objectivity is not an innate idea. We are not born with it, we learn it or invent it. How is a person supposed to know that he should be objective? Intuition?
  13. One problem that keeps recurring to me is a seeming clash between various levels of objectivity. Suppose you have an advocate of socialism that has made honest mistakes. Given the facts available to him in combination with his own limited ability to reason he has drawn wrong conclusions. Such honest mistakes are compatible with objectivity. But if we were to evaluate this man we have to conclude that he is still advocating an evil doctrine because of its material consequences -- they lead to evil in the long run. So this is a case of a person who by objective means reaches a conclusion which objectively is evil. Another example is the notion of gaining value. Suppose that a man is about to lose both arms and both legs for some reason. Then a businessman makes an offer to him which allows him to merely lose an arm and a leg. Objectively he has certainly *gained* from the trade since he is now better off than he otherwise would be. However, at the same time it is fairly obvious that losing an arm and a leg is not a value. Objectively, using optimal health as the standard, he has lost value. I certainly don't see any contradiction in these various levels of objectivity, but at the same time I have not seen any systematic attempts to address this. How do we systematically deal with objectivity on different levels?
  14. Yes, this is organized induction, which typically occurs when information has been structued by humans -- post induction. But this is not the only way that induction may proceed. One may acquire information in an unorganized fashion and then only later discover that they are actually related and integrate them appropriately. Notice that I am not saying that "out of order" induction means that hierarchy is violated only that the hierarchy is constructed out of order, i.e. where you may learn floating abstractions first only later to ground them properly in lower level concepts on which they depend. Or opposite: you may acquire information which remains disintegrated for a long time until you discover their relationship and integrate them. I am arguing that learning in a particular sequence may be far more efficient and less cognitively demanding than other paths, but that it is still possible to acquire properly integrated concepts by non-optimal means. In a sense, tutoring is also a kind of "bootstrapping" where the child is exempted from being exposed to tons and tons of real data. Induction in the form of discovery is really, really hard work, and sometimes even the greatest minds are not enough to crack the problem. By organizing data, giving names and presenting them in a particular order, explaining relationships discovered and induced by others, one is in a sense "cheating." The child does not discover the relationship on her own, but is actually being given an instruction, call it a temporary floating abstraction if you like. The child then has to interact with this abstraction, this symbol she is being taught, and ground in concepts she already knows. In this sense, even hierarchical instruction is not fundamentally different from out of order instruction, but much more efficient. Agreed, but suppose that you have one concept B which builds on A. Then a teacher first, for some reason teaches the child B. Obviously it now is a floating abstraction, but its mechanics can still be learnt. Now the teacher may teach A afterwards and then the concept will be properly integrated, even if the order of learning was reversed. I am not saying this is a good thing, although in some instances it may be. I for one often like to get an "overview" of the knowledge I am about to learn. So rather than delve into the details first and then organically and gradually realize why on earth I am learning all these details I often start with quickly running through the curriculum seeing what's ahead and also seeing where we are headed. Even though I may not know sufficient details to *use* the tools properly I know their functions and what they are for. This then organizes my learning. This corresponds to looking at a map of where you are going ahead of time rather than discovering the road as you go. The map is obviously a floating abstraction to you if you've never been in a place before. Nevertheless, the map is still a useful tool for you to orient. Once you do get to the place on the map, you integrate the perceptual data with the map abstraction. Obviously, because the task is way, way too cognitively demanding in this case. The more unorganized a field is, the more cognitively demanding it becomes. That's why even the brilliant Aristotle made several important errors in his metaphysics. I am not sure I agree with this. It may be true, but I don't quite see why. If you have B build on A, then why does it matter (for the purpose of integration) that you learn A then B as opposed to you learn B then A? Granted one is likely more efficient than the other, but in both cases you have learnt both A and B. The difference is that by first learning B you *inform* your learning of A. I.e. you know why you are learning A and focus your mind accordingly. This is not always a bad thing.
  15. By the method championed by my many objectivists such as Lisa VanDamme. You learn science in the order it was chronologically discovered. Or the phonic method where a word is built on top of letters, learning to count before learning vectors etc. I hold that this usually is a very *efficient* means of learning, but not the *only* one that leads to proper integration. I think is is about right. I'm not too familiar with whole language either so I don't know how much hints they give of the underlying structure. As a didactic method I think the whole language approach is reprehensible. If the child is to learn through instruction, rather than exploration then why on Earth teach using anything but the optimal method!? My point is that in the real world (i.e. not in the artificial learning environment of a school) this is precisely how you learn many new things. You cannot properly integrate all the new information at once because you don't know yet how to classify the new information and how it relates to other information. This is what I refer to as discovery or exploration. Let me give you an example out of order induction: learning new roads by the driving method. Suppose you drive around in a city in an unknown part of town. Since it is unfamiliar to you there is no way that you can integrate this new experience into your existing network of knowledge. Then you may suddenly find yourself entering a familiar road and you go: "oh, *that's* where that road leads to." Then you are able to integrate floating new data with existing knowledge. In an unstructured environment where you cannot follow a textbook or for some other reason cannot learn in a highly efficient order you need to rely on your ability to induce out of order. Absolutely. With vectors you can a very good visual understanding of e.g. the commutative law. With vectors you can perceptually inspect that A+B=B+A. Likewise with the associative rule. Also with vectors you can get a perceptual grounding of negative numbers. -A is simply A with a reversed direction. This also gives the opportunity of learning the sign rules (++=+,+-=-+=-,--=+) in terms of rotation. "+" means zero revolution. "-" means half a revolution. Anyone you learns this will never ever again forget that --=+ because that's just completing a full revolution. Using vectors one can perceptually acquire a sense of proportion without learning to count, and thereby get a perceptual grounding of the basic rules of arithmetic. Even if they have not yet learnt about units they can still learn a lot of properties. Obviously you can *start* with units, but it is actually simpler to start with vectors of arbitrary lengths to teach associativity, commutativity, adding, subtracting and negative numbers before learning any units. Out of order induction is precisely unorganized learning, and because of this it is far, far less efficient than learning in an organized manner where someone has already gone through the painful process of discovery and concept formation, organizing them and then teaching them in a particular, structured way. But even though it is far less efficient doesn't mean that learning by this method is impossible. Indeed, any new scientific discovery is essentially unorganized leraning. For a human being learning in real life is not simply going to school learning things in a preordained order. There are often strong elements of random in acquiring new knowledge. In other words, out of order induction is not only possible but sometimes necessary.
  16. Hi, I am interested in the notion of epistemological hierarchy and proper learning. A major point in objectivist epistomology is that an unbroken hierarchy is needed to avoid floating abstractions. This is a brilliant insight and a cornerstone of rationality. However, does this imply that knowledge must also therefore be learnt hierarchically? This seems to be a dominant view among objectivists today. The view seems to be that you need to learn e.g. history chronologically and you need to learn simpler concepts before you can proceed with more advanced concepts to avoid floating abstractions. I disagree. I believe it is perfectly possible to properly acquire and integrate new knowledge even though it is not learnt in proper sequence and learnt hierarchically. Not only is this possible but is the normal mode of *discovery*. In other words, this is how we form completely *new* and unknown concepts by the process of induction. My argument is that it is more mentally challenging to learn out of order and out of hierarchy, but certainly possible. The only requirement for proper integration is that all the learnt concepts *eventually* are properly placed in a hierarchy. Let me give an example of how learning by induction (out of order) is harder than learning through tutoring hierarchically, namely the whole word method versus the phonic method. The phonic method (which I am a strong advocate of) starts with the names and sounds of letters and from these compose word chunks and words. That's the hierarchical method. As opposed to this is the whole language approach which starts with the words and leaves it to each child to *induce* the rules of spelling to the child. This can certainly be done, but is far more mentally challenging than the hierarchical method. In fact, we can think of it as an IQ-test with a higher IQ threshold of achievement. This means that the children with an IQ significantly above the threshold will be able to learn the rules of spelling (through induction) equally well as the children that learn them hierarchically through instruction. However, all children that are near or below the threshold will struggle and generally perform much poorer using the whole language method than the phonic method. In the end the smart kinds will learn the rules of spelling equally well through whole language as the ones that learn through the phonic method: the end result is the same. However, for the kids that are not sufficiently smart they will not be able to induce the rules of spelling from examples and therefore their learning will be significantly impaired. Because of this I am an staunch advocate of the phonic method, particularly for weaker kids. Now, this in my view is a special case of learning out of order versus learning hierarchically, and the result also holds for other areas. It IS perfectly possible to learn a topic higher up in the conceptual hierarchy *before* one learns one further down, but in order for them to not end up as floating abstractions they must later be connected with their more fundamental concepts. Let me give you an intriguing example of such higher level learning. It is for instance perfectly possible to learn a significant amount of vector mathematics before learning numbers and counting. The vectors can be visually represented using arrows, which then ground them perceptually directly, thereby bypassing the need for learning numbers. A child can visually inspect the length and direction of a vector by looking at the arrow. Also vector arithmetics can be learnt intuitively this way. Vector adding and subtraction is simple without having to learn numbers. Later vector arithmetics can be informed by numbers in order to *numerically* understand the concept of length. Now, I hold that the natural state of acquiring new knowledge is through the process of out of order induction. What this entails in real life is that people live their lives making out of order observations, and then through memory connects these observations to form an ordered whole. In fact, I would argue that the primary evolutionary function of consciousness is to enable to the organism to process new and unknown information and integrate them. I would also argue that language has allowed us to greatly speed up this process of learning by tutoring, i.e. bootstrapping. This bootstrapping process is most efficient when done hierarchically. Essentially this lowers the IQ-threshold of the problem greatly and allows learning many orders of magnitudes faster than by the process of induction. This is evidenced by the fact that an advanced philosophical or mathematical theory may have taken centuries to develop and strained the most brilliant minds to the brink of their capacities, whereas the people who follow can easily learn the concepts in a very short time through instruction and tutoring.
  17. Having listened through half the DIM-course I think I am inclined to agree that there are four, not three options, and they are correctly related to the logical exhaustion of combinations. But rather than the positive, negative, contra-positive and contra-negative I think it is more illuminating to think of this as the combinatorics of TWO independent variables, A and B. There are four ways of combining them: A and B A and not B not A and B not-A and not-B Let A and B correspond to Disintegration (D) and Misintegration (M) respectively. These are the two fundamental flaws of integration you can make. Then you have the following scheme: not misintegration and not disintegration = Integration misintegration and not disintegration = Misintegration not misintegration and disintegration = Disintegration This is Peikoffs trichotomy. The one combination that is missing is the synthesis of M and D: misintegration and disintegration = !? What on Earth kind of perverse philosophy combines both misintegration and disintegration? In my view, Peikoff fails to consider this possibility and therefore misclassifies certain philosophies. Before I spill the beans let me explain how such a monster can arise. What motivates an M? Why would anyone say that there is some need for mystical integration? Well, I think Peikoff correctly identifies this by saying that it is a reaction to the chaos of the world: the senses can't be trusted, we can't know the world, there is no reality, everything is chaos, so we need supernatural guidance, floating abstractions ==> M. Similarly D is a reaction to misintegration: look at all the fantasizing, people living in their heads, a panoply of contradictory religions etc. You can't trust the mind, all we can trust is what we see with our eyes, concrete facts. Now, Peikoff sees both of these, but fails to see that it possible to integrate BOTH in one and the same philosophy. What is the primary example of D and M in philosophy? Why, Kant of course! First Kant makes an assault on all our faculties as the means of knowing the world: we can't trust our senses and we can't trust our mind. Then he creates floating abstractions to save a sense of sanity, divine intervention so to speak, appealing to faith. In other words, first Kant disintegrates the world by severing the link to the external world. THEN he reintroduces order in the world using floating abstractions (M). Therefore I think Kant should be categorized as DM. Another example of DM is from physics, namely TOE (Theory of everything) in response to QM (quantum mechanics.) Quantum mechanics shatters all causality and all identity, and this essentially shatters the possibility of any objective integrations of facts, and all that is left is the possibility of misintegration. So extreme D in QM leads to extreme M in TOE. Similarly, extreme D in Hume leads to extreme M in Kant.
  18. Absolutely, I didn't bring this point into the discussion, however, because it is still true that neurogenesis is rather exceptional. The turnover rate for the brain is still very low. It is, however, very intriguing to notice that the role of persistence is not limited to humans. We see it also in e.g. ant colonies. Just like the brain cells in humans, the "brain" of the ant colony, namely the queen, persists over time. A queen can live for 30 years, sterile workers live 1-2 years whereas males live only a few weeks. Thus we see a kind of hierarchy of persistence according to their role of control. The queen is the control center of the ant colony and therefore persists longest, whereas male ants are like sperm, they are a mere tool of reproduction and can have a very short life span. This dual role of consciousness as both persistence and control center is interesting with relation to individualism. It shows that natural selection is not always a benign process. Individuals -- like male ants -- can be exploited and essentially used as slaves of other, more persistent beings. Had our cells been rational individuals it would have been appropriate to call our brain a slave owner. That's of course not the case, but reveals the general tendency of individualism in nature: towards persistence and ever greater self-control.
  19. Actually you filled in a couple of assumptions here that I did not make, but which biases your answer: 1) with complete knowledge of the BRAIN you have complete knowledge of the MIND. 2) the behavior of the mind is 100% predictable, i.e. can be built from 100% deterministic components. Now, if this is really true then you are stumblingly close to saying that consciousness is an epiphenomenon. In other words, if a computer can accurately replicate the behavior of the brain *without consciousness* then clearly consciousness is not a necessary ingredient of the mind. Now, if this is truly what Ayn Rand meant then basically she has reinvented determinism with different words, and I don't think that is the case. Here is my view on the matter: consciousness is not an epiphenomenon. It is a real causative factor, and without it you cannot have a mind. My primary evidence for this view is the very fact that we ARE conscious. So much of our body and even of our cognition is functioning completely automatically that it shows that advanced behavior is possible without consciousness. In evolution there is a principle that unnecessary functionality is weeded out by natural selection, so for instance bugs that have lived in complete darkness in a cave for millions of years may lose their pigments and even their sight. Since we are conscious this is evidence that consciousness is a necessary causative component in the organism. What then is consciousness? I have no idea, but it is clearly an aspect of physical reality. Consciousness must be embodied, there are no minds floating around in space. But I think we can do better than that. I think there are subtle clues in our physiology that allows us to catch a glimpse at what is required to build consciousness physically. The two most important ones are these: 1. nerve cells are the most energy consuming in our body. Their metabolism runs much higher than any other cell type in the body. This gives us a clue that consciousness has something to do wtih energy. This becomes even more clear when you realize that your state of mind is also correlated with energy. A depressed, comatized or sleeping mind has lower energy consumption than an focused, alert and awake mind. Consciousness requires energy dissipation. 2. furthermore, replication is a fact of life. We are all born and die, hopefully after we have produced offsprings. And all cells in our body replicate. All cells except nerve cells. Not only are nerve cells the most energetic ones, they also don't renew themselves. That's odd. One should think that the most active cells in our body would be the ones in most desperate need of being replaced, but the opposite is true. We are born with a set of brain cells and these very same cells remain the engine of our consciousness throughout our life. To me that's a pretty strong clue. Consciousness requires physical persistence over time. The implication is that you cannot easily interchange cells in our brain and expect to have the same consciousness! 3. finally, the structure of our nervous system gives us a clue. We cannot feel those parts of the body that are not connected with the brain. If we sever a nerve we lose sensation in that area. That's odd, because the limb is still physically connected to our body. All sorts of chemicals are floating to and from this area. Consciousness is intimately connected with our nerve cells, and I mean that literally. Consciousness requires physical connectivity. All physical components that contribute to our consciousness ar physically connected to each other. In short. Consciousness seems to require: - energy dissipation - physical persistence in time - physical connectivity (persistence in space) If this is the case then I am not at all sure that a computer simulation can easily produce consciousness. If the above is true the actual physical configuration and persistence of the machine becomes of vital importance. My impression is that in order to be conscious the way we are our nervous system needs to be *exactly* the way it is physically.
  20. Well, from the replies in this thread I can conclude that I still did not get a straight answer, which is fine, but affirming my view that Objectivism does not have a theoretical framework for this question.
  21. Hi all, I've battled somewhat with an issue of consciousness and free will, and find that Objectivism does not confront the issue head on. Therefore I want to formulate a proposition that should be possible to give a simple yes/no answer to. The problem is as follows: we have free will, but we also have an identity, we behave predictable. We have a consciousness, but we are also made of matter. What is the relationship between these? Getting a straight answer from Objectivism seems to be very hard, so I'll formulate two specific questions: (1) with a sufficiently powerful deterministic computer and sufficient detail knowledge of the brain, can we accurately simulate the behavior of a human? (2) can a sufficiently good computer simulation of the brain be conscious? And if so, does it posess free will even if it is fully built from deterministic components?
  22. I agree that there is a package deal here, drive + behavior. But we have a perfectly good name for drives that is distinct from instict and that is, well, drive. Why then not let drives be defined as "powerful cognitive motivators" and instinct defined as "innate automatic pattern of behavior"? What clearly distinguishes animals from humans is the element of free will. When a drive presents itself in the consciousness of an animal, it is not equipped with the inner will to resist that drive. In other words, the animal _automatically_ satisfies its stongest drive, which leads to automatic behavior. Humans on the other hand is free to choose to resist a drive, which leads to non-automatic and hence non-instinctive behavior.
  23. No, a rule does not always have to be true, and there is certainly such a thing as a false principle (e.g. altruism). But apart from that, your assessment is correct. A principle distinguishes itself from a rule in that it implies knowledge of how the statement is applied. This results in two distinct situations where rules and principles differ. 1) the rule fails, where the additional knowledge of the principle allows one to make the correct action. Example: "you should always be truthful" is a rule, whereas the corresponding principle of integrity allows you to understand that integrity means to preserve your identity, i.e. your life, which in some cases demands that you lie. E.g. you do not volunteer information to a thief of the whereabouts of your valuables. 2) the rule simply does not give sufficient information on the course of action in a given situation because it is too concrete, where the principle allows you to deduce from the situation the proper course of action. Example: "you should not drink and drive" is a rule. But what about if you have the flu? Or if you are using drugs or medications? The rule does not address these situations, although the rule is informed by an underlying principle that informs all of these situations: driving is a mentally demanding task and requires full awareness in order to avoid the possibility of dangerous accidents. In other words, the rule is just a procedure, a command, a norm to be followed, whereas the principle is also an explanation from which rules can be formulated.
  24. If this were the case then there would be no essential difference between a rule and a principle. Why then have two words ("rule" and "principle") if they are the same? My reasoning is as follows. Rules and principles are similar in some respect, but whereas rules are more concrete principles are more general and abstract. Furthermore, both rules and principles pertain to actions in the broadest sense of the word, i.e. what things can or cannot do. In the human domain, principles are usually normative (such as the principle of justice). The principle of non-contradiction is not normative, but is still a formulation about what things can and cannot do. (two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time) A rule is usually a simple command like statement. Examples of rules: "a sentence must be preceded by a punctuation," "thou shalt not steal," "Bishops can only move diagonally", "Allah commands you to pray towards Mecca five times a day." All of these are commands, recipees or procedures of some sort, and all pertain to a concrete domain. In all cases the rules are statements that apply to all members of some defined domain. The rule for bishop movement in chess applies for ALL bishops in ALL games. Yet, I would call all of these rules, not principles. A principle has to have something more to it than being a simple rule. What then is the essential difference between a rule and a principle? As far as I can tell a rule can be observed without explanation of "why," whereas a principle is explanatory. So for instance, the principle of non-contradiction is not merely the statement "things cannot be and not be in the same place at the same time." If this were the case it would merely be a rule. What makes it a principle is that the rule is explained with its relationship to reality: things are what they are, they have identity, and identity excludes the possibility of a contradiction.
  25. But any definition of a concept is a proposition. "Man is the rational animal." In general declarative propositions of this sort are not principles. (A is B ) Thus, something else is required to distinguish principles from concepts in general. Also, not all propositons are concepts. ("Blue makes me feel happy") As far as I can tell a principle is a complex concept, i.e. one that cannot easily be reduced to a declaration.
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