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Everything posted by nimble

  1. I have been reading Daniel Dennett's "Consciousness Explained." This has sparked in interest in me to pursue integrating what I think I have learned from this book, into what I previously held with Objectivism. In this book, Dennett is taking a materialist perspective on the mind, and trying to clear up the flaws in materialism to make it a better explanation of what goes on in our heads. The most recent part of the book that I've read is discussing why introspection has failed explaning consciousness in the past. He believes that it is because humans have little capacity to actually explain their inner brain functions via introspections. He uses the example, that most of philosophy has tried to explain consciousness via introspection, yet it has failed on every occassion (Hume, Locke, Descartes, etc). He posits that none of these philosophers were intentionally trying to give false accounts of what they learned through introspection. In fact, they thought that what they were writing was true to any reader, since they could just reproduce the same mental states that the author had done to reach the conclusions that they did. He claims that most introspection is just theorizing, rather than actual inner experience. My question is, does this hold any truth? He gives the experiment of 5 statements, 4 of which are true, one is false. These are all questions that we should be able to answer if we know anything about how are minds function. 1. You can experience a patch that is red and green all over at the same time--a patch that is both colors (not mixed) at once. ***Note this states "experience," not that there is a patch all green and red. 2. If you look at a yellow circle on a blue background, and the luminance or brightness of the yellow and blue are then adjusted to be equal, the boundary between the yellow and blue will disappear. 3. There is a sound, sometimes called the auditory barber pole, which seems to keep on rising in pitch forever, yet it never actually does. 4. There is an herb that if overdosed on it, you become incapable of understanding your native language, even though it leaves your hearing unimpaired. So you hear the sounds just find, and you recognize that it is your native language, just you don't understand it. 5. If you are blindfolded, and a vibrator is applied to a point on your arm while you touch your nose, you will feel like your nose is growing like Pinocchio's. After the first reply I'll tell which one is false.
  2. I actually have a question on argument form, that I have been mulling over in the old noggin'. I am familiar with the Objectivist argument for free-will. That its proof is readily available to anyone who is familiar with their own consciouness and that they make choices. Also there is usually a reference to the fact that you have to claim to be able to change your mind in order to claim that you are a determinist, so there is sort of a stolen concept fallacy committed. Now, couldn't the same thing be said about consciousness, and imagination. I know that I imagine things, and that what I experience in my head is so much like a perception that I can describe what I experience in term of colors, shapes, etc...all properties of outside objects, that aren't in my head. Those properties definitely don't belong to neurons in the sense that I experience them. And no one can prove otherwise that I don't experience this because, they aren't the ones experiencing it. Also, I have one other question. I have said before that I don't see any sufficient reason to believe either free-willers or determinists, and that it makes no difference in your actions no matter what side you take. However, since everyone here seems to be pro-free-will, then what physical part of the brain is it that is the self-motivating part? This seems like a flaw because it would seem to have to be something like a homnoculus (sorry if I spelled that wrong) that would be the operator of a brain. I am not trying to resort to dualism, because that has obvious flaws, but I am just asking questions about where I find trouble accepting materialism, when it has so few answers to important questions. I think I am much like Rand and how she didn't accept evolutionary theory, because it was so unrefined, and lacked a lot of answers.
  3. Wait so you are saying that when I imagine a cow, I don't at least get some vague image of a cow in my mind, instead I really just sense electricity in my brain? Even better, let's not use an image, think of a word, like 'shirt.' There may be an electronic imprint of the way the word sounds in your head, much like a CD, but when you think of that word, (or play the CD), what perceives it being said in your mind? What I am asking I guess is let's say the brain stores all/most of your perceptions in electronic form in the brain, what is it that retrieves those electronic peices of data and plays them in your mind?
  4. I do want more than just 'we don't know.' To David O, I find ITOE to explain epistemology quite well, but it lacks metaphysical analysis of what it is that we are perceiving, and more specifically, how we are perceiving it. It might be true that humans don't know yet, but I don't find it to be silliness to try to find out. You can stick to preaching to the choir about politics, since we are all capitalists/rights-oriented here, but I'd like to actually venture out and try to spark insightful conversation, and hopefully learn something new in the process, even if it is only what others think on the subject. Maybe even is someone points me in the direction of a good science book.
  5. More simply stated, my question is what takes the objective things we can study, electricity, neurons, etc. and makes it into the subjective experience we are all familiar with, like imagining a cow. I know subjective is a touchy word to use around here, but I mean it only with respect to saying we can't study it with microscopes. The cow you imagine is your cow and no one else sees it.
  6. No, because I don't think the sciences can do that. Imagine any thing, a cow, etc. In your mind, you see a cow. If a scientist tried to "objectively" study that, he would see electricity moving info in your brain. But that certainly isn't observing the cow that you obviously saw in your mind.
  7. I am kind of disappointed to see that I couldn't find any Objectivist thoughts on how consciousness works. In fact, metaphysics is kind of just left out of Objectivism; like writings go so far as to claim independent reality and that it exists, but not much elaboration by Rand. I was wondering if any Objectivists would like to undertake a philosophical exercise with me to maybe solve some of my questions. I want to be a materialist, simply because dualism has huge flaws, but I see materialism is far from comprehensive in describing even the most basic of perceptions/experiences. I understand that they usually say neurons fire and it causes experiences, but what exactly is that thing which interprets those neurons and turns them into the experiences we are familiar with? Basically, I would like to get a firmer grip on my understanding of consciousness and its intricacies, or even its general nature. Like if someone could answer the question above and say that it is this X gland in the brain that projects a little picture in your head when you imagine things, and you see them with the inside of your eyes, and this gland is located here... Of course, I am just being playful but if you understand what I mean, please help if you can.
  8. The power to write laws and make decisions that affect other people. Let's say its merely the power to determine where the police stations go. The person in power, might put the station right next to their house, for protection. Now as a citizen, he didn't violate any of my rights, but I may feel a bit cheated that he did that with my donated money. I'm not disagreeing with this. I am merely saying that for the reasons stated above, that's why they reject natural law, and have a thing called Objective Law.
  9. I agree with your top statement. That makes sense. However, Objectivism does not make any claims to a natural law. I know this for a fact because I have personally spoken via email with Harry Binswanger. Objectivists reject natural law because natural law implies that there is an moral ought outside of any context. If you have ever noticed most natural lawists either refer to God as the source of the law, or use some Platonic sense of the word law. Basically, that's how you might notice that many libertarians skew Rand's politics (I know this because I was one). I thought she endorsed natural law. In natural law, they often preach about how initiating the use of force is a moral no-no, and it is so, not for any reasons with context to a specific situation, but in general it is just always wrong, simply because the universe is designed the way it is. That's why if I were a natural lawist, I would say that the war in Iraq is unjust, because we initiated force on them. Also, natural law makes the claim that it preceeds government, and if it claims that all initiations of force are bad, and that government gets its governing area, by forcing out competition for policing, then it can be said that government is bad. Only when you make the claim that law can not be established without government, can you then make the claim that government does not initiate force. ***This was an argument used against me in the anarchy vs. govt debate, so I assume this won't be disputed*** So, since natural law is rationalist in nature, Objectivism came up with a more adequate "Objective Law" doctrine that a ton of laywers are pushing for right now. Thanks. I think this marks the end of my voting question, so no one else, need reply to that. However, my questions have kind of shifted more toward how does Objectivism create laws, and if a moderator needs to make this a separate thread, I won't complain.
  10. Not all humans have the capacity to reason, such as a child or a retard or a vegetable. Yet they are physically human. And it is the official Objectivist stance that there is no such thing as natural law, but instead they replace it with something called Objective Law, which is just a positive law extention of Rand's ethics. Natural Law implies that there is some 'ought' that exists with or without governments. It is the Objectivist stance that there is no law without government. Thank you for this reply. Well voting was in a sense just my way of representing political power. The existence or non-existence of voting in a society is really not an issue for me. But thank you for your response. What do you mean that the representatives don't have political power? If they have no power, then what is the point of their office and salary?
  11. A question that has been bothering me for sometime is, if Objectivism rejects egalitarianism, why is there so much equality in voting and rights. It is obvious that all men are not equal in anything. They are not equal in size, shape, character, ability, and even physical genetics varies from person to person, so on what basis does everyone get equal political power? Political power is a value, yet we just arbitrarily hand it to anyone who happens to be born in a given geograpical region? Shouldn't political power, such as voting be based on merit, since it is a value, and values ought to be earned. Secondly, the same objection applies to rights. If there is no natural law (God's decree or some form of Platonic idea of law), then on what basis does everyone deserve equal rights? Please respond with an in depth answer. This is a genuine question, and I have read almost every Objectivist book, so try to keep vague Rand restatements out of your responses.
  12. I was reading my posts and realizing that I hadn't really made myself clear. Okay, I believe that we make choices, so in a sense you could call that free will. However, I believe that the nature in which we learn, makes it impossible to provide any objective and meaningful proof for determinism. If you have ever read Nozick's "Philosophical Explanations" you will know what I will be arguing. Nozick used to write very jibberish type stuff on free-will because he believed in it, but couldn't provide evidence for it. But he then wrote later that because of the nature in which we learn, we cannot prove that the future is determined. Thus determinism cannot be anything more than an arbitrary assertion. Also, because the past has already happened, it cannot be said that you could have done otherwise. Thus normal free will arguments are based on false premises. So my argument is that we do make choices, if you have ever acted you will know what I mean. So my stance is that we have free will in the sense that we make choices in the face of alternatives. Does that make sense?
  13. I said that I don't believe that the concept you use to describe free will is absolutely correct. What do you mean by absolutely free? I am a materialist, in the sense that I am willing to leave supernaturalism out of any debate. I believe that there are laws that dictate the physical universe, and as being part of that universe we must abide by those laws. So in that light, I don't think free will is absolutely free. However, I don't think this debate is one of philosophy really. I don't think we have figured out all the physical laws of the universe and as such, I don't think we can say how consciousness interacts with causality. I think any determinist is just spouting arbitrary assertions since their stance can not be proven, and its impact is irrelevant, since if everything is supposedly determined, you couldn't change your actions anyway. Basically, I am anti-both sides, because I think neither has any real evidence or proof, and its impact on your life is irrelevant no matter what stance you hold. If it could be proven to me that there is any significance in this debate, then I would have to say that the free-willers' seem to have more evidence than the determinists, however I don't think free will is axiomatic.
  14. I would like to participate in this if I can. I have the belief that there is no distinction between free will and determinism. Meaning, that I don't think that either concepts explain the phenomen of action. I think that given the Objectivist epistemology, if there is a distinction among the two, then free-will would have to prevail. Any way I would argue Nozick's stance that not only do the arguments fall short of "proof", but they have no practical significance. Since technically you can't be aware of determinism in any significant way, and if you think you have free will but don't, you wouldn't be able to change your course of action.
  15. With that definition, there becomes no major difference between determinist doctrine and free will doctrine. It is most likely the case that man's nature is determined, and that we act in accordance with our nature, since no man had a say in it, and since Objectivists reject the idea of a God who can change man's nature. ***But I don't want to indulge in this type of free will vs. determinism debate because I don't think there is any significant or practical significance.
  16. I'm sorry for causing this controversy. And I thank those that responded to my original post. (This is for the guy who said I never acknowledged the people who first responded to me). I am going to take one more shot at showing everyone why I think that free will is a poor concept and why determinism is the same. I truly think there is really no distinction between the two. Determinism doesn't mean that there is no morality. First, I recently found out from a lecture that Objectivists don't believe in natural law, they believe in a form of positive law, aptly called "Objective Law." Objective law states that men create the laws that dictate our lives, however those laws should adhere to what is best for mankind (what works with his nature). ***THIS IS NOT MY STANCE, BUT I USE IT TO MAKE A POINT***So it could just be the case that everything is caused, which includes man's nature, since man had come to being at some point of time. And it is in his nature to write certain laws and punish those who do not abide by those laws. ***END POINT*** Only if there is some sort of natural law (like God written law, or some Platonist idea of the moral) floating around outside of reality, then it could be possible that the natural causality could contradict or make null, the surreal morality. But because most atheists tie morality to the natural world, no natural things (like CAUSALITY) can destroy morality. Thus determinism doesn't destroy morality. To make my point about the non-argument that this is, I think there is a Rand quote somewhere about how everything that has already happened in the past has to be taken as a given, and couldn't have been any other way. I think she said this when referring to existence existing the way it does, but I am applying it here. And what is to be said about the future, is that it literally doesn't exist, and anything said about the future is pure nonsense/speculation. This shows that determinists cannot know the world is determined, since they cannot even give one speck of empirical evidence about the future, since it doesn't exist yet. That rules out giving an inductive argument. Also, everyone here knows there is no way to deductively prove anything, let alone the future. And the same is to be said about free will. I'll leave my arguments alone for a second and run with everyone elses'. Everyone here seems to say that free will is axiomatic. This means again that it is not provable, only verifiable. And I don't think there is really any objective evidence either way, since the only evidence is to be found inside of you, and not to be found outside of you. So this leads us to two theories that have been dueling for ages, that neither of them seem to prove anything. And when you look at what is at stake in this debate, there is really nothing to lose, by going either way. Both ways allow for morality (if you want to debate me on that, Ill take the challenge). Both ways don't change the fact that humans act, and they act rationally. Both ways allow for life to go on, so what is this debate really about?
  17. Seriously, I believe the debate between free-will and determinism is a non debate. I don't think the term free-will actually describes what we have. And I don't think the way determinists explain their theory, actually depicts reality either. First determinism can never be proven. To prove it would be to say that all actions before, current and future are predictable and determined. However, lets take the example of a man choosing between an apple and an orange. At time t1 the two objects sit on a table and he has not eaten them yet. At time t2 he grabs and eats the apple. Now first, once t2 happens, there is no saying that you could have done otherwise, because literally, you couldnt have done otherwise, since t2 has already happened. (This shows that the free-willers can use their usual argument that 'you can do otherwise') At time t1, no one can claim that the man will choose any particular object. Any claim to knowledge about his decision is false, because it hasn't happened yet and therefore the claim is just hypothesis. (Therefore determinists can never claim that you can't do otherwise) For these reasons, I think the debate between free-will and determinism is just some little argument left from the period of dualism, where mind and body were seperate and everyone was trying to figure out which controlled the other.
  18. Rand often speaks of ethics in terms of us acting within our nature. Then she goes on to describe our nature. And when I was confronted with an unusual attack on Objectivist ethics, I found myself defenseless. How does Rand make the claim that she knows human nature definitively, enough so that she can make moral judgments about things such as sex, love, work, crime, etc. She claims we are rational, but rational is somewhat of a relative concept as it must be rational with respect to a given goal. For instance if the goal of a game is to lose, then trying to win is irrational, and vice versa. Second, I am not sure it can be proved that men are by nature rational, rather than men are by nature irrational and they have to try to be rational. Third, I realize that Rand claims that the goal of humans is life. My friend brought up a Nozickian critique that says to claim your own life as the goal is subjective. Basically, what objective reason do you have to value your life? To expound further, valuing life simply because it is life, seems arbitrary. Since value presupposes life, it seems like a circular argument to claim that life is to be valued, since life is a category that subsumes value. Lastly, I was wondering why Objectivists put any emphasis on the determinist/Free will debate. I was defending free will against my friend, and he pointed out that it is a false dichotomy. That there is no way to measure or prove free-will and conversely the same applies to determinism. And he claims that this debate is just some trash left over from the dualist period of philosophy, which needs to be thrown out. Help me with first what the Objectivist stance is, and better yet, why the stance is.
  19. It means generally the same thing as government, I argued earlier that it met Rand's definition of a government. A PPA would be contractually obligated to be the one who uses retaliatory force in a given geographical area, only instead of that land being arbitrarily defined, it would be defined by the total amount of land owned by the customers of the PPA. The fundamental difference between government and PPA is that a PPA's territory can change at any time if its customers decide to leave and patronize another PPA. This is similar to when a person leaves a country to another, only instead of the person having to move, the government would have to move (ie-not protect that territory any more). Sorry it took so long to get back to you.
  20. I'm really more concerned not with why society needs a government as abstract from why I need a government. What I am really searching for is why my egoistic morality implies that not only should I defend my life with retailiatory force, but that I should endorse a specific governmnent rather than a private protection agency? Basically, how does my moral obligation to protect myself, lead to me endorsing a government? ***We will discuss intricates later, for now let's keep the abstracts simple.***
  21. Actually with the way pipelines work, the vast majority of the costs are associated with the length of the pipeline and not the width. Thus the most economically efficient outcome is for competitors to share costs to make a wider pipeline that has a big enough circumfrence to hold both of their products. And this is actually what is usually done in these industries. It is way too costly for companies to build side-by-side pipelines or to even try to compete in the normal sense. I would argue that anyone who would buy up land to knock out a competitor is not acting in the interest of his shareholders, and is probably basing this on a personal grudge and not economic incentives. Sharing the pipeline would reduce costs. Keeping an entire region from getting oil, would probably lead to companies in that region paying you to let the oil through, and after he refused those offers, he would have to be crazy. Also, he probably had to pay off officials to not use gov't to take his property under the eminent domain laws. He would have had to really hate his competitors to go through all this trouble, which makes me doubt that this situation ever happened, but I guess it is possible.
  22. That was poorly worded, sorry. I am asking how do we get from this to establishing that your moral obligation to defend your life, leads you to say government is necessary, and that one has an obligation to somewhat participate in it, if it is at the very least encouraging it and keeping gov't from aggressing you or others. Nimble
  23. Okay, I can go with that. Where do we go from here, then to assure that people in society have a moral obligation to make a government.
  24. No, I would say that Objectivism demands that one person ought to produce food. Suppose that everyone else in the economy either wouldn't trade with you (which they would have the moral right to do), or didn't produce any food. You would have the moral obligation to quit whatever job you are in and produce food, in order to keep yourself alive, but would that same obligation apply to government? Like, if no one else would participate in government, would it be your duty to?
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