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Everything posted by Spearmint

  1. There certainly arent any in our present time (well, possibly Sealand but I doubt that counts). However, medieval Iceland is often cited as a historical example in regards to this, albeit somewhat misleadingly. It was by no means a truly laissez faire society (indeed, it was essentially anarcho-capitalist rather than minarchist), and as far as I know, it was highly collectivist with very little protection of civil rights. However, I think you could possibly argue it was closer than 19th century America to being capitalist, once you take the whole slavery thing into account.
  2. Hi, I've been reading this forum for quite some time without posting, but several recent threads regarding consciousness/freewill have caused me to think about this subject a lot and this seems like the best place to find someone to help me with a few questions Let me preface this thread by saying that the only Objectivist text which I have encountered deaing with volition in any significant detail is OPAR (though it was also mentioned in Atlas Shrugged), but this does not seem to answer any of my questions in the detail I require. My only real knowledge of the Objectivist view of the human mind in a scientific sense comes from reading posts on this forum, and on h.p.o. More specifically, Steven Speicher's posts in the artifical intelligence thread on the Science forum here piqued my interest, and caused me to spend several days trawling through the h.p.o archives for similar discussions, where I encountered many particularly informative posts by people such as steven/betsy/etc. However, as you can probably imagine, reading isolated posts on the internet is not the best way to learn about a complex philosophical position and I'm not sure if I fully understand the Objectivist stance on this subject (or even if there actually is an 'Objectivist stance'). In this thread, I intend to outline how I have integrated this subject so far, and I would like people to point out any mistakes that I have made. Also, if anyone knows of any books/audio tapes produced by Objectivist thinkers that address this topic from this angle, I'd be very greatful if you could inform me of them. On a sidenote, I do not intend for this thread to be a discussion about the existence of volition, since to me this seems a self-evident truth. Rather, I am concerned with what consequences the existence of volition has for our conception of the physical universe - ie what conditions must a physical theory of matter satisfy in order to be compatible with volition? Anyway, here is what I have so far: 1. Identity entails casuality The identity of an object determines what it can and cannot do. All actions has a specific cause (or causes) 1.1. Nothing in the universe can be either acasual or metaphysically random, since this is a violation of casuality and thus identity. 1.2. Therefore, volition cannot be acasual (as many advocates of it have often claimed). Rather, it is a type of causation, which has as it's source volitional consciousness. 1.3. Volitional consciousness is an emergent property of matter. 1.3.1. An emergent property can roughly be described as one that is possessed by an entity as a result of its structure, rather than just as a result of its material components (or in other words, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"). Although no specific molecules of H2O are 'wet', water as an entity is wet. Likewise, although no specific atoms can be considered 'alive' in any meaningful sense, certain entities composed of atoms can be alive. Some of these living entitiies can possess consciousness, and some of these conscious entities can possess volitional consciousness. 2. The mind is caused by the brain; we are not dualists in the Cartesian sense. However it is emergent, and cannot be 'reduced' to the brain. 2.1. As evidence for this, I believe there have been numerous experiments where conscious states have been induced by physical contact with certain parts of the brain (eg touching someone's brain in place X can make them experience something similar to Y, and so on). 2.2. Despite the above, it would be fallacious to say that the mind 'is' the brain, or can be reduced to it. We cannot explain things such as concepts, emotions or abstract thoughts by reference to the position of atoms in the brain. As an analogy, consider the internet. The internet 'is' thousands of computers, and a computer 'is' millions of electrons, transistors, and logic gates. However, it would be fallacious to claim that the internet 'is' just electrons etc. Although the internet is certainly caused by physical things such as electrons on a circuit board, it cannot be explained in terms of them. A similar example would be my character's gun in a game of Quake - we could not look at the motherboard and say 'that group of electrons there represent the gun'. 2.3. The brain is made up of entirely physical matter. Not being a neurosurgeon or cognitive scientist, I do not claim to know the current theories relating to how the brain is structured, but I dont think this is relevant to the underlying argument. I will assume the standard popscience version of the brain, ie that it is composed of neurons, which are made up of atoms (please don't correct me on this or give a more detailed explanation here, unless it is actually relevant to this topic). 2.3.1. There must be some kind of isomorphism between consiciously experienced brain-states, and physical patterns of neurons in the brain. If this were not the case, we could not say that the mind was caused by the brain. 2.3.2. Key point: The determinist would claim that it is neurons firing according to the laws of physics which produce our conscious states, and gives us our 'illusion' of freewill. However this misses the point that neurons can only fire if caused to do so, and volition is a type of causation. It is not the movement of atoms that determines our choices and future conscious states, it is our choices that determine how these atoms will move. An entity with volitional consciousness causes its composite individual physical components to move in the way they do. The mind controls the brain, not viceversa. This seems to me the only way that free-will can exist without resorting to dualism, or otherwise rejecting materialism. 3. Our choices affect the way that physical matter will move. This follows immediately from 2.3.1 and 2.3.2. 3.1. Assume that I have 2 choices available to me (simplistically, "the choice to focus or not focus" (I say simplistically because there are obviously varying degrees of focus I can choose to have)). Now, physical matter must move in a different way depending on which choice I make. If I choose one thing, the neurons in my brain will act in one way. If I choose the other, they will act in a different way. 3.2. Keypoint: The universe must by epistemologically unpredictable with regard to this. Leave aside Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle, and assume it were possible for me to know the position and velocity of every single atom in your brain. I would not be able to predict which choice you would make, since it is your choice which affects the way these atoms will move, and not their movement which determines your choice. If it were possible for me to always predict their movement, you could not be said to have free-will since your 'choice' would have been predetermined. 3.2.1. Since your volitional consciousness is caused by your brain, which consists of individual atoms, this means that at some point an atom would have to experience a force which could not be predicted beforehand, even by someone who knew the location and velocity of every atom in the universe. By 1.1, this force doesnt represent 'metaphysical randomness', rather it is caused by your volitional consciousness. This seems to be Condition 1: Physics must allow for an individual atom to be affected by a force which is independent of every other piece of matter in the universe, cannot be predicted in advance regardless of the information available, and yet isn't random. 3.3. The universe must be indeterminate, at least inside a person's head. 3.3.1. If after I had made my choice, it were somehow possible to 'move' every single atom back to its position before I made it, there could be no guarantee that they would move in the same way again. For if they would always move in an identical way, this would mean that my choice would always be the same, which is directly contradictory to the notion of freewill. This seems to be Condition 2: The universe must be metaphysically indeterminate; 2 collections of atoms which start in absolutely identical states are not guaranteed to finish in the same state, if they are part of an entity with volitional consicousness.
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