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Found 6 results

  1. In this Big Think video, philosopher Daniel Dennett describes a thought experiment designed to "jangle the nerves" of neuroscientists who claim that we don't have free will. It involves a neurosurgeon who implants a computer chip into a patient's brain and then tells the patient that he no longer has free will, and that the surgeon will be controlling him via the chip 24/7. The patient promptly goes out, acts irresponsibly, and is arrested for some crime. He pleads innocent explaining how the surgeon took away his free will. Yet when asked the surgeon says that it was a joke, he wasn't actually controlling the patient. Are neuroscientists who say that we don't have free will similarly (or equally) nefarious as the surgeon in Dennett's thought experiment?
  2. Last night I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine who has recently begun exploring Objectivism. During that discussion he brought up a point that I had been on somewhat shaky ground with myself. It was on free will and he asked me why one would choose to focus for the very first time. He had already assented to the idea that the most fundamental choice was whether or not to focus which as a corollary means the choice to focus on something, but his question pertained to why anyone makes that choice for the very first time as it cannot have happened by accident. His thinking on the issue was that if that first choice to focus was built into human beings in some way then that implied at least some sort of an innate idea. However, I knew instantly that his view was mistaken as human beings are not born with any innate ideas that force anything upon us. I knew that you could show that simply through an argument using reductio ad absurdum to show the implausibility of innate ideas. Armed with this knowledge, I knew that there must be some error in his interpretation of free will and what the cause of the choice to focus was. But, I did not know offhand what his error was and this issue troubled me. It trouble me because there are no uncaused effects which means that the first time any person chooses to focus must have been caused by something and if innate ideas are out then what must that cause be? I had never come across anything in the Objectivist literature that I had read that dealt with this particular issue, so I believed it was a question worth considering. After considering his query, I came up with an answer that I thought was worth sharing that I am going to state briefly here. I would be interested in knowing if anyone has seen or heard an analogous argument before as well as if they can see anything that might be missing from my answer. On the First Choice to Focus: Human beings are born with a handful of instincts. These instincts allow infants to survive before they mentally develop to the extent that they have free will and therefore the ability to focus. As we know, adults do not have instincts and must use their minds to determine how to act in order to survive. The capacity of free will and the ability to choose allow for men to choose either life promoting or life destroying actions. This implies that at some point the infant must rise from an essentially purely instinctual level to a human level possessing free will. I believe that this what I have stated so far is straight forward and relatively obvious. However, the interesting question is what motivates an infant to choose to focus? Why do they not choose to stay unfocused? What existential fact forces infants to choose to focus? The answer is the fundamental alternative that is only available to life, the alternative of life or death. As an infants instincts fade if they do not focus and learn to eat on their own, they will perish. The reason that every infant must learn to focus is that if they do not they will experience pain (the bodies natural warning against death) and then perish. Which ultimately means that the motivation to focus for an infant is directly built in and rewarded on a biological level. In order to survive the infant must focus and must learn to eat. This is directly rewarded with a pleasurable sensation, a life affirming sensation. This all falls directly in line with what Ayn Rand had said about how every choice any person makes leads them directly toward their own pain and death or happiness and life. In the case of an infant the only difference is this fact is even more exaggerated than in adulthood. Few adults would be capable of unfocusing their mind to the point that they could forget to eat and starve to death. An infant at a certain point must learn to eat of their own free will and I would say that chronologically this is where the first instance of focus must come into play. To sum up, people need to focus to live and this becomes true the moment the a person rises from the instinctual level of a newborn to one of a being possessing free will. A person who chooses not to focus is ultimately marching toward their own destruction and for an infant, that gains the first vestiges of free will, this fact is only intensified and made more immediate. This shows that from the first moment that any human being can choose to focus that their very life depends on the fact that they do. This means that the motivation to focus is the same throughout the entirety of a person's life and that motivation is the desire to live. Note: I realize that it is potentially possible that this has more to do with developmental psychology than philosophy, but I believe that I may have said something that hasn't been said before and was worth sharing. Please comment!
  3. First let me say I have read and believe I understand this concept; One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of nonexistence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.) - Ayn Rand I have read the pages on free will and I accept that free will exists - however in the study of HOW it functions has there ever been an explanation of how man moves the atoms that make up his mind? I cannot will the atoms of my keyboard to type this text and I cannot will the atoms of my glass of water to move so how do I will the atoms in my mind to move in order to make free will physically function? Is instinct and the perceptual faculty of a dog deterministic? I probably have not articulated this well but I am sure you can tell I am very confused. EDIT: I think I have got myself in a real hole here because I am now questioning how we learn and the human body functions.
  4. Hello, I've been thinking a lot about the question of free will. I've listened to Branden's lectures on the subject and read Rand's articles as well as her answers on the topic in the Q&A booklet. What I do not understand: How can you argue that man's choice to think or not to think, in other words, to focus his mind or not to focus it, is a primary? (Yes, it is in his natrue to do that, but why is the choice free?) How come there weren't simply any deterministic forces that made man decide to think or not to think? Why should man be able to create something out of nothing, if everything else in nature is bound to the law of causality? I'd immensely appreciate input here. I want to believe that we have free will and I agree with the concept that we can change our values and principles but whether the choice to do that or not is free, I cannot rationally represent. Thank you.
  5. So I saw a thread about free will over here (http://forums.4aynra...showtopic=13394) about free will and a user on the first page of that thread had this to say and since I cannot post on that forum I thought I'd address his points and then make mine he says: First premise: The mind is not physical. (I'll assume initially that this statement is true) Fact: The mind is affected by physical things! Most notably, by chemical compounds that cross the blood brain barrier[i.e. drugs]. There are certain hallucinogens powerful enough to create delusions and illusions indistinguishable from reality. The notorious drug PCP can mimic the effects of schizophrenic psychosis in high enough doses where a person becomes compelled unto action by these delusions. And for millions of people, certain drugs are addictive enough to compel users to continue to consume the drug even though they are aware of its harmful effects(alcohol addiction requires medical intervention because its withdrawal symptoms are potentially fatal). Since Ayn Rands death 30 years ago, a myriad of new discoveries about how the human brain thinks have further narrowed the gap between the mind and brain. Rand was WRONG about her theory that we can observer reality directly! In fact, what neuroscientists like David Hubel have shown is that with senses like vision, the light striking the retina is encoded into an electrical signal which the brain processes and constructs a model based on the patterns of light. This may explain how hallucinations works: Feedback from another part of the brain into the visual cortex that the brain interprets(and the mind perceives) as being an object that one is looking at even though it isn't actually there. And then there is something that was discovered in the 1960s by 2 German scientists which they called the bereitschiftspotential (http://en.wikipedia....chaftspotential) which as Dr Mark Hallet is the driving force behind the thing we perceive as agency (http://www.ncbi.nlm....les/PMC1950571/) While the mechanism of what we think of as volition have not been completely elucidated, the scientific evidence clearly is telling us that BRAINS MAKE MINDS AND THE ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS FREE FROM ANY CONSTRAINTS IS IMPOSSIBLE. Conclusion: free will is an illusion that does not actually exist.
  6. Ayn Rand defines free will as the freedom to think or not. But isn't it a circular argument to say that freedom comes from freedom? Where does the freedom come from? Is it outside of cause and effect? Or is man really a prime mover, who can create causes and effects? Thanks for you help.
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