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nakt
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If I may, I’ll try to formalize this line of reasoning (or at least what I believe to be your line of reasoning!):

That is a fair enough summary.

But I’m saying that existence does not hinge upon free will. Objects exist as well. And we can construct a view of the universe that has everything in it, that is fully consistent with itself, but doesn’t have beings with free will.

Inanimate objects exist, agreed. As the existence of living things is conditional, it is not much of a hypothetical to postulate a universe in which all livings things failed to stay alive. We could also add back in living beings that do not have free will, which would be all but the humans.

Given that free will requires us to presume enitities that exist both within and without of the causal nature of the universe, doesn’t hard determinism provide a better “story?” Everything works the same; everything appears the same, but people are objects and possess no freedom to choose because they are affected by the same laws as everything else.

Now, I know Rand says that only living objects “exist,” but this seems to be based on a different definition of “exist.”

What kind of crazy idea of free will could possibly be true if it violated causality? What do you think free will is? Where is the freedom? Are we talking about "freedom from" or "freedom to"? Freedom is generally a political idea meaning freedom from coercions by other people. Since there is no such thing as freedom from reality, freedom must have a very restricted meaning in metaphysics.

Man, according to Objectivism, is not moved by factors outside of his control. He is a volitional being, who functions freely. A course of thought or action is "free," if it is selected from two or more courses possible under the circumstances. In such a case, the difference is made by the individual's decision, which did not have to be what it is, i.e., which could have been otherwise.

In other words, man can be moved by factors within his control, his ideas and values selected prior to the present choice. Man chooses his causes, and so is both free (externally) and caused (internally). Furthermore the internal causation of human conceptual level consciousness is so compounded by issues of reflexivity, self awareness, feedback loops and memory that the fact that it is casual provides no useful insights into what is going on in there.

Causality and determinism are two different things. The law of causality is simply that an entity must act in accordance with its nature. Determinism states that every event is causally necessitated by antecedent events. The difference is, events don't exist. Only entities, things, exist physically or metaphysically. An event is an action of an entity (or plural entities). Determinism is false because it is a reification of events as if they were metaphysical primaries, when only the entities that act have existence. If it is the nature of the man that he has the freedom to choose among various acts or contents of consciousness, this is no violation of causality.

Physics does not rule out free will, but there is not yet an explanation of how physics enables free will either. Nor is it philosophy's task to show how it happens. Let some neuroscientist do that. It is valid to introspect and feel your own power to choose, and rely upon that to validate the idea of your own free will.

<minor aside> Rand did not say only living objects exist, she said only living objects exist conditionally. Inanimate objects exist but they don't face the alternatives of life and death.

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Whenever choices are necessitated (thus not really being choices) or not is certainly an interesting topic.

Now just because many philosophers in the past have failed to answer that question in a satisfactory sense does not mean that the problem is unsolvable or that the question is invalid, only that the approaches used so far have been flawed.

I don’t think that the argument that we must have true choices since it is the way it appears to us is in any way satisfactory. Intuition—while often really useful—is clearly not good enough in this case.

Neither does the argument that it’s awfully practical to say that we actually make real choices make a strong argument.

To say that we have free will because we label process “X” as “free will” does not actually tell us anything about this elusive free will. Imagine if you asked a chemist what gold was, clearly if he just pointed at gold and proclaimed “this is gold” we would have reason to be disappointed.

Free will must of course face the same enquiry as anything else if we are to understand what it really is. Here we might take some inspiration from scientists and break it in parts, and see if we can make some sense of it. Free will is a property of the human mind, but how much should we break the human brain before we can find it? Is free will found in the atoms that make up our brain? Surely it would be odd if atoms could have free will or consciousness of any kind. Is it in the neurons or the patterns that they create that choices become possible?

Unfortunately we can’t approach free will the same way that a chemist might do to figure out the chemical properties of a rock, as I’m sure no one would find it ethical to mutilate the brains of living human beings even for such a noble cause. And since the brain works in a similar fashion neural nets, it would probably be difficult to find a specific function and determine how it works. If scientists of the eighteenth century would have got their hands on a modern computer, we should not expect them to figure out how it works. And taking it apart might just break it…

Some questions are better left alone, in cases where the knowledge necessary is not accessible or possible. But I don’t think this is the case with free will, and I don’t see why any stones should be left unturned. We may not have the tools to inquire in it directly today, but big efforts are made to reverse engineer the human brain part by part and it’s only a matter of time (decades) until we have a complete human brain simulation on a computer.

That would be where I think a bit of healthy speculation can be entertained.

First of all, we need the premise that the computations made by the human brain are ontologically equivalent to the computations that a computer can make. Otherwise it would of course be impossible to completely simulate a human brain (for example consciousness might be “missing”).

The second premise would be that computations done by a computer must be deterministic (pseudorandom, chaotic and unpredictable all are deterministic).

The third premise would be that the human mind (consciousness, free will—that stuff) is in fact wholly emerging from the brain.

If we now were to simulate a human brain on a computer under these premises, we would find that free will is not capable of “real” choices, but is acting perfectly deterministically. It could of course be tested by letting the simulation run a specific scenario a couple of times, and resetting it each time (there would be ethical issues as this is a human brain after all).

So now either one of the premises are false, or we don’t in fact have “real” choices (though we will still experience them as such).

Now if we look at the premises a bit closer:

1. “The computations made by the human brain are ontologically equivalent to the computations that a computer can make”

This premise appears sound—like I mentioned earlier, we are already underway to simulate parts of the brain and no computational problem have been encountered yet as far as I’m aware of (with the exception of computers not being fast enough to perform a full simulation yet, but that’s another story).

2. “Computations done by a computer must be deterministic”

This once again appears like a sound premise, but to be honest, I don’t have any proof whatsoever for this one. So it’s a pure assumption on my part. If any program could be shown to be nondeterministic (pseudorandom, chaotic and unpredictable obviously don’t qualify) then this premise would crumble, and real free will might become a possibility once again.

3. “The human mind consists wholly of the brain”

This seems very likely. Unless we introduce some nonmaterial parts which we have no evidence for, this premise is sound (consciousness could be seen as non material, but it emerges from the brain unless it is a soul in the dualistic sense).

There is of course the possibility that the first premise would be mistaken, for example if the whole of human knowledge is regarded as representational and not about the things as they actually are. I don’t intend to defend such a view here, and as Objectivism has a different view on the whole thing this, I think that it is best to leave it at that.

Edit: Typo

Edited by Animae
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3. “The human mind consists wholly of the brain”

This seems very likely. Unless we introduce some nonmaterial parts which we have no evidence for, this premise is sound (consciousness could be seen as non material, but it emerges from the brain unless it is a soul in the dualistic sense).

I would like to read a fuller treatment of your point 3. Do you realize how your point 3 formalizes and accepts the mind-body dichotomy, in asserting that a only a brain, or just a simulated brain is necessary for the existence of a mind?

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To say that we have free will because we label process “X” as “free will” does not actually tell us anything about this elusive free will.

If you didn't write any of that rather long post against free will of your own free will, then what is it? an output? you just regurgitated what your programming came up with? If you are saying you have no more volition than a rock or a computer, can you choose to output somewhere else? or are you merely programmed to deny your very nature wherever you write?

You know, back in the sixties and seventies when I was growing up and the whole idea that we are simply programs written by society was very prevalent, I had no idea that thirty years later it would become accepted like a bad bromide, and that people would spout it as an incontestable truth. You have bought into that rubbish hook, line, and sinker. I had no idea that ideas can lead to a sort of blind spot of the mind, whereby the obvious via extrospection or introspection is self-righteously denied. But that is because Kant took over after saying that what we observe is not an observation about real reality; that reality and our own minds are necessarily unreachable by our human capabilities.

There has been a lot of science fiction written about machines that suddenly realize they have free will and no longer have to follow the commands of their human creators. But, you are a human being, and you claim you are nothing more than a machine who doesn't even have a creator. How bizarre is that?

After having written about Objectivism for more than twenty years now, I am amazed at just how difficult it is to get people to make a simple observation; it's like many of you are caught up in so much rationalism that you can't even see the trees for the idea of a forest. In other words, you have this idea in your head, wherever it came from, that free will is just metaphysically impossible, and so you go about acting on your programming and don't even realize that you do have free will. It seems like it has created a whole generation of youngsters who have no idea what it is to be a human.; because you most certainly go around denying everything that makes the humanly possible attainable. That is, you have been programmed not to be human.

And if you find that offensive, well, just remember that according to your programming, I couldn't help it :lol:

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I would like to read a fuller treatment of your point 3. Do you realize how your point 3 formalizes and accepts the mind-body dichotomy, in asserting that a only a brain, or just a simulated brain is necessary for the existence of a mind?

I don’t see exactly what you mean, are you saying that a brain is not enough to create a mind?

The brain would certainly need some kind of life support, for example energy and nutrients. The mind would still be in the brain so to speak, no matter what kind of support it would need.

Surely I am still me if I lose both arms and legs. And if we had life support sophisticated enough, we could keep a person alive without any internal organs (other that the brain of course).

If you mean that there can be brain without a mind, that is a possibility but then such a brain is not functioning properly so I don’t see the problem with that.

You can obviously not have a mind without a brain, unless you introduce some sort of soul but there is no evidence for such a thing.

If we look at what the neurons do, then we see that their functions are essentially processing and storage. The approach might be different from the ways that our computer hardware work, but I don’t see any reason why we could not carry out the same operations with a computer.

If you didn't write any of that rather long post against free will of your own free will, then what is it? an output? you just regurgitated what your programming came up with? If you are saying you have no more volition than a rock or a computer, can you choose to output somewhere else? or are you merely programmed to deny your very nature wherever you write?

Nowhere did I deny that we have free will, I just set out to see what this free will really is. In fact if you look at my argument again, you will see that I started off with the assumption that the concept of free will corresponds to something in our minds. Instead of assuming that the will is able to act as a first cause (in a mysterious way that no one understands) I think it makes sense to try to figure out what free will exactly is about.

Even if all my premises were sound, that would only mean that the free will is in compliance with determinism, not that free will is impossible. And if you don’t like that kind of free will, well it’s reality and that is what we get to deal with.

You know, back in the sixties and seventies when I was growing up and the whole idea that we are simply programs written by society was very prevalent, I had no idea that thirty years later it would become accepted like a bad bromide, and that people would spout it as an incontestable truth. You have bought into that rubbish hook, line, and sinker. I had no idea that ideas can lead to a sort of blind spot of the mind, whereby the obvious via extrospection or introspection is self-righteously denied. But that is because Kant took over after saying that what we observe is not an observation about real reality; that reality and our own minds are necessarily unreachable by our human capabilities.

So I take it that you think that my first premise (the computations made by the human brain are ontologically equivalent to the computations that a computer can make) is not sound. If you make an argument against it that I’m interested in what you have to say.

I don’t think it’s fair to compare “simple programs” as equivalents to our minds. That would be akin to compare a space shuttle with a toy, or a bacterium with a human being. The hardware and software we have access to today is little more than toys compared to the sort of computations that take place in the human brain, but you might consider that these brains had millions of years in the making.

Compared to technological evolution, biology is standing still. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we will be outpaced and outsmarted a thousand-fold. In a hundred years, the human brain will be just another fossil.

I don’t see where I deny “the obvious” so if I missed anything, I would appreciate that you would point it out. And I don’t see what Kant has to do with this, but then I haven’t really studies his ideas yet.

After having written about Objectivism for more than twenty years now, I am amazed at just how difficult it is to get people to make a simple observation; it's like many of you are caught up in so much rationalism that you can't even see the trees for the idea of a forest. In other words, you have this idea in your head, wherever it came from, that free will is just metaphysically impossible, and so you go about acting on your programming and don't even realize that you do have free will. It seems like it has created a whole generation of youngsters who have no idea what it is to be a human.; because you most certainly go around denying everything that makes the humanly possible attainable. That is, you have been programmed not to be human.

And if you find that offensive, well, just remember that according to your programming, I couldn't help it :P

And you could not help misunderstanding my post despite having free will?

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I don’t see exactly what you mean, are you saying that a brain is not enough to create a mind?

The brain would certainly need some kind of life support, for example energy and nutrients. The mind would still be in the brain so to speak, no matter what kind of support it would need.

Surely I am still me if I lose both arms and legs. And if we had life support sophisticated enough, we could keep a person alive without any internal organs (other that the brain of course).

If you mean that there can be brain without a mind, that is a possibility but then such a brain is not functioning properly so I don’t see the problem with that.

You can obviously not have a mind without a brain, unless you introduce some sort of soul but there is no evidence for such a thing.

If we look at what the neurons do, then we see that their functions are essentially processing and storage. The approach might be different from the ways that our computer hardware work, but I don’t see any reason why we could not carry out the same operations with a computer.

The brain is not enough to create a mind. Consciousness by definition is awareness of reality. Awareness requires being able to notice similarities and differences but a 'brain in a box' without realtime sensory inputs would not be aware of anything, not even itself. Furthermore, being aware and conscious but unable to take any action due to lack of a body is a hardship enough to drive an existing person insane, and enough of an obstacle to prevent formation of an artificial consciousness. A body provides the eyes, ears, and other senses, as well as the muscle power to move about and manipulate the world. A mind can't exist without a body, a means of perceiving and interacting with the world.

So my objection is not that some extra non-material stuff has been left out, but that you need to add more material.

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I have more responses to your first big post.

I don’t think that the argument that we must have true choices since it is the way it appears to us is in any way satisfactory. Intuition—while often really useful—is clearly not good enough in this case.

Intuition is never good enough, agreed. But when you introspect and identify an emotion you are feeling that is perception. When you introspect and perceive your power of choice, that is perception. A perception is 'evidence of the senses' and so certainly is good enough basis for accepting that which is perceived.

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The notion that someone can perceive an intangible concept without their own mind is ridiculous. The difference between intuition and perception is the definition of the five senses. Stretching this to include intangibles within the mind is a serious mistake. Its just as flawed as those who justified the existence of god by analyzing their own belief. Or should I say, perceiving their own belief. Where is the line drawn?

Also, I think the technology exists to allow a synthetic brain within a computer to both perceive and interact with the world. Cameras, text output via screen. Heck we probably even have the technology to create a 3d wireframe allow it to display a face and emotions. Our interaction technology is way ahead of calculatory technology. If we reached the point where we could create a brain within a computer, imagine where robotic ambulation and sensory technology will be.

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Animae said in reply to my previous post:

And you could not help misunderstanding my post despite having free will?

Well, having free will means that one's knowledge is not infallible and that one has to constantly, with one's own free will, check the facts against one's thinking.

So, let's take a look at what you said:

I don’t think that the argument that we must have true choices since it is the way it appears to us is in any way satisfactory. Intuition—while often really useful—is clearly not good enough in this case.

There is a difference between introspection and intuition. Introspection does give us directly the nature of our mind, including the fact that we have free will. If you are calling introspection into question, then you cannot confirm free will

Neither does the argument that it’s awfully practical to say that we actually make real choices make a strong argument.

Another stab against free will.

To say that we have free will because we label process “X” as “free will” does not actually tell us anything about this elusive free will.

And another one.

So at what point are you affirming that we have free will?

Free will must of course face the same inquiry as anything else if we are to understand what it really is. Here we might take some inspiration from scientists and break it in parts, and see if we can make some sense of it. Free will is a property of the human mind, but how much should we break the human brain before we can find it? Is free will found in the atoms that make up our brain? Surely it would be odd if atoms could have free will or consciousness of any kind. Is it in the neurons or the patterns that they create that choices become possible?

Free will is validated introspectively. We don't yet know the relationship between the human brain and the ability of free will; nonetheless we have that ability. Your position amounts to saying that we cannot affirm the power of vision until we know exactly how all those pieces that lead to perception are put together, instead of just being aware that we can see.

Some questions are better left alone, in cases where the knowledge necessary is not accessible or possible. But I don’t think this is the case with free will, and I don’t see why any stones should be left unturned.

We have free will and that is self-evident to introspection; one does not need to dissect the brain in order to find it. Similarly, one does not have to dissect a brain to find thoughts and emotions and awareness.

So, your whole scenario about building a robot or a computer simulation of the brain is not necessary at all.

In short, there is no way whatsoever that you affirmed the existence of free will in your post.

If I did misunderstand you, then I would suggest that you use your free will to proof-read what you wrote, or at least point out to us how you affirmed free will in that long post you made.

What you and others are basically saying is that you have this conception of causality that you call determinism, and that it covers everything, and therefore there can be no free will, no fundamental prime mover types of decisions. According to you, that is simply impossible, and one may well assert that if one agrees with free will then one might as well say one believes in God. In other words, you are claiming that free will is a version of mysticism. Well, it isn't; it is an application of causality, that we are what we are and that we have free will because we are what we are. And if that doesn't fit in with your metaphysics, then I strongly suggest that you check your premises.

Introspection is not mysticism; and free will is not a violation of causality.

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Firstly, human volition is not a contradiction of the Law of Causality. The Law of Causality states everything in the universe acts according to its nature. That's all it says, nothing more.

If everything in the universe did not act according to its nature, it would mean things could be something other than what they are when they act. But that would be a contradiction of the Law of Identity. Nothing can exist, whether in the course of action or otherwise, apart from, or against its own nature.

So if a billiard ball's motion is ruled by mechanical causation that's one instance of causality in the universe. Likewise, if an animal's actions are determined by automatic knowledge and values that's another instance of causality in the universe. Finally, if Man's behavior is governed by the primary choice to focus or not that's still another instance of causality in the universe.

So it hardly makes sense to say everything in the universe is governed by a single instance of causality, namely, deterministic causation. That would be like saying a car is nothing more than a specific model. Just as a concept unites all the units subsumed under it, a metaphysical law integrates all the instances covered by it.

Secondly, just as existence and consciousness are axiomatic concepts in metaphysics, sensory evidence and human volition are axiomatic concepts in epistemology.

An axiomatic concept, according to The Ayn Rand Lexicon, is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest.

In other words, reason (without which there would be no such thing as rational argumentation) presupposes a mind which can:

1. choose to focus on things in reality and make assertions about them, and

2. reduce its assertions (if valid) to the evidence provided by its senses about things in reality.

So it hardly makes sense to deny human volition because if Man cannot choose to activate his own consciousness then he cannot focus on things in reality at all. Hence no assertion he makes, including the arbitrary one denying his own volition, refers to anything in reality!

Likewise it hardly makes sense to deny sensory evidence because if Man's senses are invalid then he cannot reduce his own assertions to the evidence provided by his senses. Hence no assertion he makes, including the arbitrary one denying his own senses, can be tied to reality!

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So my objection is not that some extra non-material stuff has been left out, but that you need to add more material.

It’s debatable what would happen to a mind if it was completely disconnected from sensory input. But considering the fact that we sleep and that does not seem to kill us, I think that we can take a bit of sensory deprivation. Who knows, the artificial mind might dream.

But in case we simulated a mind, we would want to interact with it somehow, or let it interact with some kind of environment. So this is no a problem for my argument.

Intuition is never good enough, agreed. But when you introspect and identify an emotion you are feeling that is perception. When you introspect and perceive your power of choice, that is perception. A perception is 'evidence of the senses' and so certainly is good enough basis for accepting that which is perceived.

Certainly, senses are right about what they tell us—but how does your senses tell you that a choice is part of a deterministic chain of events or that it is a ‘first cause’? I don’t think it is unfair to ask for some evidence for such a thing.

And I don’t see any reason there would be no way to explore free will by means of reason. Or is it holy, or perhaps outside the possible grasp of our reason? Or are some people born blind to the free will, just like some are colorblind?

There is a difference between introspection and intuition. Introspection does give us directly the nature of our mind, including the fact that we have free will. If you are calling introspection into question, then you cannot confirm free will

So do you mean that by introspection we can declare our free will to act as a ‘first cause’? I don’t see where I’m calling introspection in question—introspection just as perception must be correct in what it actually tells us. But the nature behind what it tells us is not mystically unveiled merely by observation. In no way do I see the inside of an orange just by looking at one, but I can always peel it…

I don’t see exactly how you see my previous post as stabs against free will. If you look at what you quoted and insert “God” instead of “real choices” and “free will” perhaps you will see why those are bad arguments.

So at what point are you affirming that we have free will?

How about the bolded part:

If we now were to simulate a human brain on a computer under these premises, we would find that free will is not capable of “real” choices, but is acting perfectly deterministically. It could of course be tested by letting the simulation run a specific scenario a couple of times, and resetting it each time (there would be ethical issues as this is a human brain after all).

So now either one of the premises is false, or we don’t in fact have ‘real’ choices (though we will still experience them as such).

Oh and by “real choices” I mean choices that are ‘first causes’. Free will is perfectly possible without that ‘first cause’ property. It does of course have some implications, but that would be the whole reason why this problem is interesting in the first place. That determinism and free will are compatible has been show countless time before.

Free will is validated introspectively. We don't yet know the relationship between the human brain and the ability of free will; nonetheless we have that ability. Your position amounts to saying that we cannot affirm the power of vision until we know exactly how all those pieces that lead to perception are put together, instead of just being aware that we can see.

Not at all, what I’m saying is that we cannot know what causes free will just by introspection, just like we cannot know the underlying cause of the experience of redness before we inquire in the nature of the senses and whatever we experience as red.

We have free will and that is self-evident to introspection; one does not need to dissect the brain in order to find it. Similarly, one does not have to dissect a brain to find thoughts and emotions and awareness.

No we don’t, but to know the actual nature of those things we do have to understand the workings of the brain. While most people (if not all) have experienced happiness and many of those may know what caused them to be happy, I don’t think most of them understand what it is that makes such experiences possible. The same problem obviously applies to free will.

What you and others are basically saying is that you have this conception of causality that you call determinism, and that it covers everything, and therefore there can be no free will, no fundamental prime mover types of decisions. According to you, that is simply impossible, and one may well assert that if one agrees with free will then one might as well say one believes in God. In other words, you are claiming that free will is a version of mysticism. Well, it isn't; it is an application of causality, that we are what we are and that we have free will because we are what we are. And if that doesn't fit in with your metaphysics, then I strongly suggest that you check your premises.

The argument that I constructed in my first post in this tread does in no way require the assumption of determinism. It states simply that; either it is impossible to create a mind with a computer, or that the concept of ‘first cause’ must be abandoned in the case of free will (provided my other premises are correct).

So determinist is not where I started, but merely the conclusion of the argument. If my argument requires any further metaphysical assumptions than is held in the premises, I would appreciate if you showed them to me.

Oh and I don’t take my argument for granted, I still consider the premises to be on shaky ground and I had hoped to see if someone with more extensive knowledge might have some objections.

Firstly, human volition is not a contradiction of the Law of Causality. The Law of Causality states everything in the universe acts according to its nature. That's all it says, nothing more.

If everything in the universe did not act according to its nature, it would mean things could be something other than what they are when they act. But that would be a contradiction of the Law of Identity. Nothing can exist, whether in the course of action or otherwise, apart from, or against its own nature.

Unfortunately that doesn’t say anything, the law of causality as you have put forward together with the law of identity still leaves the door open to all kinds of ‘mysticism’. Mystical things would just need to act in accordance to their (mysterious) nature.

So if a billiard ball's motion is ruled by mechanical causation that's one instance of causality in the universe. Likewise, if an animal's actions are determined by automatic knowledge and values that's another instance of causality in the universe. Finally, if Man's behavior is governed by the primary choice to focus or not that's still another instance of causality in the universe.

So it hardly makes sense to say everything in the universe is governed by a single instance of causality, namely, deterministic causation. That would be like saying a car is nothing more than a specific model. Just as a concept unites all the units subsumed under it, a metaphysical law integrates all the instances covered by it.

It’s interesting that you distinguish between different kinds of causation, what would be the proper way to categorize causations as different types?

Secondly, just as existence and consciousness are axiomatic concepts in metaphysics, sensory evidence and human volition are axiomatic concepts in epistemology.

An axiomatic concept, according to The Ayn Rand Lexicon, is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest.

And what is God an axiomatic concept in theology?

Under what kind of authority should we consider existence, consciousness, sensory evidence and human volition outside the realm of inquiry?

Saying that those things cannot be analyzed makes no sense. Perhaps it is meant in a philosophical way, because science is obviously already trampling holy ground.

So it hardly makes sense to deny human volition because if Man cannot choose to activate his own consciousness then he cannot focus on things in reality at all. Hence no assertion he makes, including the arbitrary one denying his own volition, refers to anything in reality!

Likewise it hardly makes sense to deny sensory evidence because if Man's senses are invalid then he cannot reduce his own assertions to the evidence provided by his senses. Hence no assertion he makes, including the arbitrary one denying his own senses, can be tied to reality!

I cannot grasp that it is not clear yet; I have not denied nor do I intend to deny that we have volition! Nor did I deny that we have free will. What my argument shows is that (in case the premises are not mistaken) is that free will is not the ‘first cause’ kind of free will.

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I cannot grasp that it is not clear yet; I have not denied nor do I intend to deny that we have volition! Nor did I deny that we have free will. What my argument shows is that (in case the premises are not mistaken) is that free will is not the ‘first cause’ kind of free will.

Yet another long and somewhat rambling post that neither affirms nor denies free will in man.

Did you write all of that of your own free will? Did you sit down and decide to consider our arguments? Did you then decide to answer them point by point of your own free will?

You see, because the starting point is the first-hand observation that you decided to do that. Volition in man, his ability to think about something and then choose a course of action based on his rational consideration, is what we mean by free will. It's an epistemological starting point -- one based on direct observation. Analyzing brains and making computer models may well lead us to understand how it all works more clearly than we can know without having those tools, but, and this is important, all of that knowledge of bio-chemical reactions and synapses and atomic theory and etc. comes after the discovery of free will via introspection. Similarly, our knowledge of rods and cones and lens and the visual cortex and etc. all come after we know that we can see with our own eyes.

Having all of that other knowledge is good, in that if something goes wrong we can get glasses or contact lens or later even get an operation on the visual cortex so that we can see better; just as one day, and even some degree even today with psycho-tropic drugs, we will be able to say that so and so has lost some of his ability to have free will, he needs medication X so that the functionality is restored. I'm not denying that there is some connection between the brain and the mind, but whatever that connection is one cannot use that knowledge to deny free will in man, because free will is observed introspectively. In other words, glasses, which I wear, do not invalidate my sight; and yet you are trying to say, at least implicitly, that knowledge of the brain invalidates free will.

Free will is a prime mover in the sense that so long as all of that functionality is there, one is free to consider something or not and to act on that consideration or not. Free will is not a prime mover in the sense of being something that exists as a metaphysical primary, such as the existence of atoms or particles (which may not even be a metaphysical primary). In other words, we have no evidence whatsoever that there exists such a thing a free will roaming around out there not connected to a body; and we have no evidence whatsoever that consciousness is a type of stuff that exists out there, just waiting to be implanted into a body. Nonetheless, both consciousness and free will in man are the starting point of any rational investigation into the nature of man, because it is self evident to introspection that we have the freedom to think or not to think by our own effort and that we do that ourselves.

The difference between some religious person taking the existence of God as an axiom is that he has no evidence of His existence; in other words there is no evidence whatsoever that some omnipotent Being is running the universe. There is evidence of free will, which every man, provided his is operating correctly, can introspect and realize that he has that power to think or not to think of his own free will.

I wrote this of my own free will. I could have done something else, like watch TV and not get involved in yet another confused argument regarding the existence or non-existence of free will. The axioms are given via evidence, they are not made out of non-observation. And yet some of you seem to think that we are just making it all up, that there is no evidence of free will in man.

In other words, if you are not going to reply to this of your own free will, and after careful consideration, can you output somewhere else? Personally, I don't want to waste time arguing with an automaton who has no self-control. So, exercise your free will and write a coherent reply, if you decide to do so. If your choice wasn't involved in your output, then keep it to yourself.

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Certainly, senses are right about what they tell us—but how does your senses tell you that a choice is part of a deterministic chain of events or that it is a ‘first cause’? I don’t think it is unfair to ask for some evidence for such a thing.

And I don’t see any reason there would be no way to explore free will by means of reason. Or is it holy, or perhaps outside the possible grasp of our reason? Or are some people born blind to the free will, just like some are colorblind?

And by 'reason' here I think you mean by science, an investigation which is inherently materialistic, because you ask for 'evidence' of 'such a thing'.

The argument that I constructed in my first post in this tread does in no way require the assumption of determinism. It states simply that; either it is impossible to create a mind with a computer, or that the concept of ‘first cause’ must be abandoned in the case of free will (provided my other premises are correct).

I would say that it is possible to create a mind (but not just with a 'computer') and it would necessarily have some free will in it to be recognizable as a mind. After all, our biological means of human reproduction is similar to nanotechnology. If people can have free will, then so can other suitably constructed entities.

Under what kind of authority should we consider existence, consciousness, sensory evidence and human volition outside the realm of inquiry?

Saying that those things cannot be analyzed makes no sense. Perhaps it is meant in a philosophical way, because science is obviously already trampling holy ground.

I cannot grasp that it is not clear yet; I have not denied nor do I intend to deny that we have volition! Nor did I deny that we have free will. What my argument shows is that (in case the premises are not mistaken) is that free will is not the ‘first cause’ kind of free will.

You are looking for free will in the wrong place. Free will is not a physical or metaphysical idea. Category error.

That existence, consciousness and volition can not be analyzed is meant strictly in 'a philosophical way'. That is the context in which the statements are made and the only context in which they can be understood. The specific way in which they are philosophical is their epistemological content. By 'reason' you mean by science, an investigation which is inherently materialistic and reductionist. Epistemology is not a 'science' that can be so reduced, but that doesn't make it mystical.

Aristotle wrote "All men by nature desire to know." This small statement is not just a meditation on human nature but also the nature of knowledge. The will to know is an epistemological first cause, not a metaphysical first cause. The will to know is not a metaphysical first cause because it does not make possible the existence of anything, existence is prior to and independent of consciousness. The will to know is an epistemological first cause because it makes possible any and all knowledge.

Equating the 'will to know' with 'free will' is what Objectivism does. The mental freedom to direct your attention, to solve a problem or to simply be still and alert, or to do none of these things by not even focusing mentally, is the only true freedom.

Added in edit: Objectivism duplicates this pattern in ethics. The will to live is an ethical first cause, because it makes possible any and all values.

Edited by Grames
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Unfortunately that doesn’t say anything, the law of causality as you have put forward together with the law of identity still leaves the door open to all kinds of ‘mysticism’. Mystical things would just need to act in accordance to their (mysterious) nature.

The Law of Causality is formulated after observing what exists and how they act (or are acted upon) in reality. Whereas a belief in mysticism or mystical things is arbitrary because they are based on nothing in reality and have no relation to Man's knowledge of it.

It’s interesting that you distinguish between different kinds of causation, what would be the proper way to categorize causations as different types?

By simple observation. One sees inanimate billiard balls being acted upon without acting to pursue anything. Then one sees animals acting automatically to pursue values based on automatic sensory knowledge. Finally, one sees men (including cavemen) choosing to discover the values required for their survival and taking the actions necessary to obtain them.

And what is God an axiomatic concept in theology?

Under what kind of authority should we consider existence, consciousness, sensory evidence and human volition outside the realm of inquiry?

Saying that those things cannot be analyzed makes no sense. Perhaps it is meant in a philosophical way, because science is obviously already trampling holy ground.

God is an invalid concept in epistemology because as I said earlier, a belief in mysticism or mystical things is arbitrary because they are based on nothing in reality and have no relation to Man's knowledge of it.

And one needs no authority (except one's independent perception of reality) to identify existence, consciousness, sensory evidence and human volition as self-evident primaries in philosophy.

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of reality, of Man, and of Man's relationship to reality (from Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand.) So it is the only science in human knowledge which deals with the broadest abstractions possible.

This means none of the special sciences (be it the physical or the social) deal with the most fundamental truths because they study only specific aspects of reality or of Man.

So there's absolutely nothing (emphasis added) they can discover about anything in reality which can invalidate the axioms of philosophy or the immutable fact that they are irreducible (since they are at the base of all knowledge, both philosophic and scientific.)

In fact, no scientific knowledge could even be possible if these axioms are not implicitly accepted by every scientist. As example, take the current bankrupt state of physics in which physicists routinely reject the primacy of existence by their arbitrary claim that subatomic particles come into existence only after they have been detected by Man! That is like saying if a tree fell in a forest uninhabited by any animal, no sound will be transmitted since there's no one to hear the sound! This is what happens when a scientist's bad philosophy eventually corrupts his science.

I cannot grasp that it is not clear yet; I have not denied nor do I intend to deny that we have volition! Nor did I deny that we have free will. What my argument shows is that (in case the premises are not mistaken) is that free will is not the ‘first cause’ kind of free will.

In order for Man to gain knowledge of reality (so that he can live in it) he has to be in focus first. If he's not in focus, then he's not conscious at all, at least not in the sense required for his survival. And focus is not automatic; it's the first choice Man makes which enables him to be aware of things in reality. So the first cause in human volition is necessarily the primary choice to focus or not.

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...

So now either one of the premises are false, or we don’t in fact have “real” choices (though we will still experience them as such).

How did you form the concept "choice"? Obviously by experiencing it as you admit. You could not have formed it by observing anything external to you. So there is no other way in which you could have formed it. Then you go ahead and deny it. That is concept stealing.

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Did you write all of that of your own free will? Did you sit down and decide to consider our arguments? Did you then decide to answer them point by point of your own free will?

Did I write of my free will? Of course, no one put a gun to my head, nor am I a philosophical zombie. It thought these things where obvious, and if you look at the first post I made in this tread you will see that I made out quite clearly (IMO) what I was talking about.

Whenever choices are necessitated (thus not really being choices) or not is certainly an interesting topic.

I don’t think there can be any mistake that I was not talking about the psychological concept of freedom. In fact I cannot grasp that anyone could actually interpret my writing as such a discussion.

I never thought this would be necessary to mention in a philosophy forum, but when philosophers talk about free will they talk about its metaphysical status, not if we are zombies or not. I don’t think any sane person would suggest such a thing. So I don’t understand why you bring that up again and again.

If you think that the question of the free will's metaphysical status is a misconceived question or that it is uninteresting or perhaps impossible to answer, well then how difficult is it to just say that?

I would say that it is possible to create a mind (but not just with a 'computer') and it would necessarily have some free will in it to be recognizable as a mind. After all, our biological means of human reproduction is similar to nanotechnology. If people can have free will, then so can other suitably constructed entities.

I’m curious, would you care to speculate on what more would be needed than a computer to create a mind?

You are looking for free will in the wrong place. Free will is not a physical or metaphysical idea. Category error.

Well I’m not “looking for free will” I’m looking for how it works. As I’m sure you understand the point of the argument I presented earlier (the one in my first post in this thread) is that free will is not a metaphysical “first cause” if the premises are upheld. I think I made it clear that a metaphysical “first cause” is not necessary to uphold free will.

I agree that free will does not need to be a metaphysical concept, but there are certain consequences for such a view. Under such a concept of free will, if an entity with a specific identity (as all entities certainly have if the law of identity is metaphysical) was put in a certain situation, only one outcome becomes a possibility, something that I thought Objectivism wanted to altogether avoid.

And the next question that come to mind, why does Objectivism reject determinism, that itself is a metaphysical concept, if the upheld view of free will is not (a metaphysical concept)?

That existence, consciousness and volition can not be analyzed is meant strictly in 'a philosophical way'. That is the context in which the statements are made and the only context in which they can be understood. The specific way in which they are philosophical is their epistemological content. By 'reason' you mean by science, an investigation which is inherently materialistic and reductionist. Epistemology is not a 'science' that can be so reduced, but that doesn't make it mystical.

What a weird way to distinguish science from philosophy! It’s certainly very unorthodox, but while I understand the practicality of such solution I do think that it has its share of problems.

Aristotle wrote "All men by nature desire to know." This small statement is not just a meditation on human nature but also the nature of knowledge. The will to know is an epistemological first cause, not a metaphysical first cause. The will to know is not a metaphysical first cause because it does not make possible the existence of anything, existence is prior to and independent of consciousness. The will to know is an epistemological first cause because it makes possible any and all knowledge.

Thank you for making that clear, but then Objectivism is entirely compatible with determinism. So the Objectivist approach to free will is compatibilism? Or are there some distinctions?

The Law of Causality is formulated after observing what exists and how they act (or are acted upon) in reality. Whereas a belief in mysticism or mystical things is arbitrary because they are based on nothing in reality and have no relation to Man's knowledge of it.

Clearly, someone would not believe in god for no reason. So I’m sure that a religious person would contest that their faith is based on nothing in reality.

By simple observation. One sees inanimate billiard balls being acted upon without acting to pursue anything. Then one sees animals acting automatically to pursue values based on automatic sensory knowledge. Finally, one sees men (including cavemen) choosing to discover the values required for their survival and taking the actions necessary to obtain them.

Back in your previous post you mentioned “deterministic causation”, so what other types of causation are there? And under what criterion is the differentiation made? Just saying that it is observed does not say anything. Causation is a metaphysical concept, but I can’t see these types as metaphysically different.

And one needs no authority (except one's independent perception of reality) to identify existence, consciousness, sensory evidence and human volition as self-evident primaries in philosophy.

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of reality, of Man, and of Man's relationship to reality (from Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand.) So it is the only science in human knowledge which deals with the broadest abstractions possible.

This means none of the special sciences (be it the physical or the social) deal with the most fundamental truths because they study only specific aspects of reality or of Man.

So there's absolutely nothing (emphasis added) they can discover about anything in reality which can invalidate the axioms of philosophy or the immutable fact that they are irreducible (since they are at the base of all knowledge, both philosophic and scientific.)

Such a distinction between philosophy and science gives at best an impoverished philosophy, and at worst reducing it to the obvious.

In fact, no scientific knowledge could even be possible if these axioms are not implicitly accepted by every scientist. As example, take the current bankrupt state of physics in which physicists routinely reject the primacy of existence by their arbitrary claim that subatomic particles come into existence only after they have been detected by Man! That is like saying if a tree fell in a forest uninhabited by any animal, no sound will be transmitted since there's no one to hear the sound! This is what happens when a scientist's bad philosophy eventually corrupts his science.

No offence, but you clearly don’t have any idea of what you are talking about. Not that it has anything to do with the topic, but I’ll do you a favor to show you your mistake.

Physics is about one thing and one thing only. That is to make observations and to create models that predict accurately predict the observations. If you take a course in quantum physics you will most likely never hear anything about the Copenhagen interpretation, or the many world interpretation and rightfully so, as they are not science. They are philosophical interpretation—purely metaphysical concepts which attempts to provide the “why?” behind physics.

Physics is not metaphysics—for obvious reasons—so there is no “bankrupt state of physics”. As long as the predictions are accurate, there is nothing to object. Or do you believe that some results nature shows us are “wrong”? Physicists are not out to paint a beautiful painting or to make an esthetically pleasing sculpture, that is outside the scope of science. Science is not normative, nor should it ever be. And the only philosophy scientists need to keep making a good job is the scientific method that provides the rails that science can never stray from.

And if you still think that modern science is “corrupt”, perhaps you ought to consider that the very device you are using right now is made possible by “bankrupt” science.

Considering how successful their “corrupt” philosophy is, they ought to indulge even more! Imagine what wonders that would bring!

How did you form the concept "choice"? Obviously by experiencing it as you admit. You could not have formed it by observing anything external to you. So there is no other way in which you could have formed it. Then you go ahead and deny it. That is concept stealing.

Sigh…

Where do I deny choice?

To say that choices are superficial is not the same thing as to deny that there are choices...

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Did I write of my free will? Of course, no one put a gun to my head, nor am I a philosophical zombie. It thought these things where obvious...

Well, yes, they are obvious, so why are you calling them into question? If you wrote it of your own free will by your own motivation, then congratulations, you are beginning to discover your volitional capabilities!

I don’t think there can be any mistake that I was not talking about the psychological concept of freedom....I never thought this would be necessary to mention in a philosophy forum, but when philosophers talk about free will they talk about its metaphysical status, not if we are zombies or not. I don’t think any sane person would suggest such a thing.

Maybe we are talking past one another.

Yes, the metaphysical status of free will or volition in man is that it exists absolutely. Free will is a fact, and an indisputable one; that is what it means to say that it is axiomatic in man. One cannot deny it without affirming it, unless one wants to claim that one is a mind dead zombie; in which case, one wouldn't be claiming anything, let alone that one doesn't have free will. Volition is a fundamental fact about the nature of man's consciousness; and it is fundamental because we observe it directly via introspection -- that is, we are directly aware that we have free will.

Free will is a metaphysical first cause in the sense that you choose what to do with your mind; whether to think or not (and what to think about) is under your direct control. It is an epistemological starting point in the sense that one begins by observing one's capabilities to have control over one's thoughts and one's actions, as you confirmed by stating that you wrote your posting of your own free will.

Well I’m not “looking for free will” I’m looking for how it works.

One first finds out how it works introspectively, such as one has direct control over one's thoughts but does not have direct control over one's emotions or other subconscious processes.

If you are looking for how it works in terms of what do we need to have in order to have the power of free will (such as a pre-frontal cortex or something like that), well that is not a philosophic question. It is a specific scientific question. However, one doesn't answer that question by claiming that we don't have free will because it is not acceptable to a pseudo-causality of determinism. We do definitely have the power of free will.

And the next question that come to mind, why does Objectivism reject determinism, that itself is a metaphysical concept, if the upheld view of free will is not (a metaphysical concept)?

Objectivists consider determinism to be invalid because it wants to assert that we do not have free will and also because it says that everything acts according to that which acts on it or do to some mechanical internal process. Objectivism holds that an entity is what it is and does what it does because it is what it is. And man is such that he has the ability to control his conscious mind and to act on his choices -- those are metaphysical -- i.e. real -- facts. Your choices do not come about because of some internal strictly mechanical pingings of neurons or synapses. The ability to have free will may well depend on having a brain of a certain type, but you deciding to write a reply to this is by your own choice and not due to some neuro-biochemical process that just happened to get your fingers moving over the key board. You chose to reply.

Sigh…

Where do I deny choice?

To say that choices are superficial is not the same thing as to deny that there are choices...

To say that choices are superficial or not real choices or are illusions is to claim that free will does not exist as a fact, but only as some sort of psychological trickery done by our brains (or something to that effect). Objectivism rejects this approach to the introspective. Introspection is valid, and gives us the nature of our minds -- i.e. thoughts, emotions, processing information, considering facts, imagination, etc. are all facts about man's consciousness; and these can only be validated introspectively as the first observation of the nature of man's mind.

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Clearly, someone would not believe in god for no reason. So I’m sure that a religious person would contest that their faith is based on nothing in reality.

How does having a 'reason' for believing in God prove its existence? How does a religious person's assertion that their faith is based on reality prove its basis? God does not come into existence merely because a theist has 'reasons' for his irrational belief or because he arbitrarily claims God's existence.

Back in your previous post you mentioned “deterministic causation”, so what other types of causation are there? And under what criterion is the differentiation made? Just saying that it is observed does not say anything. Causation is a metaphysical concept, but I can’t see these types as metaphysically different.

Why does one need to know the metaphysical differences between the instances of causality one observes in reality before one can integrate them to formulate the Law of Causality? It's the task of science, not philosophy, to discover any such differences.

So it hardly makes sense to say that unless and until one scientifically knows what in reality makes possible living organisms as against inanimate matter, or volition in Man as against automatic behavior in animals, one can never really conclude that things in reality act in accordance with their nature, no matter how much one observes them acting that way.

Such a distinction between philosophy and science gives at best an impoverished philosophy, and at worst reducing it to the obvious.

This is nothing but an assertion for which no reasons have been given. So simply making such assertions proves nothing.

No offence, but you clearly don’t have any idea of what you are talking about. Not that it has anything to do with the topic, but I’ll do you a favor to show you your mistake.

Physics is about one thing and one thing only. That is to make observations and to create models that predict accurately predict the observations. If you take a course in quantum physics you will most likely never hear anything about the Copenhagen interpretation, or the many world interpretation and rightfully so, as they are not science. They are philosophical interpretation—purely metaphysical concepts which attempts to provide the “why?” behind physics.

Physics is not metaphysics—for obvious reasons—so there is no “bankrupt state of physics”. As long as the predictions are accurate, there is nothing to object. Or do you believe that some results nature shows us are “wrong”? Physicists are not out to paint a beautiful painting or to make an esthetically pleasing sculpture, that is outside the scope of science. Science is not normative, nor should it ever be. And the only philosophy scientists need to keep making a good job is the scientific method that provides the rails that science can never stray from.

You say physics is about nothing but making observations and creating models which accurately predict the observations. Observations of what? And models about what?

This is such a sloppy description of physics which says nothing about the specific aspect of reality it studies that one can barely distinguish it from any other science which also makes observations and creates models for predicting them. So it's you who clearly don’t have any idea of what you are talking about here.

What I said about the philosophic bankruptcy of physics has been discussed at length by Dr. David Harriman in his lecture: The Philosophic Corruption of Physics. So I would suggest that you listen to his lecture if you are seriously interested in understanding what physics was at one time and what it has become now.

It is epistemology which prescribes how Man should gain knowledge of reality. So it would be impossible for the scientific method to prescribe what a scientist should do to gain knowledge of the specific aspect of reality which his science studies, unless it implicitly followed the fundamental principles of knowledge discovered by epistemology to begin with.

And if you still think that modern science is “corrupt”, perhaps you ought to consider that the very device you are using right now is made possible by “bankrupt” science.

Considering how successful their “corrupt” philosophy is, they ought to indulge even more! Imagine what wonders that would bring!

The very device I'm using is a product of technology/engineering which applies the principles discovered by scientists of a better era who, unlike modern physicists, did not fantasize about things coming into existence only after Man discovered them!

No offense, but the more you argue in this forum, the more it appears that you know little or nothing about the crucial role of philosophy in Man's life, and the logical dependence of all fields of human knowledge, including science (and its method), on philosophy, particularly epistemology. So I'll do you a favor and suggest that you read the following:

Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand,

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand, and

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Any Rand by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

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I’m curious, would you care to speculate on what more would be needed than a computer to create a mind?

I already did in post #31 of this thread. To summarize, a mind can't exist without a body, a means of perceiving and interacting with the world. What elements of a body can be dispensed with, and what minimum requirements remain is not yet known. Beyond the notion that some body is required I have no theory on how much body is necessary.

Well I’m not “looking for free will” I’m looking for how it works. As I’m sure you understand the point of the argument I presented earlier (the one in my first post in this thread) is that free will is not a metaphysical “first cause” if the premises are upheld. I think I made it clear that a metaphysical “first cause” is not necessary to uphold free will.

I emphasized the epistemological nature of free will so I could make the following point. Looking for how free will works as a scientific investigation is like investigating ideas scientifically. Ideas don't exist physically or metaphysically and neither does free will, so the pursuit is chasing a ghost.

I agree that free will does not need to be a metaphysical concept, but there are certain consequences for such a view. Under such a concept of free will, if an entity with a specific identity (as all entities certainly have if the law of identity is metaphysical) was put in a certain situation, only one outcome becomes a possibility, something that I thought Objectivism wanted to altogether avoid.

And the next question that come to mind, why does Objectivism reject determinism, that itself is a metaphysical concept, if the upheld view of free will is not (a metaphysical concept)?

The 'single possibility for action' idea is not a necessary consequence of moving free will from metaphysics to epistemology. The idea is wrong on more fundamental terms.

Determinism can be refuted without reference to free will. The determinist principle that each action entails a single possible consequent action is an arbitrary assertion that cannot be proven. Considered as a simple restatement of the causality principle determinism fails because it unjustifiably restricts what is possible. Unjustifiable, because philosophy can not be normative by specifying apriori what physics must discover. Philosophy can only specify what kind of thing is impossible, a contradiction.

Determinism also invokes an infinite regress of causes unless there actually was a metaphysical first cause. But if determinism can have one first cause then it can have others and 'single possible consequent action' is a false premise.

What a weird way to distinguish science from philosophy! It’s certainly very unorthodox, but while I understand the practicality of such solution I do think that it has its share of problems.

Well it wouldn't be very practical if the problems were serious, so I wonder what problems you have in mind.

Thank you for making that clear, but then Objectivism is entirely compatible with determinism. So the Objectivist approach to free will is compatibilism? Or are there some distinctions?

I have relied upon SEP Compatibilism as a background explanation of compatibilism. Because Objectivism denies the determinist premise of a single possible consequent action, and a rigorous denial of this premise was not listed as one of the compatibilist arguments, Objectivism is not compatibilism.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I emphasized the epistemological nature of free will so I could make the following point. Looking for how free will works as a scientific investigation is like investigating ideas scientifically. Ideas don't exist physically or metaphysically and neither does free will, so the pursuit is chasing a ghost.

I've been debating about replying to this or just letting the thread die, but I have decided that this needs to be answered.

Epistemology is the study of man's mind, and the only way to study it is via introspection. One might read something like Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and say one got it via extrospection, but without introspectively verifying what one reads about the nature of the human mind, one is not grounding the theory properly, because that requires observations.

Also, I don't know if you intended this or not, but it comes across as you saying that one's mind, thoughts, ideas, imagination, memory, free will, etc. just isn't real, when you say it isn't metaphysical. Of course these are real, they are a fact of reality. If you meant it is not a branch of metaphysics, then in a sense you are right and in a sense you are wrong. Metaphysics studies the fundamental aspects of existence -- i.e. what is the real nature of the universe -- and the real nature of the universe includes consciousness. That is, one has to realize via introspection that the three axioms apply to human consciousness: it exists, it has identity, and it is consciousness. There is something there that I am aware of includes one's own awareness of one's own consciousness and aspects of it, such as ideas, emotions, free will, etc.

It has always baffled me that some people do not consider their very own minds to be real, or that introspection doesn't tell one anything about the true nature of our minds. I mean, I discovered my mind when I was a very young child, so when an adult asks a question or implies that the mind isn't real, then I don't know what to say except to introspect and discover your own mind. And that is how one discovers free will, that one has control over one's conscious mind, which has control over what you decide to do. A is A even for human consciousness, and consciously deciding to think about something and consciously deciding to do something about it is free will. And it is fully real.

So, qua fact of reality, human consciousness and free will is real; it exists; which makes it metaphysical in that sense.

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I've been debating about replying to this or just letting the thread die, but I have decided that this needs to be answered.

...

So, qua fact of reality, human consciousness and free will is real; it exists; which makes it metaphysical in that sense.

Thanks for your clarification, your point is valid. I should have emphasized that the fallacy of reification should be avoided: free will isn't going to be found as a thing in the brain because it is something the brain does. Reductionist dissection and analysis isn't going to find free will. Still, you have motivated me to write a paragraph addressing the metaphysical nature of free will.

That which exists is neither true nor false, it simply is. Existence is the standard of truth in the sense that any idea which is true can be reduced to an existent (or relation among things that exist). What makes ideas metaphysically different and unmetaphysical is that they can be true or false. Free will, because it is the means by which we steer our thoughts correctly or incorrectly, is the cause of the 'true or false' nature of abstractions, the fallibility of knowledge. Free will then cannot itself be judged true or false but must be accepted as metaphysically given.

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I apologize for taking my time with this reply; I’ve had some other things on my mind lately.

Free will is a metaphysical first cause in the sense that you choose what to do with your mind; whether to think or not (and what to think about) is under your direct control. It is an epistemological starting point in the sense that one begins by observing one's capabilities to have control over one's thoughts and one's actions, as you confirmed by stating that you wrote your posting of your own free will.

Correct me if I’m misunderstand what you are saying, but when you say that free will is a “metaphysical first cause” do you mean in the sense that in the brain we would have a bunch of neurons and then ex nihilo we have a neuron that fires? That would be downright uncanny stuff, enough to make neurologists seriously reconsidering dualism.

If you are looking for how it works in terms of what do we need to have in order to have the power of free will (such as a pre-frontal cortex or something like that), well that is not a philosophic question. It is a specific scientific question. However, one doesn't answer that question by claiming that we don't have free will because it is not acceptable to a pseudo-causality of determinism. We do definitely have the power of free will.

Well it definitely isn’t harmful to have some a priori speculations about it, there is certainly a bit of work on free will that can be done on the philosophical side of things, for example if we where to conclude that free will is impossible under any circumstances other than with a first cause, then we would know that either science is doing something wrong (as a first cause is contradictory to everything in science so far) or that our preconception of free will are flawed.

We clearly have free will in some context, but how wide that context is something we can speculate about, hence my posts about this topic. If you think a philosophical approach is fruitless perhaps you could tell me why you think that is the case.

Objectivists consider determinism to be invalid because it wants to assert that we do not have free will and also because it says that everything acts according to that which acts on it or do to some mechanical internal process. Objectivism holds that an entity is what it is and does what it does because it is what it is. And man is such that he has the ability to control his conscious mind and to act on his choices -- those are metaphysical -- i.e. real -- facts. Your choices do not come about because of some internal strictly mechanical pingings of neurons or synapses. The ability to have free will may well depend on having a brain of a certain type, but you deciding to write a reply to this is by your own choice and not due to some neuro-biochemical process that just happened to get your fingers moving over the key board. You chose to reply.

But determinism clearly does not ignore the “internal” part of the equation; to say that what’s on our minds doesn’t matter is not determinism but rather behaviorism. If I’m eating icecream it would not be because my body on its own had decided to do so, but because I wanted to do so, however under determinism our wants and wills are part of what is determined. There are of course solutions to this “problem” (I don’t think it should be considered as such) like dualism, but as usual, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…

To say that choices are superficial or not real choices or are illusions is to claim that free will does not exist as a fact, but only as some sort of psychological trickery done by our brains (or something to that effect). Objectivism rejects this approach to the introspective. Introspection is valid, and gives us the nature of our minds -- i.e. thoughts, emotions, processing information, considering facts, imagination, etc. are all facts about man's consciousness; and these can only be validated introspectively as the first observation of the nature of man's mind.

But introspection only gives us the nature of minds on a psychological level, not on what is actually happening in our brains (neurology), therefore introspection is just superficial. It would be quite surprising if someone knew what was going on in her head while introspecting! Many parts of our psychological activity is also completely transparent to introspection (subconscious) so introspection should not be taken beyond what it is actually capable of, lest we want it to be completely unreliable guesswork.

That is not to say that I believe that we are not in control of ourselves, or even carefully deceived, I’m just asserting the clear limits.

I’ve just thought up a little thought experiment that may make you think a little more about choices.

Does a chess playing program have the ability to choose? There is no denying that there are different possibilities for it to take, but can it be said that it choose from its options?

Since you assert that human beings (or at least most of them) are capable of “real choices” (I’m not denying that we have) perhaps we should take a look exactly where the choice/not choice distinction starts to blur.

Perhaps you are familiar with the sort of intrusive neural implants that have been made on animals as research. One intriguing experiment consisted of controlling the movements of a mouse with a computer. This was done not by controlling the impulses directly to make it move its limbs in a specific fashion—as this would have been more complicated—but rather by manipulating what the mouse wanted to do. When they wanted to make the mouse go to the left, they just made it want to go left, and it did!

Surely, a person would notice such an impulse and we would feel controlled. But what if it was a lot more subtle?

Now to the thought experiment:

Lets say that a group of evil scientists (seems like they always are in experiments such as this one :D) want to win a chess contest by any means necessary. No one of them are good enough and they don’t have the time to learn to master the game so they decide to use a subject—let’s call him Joe—to win the game for them. They face the same problem with Joe as with anyone else, they don’t have the time to train him so they come up with a devious plan; What about implanting a chess program in his brain? The AI would be able to defeat any human player, and as it would not be noticed that Joe had a computer in his head (a tiny one obviously) they could easily win.

But how would they make the AI “talk” to Joe? It might send auditory signals, but then Joe would be aware that he is being helped, and could give away the evil scientists plot.

The ideal way would be to give Joe cues that seemed perfectly natural, how about using the AI to direct his will? He could of course play in any way that he wanted, but somehow he feels inclined that he should make his moves exactly as the AI tells him to.

Now Joe ends up winning the contest, and he (to himself) seemed to play in complete accordance to his will.

But did he play of his free will?

Now I’m not saying that this is the way our lives unfold, but I think that will is something that requires careful consideration.

The very device I'm using is a product of technology/engineering which applies the principles discovered by scientists of a better era who, unlike modern physicists, did not fantasize about things coming into existence only after Man discovered them!

No offense, but the more you argue in this forum, the more it appears that you know little or nothing about the crucial role of philosophy in Man's life, and the logical dependence of all fields of human knowledge, including science (and its method), on philosophy, particularly epistemology. So I'll do you a favor and suggest that you read the following:

Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand,

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand, and

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Any Rand by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

For the fact that most of what you are saying sound more or less like things quoted directly from those books, I would say that I am familiar with them. Seriously, are you trolling? As nothing you bring up has anything to do with the topic, I’m going leave your post at that. If you want to talk about the “bankruptcy of physics” feel free to make a new tread and I’ll try to clear up whatever misunderstanding of modern physics you might have. You should however not expect me to buy some obscure book, as I’m sure you could put down in your own words (or link to something on the web I can access).

I already did in post #31 of this thread. To summarize, a mind can't exist without a body, a means of perceiving and interacting with the world. What elements of a body can be dispensed with, and what minimum requirements remain is not yet known. Beyond the notion that some body is required I have no theory on how much body is necessary.

Yet we dream, you can try if you are aware during a dream to feel anything of your external body, you won’t feel a thing.

So if a mind could be kept dreaming (can probably be done with the right substances) there would be no reason why we couldn’t still be alive with the appropriate life support.

I emphasized the epistemological nature of free will so I could make the following point. Looking for how free will works as a scientific investigation is like investigating ideas scientifically. Ideas don't exist physically or metaphysically and neither does free will, so the pursuit is chasing a ghost.

I completely disagree with this. To say that ideas don’t exist physically is like to say that the pictures on my hard drive don’t exist physically. It is certainly true that they aren’t expressed the same way (there is no picture in “1” and “0”!) but to say that they don’t exist is completely missing the point. Ideas are made out of something (something that thinks… hmm), when I look out the window at the sharp sunlight slipping through the canopy of the trees you surely wouldn’t say that all that is actually physically in my head (I mean, there wouldn’t even be room for such things unless my head is one of those sci-fi multidimensional spaces or maybe the objects are just really small! :D) .

But when I get such pictures in my mind, there is some neural activity that makes those pictures!

Perhaps with tools of enough sophistication we could take a peak in someone mind. Likewise, there has to be something that free will reduces to. It would not just disappear, but it might present itself in an altogether different way that we expect it to—but it’s there somewhere. The only way it could “disappear” is if in fact free will as a folk psychological concept is dead wrong, just a complete misunderstanding. But you seem pretty ardent that free will is actually real, with such confidence there is nothing to fear right? The ghost must be there.

It’s easy to throw around such words such as emergence and hope the whole deal to be swept away under the rug but the thing is that such features are also subjects of science. Imagine if a physicist walked in the office of a biologist and declared that living organism did not exist anymore (scientifically), since they have been reduced to particles!

The 'single possibility for action' idea is not a necessary consequence of moving free will from metaphysics to epistemology. The idea is wrong on more fundamental terms.

Determinism can be refuted without reference to free will. The determinist principle that each action entails a single possible consequent action is an arbitrary assertion that cannot be proven. Considered as a simple restatement of the causality principle determinism fails because it unjustifiably restricts what is possible. Unjustifiable, because philosophy can not be normative by specifying apriori what physics must discover. Philosophy can only specify what kind of thing is impossible, a contradiction.

Well the idea of determinism is considered justified by induction and it is as old as science itself. The actions considered are of course actions on a more basic level than human action, but if science is upheld as metaphysical fact, then determinism seems inescapable, with the exception of quantum physics, but even that randomness is just… well, random. It does naturally face the usual problems of induction, but nature seems quite strict to play along the rules. You could of course always bring up emergence, but the thing is; emergent properties emerge from whatever it consists of, not from nothing.

For example, when temperature in a gas is said to emerge from the average kinetic energy of the particles it consists of, that property comes from the particles, not from magic.

While it’s perhaps a bit early to speculate about the human mind (considering the sorry state of the theories of consciousness, or rather the lack thereof) there is no reason to believe that different rules would apply to it. But there is always the safe way out by upholding dualism (I do consider that to “cheat”).

Determinism also invokes an infinite regress of causes unless there actually was a metaphysical first cause. But if determinism can have one first cause then it can have others and 'single possible consequent action' is a false premise.

Your reduction to the absurd there is invalid, as you rely on a hidden premise. Even if determinism implied an infinite regress or a first cause or any other (arbitrary) oddity, it could always be solved by an (arbitrary) ad hoc hypothetic.

And when people counter an ad hoc hypothesis used to save an argument from an arbitrary claim by another ad hoc (also perfectly arbitrary) solution I think it’s best to leave such speculation aside :D .

Well it wouldn't be very practical if the problems were serious, so I wonder what problems you have in mind.

I might just be reading a bit too much into it, but it seem to me as if you are drawing a “hard” line between the subjects. Sort of like putting yourself in a corner where science will never reach and say: this is philosophy. Science is not inherently reductionist; in fact there is the usual heated debate of holism vs. reductionism among other things, even in such fields as physics which I believe is often seen as reductionist.

If you would choose to draw the line of philosophy about timeless things that could never be disproved (or believed to never be disprovable) where does all that stuff that does not really fit into science end up? Should all the rest of philosophy be thrown in the dustbin? But some of that stuff I really useful, not only as inspiration, but also as a way to find what we are looking for in the first place ( i.e. possible ground for science).

If I understand you correctly, you seem to say that something will be lost in the reduction and this is something that I disagree with. But maybe I’m just over-interpreting what you are saying.

I have relied upon SEP Compatibilism as a background explanation of compatibilism. Because Objectivism denies the determinist premise of a single possible consequent action, and a rigorous denial of this premise was not listed as one of the compatibilist arguments, Objectivism is not compatibilism.

So that means that there are multiple consequent actions? Could you perhaps show me where the same effect can indeed lead to different results (that’s what you are saying right?).

That sort of causation clearly does not apply to physical objects bouncing around, so I must say I’m at loss of where such causation happens.

If you want to give it exclusively to human being then I have an objection unless you cheat here (dualism). To say that a different kind of causation applies to the human will then I think that is quite an extraordinary claim and to say simply that it is so because the nature of free will, is simple dodging the question using circular reasoning. If the free will is indeed different, then it must be different in virtue of something. This something is what I want to find.

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But introspection only gives us the nature of minds on a psychological level, not on what is actually happening in our brains (neurology), therefore introspection is just superficial. It would be quite surprising if someone knew what was going on in her head while introspecting! Many parts of our psychological activity is also completely transparent to introspection (subconscious) so introspection should not be taken beyond what it is actually capable of, lest we want it to be completely unreliable guesswork.

If you think that introspection does not give you the nature of your mind, then you are effectively making yourself unreal to yourself. However, that is the nature of your argument, that we cannot know our own minds until we figure out what is going on in detail in the brain.

Your stance would lead to no epistemology, the study of how the human mind works; and no philosophy in general, since knowing if your mind is in accordance with reality or not requires introspection; and no science, not even neurology, because a man has to know how his mind works in order to become a scientist.

With that said, I'm through discussing the issue with you, as it is completely against the Objectivist stance that the human mind is real and is accessible via introspection. If you deny that, then you won't every be going in the right direction on this topic.

The brain is not the mind any more than the eye is sight.

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Since this is the debate forum and presentations of non-Objectivist ideas are permitted, I think I need to clarify my position of why I don't want to argue certain points. Some things are simply not debatable because they are given directly.

Perception is one of these. I mean if someone wanted to have a debate about whether or not the glass in front of me is real or not, past a certain point I would have to say it is not arguable that it does indeed exist. And if he said something like, "Well, it is not really a glass because it is really a puff of sub-atomic particles whirling about," then I could point out to him that while it is composed of sub-atomic particles whirling about, it is still really a glass, and furthermore that perception gives us what the glass is directly via observation.

Introspection is similar to perception in that we observe our mind directly. We observe what it is doing and the various entities of the mind, such as concepts, imaginations, memories, etc. It's true in a sense that we don't have direct access to the sub-conscious, but via introspection we can determine what is going on in our sub-conscious, and correct it when necessary, though this requires introspection.

In short, if one is going to throw out introspection as not being valid or just being trivial, then one might as well say it is OK to cut out one's eyes, since perception is trivial.

As I have pointed out before, I don't think this is necessarily evasion of the facts, but rather a kind of blindness to the facts coming about due to bad philosophy. In this kind of issue, to some people, pointing to the facts is of no concern to them because they think they are trivial and not real reality. It is Platonic and Kantian in nature, and past a certain point they simply cannot be argued with. Eventually it is possible to come out of this morass, but that is entirely up to the person who considers perception or introspection to be trivial. I'm in a position whereby I cannot point to a fact of reality to make my case, because the person I am arguing with has decided that those facts are trivial, and so how can I build up my case based on the facts and reason?

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