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I have a question for you determinists: Where did you get the idea of determinism from? Was it your high school teacher or you college teacher? And what material was read and who wrote it? The reason I'm asking is that for the past several years the arguments for determinism have been rather consistent -- as if you are all being taught by the same person or at least the same source.

But really, you have a problem with your conception of causality. What causes you to make a choice? You do! It is you qua individual that makes choices. It is not some ineffable "spirit self" that is in there directing you, you do that. It is not your environment that dictates that you reply to this post. You choose to reply or not to reply -- or you decide to go watch TV or listen to music or whatever. You do that of your own free will. Volition means that you have control of your own consciousness -- of what to bring into your range of awareness. You can bring philosophy into your range of awareness or you can decide not to put forth the effort. You can take all of the facts into account -- including introspection -- or you can choose not to bring all the facts into account. You do that -- not this post or your environment. Many of you even concede that you make choices, but you wonder if it is a real choice. Well, what do you mean by a real choice? There have been those who claim we don't have real choices because we cannot turn ourselves into basket balls, which is a ludicrous approach to volition. You direct your own mind and you direct yourself -- to reply or not to reply. It's that simple.

haha basket balls, I agree that is ludicrous.

Anyway, why do I come up with these ideas?

I've had no teacher, no material apart from the OPAR Peikoff book and perhaps my misunderstanding and a whole week pondering on it and getting no where is my problem.

It all happened when reading through the beginning chapter.

"the same entity, under the same circumstances, will perform the same action" (page 15, Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand)

I firstly understood entity as meaning every existent there is, including humans but then tried to view humans as the exception to the concept of entity yet this left everything else deterministic apart from humans and so my reasoning continued to question if everything else is deterministic why should I believe my choices are ultimately volitional.

Deterministic reality --as input-> human being (genetically deterministic) --- forms somehow---> volitional choices that could have been otherwise under the same circumstances.

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Well, for the same reason if man has choices. With morality (namely, a code of rational values that furthers his own life) then his life is benefited, and without it he will have a higher likelihood of pain and suffering. That's the only argument there can be for morality. It isn't effected by determinism, because you can say "Man is a certain way, A is A, so man must behave rationally in order to survive." That statement is true. Want to live? Then behave rationally. Don't? Well then I won't be seeing you around for very long, will I? [emphasis added]

You have already accepted volition: the rational faculty is the volitional faculty.

So when you say "man is a certain way" what you mean is he is an animal possessing a rational/volitional faculty. And when you say "so man must behave rationally in order to survive" you continue to imply volition because the opposite of your conditional statement is also true: if a man chooses not to act rationally, he won't survive.

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I have a question for you determinists: Where did you get the idea of determinism from? Was it your high school teacher or you college teacher? And what material was read and who wrote it? The reason I'm asking is that for the past several years the arguments for determinism have been rather consistent -- as if you are all being taught by the same person or at least the same source.

But really, you have a problem with your conception of causality. What causes you to make a choice? You do! It is you qua individual that makes choices. It is not some ineffable "spirit self" that is in there directing you, you do that. It is not your environment that dictates that you reply to this post. You choose to reply or not to reply -- or you decide to go watch TV or listen to music or whatever. You do that of your own free will. Volition means that you have control of your own consciousness -- of what to bring into your range of awareness. You can bring philosophy into your range of awareness or you can decide not to put forth the effort. You can take all of the facts into account -- including introspection -- or you can choose not to bring all the facts into account. You do that -- not this post or your environment. Many of you even concede that you make choices, but you wonder if it is a real choice. Well, what do you mean by a real choice? There have been those who claim we don't have real choices because we cannot turn ourselves into basket balls, which is a ludicrous approach to volition. You direct your own mind and you direct yourself -- to reply or not to reply. It's that simple.

I'm not sure about others, but here is a list of authors who I feel have led to my views:

Determinists with whom I agree:

Douglas Hofstadter - I am a strange loop, GEB, some stuff out of Metamagical Themas

Derek Parfit - Reasons and Persons

Daniel Dannet - Where Am I?, The Mind's I (coedited by Hofstadter), Consciousness explained

Stephen Wolfram - A New Kind of Science

And Laplace, of course

Non-determinists with whom I disagree and have subsequently reinforced my deterministic beliefs:

Martin Gardner - Check out "The Whys of Philosophical Scrivener"

Ayn Rand (obviously)

Kant

And Descartes, of course

Yes, I know the people on the "with whom I agree" list are not the giants of philosophy like the ones on the "with whom I disagree" list are. Most of the people I agree with are Cognitive Scientists, Computer Scientists (these first two are my fields), and Physicists so it's not surprising that we share a very materialistic view of the world. To us, it's all just particle physics, from which higher level patterns emerge. Yes, these patterns are loopy, have feedback to the lower levels, which make them stranger still, but there is no "downward" causality happening here. An understanding on the level of the Standard Model is all one needs to predict the system's behavior, one doesn't need to "ask it" what it is going to do.

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Well, for the same reason if man has choices. With morality (namely, a code of rational values that furthers his own life) then his life is benefited, and without it he will have a higher likelihood of pain and suffering. That's the only argument there can be for morality. It isn't effected by determinism, because you can say "Man is a certain way, A is A, so man must behave rationally in order to survive." That statement is true. Want to live? Then behave rationally. Don't? Well then I won't be seeing you around for very long, will I?

Morality requires a code of values. A code of values requires decision making in some form. So yes, it is affected. Do you mean to suggest all animals need morality? Would it be immoral for a dog to bite a human? You cannot evaluate that as a moral choice, only as a stupid or smart decision. If you didn't make choices in a volitional way as a human, actions would be amoral. Good or bad wouldn't be the relevant question, it would be just a matter of what works for oneself and utilitarianism. Decisions would then be made like a computer. This manner of decision making is a form of egoism, sure, I imagine that's why you think determinism's compatible with Objectivism.

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neolithic, you have the advantage on me when it comes to the amount of research you've done on determinism - and I am not going to attempt to catch up by wading through all those writers.

My constant niggling thought is why? What is the deep underlying premise of these writers that makes them so intent on advocating determinism - in the face of all self-evidence, experience and introspection.

Is it a desire to bring order to Man, as well as the Universe?

Having relinquished the Supernatural, are they looking desperately for Something to replace it?

What is driving this quest to nullify, or reduce Man's greatest strength, his conscious volition?

Since when did Physics, one of our greatest tools become our master?

I have argued elsewhere that the Particle Physics 'proof' of determinism is the hallmark of a 'concretist'.

If anything has begun to convince me that all sciences should and do fall under Philosophy (O'ism in particular), this is it.

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Logic comes back to our observation of reality, our experiences.

We know something is valid by the experience it in reality and we can combine statements to form conclusions.

This is good. And you observe yourself making choices right? There you go, that is your proof (or more precisely: validation) of volition. All of your other observations are valid and so there is no reason to doubt your observation of volition.

We'd quickly see our conclusion is false by observing reality or we could choose to ignore it.

So why doubt volition? (good usage of the word "choose")

Reality necessitates belief that 2 + 3 = 5, everything points to that conclusion and there is no evidence otherwise, we cannot simply choose to believe the opposite on faith, unless of course for some reason e.g. emotional we choose not to accept facts.

Again, why doubt volition then? You have no evidence contrary to the fact that we possess volition so it is an arbitrary claim.

Yet that doesn't imply volition to me, it just shows there are other factors that overide our adherence to truth (reality).

So you have already decided that the "truth" is that volition is some kind a illusion? Which facts of reality point to that conclusion? Which "other factors" are being overridden?

I'm not saying we don't choose, just whether the root of our choices is really volition and what is volition.

There are certain things that we take into account when making decisions but the thing that is irreducible and inescapable is the fact that we do decide, we have a choice.

If determinism leads to a faulty concept of justice then let's just forget about determinism because it shakes our view on justice.

I don't agree with this because just because it does create problems it doesn't necessarilty mean it is false.

There is nothing wrong with considering the implications of what you think is true, in fact it is essential to integrating all of your knowledge. Do you accept and use such concepts as" good, bad, right, wrong, just, unjust, knowledge, consider, think, etc. etc. etc.? If yes, then it would be appropriate to consider what meaning these terms would have if men didn't possess volition. You have advocated looking at reality, well all of reality is connected and you shouldn't evade any of it.

I'm not interested in the possible negative ramifications if it is true, rather if it actually is true.

Yes, what is actually true is most important and one way of determining if what you think is true is actually true is to compare it with the rest of what you hold to be true and see if you can integrate it. If something you think to be true would destroy the rest of everything you know, then you should give it careful consideration.

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neolithic, you have the advantage on me when it comes to the amount of research you've done on determinism - and I am not going to attempt to catch up by wading through all those writers.

My constant niggling thought is why? What is the deep underlying premise of these writers that makes them so intent on advocating determinism - in the face of all self-evidence, experience and introspection.

Is it a desire to bring order to Man, as well as the Universe?

Having relinquished the Supernatural, are they looking desperately for Something to replace it?

What is driving this quest to nullify, or reduce Man's greatest strength, his conscious volition?

Since when did Physics, one of our greatest tools become our master?

I have argued elsewhere that the Particle Physics 'proof' of determinism is the hallmark of a 'concretist'.

If anything has begun to convince me that all sciences should and do fall under Philosophy (O'ism in particular), this is it.

This is easily one of the most productive posts I have seen here on this topic, and not one that is easily answered.

Why do they write books like this? Scientific compulsion. We are all searching for some sort of explanation for the "how" and "why" of the universe. This is their best attempt. I do not think they see it as the obliteration of the human condition, but rather a more profound understanding of it. This isn't some modern form of evangelical nihilism. I started writing a lengthy reply here, but I found a blog (I know, yuck) post that includes some key excerpts from Hofstadter's I am a strange loop. I think you will be surprised with how many points you agree.

http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2...ogy-part-2.html

I imagine that the language in the passages included may make some of you say "well you do agree with us!" Unfortunately there is some slight context dropping on the page above, though not intentionally. Everything that we call "free will", intentionality, personal caustion, dreams, desires, etc is just semantic shorthand, though sometimes an indispensable one, for what is happening at the lower levels. I'm not sure that was entirely clear from the website I posted.

Hope this helps.

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Neolithic, that blog post makes me happy I bought I Am a Strange Loop, though I haven't read it yet. I've tried describing before how the mental world of ideas can be volitional (there is a primary choice, to focus, which cannot be tracked backward on the cognitive level, and the only meaningful reason for it is "I chose") while the physical universe is not. It isn't meaningful to really concentrate on the physical universe when talking about morality, because at that level it doesn't matter. But on the level of patterns, of people and ideas and emotions, it is enormously important.

In answer to Miovas's question, "what did determinists read?" etc., I read science books. Started with books on astronomy and basic intro books to physics, expanded into relativity and cosmology (I was obsessed with time and space travel, still love the subjects), then quantum physics, then theoretical stuff like string theory ("Hyperspace" by Michio Kaku when I was 10, "Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene when I was 13), and assorted material on biology and genetics as well, and all books by Carl Sagan (around 14 then). I also watched primarily science and science fiction shows, and if I wasn't reading a nonfiction science book then it was a science fiction book with the exception of Harry Potter and LOTR. All of that shaped every facet of my life and personality, including my views on philosophy (which after reading Rand, now amounts to thinking that determinism is true, rather than volition in the sense that Objectivism apparently means).

My constant niggling thought is why? What is the deep underlying premise of these writers that makes them so intent on advocating determinism - in the face of all self-evidence, experience and introspection.

Is it a desire to bring order to Man, as well as the Universe?

Having relinquished the Supernatural, are they looking desperately for Something to replace it?

What is driving this quest to nullify, or reduce Man's greatest strength, his conscious volition?

Since when did Physics, one of our greatest tools become our master?

Physics describes the universe, and we're part of the universe, so to have a complete understanding, physics (more properly though science in general) has to work out how consciousness and choice arise.

As for their underlying premise certainly is not looking for something to replace the supernatural, I'm not even sure why you'd suggest it. Bringing order to man, absolutely, though that is a perfectly legitimate motive for scientific inquiry into the nature of consciousness. Keeping the mind wrapped in a mystical shroud of ignorance is not compatible with a commitment to rationality. Man's greatest strength is his mind, his capacity to think. Choice really doesn't matter to me, what matters is the human mind, and all it can do. We build skyscrapers, spaceships, telescopes, and new drugs. We are able to grasp the inner workings of an atom and the machinations behind the shape of the whole universe. Finding out how exactly, on physical terms, the mind can do all it does can't reduce its strength, it simply lets us understand it. Knowing that a rainbow is just refraction of light by water molecules doesn't make it any less beautiful.

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Nice one, nanite. No I am definitely no Keats, pissed off at Newton for taking the mystery out of Nature with all his scientific 'meddling'!! "Unweaving the Rainbow", wasn't it? (R.Dawkins)

And thanks for the reference, neolithic; I shall certainly follow it up.

OK, we seem to be all on the same side here in our hunger to understand - and let nothing stand in the way of truth and knowledge.

So, indulge a layman like me, for a moment. Man is comprised of matter; the same matter as the universe. Is there nothing that sets him apart? (And this is no supernatural, mystical argument, obviously.)

To even consider the idea that I am subsumed completely by physical Laws, is a contradiction to everything I know, or have lived by.

In short, the brain; to the mind; to consciousness; to self-generated thought; to self-direction - a process still not understood - is a continuum that is the sole property of Man, and nowhere else in Nature.

Does this not set him apart, and separate him from the Universe?

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Neolithic, that blog post makes me happy I bought I Am a Strange Loop, though I haven't read it yet. I've tried describing before how the mental world of ideas can be volitional (there is a primary choice, to focus, which cannot be tracked backward on the cognitive level, and the only meaningful reason for it is "I chose") while the physical universe is not. It isn't meaningful to really concentrate on the physical universe when talking about morality, because at that level it doesn't matter. But on the level of patterns, of people and ideas and emotions, it is enormously important.

I encourage all of my friends to read it and I hope you enjoy. It isn't what you would expect it to be. It is amazing in it's depth and clarity but it is also profoundly personal. He tragically lost his wife to cancer in the early 90s which forced him to reevaluate if he really believed all of these ideas. Difficult philosophies are remarkably easier to hold during the good times, but it is when we are at our lowest we can see how willing we are to believe what we say we do. If you've ever read any Christian apologetics, the passages discussing the loss of his wife remind me of a materialistic version of C.S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed". I find both works fascinating, but for very different reasons.

Physics describes the universe, and we're part of the universe, so to have a complete understanding, physics (more properly though science in general) has to work out how consciousness and choice arise.

As for their underlying premise certainly is not looking for something to replace the supernatural, I'm not even sure why you'd suggest it. Bringing order to man, absolutely, though that is a perfectly legitimate motive for scientific inquiry into the nature of consciousness. Keeping the mind wrapped in a mystical shroud of ignorance is not compatible with a commitment to rationality. Man's greatest strength is his mind, his capacity to think. Choice really doesn't matter to me, what matters is the human mind, and all it can do. We build skyscrapers, spaceships, telescopes, and new drugs. We are able to grasp the inner workings of an atom and the machinations behind the shape of the whole universe. Finding out how exactly, on physical terms, the mind can do all it does can't reduce its strength, it simply lets us understand it. Knowing that a rainbow is just refraction of light by water molecules doesn't make it any less beautiful.

This is well said and I agree with it 100%.

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Nice one, nanite. No I am definitely no Keats, pissed off at Newton for taking the mystery out of Nature with all his scientific 'meddling'!! "Unweaving the Rainbow", wasn't it? (R.Dawkins)

And thanks for the reference, neolithic; I shall certainly follow it up.

OK, we seem to be all on the same side here in our hunger to understand - and let nothing stand in the way of truth and knowledge.

So, indulge a layman like me, for a moment. Man is comprised of matter; the same matter as the universe. Is there nothing that sets him apart? (And this is no supernatural, mystical argument, obviously.)

To even consider the idea that I am subsumed completely by physical Laws, is a contradiction to everything I know, or have lived by.

In short, the brain; to the mind; to consciousness; to self-generated thought; to self-direction - a process still not understood - is a continuum that is the sole property of Man, and nowhere else in Nature.

Does this not set him apart, and separate him from the Universe?

It certainly does set humans apart! We are comprised of matter to be sure, but no where else have we ever observed matter arranged in such a way. It ain't the meat, it's the motion! In other words, it's not what we're made of, but how it is arranged. So far as we have observed there is no other arrangement of matter that can monitor itself with such extensibility and plasticity as we can. This arrangement doesn't imbue any supernatural powers though, it doesn't permit downward causality, and fundamentally it is all still particle physics. However, as you move up through different hierarchies of matter (think about the differences between atoms, molecules, proteins, cells, flies, mice, dogs, apes, people), there emerge certain abstract patterns that appear to have their own causal forces. The primacy of 641 from the link I posted is a good one. It is in fact a very good short hand for us to use these labels, such as hunger, hate, hostile, and hungover to describe the states of certain complex systems. Think about the contents of a balloon. Is it useful for us, at this point in our understanding, to describe the contents of the balloon in terms of particle physics? To gain a full understanding one would have to necessarily incorporate every particle in the universe! Instead we politely agree that temperature, pressure, and volume suffice. These are patterns that emerge from the lower particle physics level and confer information at a level we can deal with. It doesn't change however, that those patterns are the direct outcomes from the particle physics level, and not vica versa.

As I was saying, the reflexivity of our pattern has not yet been observed else where in nature, but that doesn't mean it can't or won't be. I think that we are in the middle of another paradigm shift as a species, as we have been many times before. With each successive shift, we move ourselves further and further away from the center of existence but closer to true understanding. There are always growing pains, but I believe we will adapt and incorporate this knowledge eventually.

Edited by neolithic

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It certainly does set humans apart! We are comprised of matter to be sure, but no where else have we ever observed matter arranged in such a way. It ain't the meat, it's the motion! In other words, it's not what we're made of, but how it is arranged. So far as we have observed there is no other arrangement of matter that can monitor itself with such extensibility and plasticity as we can. eventually.

That sounds an awful lot like a description of volition. I know you're describing what you think determinism to mean in the context of people. But what does volition mean to you? I'm not entirely sure anyone is even using the same definition of volition.

Edited by Eiuol

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OK, we seem to be all on the same side here in our hunger to understand - and let nothing stand in the way of truth and knowledge.

So, indulge a layman like me, for a moment. Man is comprised of matter; the same matter as the universe. Is there nothing that sets him apart? (And this is no supernatural, mystical argument, obviously.)

To even consider the idea that I am subsumed completely by physical Laws, is a contradiction to everything I know, or have lived by.

In short, the brain; to the mind; to consciousness; to self-generated thought; to self-direction - a process still not understood - is a continuum that is the sole property of Man, and nowhere else in Nature.

Does this not set him apart, and separate him from the Universe?

Yes it sets him apart from the rest of the Universe. But, as neolithic said, it doesn't grant him magical powers that don't follow from what makes him up. Particles act in accordance with the laws of physics (note: they don't obey the laws of physics, but the laws of physics describe their behavior). We're made of particles, so our behavior is in accordance with the laws of physics. I can say that I punched someone because he grabbed my (unfortunately hypothetical) girlfriend's butt, or I can talk about the interactions of particles in the immediate vicinity. Both are correct, but the one (punching) fully describes the event in terms of human experience, so there is no reason to talk about particles. In a way, I view determinism as the scientific, impersonal understanding of the nature of physical reality, and volition as the conscious experience of that nature; just as science can say that the ball reflects certain bands of light because of various chemical properties in it and the interaction of the photons with my eye, while I could simply say "The ball is blue."

Science is all about describing the nature of reality, without reference to man. But man's life isn't about science, science gives us an understanding that is necessary to use in implementing our plans and acquiring values. Man's life is about living your life, which means that what matters in that context is that the ball is blue or that I choose what I do, not that the ball has certain chemical properties or that various amino acids fold to form certain proteins and those produce hormones which cause certain sequences of neurons to fire. It is all about the context you are discussing.

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Why is doubting free will make it necessary to believe in determinism? I for one deny any proof or indication for the existence of free will and yet don't believe the universe is deterministic. I think there is a fundamental randomness.

The problem again with some proofs like "observe yourself making choices" is that they simply try to smuggle in free will by definition. I don't observe myself making "free choices". I observe myself solving problems.

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Why is doubting free will make it necessary to believe in determinism? I for one deny any proof or indication for the existence of free will and yet don't believe the universe is deterministic. I think there is a fundamental randomness.

The problem again with some proofs like "observe yourself making choices" is that they simply try to smuggle in free will by definition. I don't observe myself making "free choices". I observe myself solving problems.

This is also a good point. There is a lot of semantic baggage when using these terms. In a quantum mechanical sense, our universe as we currently understand it is non-deterministic. This is microscopic uncertainty is wholly different than the macroscopic determinism we are talking about . From a QM perspective, you can only know states of a particle with a given probability, not with absolute certainty. As such any predictions made on a system are inherently probabilistic, and not deterministic in a mathematical sense. However, whatever the state a particle actually ends up assuming does fully determine what the system does. This is what I am saying when I mean determinism. Entanglements are resolved, momentum and position finalized when a measurement or observation is made, and thus the system is continues on based on these results.

Incidentally, there is some suspicion that QM uncertainty is just an approximation of deeper model that excludes these probabilistic issues, but that's really a separate issue. Perhaps God does not play dice after all?

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That sounds an awful lot like a description of volition. I know you're describing what you think determinism to mean in the context of people. But what does volition mean to you? I'm not entirely sure anyone is even using the same definition of volition.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we have been arguing similar points. Succinctly volition means this to me: Given full knowledge of the state of every particle in my body and interacting particles, I could do something other than what is predicted by a complete theory of physics.

I think another important difference is that I believe consciousness comes in degrees. I do not believe that it is an all or nothing thing that once you hit a certain level of sophistication, it "pops" into being. We see this in the lower species in dogs who have separation anxiety and elephants morning the death of one of their own. I do not believe these are anthropomorphisms either, but instead are evidence that the light inside us has a dimmer switch.

Edited by neolithic

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Given full knowledge of the state of every particle in my body and interacting particles, I could do something other than what is predicted by a complete theory of physics.

When you or your deterministic friends come up with an equation that will predict how you will reply to this rejection of your statement, then maybe we can talk. Right now physics can't even predict when a flower will bloom or when your pet dog will take a dump, and you are claiming that in principle it could be predicted how you will understand my point and how you will reply, using the physics of particles.

Volition is an axiom -- it is at the base of everything you know because you only know things if you, of you own free will, decide to understand something. Reason is not automatic, which is very evident with some of you denying the facts of reality, which is irrational.

You have free will because you are a man, and qua man the individual it is you who will decide how you are going to reply -- of your own free will. And it is not magic, it is nature; the nature of man is that he can direct his own consciousness -- it's that simple and unproblematic. It's a fact.

And don't say that fact contradicts other facts -- it may contradict your rationalism, but that means you need to check your premises. Facts cannot contradict other facts; it is only your content and functioning of your consciousness that can contradict the facts of reality by denying them.

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When you or your deterministic friends come up with an equation that will predict how you will reply to this rejection of your statement, then maybe we can talk. Right now physics can't even predict when a flower will bloom or when your pet dog will take a dump, and you are claiming that in principle it could be predicted how you will understand my point and how you will reply, using the physics of particles.

Just because we can't model it directly or have the tools to do the needed measurements does not mean that it cannot be predicted in theory. The point is that particles behave in certain ways, and if you know how every particle will behave (through equations), then you can say with confidence that the entire system of particles can be predicted given a starting state. Since the starting state can be said to be "now", then in principle the future could be predicted, or is at least determined by the way the individual particles behave.

Your argument is based on the assumption that man will forever remain ignorant about the way his own mind works and the exact physical actions that occur within it. For if we were to figure it out, then determinism would be shown to in fact be the case. If all the actions of human beings can be shown to be the result of physical events in the body (most particularly the brain), and those events obey certain rules which we work out, then volition disappears. In order for that to be impossible, there must be something supernatural, a soul or magic or whatever, otherwise science and the human mind will eventually work it all out. That doesn't mean that volition isn't a meaningful way of discussing the human mind, since very clearly there are ideas (which are the same as certain patterns of particles) which have causal force (a result of the actions of the particles making it up). They are equally valid ways of discussing the same subject matter, except one is a description of physical reality and the other a description of how a consciousness perceives and deals with reality. The one is deterministic, the other volitional, and the don't contradict each other.

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They are equally valid ways of discussing the same subject matter, except one is a description of physical reality and the other a description of how a consciousness perceives and deals with reality. The one is deterministic, the other volitional, and the don't contradict each other.

But it is a contradiction to say that man both has volition and doesn't have volition. The problem with your position is that you are saying all that really exists are particles and not entities. Each individual man is an entity, he is not a cloud of particles. And it isn't magic to point out the facts of reality, and the fact is that you posted your reply of your own free will. It's not just a feeling. It is a fact. You make choices all of the time, and that is introspectively self-evident. It is not an illusion of particles acting a certain way. Entities exist. And each man is an entity with the capability of directing his own consciousness, which is free will.

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Mr. Miovas,

Could you please give a definition of the word "choice" since you use it a lot to argue for free will?

Certain terms can only be defined ostensively, by pointing to the referent. Consciousness and choice are two such concepts of consciousness terms. You are immediately aware of existence and immediately aware that you make decisions and that you direct your own consciousness.

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But it is a contradiction to say that man both has volition and doesn't have volition. The problem with your position is that you are saying all that really exists are particles and not entities. Each individual man is an entity, he is not a cloud of particles. And it isn't magic to point out the facts of reality, and the fact is that you posted your reply of your own free will. It's not just a feeling. It is a fact. You make choices all of the time, and that is introspectively self-evident. It is not an illusion of particles acting a certain way. Entities exist. And each man is an entity with the capability of directing his own consciousness, which is free will.

I am saying that the universe can be looked at at a number of different levels of organization. At the smallest scales, it is simply the actions of particles obeying the laws of physics, there is no volition, but at the same time there really aren't systems or entities, just all the particles in the universe whizzing around. If you look at all those particles though, you will find patterns in their movement and position, you'll see that some subsets of all those particles are different from all the ones around them, and act largely independently of them. We see the world at that level, directly. We automatically can differentiate between one entity and another, because that's the most useful level of organization for a living thing to operate on. At the level of complex patterns of particles, of entities, we can say that a living thing is something which has self-generated self-sustaining action. We can look at people and say that they have the ability to choose to focus or not to focus, because at that level of organization it is impossible to come up with a necessitating factor for that decision, and the only meaningful answer is "I chose." And you did choose, because the particles that make you up acted in a way where you ended up choosing the one path over the other, "you" selected to do it.

You can't have something be two conflicting things at the same time in the same respect. Well yes "humans are volitional and deterministic" is a contradiction. But that's not what I'm saying. Determinism only exists at the level of organization where humans don't. Determinism holds true only if you don't subdivide and cut up reality into pieces and try to examine them separately, because outside factors will always impinge on the system and you won't be able to predict what they are. Determinism is only truly valid at the level of all the subatomic particles making up planet Earth (though even that must be expanded to include the rest of the solar system, etc.). At the level of subatomic particles, humans (and all other entities and complex associations of particles) don't exist. Humans, when examined at the level we perceive reality directly (the level of massive collections of particles that are arranged and act in certain patterns), are not deterministic, because we have all these factors which you can't see at that level of abstraction affecting us. Humans have choice, because we are a pattern of particles that can behave unexpectedly (at the level of patterns).

Human life isn't lived at the level of particles, it is lived at the level of entities. So for philosophy, the only meaningful level of organization is that of entities, and science works to understand what makes up those entities and why they behave in a particular way. In terms of human life, entities are real, and humans have volition. In terms of science (which is about reality unrelated to human consciousness), we don't. I don't see the contradiction.

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So for philosophy, the only meaningful level of organization is that of entities, and science works to understand what makes up those entities and why they behave in a particular way. In terms of human life, entities are real, and humans have volition. In terms of science (which is about reality unrelated to human consciousness), we don't. I don't see the contradiction.

The problem is you are trying to start at the level of particles which is not a self-evident level of existence for humans. A man exists, whether or not you are talking about his parts or are talking about him as an entity, so whatever those particles are doing, they are doing it due to man being man, and not just a cloud of sub-atomic particles. You want to dispense with the observationally self-evident in favor of much higher level of scientific inquiry, and that scientific inquiry is wrong and incorrect if it tries to dispense with the observationally self-evident. As I mentioned before, you are caught in a rationalistic mind trap, and only you can get yourself out of it by re-training your mind to start with the observationally self-evident and re-integrating from there. We don't know yet how volition works out on the sub-atomic level -- i.e. does the brain lead to being able to move particles at will in order to make a choice or to direct one's consciousness? We don't know the answer to that yet, and yet you are claiming a priori that it has to be a certain way. All we can say for certain is philosophically that an entity is what it is and does what it does because it is what it is (since acting according to what it is not is a contradiction). So, the contradiction in your stance is in denying that a human being is an entity; you are thinking of him as a cloud and not an entity.

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Or, alternatively, and I think more realistically, it is a result of Rand's limited experience with physics and a holdover from mysticism that even she couldn't shake off. I guess a world without a little man inside her head somehow above and beyond the rest of reality was too scary, and so it gets dismissed immediately as silly, arbitrary, etc.

You've been given wide latitude in the past but just in case you didn't know (and I'm sure you do): this is an insult to Miss Rand and against the forum rules, please read them and cease your personal attacks on someone unable to defend themselves.

She never practiced mysticism so there was nothing to "shake off" and she never put anything above reality, of this she was very explicit. I don't think she was scared of much, she certainly wouldn't have been scared of your "argument" against volition. Probably she would consider you as many of us here do: either a complete ignoramus or psychotic; and probably would have treated you the same as she would anyone who decides to ignore the evidence of their senses and advances arbitrary claims: she would have ignored you.

Unfortunately we don't have the same luxury since you insist on posting your psychotic ramblings while pretending that they have no consequence to Objectivism and indeed can be integrated into it. Witness:

So, yeah, that's why I don't think volition even matters in Objectivism.

Well, I'm sorry but Ayn Rand has the last word on Objectivism and she disagrees with you profoundly.

So please stop espousing ideas contrary to Objectivism, this also is against the forum rules.

I actually pointed out several portions of OPAR where Peikoff touches on the parts of this (dismissing assertions as arbitrary if there is no evidence of error, the process by which someone comes to know they know something, etc.) in an email, asking him to explain or try to help resolve my dilemma, and despite my email heavily referencing his own work to make my case, he had an assistant tell me the he can't explain it any better than he already has. Kind of annoying, since I used his writing to explain the problem.

Ohhhh, I'm sorry, did he hurt your feelings?????

He did explain in OPAR what to do with someone who refuses to acknowledge the evidence of their senses, you walk away. It's like denying that existence exists. What is your proof that existence exists? Do you accept that there are axiomatic truths? And that they can be identified by certain characteristics? If you denied that existence exists, how would you propose that I prove to you that it does? Using the non-existent? Since you deny the existence of volition how do you propose that I prove that it does? By using my determined mind and try to convince your determined mind? Do you see the absurdity?

Worse still than speaking in absurdities is being intellectually dishonest about it. You use the concepts of "volition" and "choice" when they help your argument, to wit (with added emphasis):

The basis for human rights isn't the "animal" definition of human, or any of his secondary characteristics, but his nature has a being of volitional, rational consciousness.

I am saying that the fetus is human, to be a volitional rational consciousness, at the time it has fully recognizable human brain activity [...]

If you don't have the capacity for rational thought yet, then you aren't really human in that sense. You have no volition when you are fresh out of the womb, you cannot choose to live or not to live.

and yet you deny them explicitly.

I'm sure you would say: "well I use them differently than you". And what you really mean is volition that is determined and choice that couldn't have been otherwise. Well you can't have your cake and eat it too, this is intellectual dishonesty and is also against the forum rules.

You have acknowledged the validity of the senses and then denied the evidence they provide, this is illogical.

You continue to espouse the idea that all human action is theoretically predictable even though it has been demonstrated that this leads you to contradict human behavior. You refuse to acknowledge that a man knowing will be hit by a bus would step out of the way. You don't have the integrity to admit when you are wrong even when confronted by such a clear example of your erroneous thinking.

If we here have been unable to explain the validation of volition, then that is unfortunate and it is a problem you should seek to uncover (though eventually you will have to accept volition since it is implied by the concept "validation" too). But you are going to have to do a better job at explaining the difficulties you are having. Insults, dishonesty, illogic, and argument for argument's sake are not good methods of discovering the truth.

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In terms of human life, entities are real, and humans have volition. In terms of science (which is about reality unrelated to human consciousness), we don't. I don't see the contradiction.

Since science is about reality unrelated to human consciousness, it cannot be said to deny volition or to say anything at all about the subject.

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