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Integrating Volition

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Jacob86
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Been thinking that the phrase "free will" represents a subversive concept. Will, by its nature, is "free", i.e., under the control of the willing entity. If will is thus conceptually closed, determined, and absolute, with respect to any given individual (as is self-evident to any sane individual -- either that, or I am insane), then how/why does it require adjective modification with the concept "free".

The concept is will. The subversive/straw-man concept "free will" arbitrarily purports to restrict "will" to the "free" variety, which implies that there must be two forms of will, one of which is "free", and the other one. But, there is only one form of will, my will to me; your will to you; etc. But, logically, with respect to any given individual, a single form of will, which is: the power to (attempt to) do what one choose to do. That is all that "will" is, and there is only one variety.

The "concept" of "free will" ought to be put in the dumpster. All we need is the idea of "will", properly defined.

Eh? Does this clear up the present discussion a bit?

- ico

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I completely agree that Man is subject to causality. I am proposing that the "free" in free will means that he is free TO SOME EXTENT (i.e. DO NOT READ "TO ALL EXTENTS"), and in SOME RESPECT (i.e. DO NOT READ "ALL RESPECTS") from the total effects of OUTSIDE MATERIAL CAUSATION (i.e. DO NOT READ "ALL CAUSATION").

This is a contradiction. "Free" to any extent at all in any respect whatever as you describe it is acausal. No, you can't have even a little bit of magic.

It is not the case that "the mind is embodied in a physical form". Let me translate that for your theist mentality: The soul is not imprisoned by chains of causality. This fantasy is not improved by insisting the chains must be a little loose.

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This is a contradiction. "Free" to any extent at all in any respect whatever as you describe it is acausal. No, you can't have even a little bit of magic.

It is not the case that "the mind is embodied in a physical form". Let me translate that for your theist mentality: The soul is not imprisoned by chains of causality. This fantasy is not improved by insisting the chains must be a little loose.

Well put, Grames.

I consider certainty and its logical complement, uncertainty, to be the key ideas which need to be harmoniously integrated in order to break the mental chains self-imposed by many. You can't obtain certainty by using your power of determination (i.e., your will) to force reality to conform to your desires, no matter how intensely you feel them. You can choose to jump out a 40th story window and flap your wings; you can choose stand in front of a speeding bus; but you cannot escape the logical consequences of your actions. That is the law of causality, it is not controversial, is it?

The law of causality simply means that entities act according to their natures. Rational animals have will power, i.e., the power to determine what to do (within natural limits). They can use this to change their environments to suit. There is no "magic" here, just the OPTION to create and use better techniques.

- ico

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a contradiction. "Free" to any extent at all in any respect whatever as you describe it is acausal. No, you can't have even a little bit of magic.

He is actually stating something along the lines of the actual Objectivist position.

I disagree that what he describes is a-causal. Define your terms here--what do you mean by causality? Because it certainly seems to be something different than what Objectivism defines as causality.

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He is actually stating something along the lines of the actual Objectivist position.

I disagree that what he describes is a-causal. Define your terms here--what do you mean by causality? Because it certainly seems to be something different than what Objectivism defines as causality.

Here is a quote of one of his last posts:

Yes, it is an attribute. But is this attribute imagined or real? Is its function imagined or real?

Is Man capable of action which is not entirely coerced by "physical"/"material" cause and effect or not?

Is Man capable of overcoming the total coercion of natural causes in material nature or not?

If "No", then Man does not have volition (or consciousness for that matter).

If "Yes", then that aspect of Man which possesses this capability is not, itself, physical/material/ "made of physical matter".

That's the issue.

It is fairly simple.

If these questions sound remotely plausible to you, then you have the same warped perspective he does. The very framing of the questions he asks assumes a certain invalid perspective and dictates what kind of answer he can accept. It is not compatible with Objectivism to accept the supernatural.

Volition is an attribute, not a gland found in your brain. Of course it is non-material in that way as I've already stated. Try re-reading the thread more closely to find my other definitions as well.

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This is ridiculously circular reasoning.

The issue is "are there non-physical existents (specifically, is Man's nature partially non-physical)?"

There are certainly existents that operate according to non-mechanistic causation. The one existent I can think of that qualifies is the faculty of free will. Whether it is also physical or not is up for science to discover in the future. In that case we would have to properly define what we mean by physical, because if it were physical it would be an entity behaving in a causal manner different from mechanistic causation.

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Irrelevant. I won't even bother reading it. I'm simply referring to the block of text you had quoted and responded to. With regard to that, my judgement still stands: What he wrote in that block of text is basically the Objectivist position.

You refer to this

I completely agree that Man is subject to causality. I am proposing that the "free" in free will means that he is free TO SOME EXTENT (i.e. DO NOT READ "TO ALL EXTENTS"), and in SOME RESPECT (i.e. DO NOT READ "ALL RESPECTS") from the total effects of OUTSIDE MATERIAL CAUSATION (i.e. DO NOT READ "ALL CAUSATION").

The secret to understanding his meaning is knowing that "outside" refers to everything external to consciousness, not everything outside one's skull. See his post #9. He demands freedom from both internal and external causation. Try to keep the context next time. edit Specifically, read the thread and not just the last page.

Edited by Grames
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Grames, I'm interested in your thoughts on Binswanger's position, which according Dr. Diana Hsieh's paper "Mind in Objectivism", is apparently a dualist one in which the mind is not physical nor extended, nor simply a different way of looking at the actions of the brain, but a fundamentally different type of stuff/thing which somehow can interact with the brain.

That, to me, sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but also a lot like the position it seems that Jacob86 was trying to get across. In Binswanger's view, volition lies in this "mind" that is different than the body and which interacts with it and is dependent upon it for its existence.

I myself have a hard time really finding anything that identifies the mind as anything other than some sort of introspective view of the brain (that is, just some other way of looking at the physical goings-on) to be a little mumbo-jumbo-ey, but I think it is in part a holdover from my many years of hard nosed materialism and scientism (many, here, being like 8, which is a good third of my life at this point, and since it was from about 9-17 or so, it had a big impact on my psycho-epistemology).

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Grames, I'm interested in your thoughts on Binswanger's position,

Binswanger is wrong. In what follows I'm dependent on Diana Hsieh's retelling of Binswanger's thoughts because I don't have the course mentioned.

Where he goes wrong is his analysis of what it means for something to be a philosophical primary. He keys off the word reducible such as in the definition "a primary is not reducible" and then commits himself to a view consciousness that cannot be physical lest it be found to have parts and be reducible after all. His general description of what it means to reduce something is correct but not appropriate to a logical analysis. A philosophical primary is an epistemological designation meaning that it is at the bottom of the knowledge hierarchy, a first level concept known directly and defined ostensively.

We can analyze consciousness into its parts, but it requires a scientific context and a third-person perspective. We cannot reach the scientific level without first learning to be logical. We cannot learn to be logical without relying at least implicitly (and preferably explicitly) upon the axiomatic concepts existence, identity and consciousness and the axioms employing them. We don't need to look deeper because the referents of existence, identity and consciousness are givens.

Binswanger is in error to argue that an epistemological primary must also be an existential primary that cannot be analyzed scientifically. His statement that connsciousness “can never be shown to exist—at any scale—of subactions that are themselves non-conscious” commits the fallacy of division. All sorts of things are composed of other things of a radically different type: chairs are composed of atoms, mammals are composed of cells. Consciousness is the action and relationship of awareness and is composed of both the body and the object it is aware of.

Reductionism, when it results in denying that the thing reduced still exists, is an error. Binswanger seems particularly interested in refuting reductionism that would deny the mind exists. His method of going about it is wrong. Binswanger really should have checked himself when he was led to the conclusion that “a new force of nature”, i.e. “the physical force exerted by consciousness on its own brain” will eventually be discovered by scientists. That's just plain embarrassing. This is the kind of thing appropriate to the Coast to Coast AM radio show.

Mind is an attribute of a brain, attributes are existents, so mind and brain are distinguishable but not separable existents. That much is right. His claim to being a dualist could be chalked up to rhetorical "cuteness" if he had not also posited novel physics.

The Binswanger/Searle argument against AI is that consciousness assigns the meanings to the 1s and 0s of computers. It has nothing to say about an AI technique which is a non-computational awareness, where there is no a priori assignment of meaning to certain bits.

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I agree that it is not made of physical matter, the spiritual is non-material, but it could be made from physical matter or energies. Either way, it is of this universe, and a property of it.

Concepts are NOT material things, they are mental things that require a physical substrate in order to exist. Patterns of thought MUST be reflected in the material body, but, just as a river etches a path through dirt but is not that path, so concepts etch patterns in the brain's dendrites, but are not those patterns -- no more than the vibrating electrons in a radio wire are the message that is being projected.

Concepts are eternally re-callable into one's mind without loss of detail, so in a sense, they are eternal -- they can be discovered and applied independently by minds all over the Universe without loss of generality. But concepts are NOT the experiences they represent. Concepts are IDEALIZATIONS of experience, and a conceptual archetype is not necessarily (maybe not ever?) observable by direct experience.

For example, has anyone actually experienced a real example of a perfectly balanced triangle? I don't think so ... every real instance of inter-related three-ness is not some static, symmetrical arrangement, but a vibrating, interacting, buzzing around that may approximate symmetry, but never stops/settles there for any finite amount of time. Your eyes may take a snapshot at just the correct moment of perspective on a twirling triangle, but even then, the triangle itself must be made of material, and it is not possible to manufacture triangular symmetry to such perfection that every single atom on one side-tube has a correspondent on the other two sides.

- ico

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In the words of R. Buckminster Fuller:

"Mind is the weightless and uniquely human faculty that surveys the ever larger inventory of special-case experiences stored in the brain bank and, seeking to identify their intercomplementary significance, from time to time discovers one of the rare scientifically generalizable principles running consistently through all the relevant experience set. The thoughts that discover these principles are weightless and tentative and may also be eternal. They suggest eternity but do not prove it, even though there have been no experiences thus far that imply exceptions to their persistence. It seems also to follow that the more experiences we have, the more chances there are that the mind may discover, on the one hand, additional generalized principles or, on the other hand, exceptions that disqualify one or another of the already catalogued principles that, having heretofore held "true" without contradiction for a long time, had been tentatively conceded to be demonstrating eternal persistence of behavior. Mind's relentless reviewing of the comprehensive brain bank's storage of all our special-case experiences tends both to progressive enlargement and definitive refinement of the catalogue of generalized principles that interaccommodatively govern all transactions of Universe."

-- RBF, Introduction from his book Synergetics

which is free online here: http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synergetics/toc/toc.html

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