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Why "Free" Will?

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d'Anconia
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This thread reminds me that my working definitions of a few related O'ist concepts needs some tuning.

The concepts I don't feel quite pinned down in my mind in terms of precise genus/differentia are: animate, volitional, aware, conscious, and conceptual.

To my mind, "conceptual" extends "conscious" extends "aware". I am conceptual extends conscious extends aware. My dog is conscious extends aware. The pear tree in my yard is aware.

To my mind also, "volitional" subsumes "animate". I am volitional extends animate. The pear tree in my yard is animate. But what about my dog? Is he volitional, or just animate? See, the notion of volition is not yet clear to me, I guess.

I do note that there are two aspects here, observation and action, which are related by animate entities -- in other words, living entities are the only things with a degree of power to observe and act independently.

I think the observe/act aspects of being alive should logically have parallel scoping hierarchies, but then I need another concept to match up one to one. So, does my dog have volition, and then, what I have is an extension of that (maybe, free will?); or does my dog have something less than volition?

Do the parallel conceptual hierarchies look like:

Aware <== Conscious <== Conceptual

Animate <== "new concept" <== Volitional

-- or --

Aware <== Conscious <== Conceptual

Animate <== Volitional <== "new concept"

Happy to be set straight here if I have missed something.

- ico

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The concepts I don't feel quite pinned down in my mind in terms of precise genus/differentia are: animate, volitional, aware, conscious, and conceptual.

(I am going to leave off the parentheses on all of the terms and concepts to which I refer because there are too many. For example the first sentence should be: "Animate" comes from the root "animal" . . .)

Animate comes from root animal which implies movement which exempts plants.

Volitional is an adjective and a type of consciousness. It comes from the noun volition which is a faculty possessed only by humans. Volition is equivalent to free will and implies choice. The volitional faculty is the conceptual faculty they are essentially the same though they may be derived from different perspectives: metaphysical, epistemological. As far as we know a conceptual consciousness must be a volitional consciousness, i.e., that is our only experience.

There are two types of consciousness: perceptual and conceptual. Animals possess only the first and only man possesses the second.

There are two ways to go on aware and I'm not sure which is correct. I believe one school holds that conscious and aware are approximately equivalent. This typically leaves out any purely sensory animals without perception such as star fish and jelly fish (I'm not sure what that cut-off is: vertebrates, chordates, . . . ???)

The other school holds that aware means self-aware which only includes humans and possibly apes and I'm not sure about dolphins.

Edit:

Sorry, it looks like animate means alive which does include plants and typically I use animate when making a distinction between animate matter and inanimate matter which agrees with the definition "alive"

Edited by Marc K.
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Thanks Marc. Good synopsis of the state of play, but as I said, I'm confused nonetheless.

I think that a functional picture is the easiest way to see things clearly. I focus on what an entity does. Man walks, thinks, etc. Dogs walk and think, too. But Man's thinking is conceptual, which means, the manner in which it functions is specialized to allow indirect references to stand-in for collections of experiences in cases where the distinctions across a given collection are logically immaterial in the context one is considering.

Functional restrictions are reflected with adverbs. Plants are aware reflexively. Animals are aware perceptually. Humans are aware conceptually.

Awareness is awareness of otherness, at its most essential; you don't find "animate" in the absence of "aware", in at least a reflexive sense that plants are aware.

So, animate and aware are two integrated aspects of a single whole, a living entity. A living entity is animate and aware in some degree, those are the omitted measurements that distinguish life from non-life.

So there is two-dimensional vector space into which each entity of my experience can be mapped according to the degree of animation on one axis, and the degree of awareness on the other. Man is at the extreme of both animated and aware (Man is conceptually animated, which is why Man is at that extreme).

Plants are near the minimum of animation (mushrooms may be even closer to the limit), and the minimum of awareness. Dogs are towards the upper echelons of both, but way behind humans, scale-wise (e.g., if you were to plot on coordinate axes to scale, humans wouldn't fit on your standard graph paper).

It appears that the two, animated and aware, are strongly correlated, which is why traditional approaches see one spectrum instead of a plane of possibilities. And it may well be that the plane can be collapsed into a line, for all intents and purposes, i.e., if one plots all the known entities, do they all fall along the a line?

I'll stop now, but try placing those you know onto such a graph, based on what you perceive to be their level of activity, and their level of awareness. Fun and profitable exercise. I find active, unaware people the hardest to deal with.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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Thinking about animated, aware entities, if the correlation between these aspects is 100%, so that my graph is a line when I plot all the entities I know of, then it seems there is only one measurement omitted.

If so, can I call this a spectrum of "aliveness"?

And, if so, can I claim that a self-consistent entity lies along the line, always? And while man the rational archetype lies on the line, any given individual has the conceptual power to deviate from the line. And a rational person will lie close to the line, i.e., their ideas and actions will be concerted.

Makes some sense. Conceptual beings are more alive.

- ico

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Good synopsis of the state of play, but as I said, I'm confused nonetheless.

You are going to have to tell me exactly what you are confused about, is it: defining concepts or where to draw the line or the defining characteristic or understanding genus and differentia or something else -- because now I'm confused.

I think you'll have to tell me what your purpose is. What is your goal in making the considerations you have in these last few posts? What makes it "fun and profitable"? I mean, I'm interested but I'm not sure what "state of play" we are talking about. What are you trying to understand?

I think that a functional picture is the easiest way to see things clearly.

What are you trying to see more clearly? Are we still talking about volition and free will?

I focus on what an entity does. Man walks, thinks, etc. Dogs walk and think, too. But Man's thinking is conceptual, which means, the manner in which it functions is specialized to allow indirect references to stand-in for collections of experiences in cases where the distinctions across a given collection are logically immaterial in the context one is considering.

By "indirect references" do you mean "abstractions", "concepts"?

Functional restrictions are reflected with adverbs. Plants are aware reflexively. Animals are aware perceptually. Humans are aware conceptually.

Awareness is awareness of otherness, at its most essential; you don't find "animate" in the absence of "aware", in at least a reflexive sense that plants are aware.

So, animate and aware are two integrated aspects of a single whole, a living entity. A living entity is animate and aware in some degree, those are the omitted measurements that distinguish life from non-life.

First, I am less comfortable with the concept "aware" (because I'm not sure to what it refers) than I am with the concept "conscious". But in any case I don't believe plants are aware and I'm not sure if all animals are aware. Definitely plants are not conscious and definitely not all animals are conscious. Therefore I do believe that you find animate in the absence of aware. And most certainly you find animate in the absence of conscious. Therefore, not all living entities are animate AND aware in some degree. The only thing needed to distinguish life from non-life is animate matter as opposed to inanimate matter. I think this is a problem of concept formation for you. In particular I think you are forgetting about the commensurable characteristic or conceptual common denominator or CCD. To quote Ayn Rand:

Observe the multiple role of measurements in the process of concept-formation, in both of its two essential parts: differentiation and integration. Concepts cannot be formed at random. All concepts are formed by first differentiating two or more existents from other existents. All conceptual differentiations are made in terms of commensurable characteristics (i.e., characteristics possessing a common unit of measurement). No concept could be formed, for instance, by attempting to distinguish long objects from green objects. Incommensurable characteristics cannot be integrated into one unit. -- Ayn Rand, ITOE pg 13

and

A commensurable characteristic (such as shape in the case of tables, or hue in the case of colors) is an essential element in the process of concept-formation. I shall designate it as the "Conceptual Common Denominator" and define it as "The characteristic(s) reducible to a unit of measurement, by means of which man differentiates two or more existents from other existents possessing it."

The distinguishing characteristic(s) of a concept represents a specified category of measurements within the "Conceptual Common Denominator" involved.

[emphasis added] -- Ayn Rand, ITOE pg 15

So there is two-dimensional vector space into which each entity of my experience can be mapped according to the degree of animation on one axis, and the degree of awareness on the other. Man is at the extreme of both animated and aware (Man is conceptually animated, which is why Man is at that extreme).

Plants are near the minimum of animation (mushrooms may be even closer to the limit), and the minimum of awareness. Dogs are towards the upper echelons of both, but way behind humans, scale-wise (e.g., if you were to plot on coordinate axes to scale, humans wouldn't fit on your standard graph paper).

Again, I'm not sure why you are doing this in the first place but I don't think it would be legitimate to have a two dimensional graph because animate and aware do not cover the same entities. So some entities on the animated axis would not even be represented on the aware axis. Then again, if you could determine which variable is dependent upon the other then maybe it would be legitimate to do so. But legitimate for what purpose? Then again you would have to be careful which "variables" you chose since I don't think "animated" is a variable quantity, it is a binary quality: you are either alive or you aren't. So I don't know I suppose "intelligence" or "speed" or "age" might work as variables and I suppose this is what scientific inquiry is about but . . . it just all seems . . . arbitrary to me right now.

It appears that the two, animated and aware, are strongly correlated, which is why traditional approaches see one spectrum instead of a plane of possibilities. And it may well be that the plane can be collapsed into a line, for all intents and purposes, i.e., if one plots all the known entities, do they all fall along the a line?

I'm not sure why I am mentioning this but it is interesting that plants actually evolved after animals.

Thinking about animated, aware entities, if the correlation between these aspects is 100%, so that my graph is a line when I plot all the entities I know of, then it seems there is only one measurement omitted.

If so, can I call this a spectrum of "aliveness"?

And, if so, can I claim that a self-consistent entity lies along the line, always? And while man the rational archetype lies on the line, any given individual has the conceptual power to deviate from the line. And a rational person will lie close to the line, i.e., their ideas and actions will be concerted.

Makes some sense. Conceptual beings are more alive.

I'm not sure what measurement you are omitting.

No, I think aliveness is another binary quality. You are either alive or you aren't.

I don't know what "a self-consistent entity" is.

I don't think you can call man a "rational archetype" because that kind of implies other types of rational beings.

I don't know what concerted ideas and actions are.

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Yea, I'm straying off topic, because up to this point this thread was run of the mill, but now something clicked into another area of interest for me. Sorry 'bout that, I'll try starting another thread when I get the opportunity, and I promise to incorporate responses to your last post, Marc, when I do.

- ico

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It appears that the two, animated and aware, are strongly correlated, which is why traditional approaches see one spectrum instead of a plane of possibilities. And it may well be that the plane can be collapsed into a line, for all intents and purposes, i.e., if one plots all the known entities, do they all fall along the a line?

You can kind of see why that might be through introspection. You observe that your percepts come automatically, that you have no control over them. So assuming a dog's perception is like ours, he must have a fully automatic mind. Forming concepts/understanding are where trying/effort/will - control - come in, so our ability to form concepts and our ability to direct our mind go hand in hand.

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I guess that my dog does indeed make some minor decisions. I am not convinced that the dividing line is stark, between human cognition and dog cognition.

Dogs clearly have emotions. My dog gets angry when my son eats the leftovers the dog was expecting to get. I've seen this, it is hysterically funny. My dog gets sad when I leave him alone for too long. My dog is afraid of strangers, which causes him to respond aggressively if he feels cornered.

On the other hand, plants and bacteria clearly do not have emotions.

Emotions by their nature can change over time, i.e., my dog used to be afraid of riding in the car, now he enjoys it. So dogs can learn how to feel differently about the same situation. And dogs can of course learn new tricks which are clearly not instinctual, e.g., chasing a ball is based on their instinct but not actually something dogs do in the wild. Dogs also exhibit judgment, and clearly consider some actions (such as jumping into the pool) prior to acting.

But I think it is the emotional responses that suggest a rudimentary level of conceptual consciousness in dogs. Is it possible to have emotions, i.e., automated but evolving feelings/responses, without some level of non-automated cognition/judgment?

I think it is a bit facetious to isolate humans in a binary fashion from other higher animals. And I wonder: could emotions be the rudimentary form of cognition, for those creatures that haven't (yet?) evolved the necessary biology to support higher order conceptuality?

I see no contradiction here. I see a bootstrapping procedure. First, perceptions/emotions, which provide the necessary grist to bootstrap the concept formation process; then, after sufficient experience, conceptual cognition becomes the norm and is used to re-integrate perceptions/emotions in a larger context, and then drive emotions (rather than the other way around, as for a dog or baby).

Anyhow, another off-topic post here, gotta stop it.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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I am not convinced that the dividing line is stark, between human cognition and dog cognition.

[...]

I think it is a bit facetious to isolate humans in a binary fashion from other higher animals.

Wow, this is stunning to me. Have you heard a dog talk? Have you seen a dog untangle itself when its leash is wrapped around a tree? Can it change its environment? Can it do any of things that are the hallmarks of a conceptual consciousness? Do you really think it has the ability to abstract?

And I can understand how you might think that some people on this forum are being facetious about certain things but that's pretty easy to catch, certainly I'm not kidding when I recognize that dog behavior is fundamentally different from human behavior, maybe you meant "fallacious". Not to argue from intimidation, but just considering the level of thought that Ayn Rand put into everything she said, do you think she was being facetious or fallacious when talking about the distinction between perception and conception?

Emotions by their nature can change over time, i.e., my dog used to be afraid of riding in the car, now he enjoys it. So dogs can learn how to feel differently about the same situation. And dogs can of course learn new tricks which are clearly not instinctual, e.g., chasing a ball is based on their instinct but not actually something dogs do in the wild. Dogs also exhibit judgment, and clearly consider some actions (such as jumping into the pool) prior to acting.

(I don't know if "learn" is the correct term or if "can be trained" is a better one, but many behaviorists use the term "learn" so I'll accept it.) Dogs learn by association, by stimulus and response, just ask Pavlov, but that is not a conceptual activity it is purely perceptual: if I "shake" I get a treat. But they can't break that cycle on their own either, again ask Pavlov: first the dog hears a bell and then he gets food and he salivates, eventually he hears the bell and salivates whether he gets the food or not.

(Again, I don't know if dogs have "emotions" but the term doesn't scare me too much because "emotions" are "automatic evaluations" and dogs definitely act automatically and by association can "evaluate". I suspect that they evaluate things and situations as either good or bad by association and that association can be changed) Have you seen "The Dog Whisperer"? Not only can Ceasar change how a dog "feels" but he can do it almost instantaneously by making a new association. Ceasar also points out that any particular association only applies to a certain situation in a certain place and that if you don't want a dog to be scared about going in the pool you have to repeat the training many times and you have to repeat it for every different pool you encounter. There is no abstraction going on here.

Chasing a ball clearly is instinctual and maybe the reason you don't see them doing it in the wild is because THERE ARE NO BALLS IN THE WILD!!!

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Alright, Marc, I figured I get some flames for that.

But, yes, I do question the logic of making stark distinctions. Clearly, dog physiology is different than human, and especially with regards to the brain, so of course their methods of cognition differ. I am not disputing that dogs are like "little humans", sorry if that was not clear.

But how do you work this all out with Darwin? In other words, when did humans stand up and become conceptual beings, versus apes? What is the genetic switch? I am certain that all mental states have corresponding physical states, and I don't see how humans could have "magically" evolved. I also see there is recent evidence that the human brain has SHRUNK, and the best explanation seems to be that irrelevant portions are gradually atrophying as what it means to be human evolves with society and technology and knowledge.

So, to clear it up, I consider humans to be the only beings worthy of the adjective "conceptual"; but I don't see "pure perception" as any better than "pure sensation" in explaining the behavior of other living beings, and it bugs me that such an evolutionary leap as conceptuality (assuming you agree with me that human genetic ancestors were likely NOT conceptual beings). I guess that "complexity theory" or somesuch might apply, dunno -- my point is, how do you go from a zero to a fully functioning capacity when switching from one genetic species to another closely related one, e.g., humans and apes?

Yes, this bugs me, and I think is an area that Ayn glossed over a little. I think it is essential also not to fall into making Ayn a demigod; betcha there are at least one or two of her ideas that we accept today but won't tomorrow -- not fundamentals, but maybe a conclusion that will change with context. For example, is it possible to breed dogs until you get one with a demonstrable conceptual facility?

- ico

- ico

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I don't think I flamed you. :confused:

But how do you work this all out with Darwin? In other words, when did humans stand up and become conceptual beings, versus apes? What is the genetic switch?

[...]

For example, is it possible to breed dogs until you get one with a demonstrable conceptual facility?

This is a scientific question so neither Ayn Rand or I is obligated to work it out. But you don't have to know anything about evolution in order to observe the clear differences in animal and human behavior and to know what these differences can be attributed to.

However, I do happen to know something about evolution and from the above comments I'm not sure you understand how it works (don't take this as an attack, maybe you do, I'm not sure :zorro: ).

First, we will never breed a rational dog because it wouldn't be a dog anymore -- and this is more than a semantic issue -- this goes to how evolution occurs, it doesn't occur in a straight line. In common parlance "we evolved from apes", but this isn't accurate. Apes did not stand up and become human. Genetic mutations occurred, most of which died out fairly quickly with the organisms that possessed them because those mutations didn't help the organism to survive. But over the course of millions of years some of the mutations did confer an advantage on those that possessed them and therefore they were naturally selected for. Clearly, the ability to abstract is a huge advantage. So we share a common ancestor with apes, just as we share a common ancestor with dogs, just as we share a common ancestor with every living thing on earth.

I am certain that all mental states have corresponding physical states, and I don't see how humans could have "magically" evolved.

Well, it depends on what you mean by "mental states" but I don't see what the connection is between the first phrase and the second. I mean conception and perception are not mental states, they are abilities inherent in the types of beings we are, they are types of consciousness.

my point is, how do you go from a zero to a fully functioning capacity when switching from one genetic species to another closely related one, e.g., humans and apes?

Slowly, by small steps over large periods of time, just the way evolution works. It is a combination of slowly changing environment and genetic changes in individuals selected for that adapt best to that environment. It wasn't just one change, one scenario is: expansion of the savannah, coming out of the trees, standing up, migration, change in diet, loss of hair, opposable thumbs, standing up to predators, throwing, pack hunting, cooking of meat, using tools, making tools . . .

So, to clear it up, I consider humans to be the only beings worthy of the adjective "conceptual"; but I don't see "pure perception" as any better than "pure sensation" in explaining the behavior of other living beings, and it bugs me that such an evolutionary leap as conceptuality (assuming you agree with me that human genetic ancestors were likely NOT conceptual beings).

. . . And then it isn't such a huge leap taken all at once. Granted it is a big difference but is it that much bigger than: Single celled animals becoming a colony and evolving into a single organism? A fish stepping foot on land and populating the globe? An organism capable of locomotion planting itself and evolving into all the plants on the planet? Non-flowering plants evolving into flowering plants? Fish evolving into tetrapods into mammals and mammals going back into the ocean to evolve into dolphins and whales? Sensory animals unable to perceive the existents that make up the world evolving into animals that can see the world as it is? Dinosaurs unable to fly evolving into birds?

It isn't like the conceptual faculty was made out of whole cloth, after all perception already existed and now we have the ability to organize our perceptions, group them and remember the group.

Since we are related to all living organisms, clearly we do have an ancestor who was not conceptual but we also have ancestors who were conceptual. Certainly all of Homo sapiens was rational and probably all in the genus Homo possessed a conceptual consciousness and that goes back 2.5 million years.

Yes, this bugs me, and I think is an area that Ayn glossed over a little. I think it is essential also not to fall into making Ayn a demigod; betcha there are at least one or two of her ideas that we accept today but won't tomorrow -- not fundamentals, but maybe a conclusion that will change with context.

I don't think she glossed over it, she just wasn't a scientist.

I don't think I said anything that would indicate that I consider Ayn Rand a demigod. Certainly I value her highly, revere her mind, writing and character, and find her to be one of the greatest thinkers of all time.

If you find anything in philosophy about which you disagree with Ayn Rand let me know, I've never found anything.

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Thanks Marc. BTW, I meant "flamed" in a good way, like, I knew I was coloring outside the lines and appreciate being corrected when I stray and miss my "exit".

You are of course correct, and I think I was trying to say more or less the same: the development of a conceptual faculty was gradual, a genetic induction as you point out.

And that also makes my point, i.e., I am not contradicting O'ism nor you by saying that there IS a curve here, and while the curve may be a very steep exponential as a function of organic evolution, any creature that is animate has some degree of control over its environment in terms of moving to a better place for it, if it is capable of doing so. You can say this is automatic, but it certainly not dull and automatic like a rock or river; there is a "spark" there, however dim.

I imagine drawing an exponential curve and then zooming out from it ... the region close to x=0 will not noticeably deviate from 1 relative to the scale at, say, x=100. I don't see why one would object to drawing this curve based on volitional power, and then drawing a horizontal threshold above which cutoff conceptuality is available as a non-automated feature.

Whatever, I think I'll drop it now, not particularly useful.

But thanks for your time, Marc. Really appreciate it.

(edited to add: I too have yet to find flaw with Ayn's works -- the only "flaw" is that the logical conclusions have yet still to be worked out in the special sciences! That's up to us, eh?)

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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"Free" does not apply to metaphysics. There is no freedom from identity or causality. Expecting that it should is wrong and dumb.

"Free" does apply to epistemology and fields beyond that. Even presuming to ask "should I believe in free will?" assumes you have a choice.

If free will exists in our minds (in epistemology) and our minds are things that exist, then free will also exists metaphysically.

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If free will exists in our minds (in epistemology) and our minds are things that exist, then free will also exists metaphysically.

Read more closely. Metaphysics is a topic in philosophy, a kind of knowledge.

"Free" does not apply to metaphysics. There is no freedom from identity or causality. Expecting that it should is wrong and dumb.

Specifically it is the stolen concept fallacy.

"Free" does apply to the metaphysical nature of man. Metaphysics as employed in philosophy is used to identify "the given" meaning independent of consciousness. To apply what is true of the metaphysical nature of man in the particular meaning the phrase "free will" has (the choice to focus) to the entire subject of metaphysics in general is to invalidly enlarge the scope of the word "free" beyond its proper referent and is precisely to demand freedom from identity or causality.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Addressing the OP,

I like this quote: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed" by Francis Bacon

The fact we get to assign values to things in existence is what I consider "free" about our will. The fact our body obeys our mind, not considering disorders or electric shock, is also what I consider "free" about our will. The fact that a contradiction can exist in the mind (only abstractly) is what I consider "free" about our will--if contradictions couldn't exist in our mind, then we would be just as rigid as reality. A contradiction-free mind, is the highest standard I can hope to reach--I choose that as one of my highest values. What of those who choose the opposite?

But to answer your last comment about how our minds are made up of the same "stuff" within objective reality so therefore our minds are objective; yes I agree with that. My guess is that is the only way reason can work... objectively. Contradictions do not exist in reality and they seem to work themselves out in man's mind--they tend to be self-annihilating.

Edited by m082844
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The fact we get to assign values to things in existence is what I consider "free" about our will. The fact our body obeys our mind, not considering disorders or electric shock, is also what I consider "free" about our will.

Animals do both of these things and they don't have free will.

But to answer your last comment about how our minds are made up of the same "stuff" within objective reality so therefore our minds are objective; yes I agree with that. My guess is that is the only way reason can work... objectively.

If you mean that our minds, our ability to reason, exist, OK, that is non controversial. However if you mean that our minds and our reason work automatically and their content conforms to reality and is automatically objective, then NO.

Contradictions do not exist in reality and they seem to work themselves out in man's mind--they tend to be self-annihilating.

They don't work themselves out automatically, man must take an active role in identifying and defeating contradictions and everything that is based upon those contradictions. Many men live with contradictory thoughts their entire lives.

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Animals do both of these things and they don't have free will.

Granted, given the context I gave. Perhaps animals have a free will too, given this context; and only to the extent of their mind's ability to choose/act.

I think more accurately what distinguishes us from animals is our ability to think with greater abstraction and synthesis. Also, we can set values in contradiction to one another, and we can act in contradiction--and we can switch it later. I don't know if animals can do that.

If you mean that our minds, our ability to reason, exist, OK, that is non controversial. However if you mean that our minds and our reason work automatically and their content conforms to reality and is automatically objective, then NO.
I mean the former.

They don't work themselves out automatically, man must take an active role in identifying and defeating contradictions and everything that is based upon those contradictions. Many men live with contradictory thoughts their entire lives.

Again my context was lacking. If man acts self-destructively base his assumed contradictions then he will tend to destroy himself; thus, eliminating his contradictions. I agree that man can survive with a certain degree of contradiction; however, those with the least amount of contradiction are better able to survive [compare Galt's Gulch to the rest of society]. Contradictions tend to work themselves out when contradictory abstractions are applied concretely; that's what I thought Galt assumed anyway, and that's what I think.
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Perhaps animals have a free will too, [...]

I explicitly argue against this in posts #34 and #36 above. Also, search the Forum for "free will" and "volition" as there are many many threads on the topic.

Perhaps animals have a free will too, given this context; and only to the extent of their mind's ability to choose/act.

"Choose" and "act" are two very different things.

I think more accurately what distinguishes us from animals is our ability to think with greater abstraction and synthesis. Also, we can set values in contradiction to one another, and we can act in contradiction--and we can switch it later. I don't know if animals can do that.

Right, animals cannot choose to act against their lives, which means they don't have free will.

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1. I explicitly argue against this in posts #34 and #36 above. Also, search the Forum for "free will" and "volition" as there are many many threads on the topic.

2. "Choose" and "act" are two very different things.

3. Right, animals cannot choose to act against their lives, which means they don't have free will.

1. You said "animals do both of these", and you were referencing "assign values to things"; there seems to be a choice involved [AKA free-will]. The choice is what value do you assign different things? Perhaps the assignment of values is automatic for animals, but then they don't assign them at that point.

2. Yes they are.

3. (all semantics on my part here) Is that the standard of free will--whatever capacity we have to choose to act against our lives? I'd hate for people to have to prove that they have free will. I've heard of animals attacking or provoking a bigger animal to protect their young--that seems to go against their lives.

Also I read your previous post, and I'm not sure what you want me to get out of it. I can't see anything that I disagree with.

Edited by m082844
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  • 2 weeks later...

I disagree, Dante. This is an important point. Redundancy is to be avoided -- by definition, it is redundant; and, due to friction/entropy effects (don't laugh), redundancy in structures, whether conceptual or physical, tends to destroy the stability of the structure.

The problem with "free will" is that it suggest there is some other kind of will, as you know. This is not brushable under the carpet. "Will" is enough, meaning "determination to do something". It is an inborn power of Man. It is, it exists, it is sufficiently encapsulated with the meaning of "will".

Modifying a good concept like "will", by prepending "free", and then claiming the add has no net effect is silly redundancy.

To regain the moral high ground from the plebes, one must think in terms of "will"; personally, I have trouble thinking of "will" when I say "free will", but then, that's me.

Cheers.

- ico

I may be a bit late, but Piekoff actually said in a podcast that redundancy can be necessary for clarification. "Rational" egoism. "Laissez-faire" capitalism. "Individual" rights. All of these are redundant, but only if you understand the underlying premises behind them. People today don't, and thus, the redundancy is necessary

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I may be a bit late, but Piekoff actually said in a podcast that redundancy can be necessary for clarification. "Rational" egoism. "Laissez-faire" capitalism. "Individual" rights. All of these are redundant, but only if you understand the underlying premises behind them. People today don't, and thus, the redundancy is necessary

They are redundant, but there is no possible degree of redundancy that can fix stupid. Another example of redundancy, but it is still misunderstood (on purpose) is the U.S. Constitution.
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They are redundant, but there is no possible degree of redundancy that can fix stupid. Another example of redundancy, but it is still misunderstood (on purpose) is the U.S. Constitution.

In what way exactly is the U.S. Constitution redundant? As a document which lays out the precise structure of our government, divvying up power between different branches and offices, it was essential to a clear and transparent government. It's not enough to simply have the understanding that the government exists to protect our rights; in order for a government to accomplish that, we must specify that government's structure in addition to its purpose, and that is what the Constitution accomplishes.

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Indeed.... merely stating the principle that government exists only to protect rights is what Objectivism supplies, but that's not sufficient, actually to form a government. One also needs to know how to organize a government, preferably with built-in safeguards against abuse. Those won't work forever, particularly if the culture abandons a proper notion of the role of government, but they will slow things down and curb abuses that will happen if and when the wrong people get into government positions.

I sometimes think of Ayn Rand's politics branch as being more of a "meta politics" branch since it does answer the question of why we have government and what it should do, and says less about what it should look like. (Constitutional monarchy? Republic? Democracy? How organized? How much does the specific organization matter?) (I've also never really been a fan of describing the politics as "capitalism" since that's more of an economic term; it describes how people interact with each other, and pretty much a government isn't involved. "Laissez Faire" has more emphasis on what the government should do (Hands Off!) or rather not do, so I don't quite find it redundant to say "Laissez Fair Capitalism".)

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They are redundant, but there is no possible degree of redundancy that can fix stupid.

One need not "fix stupid" in order to explain terms in a different way such that less intelligent people can understand. When we teach children we start with simple terms that they can grasp and understand. Many "stupid" people are capable of grasping some concepts when explained in ways that more intelligent people find unnecessary.

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Free Will is also defined as volition and nobody talks about free volition, it would be a redundancy. The problem of volition could be resolved by invoking of the law of identity and causation. Obviously, for the reductionist, who views brain as collection of atoms, the problem is irresolvable. However, mind and volition are not an equivalent of the brain's physical structure. They are new emergent properties of the brain which emerged as result of self-organization of it physical parts-atoms, molecules, neurons. This new properties have new identity, the identity of living entity which is an ability to generate self-initiated,self-sustaining, goal orientated action. Causation is identity applied to action. Therefore every living organism is driven by self-causation, when the cause is the organism's goals projected into the future. Self-causation on the conceptual level is volition.

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