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Do animals have volition II?

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17 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Looks like you will go to any lengths to establish 'animal volition'.

Can anyone tell me why it's so important to you all?

 

Why should animal volition be *important*?

That is what I'd like to know. Especially in the light of controvertible evidence.

Broadly, the modern philosophical trend has been strongly towards human determinism and denial of individual volition/reason. The advocacy for 'animal volition' could serve to close the gap even further. I.e. mankind and his mind has not been so great, in fact destructive and oppressive - but look how clever and wonderful are animals (to one another esp.)!

So we'd arrive at relativism, an identity equalization of all the species, which only devalues mankind.

The nihilistic outcome can be seen by the man/animal inversion by radical environmentalists who assert, as did the editor of 'Nature' a few decades ago: "Human beings have no more importance than sea-slugs".  

By scientists and biologists making the naturalist turn, overcoming supernaturalist Creationism and men's Souls, (etc.), the eventual consequence in the philosophical, ideological and popular culture has been: the diminishment and even elimination of man's volitional mind. Abetted by some scientists, too.

I think animal existence which we share our biology with is too marvellous and of too high a value and source of knowledge to men - for what it actually is, in endless forms and behaviors - to be treated for less than what it is - or more. 

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On 6/24/2021 at 6:06 PM, Eiuol said:

I would be careful of the word deliberate.

Definitions of deliberate

I used "deliberate" as a verb, not an adjective. While that has several definitions, context matters. I used it to mean evaluate alternatives before selecting the most preferred one. Maybe there is a better term (consider?). I have used "deliberate" much like Aristotle did in Nicomachean Ethics, Book III, Chapters 2 & 3 regarding choice and deliberation. It's about man deliberating and choosing, so obviously there is a lot of guessing how it pertains to animals. Like Peikoff said in the video, he can't experience or know what it's like to have the consciousness of a different species.  
 

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On 6/24/2021 at 6:28 PM, whYNOT said:

Before you scratch an itch, do you first purposefully deliberate -

Now, where is that irritation?

I wouldn't ask such a stupid question. If I have an itch, its location is obvious. Deliberation is unnecessary for knowing its location.

On 6/24/2021 at 6:28 PM, whYNOT said:

Or do you automatically reach for and scratch that exact spot?

No. Absolutely no.

One definition of "automatic" is "without volition or conscious control" (link). I may scratch it, which requires I voluntarily -- nonautomatically -- initiate and control bodily movements, usually of a hand and fingers. I may ignore it. I may not scratch it because something else is more important at the time.

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On 6/25/2021 at 11:00 AM, whYNOT said:

Why should animal volition be *important*?

Its importance to its consciousness/awareness and to its bodily movements. 

Consciousness is a biological adaptation that has many uses/functions. They include for humans awareness of the external world and inner and outer body states, perception, concept-formation, controlling actions, learning, remembering, language, setting priorities, problem solving, decision making, imagining, and planning. 

That's a very complicated list. To get a better understanding of consciousness, we can focus attention on a small part of the list and/or try to grasp the essential functions of the consciousness of creatures with a much simpler kind of consciousness. Think outside the box, especially the one that Ayn Rand made. I believe the authors of What is consciousness for? did that. I believe Pierson and Trout doing so led them to some great insights. 

- Consciousness and volition are integral: consciousness evolved as the platform for the volitional control of movement.
- Volition is the sole causal efficacy of consciousness.
- Volition directs attention which in turn directs movement.

Attention to the movements of humans opens the door to a vast variety of bodily movements, especially those of the hands and fingers (using tools and machines, making things, writing, typing, etc.) and the mouth, tongue, and vocal chords (all involved in speaking). None of these things could happen without controlled bodily movements. 

In footnote 3 Pierson and Trout say: "By 'motor movements' we are referring to all movements of an organism, not just locomotion. Other examples would include eating, mating, speaking, freezing in place, and moving the tongue, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, arms, head, torso, etc. Obviously, volitional movements require extensive neurophysiology in addition to consciousness."

Yes, they implicitly include hands and fingers for humans. Yet greater attention to hands and fingers should help highlight the huge significance of bodily movements to human life.

If an image of a human body is distorted in size to represent the brain's dedication to various body parts, then the hands, fingers, and mouth would be far larger proportionally than the rest of the body. It would be something like this. Cortical homunculus.

On 6/25/2021 at 11:00 AM, whYNOT said:

The advocacy for 'animal volition' could serve to close the gap even further. I.e. mankind and his mind has not been so great, in fact destructive and oppressive

That's subjective, pessimistic, and a non sequitur. I was not aware that upholding animal volition in this tiny community could have such a destructive global effect on humanity. :) Having been involved in it for its short existence, I now hold a very contrary opinion. Consider the efficacy of animal volition versus that of human volition. Compare the efficacy of homo sapiens with its intelligence and hands to the efficacy of another species with its intelligence and hands or forepaws. Homo sapiens wins hands down. :) Compare what homo sapiens can do with its mouth speaking a language with what another species can do with its mouth making sounds. Homo sapiens wins again. The differences are huge and widen the gap.  

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11 hours ago, merjet said:

I believe the authors of What is consciousness for? did that. I believe Pierson and Trout doing so led them to some great insights. 

Pierson posts on HBL by the way. I have talked to him a whole bunch of times. I disagree with him on some minor points, but really ideas like this stem from the psychology of perception. 

I am confident that Rand was intelligent enough about questions of neuroscience and psychology that if we explained to her the good science out there about the nature perception, she would recognize that she would need to alter what she said about animals.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I am confident that Rand was intelligent enough about questions of neuroscience and psychology that if we explained to her the good science out there about the nature perception, she would recognize that she would need to alter what she said about animals.

What did she say about animals that in your view would need to be altered?

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Nothing massive, but some passages in her writing that characterize animal behavior as automatic as if they all drift like a jellyfish in terms of consciousness. I think she would need to expand on her notion of perception as more active than she had previously thought. This would not weaken any of her theories about grounding concepts in perception, if anything, it would strengthen the way she explains how concepts are abstract in nature yet practical. 

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13 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I think she would need to expand on her notion of perception as more active than she had previously thought.

In Virtue of Selfishness (p. 19 in my Signet paperback) there is a paragraph about higher organisms capable of perception. An animal "is able to grasp the perceptual concretes immediately present and it is able to form automatic perceptual associations, but it can go no further. It is able to learn certain skills to deal with specific situations, such as hunting or hiding, which the parents of higher animals teach their young. But an animal has no choice in the knowledge and the skills it acquires; it can only repeat them generation after generation.  ... But so long as it lives an animal acts on its knowledge with automatic safety and no power of choice."

There are some obvious problems with this. Animals can acquire skills and knowledge in the course of their lives not necessarily taught by their parents. They can also make choices. A cat can decide to play with the toy it sees or ignore it. An antelope can spot a lion and then decide if the lion is a threat or not. The lion may be eyeing another antelope or not even looking for prey. 

James J. Gibson's theory of affordances offers much to overcome these problems. Gibson's theory was first published in 1977, late in Ayn Rand's life. It reappeared in Gibson's The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception in 1979 (Wikipedia - James J. Gibson).

This article is about Gibson's theory. (It can be read in full with a free JSTOR account.) The "See" in the title is an obvious extension of "see" in its strictly visual, perceptual sense. For example, a bee or other nectar-eating animal sees a flower. It also "sees" what the flower affords -- an opportunity to eat nectar. The bee or other animal may then use its power to initiate and then control its bodily movements in order to eat the nectar. On the other hand, it may discover there is not enough nectar there to make it worthwhile and move on to another flower. 

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On 6/30/2021 at 12:40 PM, merjet said:

Its importance to its consciousness/awareness and to its bodily movements. 

Consciousness is a biological adaptation that has many uses/functions. They include for humans awareness of the external world and inner and outer body states, perception, concept-formation, controlling actions, learning, remembering, language, setting priorities, problem solving, decision making, imagining, and planning. 

That's a very complicated list. To get a better understanding of consciousness, we can focus attention on a small part of the list and/or try to grasp the essential functions of the consciousness of creatures with a much simpler kind of consciousness. Think outside the box, especially the one that Ayn Rand made. I believe the authors of What is consciousness for? did that. I believe Pierson and Trout doing so led them to some great insights. 

- Consciousness and volition are integral: consciousness evolved as the platform for the volitional control of movement.
- Volition is the sole causal efficacy of consciousness.
- Volition directs attention which in turn directs movement.

Attention to the movements of humans opens the door to a vast variety of bodily movements, especially those of 

 The above relates to man's consciousness quite well.

For combined animals-humans we'd have to return to the beginnings of animal-human awareness, our senses. If one can imagine pre-conceptually and pre-perceptually, the pure senses would provide fleeting flashes of a discordant existence, an "undifferentiated chaos" such as a human baby's sensations from what goes on around her. There would be random sounds, sights, smells and touches - sensations disconnected from each other and unrelated to any 'thing', any existent. With vision for just one, everything seen could be flat, two-dimensional shapes, and smaller objects could be small (or simply far distant), colors and forms would have no character, motion by things would be magical... 

The developing, automatized integration/retention of that sense data by a maturing brain, brings into realization: *this* sound and *this* vision and *this* smell (etc.) are interconnected, and relate to *this* entity or source (e.g. "mother" - or a forest).

In that way every growing animal or human has found perception, effortlessly and automatically, and now have the ability to detect, isolate and distinguish one object from another and retain percepts.

And one sensation. touch, in particular, acting upon nerve endings in the outer body (and in internal organs) gives instant warning  - the "pleasure-pain mechanism" - of what can endanger life. That "retention" by perceptual associations gives the animal the automatic capability to avoid or shy away from a pain-causing source after an experience - once bitten twice shy.

There's no denying the huge importance of instincts. They are built-in to the animal: an innate moral code. Not always a guarantee of success, but the goose who 'chooses' not to fly south with its flock in winter is bound to perish. The animal that doesn't build its nest/lair/burrow/dam a specific way, won't survive or won't find a mate. So on, for the many thousands of observed instinctive behaviors by animals. Also is the instinct to adapt, greatest in the canines evidently, which have learned-adapted very well to coexist with humans and human habitats.

After all, the "locomotion proves volition" argument is unconvincing. It's given: every form of life HAS to move to live - that's physical "goal-directed action". The observed action by an animal which results in a seemingly (to us) beneficial outcome (for it) does not prove the initial cause was volitional.

Acute "attention" by way of its sense-perceptions  is critical to survival - and is also automatic. Then its instincts (and any learned behavior) inform that animal how to automatically react. 

IMO, there are three criteria for volition: A. Is a sentient being aware of its own (autonomous) existence? B. Does it hold value in its own existence? C. Can it cause its own destruction?

Without self-knowledge and therefore self-value, a creature cannot be said to be purposefully self-directing for its preservation. Its sense-perceptions and its instincts and its learning (for some) are all it has and needs to survive. With some variation in a small range it can't act otherwise.

 

 

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On 6/30/2021 at 12:40 PM, merjet said:

Think outside the box, especially the one that Ayn Rand made. I believe the authors of What is consciousness for? did that. I believe Pierson and Trout doing so led them to some great insights.  

Touche.

Except that Rand and her "box" is fundamental - in the extreme. All-inclusive. The essential explanation given for life, needs expansion, relating it to living things. At that metaphysical level, she can only be true or false and further explorations by biologists, neuroscientists, evolutionists (etc.) ¬should¬ slot right in and supplement her theory to be also valid. (Does this add to knowledge of existence as one knows it?) Which is not simple even for mammal/animal life, whose biology is the same for all intents and purposes, but whose consciousness crucially differs from man's, so inferences and empathic observations can only be drawn from noting their survival talents and behavior. They won't tell us what they know and feel, and WHY they act so, unfortunately. I will read the essay, looks interesting. 

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3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

In that way every growing animal or human has found perception, effortlessly and automatically

We have been discussing how the activity of perception is not automatic and effortless. In one sense it is automatic, to the degree that the information is picks up and presents to the organism is as automatic as a set of gears moving. But the ongoing activity of perception which is directed at different parts of the world is active and effortful. 

 

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

We have been discussing how the activity of perception is not automatic and effortless. In one sense it is automatic, to the degree that the information is picks up and presents to the organism is as automatic as a set of gears moving. But the ongoing activity of perception which is directed at different parts of the world is active and effortful. 

 

The hyper-activity of its ¬senses¬, not immediately "of perception". Referring to human infants it is well known that he/she is taking in copious amounts of sensory stimuli, to the extent of recognizing objects, sounds and faces by 6months or so, i.e., forming perceptions from earlier sensory chaos. Every infant does so, excepting a few with brain trauma. Which provides a clue that their sensory activity and transfer to retained/integrated sensations is automatized, by neurological processes, not achieved by their still-unformed "will". A baby "focuses" her senses in a diffused manner, psychologists say, more like a lantern than a spotlight. She actively and automatically takes in ¬everything¬ in her vicinity - the essential process to develop the percepts in her consciousness. Apart from not ever gaining "will", there is every reason to suppose young animals do the same, automatically too. With biology and nature, not every act by an organism needs a volitional cause.

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16 hours ago, whYNOT said:

the "locomotion proves volition" argument is unconvincing.

Stop with the straw men. Nobody has said that.
 

16 hours ago, whYNOT said:

IMO, there are three criteria for volition: A. Is a sentient being aware of its own (autonomous) existence? B. Does it hold value in its own existence? C. Can it cause its own destruction?

That's a great example of begging the question.

I assume those are your criteria for the volition of a normal human adult. What are your criteria for a human before it obtains a "will" to your satisfaction?  Where in your criteria are attention, action, and any goals other than possibly self-destruction?  What are your criteria for animal volition, which you have both affirmed and denied? "The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too." -- Galt's speech. 

Me: "Dealing with Tony's [whYNOT's] prolific use of non sequiturs, faulty a priori assumptions, and ambiguities takes too much time" (link).

I kindly omitted contradictions, begging the question, straw men, and package-dealing. 

Eiuol replied: "Resist the urge" (link). 

Good advice. I almost resisted this time. Thankfully, I wasted only a few minutes.

 

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

We have been discussing how the activity of perception is not automatic and effortless. In one sense it is automatic, to the degree that the information is picks up and presents to the organism is as automatic as a set of gears moving. But the ongoing activity of perception which is directed at different parts of the world is active and effortful.

Correct. Consider a hummingbird foraging for nectar. It actively uses its eyes to find flowers with the goal of finding nectar inside. It doesn't control what it sees, but it does control where it looks. Some flowers afford the opportunity for nectar. Others don't. The hummingbird actively seeks the ones that do. Then it actively controls and uses its beak and tongue to drink the nectar. If a hummingbird's finding and drinking nectar aren't enough to convince you that the hummingbird's perceiving its surroundings is active and takes effort, then consider the hummingbird's wings. A typical hummingbird bird flaps its wings 20-30 times per second, and it flaps them in various ways in order to control the positioning of its body in the air and consequently the position of its beak and tongue.  

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3 hours ago, merjet said:

It doesn't control what it sees, but it does control where it looks.

I think it is important also to point out that although both are part of perception, they are both very distinct parts as far as function and neurons go. Sensory neurons would deal with sensory stimulus and require no active participation mentally speaking. No awareness is necessary or even possible. There are some motor neurons and other kinds of neurons would deal with attention and require active attention. Awareness is necessary and required. "Automatic" becomes really just a metaphor for some types of animal behavior, and we start thinking about what kind of processes require awareness, and to what degree. 

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I think it is important also to point out that although both are part of perception, they are both very distinct parts as far as function and neurons go.

Yes, that's why I introduced the nervous system to the discussion (link). What it sees is a precondition of what it can do using what it sees. That's why I introduced the concept of affordance to the discussion (link).

 

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On 7/2/2021 at 12:32 PM, merjet said:

Stop with the straw men. Nobody has said that.
 

That's a great example of begging the question.

I assume those are your criteria for the volition of a normal human adult. What are your criteria for a human before it obtains a "will" to your satisfaction?  Where in your criteria are attention, action, and any goals other than possibly self-destruction?  What are your criteria for animal volition, which you have both affirmed and denied? "The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too." -- Galt's speech. 

Me: "Dealing with Tony's [whYNOT's] prolific use of non sequiturs, faulty a priori assumptions, and ambiguities takes too much time" (link).

I kindly omitted contradictions, begging the question, straw men, and package-dealing. 

Eiuol replied: "Resist the urge" (link). 

Good advice. I almost resisted this time. Thankfully, I wasted only a few minutes.

 

Seems you can't handle opposing views. For all your ad hominems you haven't any profound answer to the issues I raised, merjet.

I have not "affirmed" animal volition. I ~have~ affirmed animal instinct, animal biological drives, animal percepts, animal learning (whether from adult mimicking, play and experience - again, which are instinctual and automatic capacities, varying with species). 

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

In order to make the claim for animal volition you need more than a superfluous and superficial "It [the hummingbird] doesn't control what it sees, but it does control where it looks". 

(By writing which you immediately validated my case: i.e., "the 'locomotion proves volition' argument".)

Eye movement is a type of physical motion, right? so we don't need quibble about locomotion.

That, you call my "strawman"? Apparently it is not.

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On 7/2/2021 at 12:38 PM, merjet said:

Correct. Consider a hummingbird foraging for nectar. It actively uses its eyes to find flowers with the goal of finding nectar inside. It doesn't control what it sees, but it does control where it looks. Some flowers afford the opportunity for nectar. Others don't. The hummingbird actively seeks the ones that do. Then it actively controls and uses its beak and tongue to drink the nectar. If a hummingbird's finding and drinking nectar aren't enough to convince you that the hummingbird's perceiving its surroundings is active and takes effort, then consider the hummingbird's wings. A typical hummingbird bird flaps its wings 20-30 times per second, and it flaps them in various ways in order to control the positioning of its body in the air and consequently the position of its beak and tongue.  

Missing: any bird also has the sense of smell. Which evidently saves the hummingbird plenty of "effort", flying, seeing and looking.

All these utilizations of "actively" to establish an animal's '(volitional')*effort* run counter-biological. And of course counter the "non-purposiveness" of goal-directed action by non-purposive creatures. 

What do biological and instinctive drives in animals mean to you? A minor consideration?

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On 7/2/2021 at 12:32 PM, merjet said:

 

I assume those are your criteria for the volition of a normal human adult. What are your criteria for a human before it obtains a "will" to your satisfaction? 

 

First and foremost, that a human is rational.

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On 7/2/2021 at 7:42 AM, whYNOT said:

 A baby "focuses" her senses in a diffused manner, psychologists say, more like a lantern than a spotlight. She actively and automatically takes in ¬everything¬ in her vicinity - the essential process to develop the percepts in her consciousness. 

I disagree with psychologists who say a baby "focuses". Better, is "diffused", the method a brain  activates ("automatically") all the infant's senses all the time, and accepts huge amounts of stimuli. Beginning in utero. At that pre-perceptual stage the baby's consciousness is more like a sponge soaking up everything around.

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4 hours ago, whYNOT said:

I have not "affirmed" animal volition.

Wrong. You wrote: "'Physical' volition, we (men and all life forms) possess" (link).  

Any reader, except maybe you, can see plainly that you did. You even sloppily included plants ("all life forms"). 

 

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Before Plato (citation would be needed), plants had not been considered alive (as a life form.) Plato had observed that they move and grow, albeit rooted in place, hence they were alive.

Ayn Rand had cats. She accepted the damage they can inflict on their surroundings as part of the "price" of owning them. I wonder if the archives or some of the inner circle recollect if this discussion of volition arose in their midst.

An example in Harry Binswanger's "How We Know" referenced a horses foal being able to walk at birth (or very shortly thereafter—think within hours.) He disagrees with the sensory stage in human development. While cell's act to live, the process is innate. A continuum exists in many considerations, but if volition is introduced at the conceptual level, where is the conceptual continuum in the tree of life.

Nervous systems carry signals originated by volition in man. Why couldn't a similar nerve structure also carry signals by non-volitional means in other animals. The lion, looking at the potential prey, and by innate means, identify and chase the one likely to serve as lunch by an instinct that serves it in such a matter. 

There is a video of a polar bear that comes on a pack of sled dogs where the two breeds go into a stage of play for the camera that recorded the encounter. I consider this fringe or marginal, not the black and white clear cut example needed to base principles upon for deeper development. 

So far Merjet, you've offered interesting biological studies that may be lost on my philosophical inquiry. My cat gives me pause to wonder at times about its capacity for volitional behavior, but in general it has acted pretty consistently for the five years it has had to persuade me otherwise.

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2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Before Plato (citation would be needed), plants had not been considered alive (as a life form.)

You literally made this up, and for no reason...

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Nervous systems carry signals originated by volition in man.

This is a sloppy formulation. Worded this way, you make it sound like volition originates outside of the nervous system, and once generated, is carried out by the nervous system. A proper formulation would not and could not suggest that there is something that generates volitional action outside of the nervous system. The nervous system generates the signals - volition is an aspect of certain kinds of nervous systems. Rand's theory doesn't propose that volition has to do with the origination of signals or messages or whatever term you want. Volition is the choice to focus and thereby think. Don't complicate it. That's all it is.

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Why couldn't a similar nerve structure also carry signals by non-volitional means in other animals.

Okay, so the brain has structures and substructures that operate below the level of awareness. Other structures may involve bringing and presenting information to awareness, but of course that happens without intervention. Everything else would be in some continuum of control. The most amount of control would be structures and systems of neurons, involving the frontal lobe, and the very very top layers of the brain. This is unique to humans. 

The structures that have some amount of control originating from the organism would not be able to support structures that only operate below the level of awareness. It has to do with the layout of neurons, how they are organized in different layers, and how the structures evolved. There is no generic system by which any type of signal can propagate across. If 2 species share a particular brain structure, chances are, that brain structure in both species evolved to solve similar problems in their environment, and the structures function in similar ways. 

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

My cat gives me pause to wonder at times about its capacity for volitional behavior, but in general it has acted pretty consistently for the five years it has had to persuade me otherwise.

What would consistent and predictable have to do with volition?

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

You literally made this up, and for no reason...

HBTV-6: The use and misuse of experts

Judge for yourself. (1:07:00)

Still the philosophic payoff is yet to be tendered here. 

Is volition philosophic or a matter to be delegated to the realm of microscopes and corpuscular dissection and comparison?

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