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Do animals have volition II?

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

"Choosing" to look for food does not strike me as what Rand is referring to when she penned:

But it is still a choice. I mean, it doesn't happen by accident. That's why I used the example. It doesn't require more than awareness of hunger, and sight. 

The last line of my thing isn't as clear as I thought, it means that the choice is 2 distinct outcomes of the same process. Not the potentialities before the process (which definitely would be a probability distribution), but the actualities after.

I don't generally like to formalize like that but I thought it was interesting and maybe someone else would also like it.

Edited by Eiuol
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On 5/14/2021 at 1:14 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

"Hydraulic driven watches will be able to fool us (as watch onlookers) into thinking they have gear driven internals only in the sense that it (the Hydraulic watch) will mimic (fake, look as though it were - as seen from the outside) it (standard gear driven watches).  We (as watchmakers) will know it does not have gear driven internals because we will know exactly how it works, i.e. know that it is Hydraulically driven."

This example was reminiscent of this quip by Albert Einstein, without the hearing of the ticking, or the hope of ever understanding exactly how it works:

In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way to open the case.

Edited by dream_weaver
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On 5/14/2021 at 10:14 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

I am open to the idea that some choices, especially important ones core to who you are, will almost certainly always be the same.

Yes, I think if it affects a major value, and only one option is beneficial, you'll most likely always choose that option, because you see that only one choice leads to what you want or need. But I can imagine a scenario where the value is so trivial that I could easily choose differently given the same exact situation and knowledge and history, etc. Let's say it were possible to duplicate me right now and both of us faced the option of finishing this sentence before posting, or stopping mid-sent 

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Yes, I think if it affects a major value, and only one option is beneficial, you'll most likely always choose that option, because you see that only one choice leads to what you want or need. But I can imagine a scenario where the value is so trivial that I could easily choose differently given the same exact situation and knowledge and history, etc. Let's say it were possible to duplicate me right now and both of us faced the option of finishing this sentence before posting, or stopping mid-sent 

haha!  Au contraire, your example is not a good one, since from the moment you started to set that joke up, you knew you were very well  “determined” to follow through…   well done though!

Sometimes it’s nice to remember Free will is simply awesome.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

you'll most likely always choose that option, because you see that only one choice leads to what you want or need.

Of course I agree that there are a wide variety of potentials, but why, given your desires and state of mind and context, would you make a different decision? Like anything in reality, there are many potentials, ways that things could be otherwise. But in actuality only one thing happens, only one thing is actualized. Like an acorn that is planted in the appropriate setting, it will grow into a tree. In general, it could fail to grow and die - it could be otherwise. But given the specific context, and if the context is repeated forever in the future, the acorn becomes a tree, and will always become a tree in the identical context. It's not that the tree is deterministic, where a series of parts move according to billiard ball causality. It's that the tree has a nature as does the acorn.

Volition, as a process, has different standards, different ways of occurring, different methods are employed for thinking with determinate outcomes. If I think rationally, I get rational results. If I don't think rationally, I don't get rational results. If I think rationally, I will never not be thinking rationally at that time. We can say there are many more potentials given volition, but I don't see why more than one actuality could occur. 

What I want to know is where the decision-making process breaks down where context no longer is what you use to determine the course of action you choose take. Because the way I understand this, you would need to free yourself from all context completely for this to be possible - no one ever makes decisions in a vacuum without a context. What else is there to consider besides thinking methods employed and context? 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Volition, as a process, has different standards {read contexts}, different ways of occurring {read contexts}, different methods {read contexts} are employed for thinking with determinate outcomes.

If volition, as a process,  employs different contexts, . . . :

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

What I want to know is where the decision-making process breaks down where context no longer is what you use to determine the course of action you choose take. Because the way I understand this, you would need to free yourself from all context completely for this to be possible - no one ever makes decisions in a vacuum without a context. What else is there to consider besides thinking methods employed and context?

Why are different standards, different ways of occurring, different methods . . .  not considered as a different contexts?

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

What I want to know is where the decision-making process breaks down where context no longer is what you use to determine the course of action you choose take. Because the way I understand this, you would need to free yourself from all context completely for this to be possible - no one ever makes decisions in a vacuum without a context.

Am I missing something here? Under what context would a prosecuting attorney disregard the rules of evidence while submitting his claim?

. . . what am I missing here?

Edited by dream_weaver
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8 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Why are different standards, different ways of occurring, different methods . . .  not considered as a different contexts?

Different standards of analyzing how something acts according to its nature. Volition is different than acorns. I think you misunderstood me, perhaps thinking that I was talking about how you can employ different standards using volition. I just meant this is a different existent, that's all. The analysis of potential versus actuality is the same.

10 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Why are different standards, different ways of occurring, different methods . . .  not considered as a different contexts?

The thought experiment was about repeating the same context. You are correct, if a different method was employed, that would be a different context. That's what I'm trying to get at. As soon as I introduce something that would lead you to make a different choice, I have changed the context. In fact, the very first choice you ever make is itself a method with determinate outcomes - the choice to focus. Each choice after that is another method you choose to employ with determinate outcomes. 

17 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Am I missing something here? Under what context would a prosecuting attorney disregard the rules of evidence while submitting his claim?

This is a good concretization. If context includes internal and external, and the attorney is applying all the standards they should use, hypothetically repeating this situation infinitely into the future would not lead to different considerations of evidence. The only way it could change is if there was a different context, or some portion of the time the attorney would spontaneously disregard the rules of evidence. 

 

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On 5/14/2021 at 9:14 PM, dream_weaver said:

"Choosing" to look for food does not strike me as what Rand is referring to when she penned:

that which you call 'free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.

I think we need to pay better attention to this.

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31 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:
On 5/14/2021 at 7:14 PM, dream_weaver said:

"Choosing" to look for food does not strike me as what Rand is referring to when she penned:

that which you call 'free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.

I think we need to pay better attention to this.

But this is an argument against an aspect of Determinism.

It does not argue against the idea that "choice" is an illusion.

It successfully agues against the aspect of determinism that implies that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.

But before any moral aspects are considered, Determinism is an attack on "choice". The idea that any choice is an illusion.

Determinism also implies that "the capability to choose to think" has antecedents. So it is an attack on "will", i.e. Everything is an event, nothing is willed.

In a sense it is an attack on "alternatives". That there are no alternatives, everything is determined.

That all events are a result of antecedent-causes (including "will"). As in, will is determined.

 

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53 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

I think we need to pay better attention to this.

What about it? The threat is about if animals have volition, not the nature of conceptual consciousness. We can't really look to Rand for much on this, she had little to say about animal consciousness in the first place. What is important to pay attention to is the manner in which people make choices, rather than fitting all observations into the definition "choosing without antecedent factors". Notice that Rand never said the words "antecedent factors". That's not part of the definition. Aristotle never mentioned free will or volition. 

"Antecedents" is kind of loaded. It often means prior mechanical factors that are sufficient to determine behavior. This is billiard ball causality, where there is nothing to causality besides mechanical factors. The proper view is that there are mechanical factors, and other factors that explain the entirety of choices.

But there are antecedents for behavior. Desires exist before choices (even if sometimes those are the result of choices). Objects of desire exist before choices. The perception of an object in your environment leads you to recognize it, and from that recognition, you choose to have that object. It's not that the object itself "predetermines" that you will seek it out. If you see an apple, you might not seek it out because you lack the desire for whatever reason. You recognize hunger in a direct way, then choose to satisfy it or not. These actions do not violate free will. All you really need to ask is if focus is required. 

Root the discussion in actual observations of animals. 

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9 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Antecedents" is kind of loaded. It often means prior mechanical factors that are sufficient to determine behavior. This is billiard ball causality, where there is nothing to causality besides mechanical factors. The proper view is that there are mechanical factors, and other factors that explain the entirety of choices.

I think that's basically the whole thread. People often subconsciously think a thing having an identity is just mechanical causality. So they think you have things acting according to their identities, but you also have free will, so how to make that work. But they're making something that is all bottom-up causality, like an artifact in the Aristotelian sense. 

So they hear this Objectivist line about a new type of causality. Well there must be a new type of casualty, meaning a new mechanism. So they spend 6 pages looking around for a new mechanism, or seeing how they can change the wording just right. They don't ever get to just agent-cause vs event-cause.

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46 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Aristotle never mentioned free will or volition. 

Allowing for translation from Greek to English, that is true, although Aristotle did write about will. About what we call volition, Aristotle expressed his ideas in terms of voluntary, deliberation and choice. Most of what he wrote about these is in Book III of Nicomachean Ethics --  Chapter 1 for voluntary and Chapters 3-5 for deliberation and choice. The full text can be seen at multiple places on the Internet. One is  http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

They don't ever get to just agent-cause vs event-cause.

Tendency towards rationalism maybe? Or something else?

If it seems like I'm just doing something fruitless with my posts, I've been reading a lot about Aristotle lately so rephrasing what I've learned and read about has been very useful for myself. Even for myself I think in the past I had some notion of speaking about causality as if it were only mechanical despite knowing otherwise, while having a difficult time finding the right words to say everything else about causality. Now it's a lot easier for me to think about.

48 minutes ago, merjet said:

Chapter 1 for voluntary and Chapters 3-5 for deliberation and choice. 

I've read a lot about both, so yeah, I agree. And never does he talk about antecedent factors. It's just not relevant. It's less about the words, more about the behavior to observe. 

1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

What is the definition of "volition" in this context? 

Just what Rand said: the choice to focus. That focus can go towards cognition or perception.

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Even for myself I think in the past I had some notion of speaking about causality as if it were only mechanical despite knowing otherwise

I think maybe this is an issue with some of Rand's non-fiction, like speaking of the metaphysical versus the man-made as that which could not have been otherwise and so forth, without much elaboration on what sense of can/could is being used. But I haven't read that essay in a while.

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16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

That focus can go towards cognition or perception.

How, exactly, are you distinguishing between cognition and perception?  

16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Just what Rand said: the choice to focus.

Is there evidence that animals have a choice whether or not to focus?

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

How, exactly, are you distinguishing between cognition and perception?  

There is no special meaning here. It doesn't matter though, because you know both exist, and you know that you can focus on the world you perceive, and abstract thought.

1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

Is there evidence that animals have a choice whether or not to focus?

Focus is a process of choosing. Directed towards this rather than that. If there were no choice, there would be no focus; if there were no focus, there would be no awareness. Awareness is functional, because it is a means for animals to be directed towards something, rather than another thing. This includes external context and internal context. That's why it's fine to say that awareness implies focus, and focus implies awareness. If an animal is aware, they have the capacity to focus. If they have the capacity to focus, they have the capacity to choose.

This is a way of talking about animals that we can all observe. A honeybee focuses on a flower, and flies there, making relevant maneuvers to attain that goal. If you hide the flower, the honeybee will respond accordingly, going to another flower or returning to the hive. And they might show greater focus when you attack the hive, more directed towards attacking you or defending. On top of this, they respond when you hurt them, and you can even diminish their focus with smoke so they don't sting you if you gather honey from them - they become tired or something to that effect. Some amount of choice is required.

If any machines exhibit this behavior, that's just something else to explain. Not all choices necessarily require focus, but as long as they are perceptual things going on, there is some kind of focus, even if very primitive or more primitive than even a paramecium.

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19 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

How, exactly, are you distinguishing between cognition and perception?  

Is there evidence that animals have a choice whether or not to focus?

A clear line needs to drawn between "choice" and variable, automatic behaviors which seem like 'choices'. Only a volitional consciousness can select acts among a few or many options. Including not to act at all. Other levels of consciousness respond spontaneously to their senses and innate instincts (defend and "mark" their territory, groom each other - etc.) - and additionally some have some learned behavior from adult animals (hiding, fleeing and hunting) and will make perceptual associations (e.g. a dog can be conditioned to salivate in expectancy of food when it hears a certain sound). 

By fact of their nature, insects to animals haven't *any* choice to do otherwise outside that range. They cannot defocus their senses, for instance. They can't "evade" their nature as can humans.

That an animal does this instead of that, which is purposive (goal-directed) action - in its effects - doesn't attribute it with "purpose". Without conscious purpose, there's no conscious volition.

Edited by whYNOT
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3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

respond spontaneously to their senses and innate instincts (defend and "mark" their territory, groom each other - etc.)

animals don't respond spontaneously, they always respond for some identifiable reason sought after by the animal themselves. I can't even think of a example of an animal that might respond spontaneously, except maybe jellyfish or any of the other absolutely most primitive animals.

Innate instincts are not really a thing, and in whatever sense they might exist, they would only include only the most basic types of behaviors, such as a baby giraffe walking the moment they are born. Grooming and defending territory are examples of learned behavior.

3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

additionally some have some learned behavior from adult animals (hiding, fleeing and hunting) and will make perceptual associations (e.g. a dog can be conditioned to salivate in expectancy of food when it hears a certain sound). 

These are examples of ways that animals make choices to some extent. By the way, perceptual associations are a big factor of how people learn. Perceptual associations are not spontaneous, they require at least attention to the things being associated. To clarify, humans can be conditioned in that same way as Pavlov's dog. The problem is that this is only explaining the salivation. This does lack any choice, it is practically a neurological response without any conscious intervention. Humans and dogs alike. But how do you explain that the dog hears the sound and then seeks out the food? Back in the day, behaviorists insisted that the mechanical explanation of stimulus response was always sufficient. No mental world was necessary. Choice would be pointless to an explanation. Perceptual associations though aren't the same. More limited than conceptual thinking, certainly, but it isn't automatic.

3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

By fact of their nature, insects to animals haven't *any* choice to do otherwise outside that range. They cannot defocus their senses, for instance. They can't "evade" their nature as can humans.

Of course there is a limited range. Humans have a limited range for making choices as well. 

Why do you think a honeybee can't unfocus their senses? The whole functional nature of the senses is to focus on the world. I gave an example of how this could happen. 

3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

That an animal does this instead of that, which is purposive (goal-directed) action - in its effects - doesn't attribute it with "purpose". Without conscious purpose, there's no conscious volition.

Long-range, no purpose. Several months out range, there is a purpose. Look at a bird nest. A beaver dam. Beehives. The way that snakes stalk their prey. Look up any nature video with an animal hunting. Even a spider hunting. Be observant of the behavior. I'm not saying you will see conceptual behavior, just enough behavior that you can tell it isn't spontaneous or automatic like a machine.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

To clarify, humans can be conditioned in that same way as Pavlov's dog. The problem is that this is only explaining the salivation. This does lack any choice, it is practically a neurological response without any conscious intervention. Humans and dogs alike. But how do you explain that the dog hears the sound and then seeks out the food? Back in the day, behaviorists insisted that the mechanical explanation of stimulus response was always sufficient. No mental world was necessary. Choice would be pointless to an explanation. Perceptual associations though aren't the same. More limited than conceptual thinking, certainly, but it isn't automatic.

The Pavlov response could have indicated some induction taking place as in "I hear the bell many times, and every time I heard it, something delicious happened". Therefore, sound of bell is a good thing. "Good thing" being a category or something similar to a concept.

But this seems to be automatic, as in there is no concept, one can think that "X is good" without forming a concept "good". Just simply finding certain things attractive. In a sense, a value judgment without using logic.

Ultimately, volition seems to require induction and concept formation but I am not convinced that induction has to be consciously initiated at all times. Can't a concept form due to repeated observation of a phenomenon? Or repeated observation of commonalities?

Edited by Easy Truth
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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Long-range, no purpose. Several months out range, there is a purpose. Look at a bird nest. A beaver dam. Beehives. The way that snakes stalk their prey. Look up any nature video with an animal hunting. Even a spider hunting. Be observant of the behavior. I'm not saying you will see conceptual behavior, just enough behavior that you can tell it isn't spontaneous or automatic like a machine.

Most are instances of instinct, obviously. Which, for some reason, you decry. And one of learned behavior (for animals hunting). But instinctive for spiders/snakes hunting. For nest building. Where and how did the birds and snakes learn? Like many, I've observed the videos and seen animals up close in their habitats.

You are attributing choice and purpose to what are other phenomena, as though the period of time to build a beaver dam displays purposeful intent. I have watched a weaver bird making identical and intricate nests up to a dozen times over weeks until his mate is 'satisfied' with one. She 'chooses' one. Which is the anthropomorphic spin humans place on her instinct.

Edited by whYNOT
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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

These are examples of ways that animals make choices to some extent. By the way, perceptual associations are a big factor of how people learn. Perceptual associations are not spontaneous, they require at least attention to the things being associated. To clarify, humans can be conditioned in that same way as Pavlov's dog. The problem is that this is only explaining the salivation. This does lack any choice, it is practically a neurological response without any conscious intervention. Humans and dogs alike. But how do you explain that the dog hears the sound and then seeks out the food? Back in the day, behaviorists insisted that the mechanical explanation of stimulus response was always sufficient. No mental world was necessary. Choice would be pointless to an explanation. Perceptual associations though aren't the same. More limited than conceptual thinking, certainly, but it isn't automatic.

 

"A "perception" is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated in the brain of a living organism..." Recommend you re-read that whole passage. p19. That you may differ from Rand's estimation is hardly my concern, but at minimum acknowledge what she wrote.

Naturally, humans and dogs and other mammals are alike, in this regard. A perception is automatic. I also would hear a dinner chime (if we used one) and automatically associate with the prospect "food".

Edited by whYNOT
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11 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

Most are instances of instinct, obviously.

Let's talk about what you observe, not about the assertion that these are obviously instinct.

11 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

But instinctive for spiders/snakes hunting. For nest building. Where and how did the birds and snakes learn?

For one, learning means not innate or instinctual. Innate learning is a contradiction in terms. It is true that learning could be automatic at times, because neurons alone can do that fine without any wider integration of the brain. That's for very basic things that are far more basic than the process of building nests. Or bird songs. Or the way that a snake gets better at hunting over time.

14 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

You are attributing choice and purpose to what are other phenomena, as though the period of time to build a beaver dam displays purposeful intent.

How can these things occur without intent? Not that there has to be some grand plan, but "beaver need shelter now, beaver sensitive to the taste of bark on trees, beaver learned to put together sticks, beaver make dam". This is sensible because it explains the variety of behaviors, response to pain, sense perception, responding to environment somewhat flexibly, movement. Although this should be sufficient to explain as making some kind of choice.

9 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

A perception is automatic. I also could hear a dinner chime (if we used one) and associate with the prospect "food".

That's right. It's important to remember though that the drooling response is the part that automatic, and the perceptual association with that response can easily be automatic, although they can also occur by choice. Actually, I'd be surprised if anyone can choose to salivate spontaneously. The difference in pointing out is the part that would be chosen. I'm talking about seeking out the food. Whatever associations exist, however they got there, seeking out food from there has to be deliberate. It isn't automatic because it requires awareness, unlike salivation, which requires no awareness.

49 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

The Pavlov response could have indicated some induction taking place as in "I hear the bell many times, and every time I heard it, something delicious happened". Therefore, sound of bell is a good thing. "Good thing" being a category or something similar to a concept.

As soon as you give this type of explanation, I think you are noticing the difference I'm pointing out: there is some kind of mental process going on which the animal is aware of. Not conceptual clearly, but not automatic in the way that your thermostat is. Not automatic like a calculator doing basic addition. There is something distinct going on here from machines, but it is captured by the general idea of volition. Maybe we can distinguish potential strength of volition, or the potential an animal has. 

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32 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

That's right. It's important to remember though that the drooling response is the part that automatic, and the perceptual association with that response can easily be automatic, although they can also occur by choice. Actually, I'd be surprised if anyone can choose to salivate spontaneously. The difference in pointing out is the part that would be chosen. I'm talking about seeking out the food. Whatever associations exist, however they got there, seeking out food from there has to be deliberate. It isn't automatic because it requires awareness, unlike salivation, which requires no awareness.

 

I can't see why the "seeking out the food" is so important to you. It is quite explicable. The drooling response (to some regular stimulus like a bell) associates with "eating", right?

IF however the food isn't available immediately, what does one, or an animal, do with the hunger pangs already stimulated - but go looking for food to satisfy them? The need, the urge to eat, has been provoked in the brain, a craving which can only be satisfied by finding food. 

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