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Do animals have volition II?

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13 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Seriously, just stop. I'm telling you the basic definition of the field. It's like arguing that F = ma.

Hey, you are who always returns, implicitly, to the non-philosophical, "definition of the field", as the whole argument for animal volition. Which makes for discussion confusion, cognitive dissonance, as it's said.

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15 hours ago, whYNOT said:

¬Such that they, automatic functions, RESULT in the preservation of an organism's life¬

 

 

 

Rand is worth repeating and expanding on:

Goal-directed action without a director.

Self-generated, without a "self".

Purposive without purpose.

Design, and no designer.

[Indeed, Creation without a Creator].

Those outcomes that we can see all over, the "result" as Rand states it is pivotal to understanding her life-metaphysics (and ultimately, a volitional consciousness). I think it's not an easy conceptual shift to make but everything depends on making it.

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Their endless value in the hands of purposeful mankind. Always eager for the task given:

 

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A fresh(er) perspective on free will by Branden (at Objectivist Living) from Peter Taylor's archives:

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Here are a few old letters about volition that I don’t think I quoted before. Peter

From: "Nathaniel Branden" To: "George Smith" Sent: Monday, March 19, 2001 3:05 PM Subject: Free will March 19, 2001. Dear George, The issue you raise turns out to be more complicated than it might seem at first glance.  I am grateful that you invited me into the discussion because it has forced me to do some new thinking on the subject you inquire about. First of all, when I wrote about free will or volition in the past, I saw "focusing" as the start of the thinking process, not as something entirely separate and distinct from it.  In other words, it wasn't (a) there is focusing and (b) there is thinking.  Rather, focusing was conceived by me to mean the initiating a process of purposeful awareness.  So, from this perspective, you are right in the position you take relative to Ellen Moore.

In recent years, however, as is evident in my later books, such as "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem," and the books that came after that, I have presented volition as the ability to raise or lower the level of one's consciousness.  Descriptively, this seems more accurate.  I no longer think in terms of, is a mind "in focus" or "out of focus?"  I look at the consciousness a person is bringing to whatever he is dealing with.

Now there are many contexts, you will be aware of, in which these distinctions don't matter at all.  This is technical, admittedly.  Further confusions are caused by the fact that we use the word "choice" in more than one way.  When we speak of "the choice to focus," or "a choice to think," we mean something very different than when we speak of "the choice to go to the movies."  This suggests, in this latter sense, that "choice" is an irreducible primary.  The question of going to the movies itself raises an interesting question.  On the one hand, we do not say that a person was "determined" to go to that particular movie, as a result of an endless string of antecedent causes.  On the other hand, we don't mean that it was a choice of the same category as the choice to focus or to raise the level of our consciousness-do we? All these exchanges I have been reading on the Internet for some time about volition and free will are stimulating in me the horrifying thought that perhaps I should take a fresh look at the whole problem and write an entirely new monograph on the subject of volition.

To go back to the dispute with Ellen Moore, Rand would never agree that the choice to think is a "secondary" choice.  She would say, as I would, that it is integrally linked to the choice to focus, part of the same process, really. Which makes your presentation of the "official" Objectivist position more accurate than Moore's.  I hope I have not succeeded in confusing you utterly. Moore is clearly in the wrong when she writes, "'not necessitated' means 'not motivated by antecedent factors.'"  "Necessitated" and "motivated" don't mean the same things.  An action can be motivated by antecedent factors but not necessitated by antecedent factors, which, as I understand it, is the viewpoint you are upholding. One more note about Moore.  If, it is true that there is no thinking without thinking about something, it is equally true that there is no focusing without focusing on something. Best, Nathaniel

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6 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Those outcomes that we can see all over, the "result" as Rand states it is pivotal to understanding her life-metaphysics

Come on man, I read this 3 days ago, she was talking about things like heartbeats or digestion. She wasn't talking about animals in that passage. That comes a few pages later.

7 hours ago, whYNOT said:

to the non-philosophical, "definition of the field", as the whole argument for animal volition.

Stop talking about my argument. You literally don't comprehend anything I'm saying. Just leave me out of it now.

 

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Come on man, I read this 3 days ago, she was talking about things like heartbeats or digestion. She wasn't talking about animals in that passage. That comes a few pages later.

Stop talking about my argument. You literally don't comprehend anything I'm saying. Just leave me out of it now.

 

Does heartbeat possess volition? Do plant, insect ... animal?

She was very apparently leading up the hierarchy of any organisms' and animals' 'self-direction' to eventuate with man's unique "self-direction". You only have to connect her explanation in those pages. 

In compromising man's unique volition, one compromises rationality and reason, and finally invalidates the ethics, rational egoism.

 I think you might have found that no argument for 'animal volition' is tenable, not from a point of view of the nature of animals, and not from the nature of man's.

 

 

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On 6/5/2021 at 3:56 PM, Doug Morris said:

What if an animal with parrot-like mimicry ability and an extremely discriminating sense of smell is trained to say "Polly wants a cracker." whenever it smells a brain tumor?  (Assume this animal is an obligate carnivore.)

Is it just me, or is it really frustrating that you put forth the counterpoint, but all  DW does is tell you a story about his cat? 

Anyway, this is a good point about learning things unrelated to their natural environment. And remember, learning can be automatic, or simply based on presentation of stimuli. But what is the nature of discriminating something so particular like a brain tumor compared to any other mass in the brain? It's something more advanced than distinguishing cat food from dirt.

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Is it just me, or is it really frustrating that you put forth the counterpoint, but all  DW does is tell you a story about his cat? 

I hadn't run across the CoViD-19 dog clip yet. I do recall someone posting a video once of their dog that had been trained to pretty convincing sound like "I love you." Would that be an effective enough combination to satiate your frustration? A dog trained to say "I love you" when it detects an individual with the CoViD-19 virus present?

This wasn't the clip I recollected, but it does substantiate the claim.

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Is it just me, or is it really frustrating that you put forth the counterpoint, but all  DW does is tell you a story about his cat? 

Anyway, this is a good point about learning things unrelated to their natural environment. And remember, learning can be automatic, or simply based on presentation of stimuli. But what is the nature of discriminating something so particular like a brain tumor compared to any other mass in the brain? It's something more advanced than distinguishing cat food from dirt.

I was being somewhat mischievous when I posted those two scenarios.  I did not necessarily intend for them to be taken very seriously.  But as you say, it is possible to discuss them seriously.

If a physician or a neuroscientist or a cancer researcher uses expertise and modern equipment and techniques to discriminate something so particular like a brain tumor compared to any other mass in the brain, that is advanced human-level functioning.  If the brain tumor exudes something chemically different from any other mass in the brain, and some animal has a sufficiently discriminating sense of smell to detect the difference, that's just a very keen sense of smell, and it is misleading to call it "advanced". 

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

If the brain tumor exudes something chemically different from any other mass in the brain, and some animal has a sufficiently discriminating sense of smell to detect the difference, that's just a very keen sense of smell, and it is misleading to call it "advanced". 

Indeed it would be. I agree that it isn't advanced in any cognitive sense. But it is quite distinct as a capacity. As I pointed out, cancer cells are not part of an animal's natural environment. That is, the behavior of reacting differently to cancer cells as opposed to other things in the environment that are not part of functioning in the animal's natural environment. Sure, we know that their sense of smell is extremely sensitive, but does that extremely high sensitivity imply some capacity or power to direct some minimal amount of focus? Seems like it would imply something about the nature of the animal's awareness, not simply and only the mechanical operation of sense organs. 

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26 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Seems like it would imply something about the nature of the animal's awareness, not simply and only the mechanical operation of sense organs. 

Are you including sensory regions of the brain as part of sense organs?  Are you including neuronal functioning under mechanical?

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Yeah, all the tangible materials that the sense organs are made out of. So that would include sensory regions of the brain made of systems of neurons, and the neurons themselves. Plus the body parts like noses, eyes, ears, etc.

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There isn't any relevance about a substance or disease and whatever being in the dog's natural environment, or not, that I can see. You guys know that sniffer dogs are *trained*, right? It's not that they have innate knowledge to smell something odd and peculiar, drugs or disease etc. They simply smell, excellently. In theory one could train any dog at home, by the patient rewards and praise method, and much repetition, to detect and signal the presence of any specific element you could imagine. This is a dog's forte, the instinct to 'learn'.

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The essay is interesting, probing and comes in familiar terms. There are very good sections.

I've only barely taken it in, but I noticed this:

"The capacity to perceive objects is a necessary precondition for purposive, life-serving behavior.  The perception of objects as potential sources of value or of danger makes possible anticipation and preparation for action.  The capacity for perception has evolved in parallel with the capacity for self-generated movement.  The capacity for cognitive control and anticipation has necessarily developed in parallel with the repertoire of self-generated actions.  The enormous versatility of self-generated, self-regulated action is the most obvious fact differentiating “sentient” from “vegetative” life forms, i.e., animal forms from plant forms".

---

So far so good until the last sentence. His "self-generated, self-regulated action" supposedly differentiates sentient from vegetative (animal from plant) life forms? What?

From a Randian pov, that "obvious fact" is a flawed premise.

ALL LIFE is self-generated, etc. Down to uni-celled organisms.

He concentrates on "self-generated movement" - and "consciousness" - to the exclusion of plant organic life. Etc.

The biology of living things is too fundamental to be overlooked - but every function is after all, automatized purposively (for the animal's survival, "knowledge").

(and whoever could claim that animal life is UN-conscious?)

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This is good:

"Perception of self is not merely experienced as a center of geometrical convergence.  Self is, and biologically must be, perceived as a causally {62} efficacious center, i.e., as a controllable center, in a stable world".

As far as man's volitional consciousness goes ... and only so far.

How could an animal experience "a causally efficacious center"?

A - self?

Which returns to the question of this topic.

 

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I think you are overlooking important points.

In the part you liked, there are things that don't fit into this idea that all nonhuman behavior is automatic. Objects as potential sources of value; the capacity to perceive is purposive; preparation for action; cognitive control; self regulated action. None of these things are automatic, except maybe self regulated action. Nor are they metaphorical. You even pointed out before that purposive implies intentional.

6 hours ago, whYNOT said:

So far so good until the last sentence. His "self-generated, self-regulated action" supposedly differentiates sentient from vegetative (animal from plant) life forms? What?

My charitable interpretation is that he meant having such a wide repertoire of self generated action is a major differentiating factor. That repertoire exists whenever perception is present.

 

5 hours ago, whYNOT said:

How could an animal experience "a causally efficacious center"?

How indeed? Because we know that perception works in the above way, we know this happens somehow. Either that or that theory of perception is wrong. 

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I suggest a break to reprise VoS, life to ethics, my take-out at least :

1. every instance, organism and form of life has a specific nature

2. every life-form must act according to its nature to survive, it can't willfully transcend its nature (or environment) nor be externally forced to be anything lesser and live.

3. from amoeba to plant and insect, animal and man all have an autonomous ("independent -individual") physicality, an end in itself, self-generated and self-directed

4. in the case of every life-form except man, it's own physical life is its own standard of value - its existing, its only measure of success or failure

5. man isn't "given" an automatic knowledge of existence and few physical tools of survival nor a - natural - standard of value outside of pain-pleasure

6. each individual's own life can only be his own supreme value: by his nature, an autonomous, volitional consciousness by which to pursue his chosen goal-directed purpose

7. Therefore his (necessarily chosen) *standard* of value to measure his moral choices and actions against is far greater than the elemental measure of biological life/death, it's the life of man proper to man.

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23 hours ago, Eiuol said:

.

 

How indeed? Because we know that perception works in the above way, we know this happens somehow. Either that or that theory of perception is wrong. 

The ¬somehow¬ of perception is surely what the nervous system/brain does, as it must have evolved to do. Automatically, without the means of volitional selection and appraisal. This one sensory input, vision/sound/touch associates with another or others, and is retained by the animal/human's brain in one single perception.

An important adjunct - which adds neurological validation - to the automatic actions by a brain is the (experienced and observed) "self"-automated action. I.e. 'making automatic' those trained and learned behaviors which become so ingrained they seldom need further conscious appraisal (by humans) and are permanently habituated in animals and humans.

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In 1913, psychology was considered as:

(n.) The science of the human soul; specifically, the systematic or scientific knowledge of the powers and functions of the human soul, so far as they are known by consciousness; a treatise on the human soul.

While studying entities other than man can provide insight applicable to man, a question that isn't addressed seems to bear on volitional consciousness as it applies to epistemic knowledge, and the episodic appearance of "choice" that resides outside of this refinement. 

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1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

The ¬somehow¬ of perception is surely what the nervous system/brain does, as it must have evolved to do. Automatically, without the means of volitional selection and appraisal.

And because the way that perception operates has the features mentioned in the paragraph you quoted, the organism using perception is not strictly speaking behaving automatically. It's fine if you don't want to call that volition, but it isn't automatic.

1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

This one sensory input, vision/sound/touch associates with another or others, and is retained by the animal/human's brain in one single perception.

Perception is quite different than association. Association is not a type of perception.

We aren't equals in terms of psychology knowledge, I know more than you in that regard, so don't act as if your statements are anywhere near attempted corrections. I don't mind explaining what seems wrong, but I do mind you talking as if you are correcting me.

1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

An important adjunct - which adds neurological validation - to the automatic actions by a brain

Just to check, do you think that volitional action is not causally related to the brain? I'm assuming not but the wording here is strange to me.

1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

a question that isn't addressed seems to bear on volitional consciousness as it applies to epistemic knowledge, and the episodic appearance of "choice" that resides outside of this refinement. 

But knowledge is a power of the human soul, in the context of psychology being the precise nature in which knowledge is acquired through those powers. The precise nature of how choices are made is part of that same power. Who is that quote from by the way? Anyway, if we go back to Aristotle, psychology is mostly the nature of the soul. Soul is actually better translated as something like life power, life energy, or life force. It applies to all organisms. This would include the nature perception, how distinctions are made perceptually, imagination, cognition, reason, motivation, and anything like that. It includes things that plants do as well, but Aristotle wasn't trying to explain psychology per se. 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

And because the way that perception operates has the features mentioned in the paragraph you quoted, the organism using perception is not strictly speaking behaving automatically. It's fine if you don't want to call that volition, but it isn't automatic.

Perception is quite different than association. Association is not a type of perception.

We aren't equals in terms of psychology knowledge, I know more than you in that regard, so don't act as if your statements are anywhere near attempted corrections. I don't mind explaining what seems wrong, but I do mind you talking as if you are correcting me.

Just to check, do you think that volitional action is not causally related to the brain? I'm assuming not but the wording here is strange to me.

 

Is your heart beat automatic or volitional? 

Of course: There are ~causal~ actions occurring every millisecond - e.g. the brain/nervous system receives and transmits impulses which cause further activity, heat causes perspiration - etc. To mix up what is "automatic", biological causality, and the mind's self-causality creates confusion. Clearly the second, a volitional consciousness, can't exist, leave alone, function, without biology and brain.

I'm puzzled that psychology is even mentioned. When it has its place I'll defer to your knowledge.

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53 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

To mix up what is "automatic", biological causality, and the mind's self-causality creates confusion.

This is dangerously close to accepting a mind-body dichotomy. Overcoming that dichotomy is not a matter of acknowledging that both exist. Plato believed that both existed, except that one existed separately from the other, as its own form of being. Overcoming the dichotomy means accepting that these are simultaneous, and refer to the same thing, but different aspects. Your usage of "automatic" is the same as mechanical. But you separated "self causality" from the fact that it also has a mechanical and biological nature. You placed it in its own realm, rather than the same exact realm as biology and everything else in reality; volition isn't dependent upon biology - it is biological. The problem with your usage automatic is that it is poorly defined, so I can't accurately address that except to say that I'm not talking about the mechanical explanations (and clearly not things like heartbeats). 

You might suggest that this is "mixing up", because you see volition "sitting on top of" biology rather than aspects of the same thing, but it's actually an integration of causes, which is how Aristotle thought, and what Rand followed in her method of reasoning about life.

53 minutes ago, whYNOT said:

I'm puzzled that psychology is even mentioned. When it has its place I'll defer to your knowledge.

Because the link I gave is a theory of psychology. Moreover you were making scientific claims pertaining to psychology. And you have flat out denied every correction I have provided about psychology.

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14 hours ago, Eiuol said:

This is dangerously close to accepting a mind-body dichotomy. Overcoming that dichotomy is not a matter of acknowledging that both exist. Plato believed that both existed, except that one existed separately from the other, as its own form of being. Overcoming the dichotomy means accepting that these are simultaneous, and refer to the same thing, but different aspects. Your usage of "automatic" is the same as mechanical. But you separated "self causality" from the fact that it also has a mechanical and biological nature.

You mean me saying in that same post "...a volitional consciousness can't exist, leave alone, function, without biology and brain".

- is "dangerously close to accepting a mind-body dichotomy"? And so, my denying "... that [self-causality] also has a mechanical and biological nature"?

Wow, that is a liberty.

I have referred to animal/human biology more than anyone, and my implicitly clear intention has been maintenance of mind-body integration.

Although you have amended your position somewhat, you seem to still not accept the ~automatic~ causation of biological functions in trying to insert animal 'volition' as factual. (btw that's Rand's "automatic", not mine)

 

You've argued for simultaneity before. I claim there's nothing 'simultaneous' in bodily-brain processes. Whether they take a micro-second, that's still an elapsed time. For something to cause something, it had to be prior - yes?

It's certainly a poor argument for "overcoming the dichotomy". Rather, invites a mind-body dichotomy

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