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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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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'.

Edited by whYNOT
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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".

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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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