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Do animals have volition II?

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As much as somebody might insist it does, I hold that volition doesn't pertain to merely what happens in an organism's mind or brain or nerves. Bodily movements are also relevant. When considering whether or not, or to what extent, nonhuman animals have volition, ignoring bodily movements is bound to undercut understanding the scope of volition.

Consider a mountain lion on the prowl for its next meal. What the lion sees, hears, and smells inform it about its locale. What about its locomotion? To insist that its movements are entirely automatic or random strikes me as absurd. No, it at least seems to select and control its movements based on what it perceives holds greater promise of reaching its goal of obtaining something to eat. Are deer or vicuna more likely to be in this direction or that direction? Where is that enticing scent coming from? When the lion sees a group of deer or vicuna, which one would be easier to catch and kill? Which one it does select bears upon its subsequent movement. 

I believe similar questions apply to many other species of animals that hunt or explore in order to obtain food, even insects.

I wish I had thought of this particular topic when I wrote Scope of Volition 15 years ago. Still, better late than never.

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2 hours ago, whYNOT said:

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

Am I understanding this correctly? You deny that self-causality, whatever that is exactly, has a mechanical and biological nature as well?

3 hours ago, whYNOT said:

For something to cause something, it had to be prior - yes?

You need to review everything I said about Aristotle and causes.

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A lion or a bear kills a human, animals eating farmers crops - both are generally culled to prevent repeating. While animals can not commit fraud, if volition is not the heart (or essential) of the matter in morality, then something else needs be essential to morality that only man is held to be so, or are kangaroo courts actually being pursued in this thread now?

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3 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

While animals can not commit fraud, if volition is not the heart (or essential) of the matter in morality, then something else needs be essential to morality that only man is held to be so

There are more to moral rules than an action being voluntary. Nonhuman animals aren't as self-aware as humans and they don't understand that human have such rules or the language they are expressed in.

I hope that helps.

Edited by merjet
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15 minutes ago, merjet said:

There are more to moral rules than an action being voluntary. Nonhuman animals aren't as self-aware as humans and they don't understand that human have such rules or the language they are expressed in.

I hope that helps.

Intellectually I do know that. The payoff of this thread personally was understanding just how much weight had implicitly been put on volitional consciousness over the years as the predominate essential element.

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11 hours ago, merjet said:

As much as somebody might insist it does, I hold that volition doesn't pertain to merely what happens in an organism's mind or brain or nerves.

We talk about that around page 5.

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What is consciousness for?

"So, our primary hypothesis is: The ultimate adaptive function of consciousness is to make volitional movement possible. Consciousness evolved as a platform for volitional attention; volitional attention, in turn, makes volitional movement possible. Volitional movement (including any automatized components) is the sole causal payoff, the “cash value” of volitional attention and thus of all conscious processes. There is no adaptive1 benefit to being conscious unless it leads to volitional movement. With volition, the organism is better able to direct its attention, and ultimately its movements, to whatever is most important for its survival and reproduction."

1 By “adaptive” we mean “providing an organism with survival and reproductive benefits.”

Edited by merjet
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2 hours ago, merjet said:

The ultimate adaptive function of consciousness is to make volitional movement possible

But how do you identify volitional movement as apposed to non-volitional movement? Can't volitional movement be "mimicked" by deterministic systems?

The question was discussed in the thread regarding "external indicator".

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Rand made the distinction of a volitional consciousness, and the section on life sustaining action stemming from plants, and stampeding though animals and stood man erectly apart using volitional choice as a distinguishing characteristic.

If the intent is to merely dilute volitional choice by extending it to what she clearly did not have in mind, what is a better term to use in the place of volition regarding man in her context, or a better term to use regarding animals to avoid usurping its usage here by such a dilution?

 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

But how do you identify volitional movement as apposed to non-volitional movement?

Since we are talking about consciousness in the ways we have observed, you start by identifying if it's biological. If you want to talk about robots, things that are not biological, it is still pretty unknown how to identify when they are conscious in the first place. 

1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

If the intent is to merely dilute volitional choice by extending it to what she clearly did not have in mind

Or another option, that Rand should've used a different concept or word because volition is more general than she realized. 

On 6/14/2021 at 10:46 AM, Eiuol said:

You need to review everything I said about Aristotle and causes.

I just realized that WhyNot didn't simply misunderstand me or overlook what I said about causes. He thought that I was talking about simultaneous events, thinking that I was suggesting that a mental (mind) event is simultaneous with a non-mental (body) event. I was not suggesting that something like deciding to go shopping is simultaneous with the motor neurons that fire when you start moving. Yet what I'm actually saying is that there is no difference in reality between mind and body; the difference is only through abstraction. It's not true that the mind operates in harmony with the body. Instead, they are the same thing. Not just a harmony, but a unity, part of the same exact process. There is no such thing as a separate mind event and body event. 

That isn't to say, though, that all activities of an organism have mental characteristics. But as long as something is of the mind, it is also of the body.

Edited by Eiuol
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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Or another option, that Rand should've used a different concept or word because volition is more general than she realized. 

 

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

what is a better term to use in the place of volition regarding man in her context

I would say thanks for pointing that out, but I think I alluded to that already.

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2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Rand made the distinction of a volitional consciousness, and the section on life sustaining action stemming from plants, and stampeding though animals and stood man erectly apart using volitional choice as a distinguishing characteristic.

This suggests or implies there are nonvolitional choices. I have no idea of what they might be.

2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

If the intent is to merely dilute volitional choice by extending it to what she clearly did not have in mind, what is a better term to use in the place of volition regarding man in her context, or a better term to use regarding animals to avoid usurping its usage here by such a dilution?

What dilution? The terms volition and volitional existed long before Rand used them. Living organisms exhibit various levels of self-regulation that are implemented by choosing (often only by selective attention), i.e. using the faculty of volition. Ayn Rand chose to write about volition mainly regarding a human's control of his or her conceptual capacity, even "reducing" that "to think or not." That she chose to do so does does eliminate other levels of self-regulation, i.e. volition, that exist in non-human animals as well. 

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47 minutes ago, merjet said:

What dilution? The terms volition and volitional existed long before Rand used them.

Point taken. She obviously set a distinction by contrasting a volitional consciousness to what would have to be implied as an instinctive consciousness. Perhaps better stated as a volitional conceptual consciousness contrasted with the animal mind amounting to "here now tree", "here now food", "here now master."

If the intent is to apply it solely to man and how it relates to his conceptual faculty as set apart from the animal, it is difficult to square with her usual precision and particularization with the English language.

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46 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

If the intent is to apply it solely to man and how it relates to his conceptual faculty as set apart from the animal,

The intent is to understand the nature of free will and animal consciousness, rather than free will in the context of conceptual consciousness.

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2 hours ago, merjet said:

This suggests or implies there are nonvolitional choices. I have no idea of what they might be.

It may be metaphorical but an example would be a plant growing toward the sun. It is an alternative that is life enhancing for the plant, it is a movement too.

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On 6/15/2021 at 11:51 PM, Easy Truth said:

It may be metaphorical but an example would be a plant growing toward the sun. It is an alternative that is life enhancing for the plant, it is a movement too.

Certainly, the movement e.g. a plant's roots extending, may be imperceptible but is equally, "goal-directed action". As are the non-visible activities of internal processes and the organs in a body.

Where animal locomotion only is taken to be evidence of life, the biologists (etc.) are limiting the range of life-identity. 

Edited by whYNOT
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A volitional consciousness has a dual role imo. It relates to the means - focus/identify/conceptualize, and also- to the result, one's expanding knowledge and one's character. Rand indicates very briefly her thinking about the contents of consciousness, below. Therefore, one gains one's *state" of consciousness, by choice and free will - i.e., volitionally.

(The truism, "Character is destiny" is semi-true: Knowledge and character put into congruent action "is destiny").

Rand: "The faculty of volition operates in regard to the two fundamental aspects of man’s life: consciousness and existence, i.e., his psychological action and his existential action, i.e., the formation of his own character and the course of action he pursues in the physical world".

“What Is Romanticism?”

Edited by whYNOT
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On 6/15/2021 at 9:46 PM, merjet said:

This suggests or implies there are nonvolitional choices. I have no idea of what they might be.

What dilution? The terms volition and volitional existed long before Rand used them. Living organisms exhibit various levels of self-regulation that are implemented by choosing (often only by selective attention), i.e. using the faculty of volition. Ayn Rand chose to write about volition mainly regarding a human's control of his or her conceptual capacity, even "reducing" that "to think or not." That she chose to do so does does eliminate other levels of self-regulation, i.e. volition, that exist in non-human animals as well. 

I think this is accurate. 'Physical' volition, we (men and all life forms) possess. How conscious that volition is and isn't, is altogether another complex matter (for biologists, behaviorists, neuroscientists, psychologists to work on) and rising in intricacy with the higher mammals.

But ANY goal-directed action is volitional. And: Volition = goal-directed. Unconscious, involuntary, semi-conscious or fully conscious. I think Rand completely and cleverly encompassed all traditional understanding of "volition" by her "goal-directed action".

 Nerves and senses to brain. Brain to muscles. I'm hungry, I smell and see delicious food on the table and I'm impelled without a single voluntary consideration about my body's actions, but the relevant nerves, tendons and muscles are activated to walk me over there and grab some. On automatic. You betcha my dog would do the same.

Edited by whYNOT
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1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

'Physical' volition, we (men and all life forms) possess.

What does this even mean? 

1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

Nerves and senses to brain. Brain to muscles. I'm hungry, I smell and see delicious food on the table and I'm impelled without a single voluntary consideration about my body's actions, but the relevant nerves, tendons and muscles are activated to walk me over there and grab some. On automatic

The point is that locomotion is impossible without some kind of nonautomatic choice involved in the process.  

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

What does this even mean? 

The point is that locomotion is impossible without some kind of nonautomatic choice involved in the process.  

'Physical volition' (loosely) - I mean the group of innate, instinctive, reflexive, learned acts, or actions driven by biological urges and sense-perceptions - as opposed to cognitive, conscious, purposeful volition.

Man alone makes "choices". Animals 'making choices' undermines the significance of the concept.

Besides, it is simply false. You see an animal doing one thing but not any other and take it as "a choice"? How does one know which, if any, alternative possibilities it had in mind? Clairvoyance? 

"Impossible" - Would sitting on a drawing pin -perhaps- cause one's locomotion of the automatic kind? ha.

Edited by whYNOT
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"Self-initiated motion" by AR is much better than the rough 'physical' volition.

 

Man exists and his mind exists. Both are part of nature, both possess a specific identity. The attribute of volition does not contradict the fact of identity, just as the existence of living organisms does not contradict the existence of inanimate matter. Living organisms possess the power of self-initiated motion, which inanimate matter does not possess; man’s consciousness possesses the power of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking), which the consciousnesses of other living species do not possess. But just as animals are able to move only in accordance with the nature of their bodies, so man is able to initiate and direct his mental action only in accordance with the nature (the identity) of his consciousness. His volition is limited to his cognitive processes; he has the power to identify (and to conceive of rearranging) the elements of reality, but not the power to alter them. He has the power to use his cognitive faculty as its nature requires, but not the power to alter it nor to escape the consequences of its misuse. He has the power to suspend, evade, corrupt or subvert his perception of reality, but not the power to escape the existential and psychological disasters that follow. (The use or misuse of his cognitive faculty determines a man’s choice of values, which determine his emotions and his character. It is in this sense that man is a being of self-made soul.)

Edited by whYNOT
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1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

Animals 'making choices' undermines the significance of the concept.

Besides, it is simply false. You see an animal doing one thing but not another and take it as "a choice"? How do you know which, if any, alternative possibilities it had in mind? Clairvoyance? 

Animals have volition. Not near as much as humans, but it's still volition -- the abilities of selective attention and self-initiating locomotion (and more bodily movements).

How do you know what happens in the mind of a dog or a cougar on the prowl for prey or any other animal? Clairvoyance?   

You apparently quote Rand (no specific source stated). "Living organisms possess the power of self-initiated motion, which inanimate matter does not possess; man’s consciousness possesses the power of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking)." Apparently you don't understand what she wrote and skipped over.

1. She wrote "living organisms", not "only humans".

2. She then leaped to volition in the form of "self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking)" by humans, skipping over how an animal's locomotion could be self-initiating.

Rand: "His volition is limited to his cognitive processes; he has the power to identify (and to conceive of rearranging) the elements of reality, but not the power to alter them."

Huh? Then how does man have the power to alter the elements of reality?

 

Edited by merjet
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1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

'Physical volition' (loosely) - I mean the group of innate, instinctive, reflexive, learned acts, or actions driven by biological urges and sense-perceptions - as opposed to cognitive, conscious, purposeful volition.

So you literally accept that there are other kinds of volition besides cognitive or conceptual. But also, why do you pick the word "physical? It sounds like you are suggesting that purposeful volition is itself nonphysical and exists as its own kind of substance. So you would have created a volition for the body, and a volition for the mind.

I assume you're being metaphorical though. Don't be metaphorical, it isn't helping.

1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

"Impossible" - Would sitting on a drawing pin -perhaps- cause one's locomotion of the automatic kind? ha.

Locomotion isn't about movement. It's about a progression of movements from point A to point B through swimming, walking, flying, etc. Reflexive actions are brief and fast, and not a sustained movement. 

1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

Besides, it is simply false. You see an animal doing one thing but not any other and take it as "a choice"? How does one know which, if any, alternative possibilities it had in mind? Clairvoyance? 

Don't ask stupid questions. That isn't an insult - a stupid question is a question that you know the answer to, or you have been given the answer to. I already explained how in several posts. Contribute to the conversation or don't bother. 

Edited by Eiuol
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6 hours ago, whYNOT said:

Living organisms possess the power of self-initiated motion, which inanimate matter does not possess; man’s consciousness possesses the power of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking), which the consciousnesses of other living species do not possess. But just as animals are able to move only in accordance with the nature of their bodies, so man is able to initiate and direct his mental action only in accordance with the nature (the identity) of his consciousness. His volition is limited to his cognitive processes; he has the power to identify (and to conceive of rearranging) the elements of reality, but not the power to alter them.

Interesting. This establishes a clear distinction between self-initiated motion and the application of volition to the arena of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition.

In this context, a resort to the principle of two definitions is appropriate with the distinction drawn between volition as applied extrospectively to the observable self-initiated motion contrasted against the introspectively observable self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition.

Such leaves the animal kingdom free to volitionally repeat their self-initiated motions generation after generation while mankind demonstrates his difference by applying volition to the self-initiated motions available to him in the cognitive realm.

 

Edited by dream_weaver
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