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Do animals have volition II?

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On 1/27/2007 at 11:20 AM, DavidOdden said:

A lion can, to some extent, identify different individuals, but it doesn't know about "lions, generally".

But isn't identification some sort of deduction?

Perhaps "recognition" can be perceptual or automatic.

If it is a deduction, there is a concept being used. If so, somehow the concept has been formed. The freewill issue seems to rest on the question of: was the concept formed consciously or subconsciously. Can't a concept simply "happen", as in form due to repeated observation? Or volition is a necessary component (choosing to form it)?

If it can form subconsciously without volition, a lion could form a concept of friend of foe is. Even though, instinct controls a lot of what a lion does.

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@Easy Truth

Did the lion choose to recognize the particular lion, exercising its volitional faculty? If the recollection is given by the nature of a lion's nervous system, could it extend to the recollection of other rudimentary aspects of previous encounters?

If man's volitional faculty does not set him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, what concept would be more distinct, keeping in mind that concepts can be used to gain clarity or misused to muddle as well.

Edited by dream_weaver
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2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

@Easy Truth

Did the lion choose to recognize the particular lion, exercising its volitional faculty? If the recollection is given by the nature of a lion's nervous system, could it extend to the recollection of other rudimentary aspects of previous encounters?

If man's volitional faculty does not set him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, what concept would be more distinct, keeping in mind that concepts can be used to gain clarity or misused to muddle as well.

I think it would be mistake to claim only humans have volition.  Too many animals exhibit high levels of conscious functioning to dismiss them all as automatons.  Arrogance and ignorance combined are often disastrous to dispassionate objective discovery.

I have no qualms whatever with a claim that a chimpanzee is no more subject to absolute determinism than I am.

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Does the volition of a chimpanzee allocate it to living as they do absent man building habitats such as a zoo, or bringing them into a laboratory for specialized study? Is it only man that has the range of volition that at one end of the spectrum some of the specie continues to live in primitive style abodes and forage while at the other, sip Tang from a orbital view of Earth?

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

Does the volition of a chimpanzee allocate it to living as they do absent man building habitats such as a zoo, or bringing them into a laboratory for specialized study? Is it only man that has the range of volition that at one end of the spectrum some of the specie continues to live in primitive style abodes and forage while at the other, sip Tang from a orbital view of Earth?

Yes, but what about a human suffering from retardation? They may not be able to devise a way to go to the moon, but do they have volition? The question is really if they have any amount of volition, not so much as to cause great achievements.

The other fundamental question is assuming volition is due to a non material substance not discovered yet, when and how did it attach or integrate into humans during the evolutionary process. Why were humans (or certain creatures) so "volition" friendly in their DNA? What would another living "structure" repel or refuse such a substance.

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

Does the volition of a chimpanzee allocate it to living as they do absent man building habitats such as a zoo, or bringing them into a laboratory for specialized study? Is it only man that has the range of volition that at one end of the spectrum some of the specie continues to live in primitive style abodes and forage while at the other, sip Tang from a orbital view of Earth?

Volition does not allocate it to living as it does, that would be giving volition too much responsibility or granting it more power than it actually has.  It likely is manifest as a self directed alternative to focus or not but only in the analogous sense which fits within the range of a chimpanzee’s mental capacity.  

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41 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

The other fundamental question is assuming volition is due to a non material substance not discovered yet, when and how did it attach or integrate into humans during the evolutionary process

If it's a substance not yet discovered, how could anyone possibly answer that? That's not so much a question for the position but a problem for the position. Moreover, why assume substance dualism in the first place? Generally, people like to see arguments or at least some motivating reasons for these positions. 

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Then the (my) error is in treating cognitive expansion as a form of volition, rather than a human result of volition in conjunction with his conceptual faculty.

To restate a better formulation more precisely, there is the volitional faculty, i.e., the ability to attend to or focus on, supplemented by the cognitive or conceptual faculty, i.e., to retain a result(s) of such selective focus in conceptual form.

A lion recognizing the sight, sound & scent of its mate, could readily be a form of attending to the various modalities collectively or perhaps singularly if so presented.

 

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

If it's a substance not yet discovered, how could anyone possibly answer that? That's not so much a question for the position but a problem for the position. Moreover, why assume substance dualism in the first place? Generally, people like to see arguments or at least some motivating reasons for these positions. 

Granted, it's metaphorical like mental entities. But it is "as if "somehow this (undiscovered) entity is compatible with humans (i.e. the molecule that can get confused). 

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On 1/22/2007 at 4:23 AM, Cogito said:

Do animals(non-human) have volition? How do you know either way?

Animals live in the moment, they must do so by their nature. Its stomach filled and a shelter for now meets all its needs. A human knows there will be a tomorrow, he can conceive of many tomorrows, his needs are projected for long term food and shelter. What appears as human, "goal-directed action" by an animal shouldn't be construed as the purposive, conscious action as we know it. For that, men have and need a volitional consciousness, animals don't.

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1 hour ago, whYNOT said:

What appears as human, "goal-directed action" by an animal shouldn't be construed as the purposive, conscious action as we know it.

Agreed, not human. But even a bacteria has goal directed action. Perhaps what you are emphasizing is that it does not "know" its purpose. It seems that ultimately what a non-volitional goal directed entity has to have, in order to be considered as having volition, is the ability to have an inner conflict between the long term desire vs. a short term desire.

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15 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The freewill issue seems to rest on the question of: was the concept formed consciously or subconsciously. Can't a concept simply "happen", as in form due to repeated observation? Or volition is a necessary component (choosing to form it)?

It's fair to say that concepts require volition yet not all volitional creatures have concepts. It's also fair to say that maybe only creatures with conceptual consciousness (or conceptual volition) have the capacity to form very particular kinds of concepts with simply repeated observation (such as concretes like "dog"). (If anyone wants I can back this up and even show that it isn't necessarily inconsistent with Rand) I'm saying that I don't see why volition should require conceptual capacity. 

6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The other fundamental question is assuming volition is due to a non material substance not discovered yet

At least going by Rand and probably many Aristotelian perspectives, volition is only a capacity. It isn't a thing, it's a process. There is no running substance any more than there is a volition substance. If you mean metaphorical in the sense that you wonder what it is that makes humans in particular capable of both volition and concepts, I'll say that it has to do with the way the human brain and its neurons function as a network. I'm not saying that looking at the neurons is enough, just that it's a big part of the answer. There is more there to "work with" than any other animal. Volition on its own though might only require awareness. 

 

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There may be disagreement as to what constitutes free will ... if “will” is construed as requiring higher order consciousness.... and accordingly whether volition use defined also as requiring it.

But as to the question of absolute determinism, I think it a poor understanding of biology to equate animals with purely deterministic automatons which “could not have done otherwise”.

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

But even a bacteria has goal directed action.

What is the goal of bacterial action? 

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

It seems that ultimately what a non-volitional goal directed entity has to have, in order to be considered as having volition, is the ability to have an inner conflict between the long term desire vs. a short term desire.

I think it needs to be aware of a simple choice, that's the foundation. Then you can debate whether its selection was voluntary. How do you determine if a lion is aware of a choice, that's the problem. 

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21 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

What is the goal of bacterial action? 

Could one say that it wants to survive? Or perhaps it acts like it wants to survive.

23 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

How do you determine if a lion is aware of a choice, that's the problem. 

How do you determine if a lion is aware? What is the difference with "that problem"?

Similarly, how do you determine if a bacteria is not aware?

If it is aware, did it choose it?

Can something be aware, but not able to make any choice? If volition is "focusing",  then just being aware indicates a defacto level of focus. From this perspective, awareness seems to be a concomitant of volition.

In other words, that which is aware, has chosen to be aware.

22 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

I think it needs to be aware of a simple choice, that's the foundation.

A lion is thirsty.

It sees a fork in the road.
It goes left. (or right) randomly (trial and error)
That would indicate a choice. (or is there an objection to that?)
It finds the water there.

Next time, it hits that fork in the road, it goes left again.
Purposefully.
Because, last time it went left,

that is where the water was.

Meanwhile, it could have gone right.
Where there is no water.

So it make a choice (based on some perspectives)

Is it aware that if it had gone right, it will miss out on the water?

Maybe not, maybe all it knows is it "feels good" to go to the left.

But didn't it choose? Wasn't that purposeful?

Isn't liking something and doing something about it choosing it?

The lion acts like it knows that it should go left to get the water. Somewhat like a human would (purposefully).

Now, is it aware that it makes choices? Is it aware that it made a choice to go left?

But is that awareness necessary to make a choice? Or to choose?

After all, it did go to the left, 
when it could have gone right.

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5 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Agreed, not human. But even a bacteria has goal directed action. Perhaps what you are emphasizing is that it does not "know" its purpose. It seems that ultimately what a non-volitional goal directed entity has to have, in order to be considered as having volition, is the ability to have an inner conflict between the long term desire vs. a short term desire.

Right - it doesn't "know" its purpose. Which indicates it doesn't *have* a "purpose" -(by definition).

 An important footnote in VoS explains better than I have:

"When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of a an organism, the term 'goal directed' is not to be taken as 'purposive' - a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness... I use the term [for] actions whose nature is such that they RESULT in the preservation of an organism's life".

Edited by whYNOT
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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

How do you determine if a lion is aware? What is the difference with "that problem"?

Because it is an animal. By the way we define animal and understand them and observe them, they are necessarily aware. Besides the essential of self generated action - which implies locomotion for animals - they have sense organs, they respond to the world, and have behaviors too complicated to leave as simply a robotic stimulus response. 

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

If volition is "focusing",  then just being aware indicates a defacto level of focus.

There is awareness, and then there is the focus of awareness. We might actually be able to say that some animals can focus their awareness to a limited degree (like a dog perking up his ears if he sees somebody he recognizes and remembers, or when a wolf is tracking prey through scent in comparison to eating). But it certainly isn't to the degree that humans can focus on complete emotional and physical control like a ninja or focused meditation, or even writing a book. Much of our focus revolves around being able to take in the world around you for the purpose of concepts. 

Awareness requires no choice.

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

After all, it did go to the left, 
when it could have gone right.

This is reason enough I think to say the animals choose. Mice do this all the time. You can change their environment and they will respond accordingly. Although machines could do that, I don't think any animal could respond to their environment without some awareness, and there is no promise that the same changes to the environment to essentially identical mice, results in the same behaviors across all mice. It is some kind of choice going on. 

 

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Could one say that it wants to survive? Or perhaps it acts like it wants to survive.

How do you determine if a lion is aware? What is the difference with "that problem"?

Similarly, how do you determine if a bacteria is not aware?

If it is aware, did it choose it?

Can something be aware, but not able to make any choice? If volition is "focusing",  then just being aware indicates a defacto level of focus. From this perspective, awareness seems to be a concomitant of volition.

In other words, that which is aware, has chosen to be aware.

A lion is thirsty.

It sees a fork in the road.
It goes left. (or right) randomly (trial and error)
That would indicate a choice. (or is there an objection to that?)
It finds the water there.

Next time, it hits that fork in the road, it goes left again.
Purposefully.
Because, last time it went left,

that is where the water was.

Meanwhile, it could have gone right.
Where there is no water.

So it make a choice (based on some perspectives)

Is it aware that if it had gone right, it will miss out on the water?

Maybe not, maybe all it knows is it "feels good" to go to the left.

But didn't it choose? Wasn't that purposeful?

Isn't liking something and doing something about it choosing it?

The lion acts like it knows that it should go left to get the water. Somewhat like a human would (purposefully).

Now, is it aware that it makes choices? Is it aware that it made a choice to go left?

But is that awareness necessary to make a choice? Or to choose?

After all, it did go to the left, 
when it could have gone right.

Nice tale to highlight the differences. But again, we have to be careful with "choice" and "purpose" when talking about even higher mammals. They are not self-conscious, nor conscious of their relation to existence, therefore are of non-volitional consciousness.

The lion has a built-in (innate) instinct to preserve its life - thirst means needing to drink water like the rational animal, conscious men (but, who won't have any automatic instincts in the wilds or in civilization to find it) -and- it will have some degree of "learned behavior" (e.g. where it found water previously) - and- it has a much greater sense of smell.

The ¬effect¬ ("the result") looks to observers like a 'choice' and a 'purpose'. Not so.

Edited by whYNOT
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9 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

 

To restate a better formulation more precisely, there is the volitional faculty, i.e., the ability to attend to or focus on, supplemented by the cognitive or conceptual faculty, i.e., to retain a result(s) of such selective focus in conceptual form.

 

 

That's not only more precise, it is much more embracing of the entirety of volition, or preferable I think, "the volitional consciousness". I've never been satisfied with "focus" as the simplistic explanation given. On what? To which ends? It leads to confusion.

The choice to focus must clearly go far beyond the senses. I mean, a cat also will ¬focus¬ its attention on a nearby bird. Etc.

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12 hours ago, Easy Truth said:
13 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

What is the goal of bacterial action? 

Could one say that it wants to survive? Or perhaps it acts like it wants to survive.

Biologists say there are four phases to a bacterium's life cycle.

Within each phase you might say it has a different "goal." In the lag phase the "goal" is to grow. In log, it's to multiply. In stationary, to cease growing and multiplying. And in death, to die. So all four phases amount to a bacterium acting toward its ultimate death. It grows so much and multiplies so rapidly that it consumes all the available nutrients, then the environment can no longer sustain its life. It acts like it "wants" to grow as much as possible and then die. Its short-term "goal" is growth, its long-term "goal" is death. If a bacterium "wanted" to live, it would remain small, wouldn't multiply, and would thus maximize use of the available resources for its one, individual life.

Instead, it appears that the "goal" of bacteria is to consume material and excrete waste as quickly and as efficiently as possible. They're part of the natural process of breaking down materials for the consumption of plant life, without which animals could not eat and poop.

Edited by MisterSwig
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12 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

How do you determine if a lion is aware? What is the difference with "that problem"?

Yell at it and see if it turns to face you. Basically test one of its sense organs. If it can't see, hear, smell, taste, or feel you, then it's probably unconscious, likely dead. We can easily test a lion's extrospection, because we can provide stimuli to which it either responds or fails to respond. Testing its introspection is more challenging, because we are not inside the lion's mind, and thus we cannot provide its own mental stimuli to which it responds or not.

13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Similarly, how do you determine if a bacteria is not aware?

It must be hard to do, because bacteria are microscopic in size, but I've read that they have some simple sensory abilities that you could probably test. 

13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

If it is aware, did it choose it?

Bacteria don't have brains, so I'd say no. Its lack of a brain might also exclude it from the realm of potentially conscious (aware) life forms, but I haven't given that question much thought. It would depend on your definition of "consciousness."

13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Can something be aware, but not able to make any choice?

I believe so. Being aware of a path on the right and a path on the left is different than being aware of a choice to turn right or left. A lion might see both paths but go right involuntarily, automatically responding to the sight or scent of a deer it's hunting. The cause of it going right or left does not have to be volitional in nature. It might even be random if there is no compelling factor urging the lion one way or another. It needs to move, so it moves. 

13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

If volition is "focusing",  then just being aware indicates a defacto level of focus. From this perspective, awareness seems to be a concomitant of volition.

You certainly need to be aware in order to be volitional. But I don't think you can be volitional without first being aware of a choice. That requires a certain level of introspection, where you are aware of your ability to choose between alternatives. Focusing comes before volition. It is a prerequisite of choice. First you must focus, which comes automatically in response to stimuli, then you can be aware of a choice to change your focus, narrowing or broadening it to this or that level of perception.

14 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

In other words, that which is aware, has chosen to be aware.

You don't choose to be aware. Awareness is axiomatic. You choose to direct your awareness.

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@merjet

From Scope of Volition, regarding free will as the choice that controls all the choices...

She gave no support for the assertion, nor is it supportable.  It is too narrow, contradictory, and the choice to think does not control or determine what or how one subsequently thinks.

This is extracted from page 161 of For The New Intellectual

Somewhere in the distant reaches of his childhood, when his own understanding of reality clashed with the assertions of others, with their arbitrary orders and contradictory demands, he gave in...

In the section regarding children from the Scope of Volition, it was stated that it is well past two before they become self-conscious.

Would it be a fair assessment that the birth of a mystic is the beginning of an abdication of the choice of remaining independent? How distant a reach into childhood might this have been?

 * * *

I recollect being tucked into bed one night by my mother when I was about four. The sermon at church had to have been about accepting Jesus into one's heart to be saved, for that was the essence of my prayer that night. 

When I got done, my mother had begun to cry and left the room calling for my father. I remember deciding there was something that needed to be understood about that moment that did not come until years later. At that time, I associated tears with being hurt. It wasn't until much later I recollected that incident and connected it to her being so overjoyed that she cried. At the time my decision served as a mental defense not realized until well into my twenties.

Edited by dream_weaver
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The following is from a presentation of the Rand/Branden model of free will, by Onkar Ghate in the Blackwell A Companion to Ayn Rand.

“Rand rejects any theory of volition that roots free will in a choice between particular items of mental content: whether to walk or ride the bus to work (selection between envisioned physical actions); whether to order the vanilla cheesecake because one is hungry or the bowl of mixed berries because one is on a diet (selection between desires or motives that will govern one’s physical actions); whether to admire Mother Teresa or Bill Gates (selection of values); whether to accept the psychological theories of Freud or of cognitive psychologists (selection of ideas). For Rand, all such matters are secondary and derivative: at root, free will is the power to activate one’s conceptual faculty and direct its processing or not. ‘All life entails and exhibits self-regulated action’, writes Branden in presenting Rand’s theory.”

Quote

but in man the principle of self-regulation reaches its highest expression: man has the power to regulate the action of his own consciousness. Man has the power to exercise his rational faculty—or to suspend it. It is this choice that is a causal primary. (“The Objectivist Concept of Free Will versus the Traditional Concepts” TON 3(1), 3)

“An individual becomes both capable and aware of his power of conscious self-regulation as his mind develops. ‘It must be stressed’, Branden writes, ‘that volition pertains, specifically, to the conceptual level of awareness. A child encounters the need of cognitive self-regulation when and as he begins to think, . . . to reason explicitly. . . .” (“The Objectivist Theory of Volition” TO 5(1), 23)

Rand and Aristotle remarked that higher animals are able to perceive more in sensory perception and to remember more than are lower animals. In modern psychology, the development of perceptual and memorial competencies in childhood has been greatly illuminated. I’d add to the Rand/Branden idea that the human conscious self-regulation emergences with the onset of conceptual abilities in children, add that: self-regulation of memory is also critical for the distinctly human abilities. “Remember this” we say to ourselves. Since the invention of sticky pads, I riddle my books with little strips of them.

“The choice to ‘think or not’ is not man’s only choice, according to Rand: it is his primary choice. This choice sets a mind’s regulating goal. Sub-choices then arise to the extent that there is such a goal, and are the means of implementing it.”

Quote

The primary choice to focus, to set one’s mind to the purpose of cognitive integration . . . is the highest regulator in the mental system; it is subject to man’s direct, volitional control. In relation to it, all other choices and decisions are sub-regulators. (TO 5(2), 23)

 

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