Fred Weiss

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Everything posted by Fred Weiss

  1. Branden believes in the supernatural

    More importantly, it represents in this context nothing more than an empty argument designed to disarm anyone who opposes some unsupported idea. So, in this case it becomes, "Oh, you oppose ESP merely because it is not part of our current paradigm. But you wait, in 50 years it will be and then you'll be sorry." Note what's missing - a sound argument for ESP. What replaces it is the attempt to manipulate you via the accusation that you are close-minded or dogmatic. Thus you are supposed to accept *anything* on the grounds that it *might be true* or that you can't *disprove it*. The burden thus gets dishonestly shifted to you when the burden should be on *he who asserts the positive* - in this case, providing evidence for ESP. This btw is a very, very common approach of the Branden/Kelly crowd thrown at ARI supporters. A good example of it was provided just yesterday on Diana Hsieh's blog. Someone asked her, "Diana: do you know ANYBODY in ARI who defends the Brandens? And if somebody decided to defend them, how would they be treated by the ARI leadership?" Note what's missing here. Why *should* anyone defend the Brandens? That's replaced with an empty and insulting accusation of dogmatism and close-mindedness just as Branden does above. Why not ask, "Diana: do you know ANYBODY in ARI who defends Benedict Arnold? And if somebody decided to defend him, how would they be treated by the ARI leadership?" Or how about, "Diana: do you know ANYBODY in ARI who defends astrology? And if somebody decided to defend it, how would they be treated by the ARI leadership?" etc. etc. (On the other hand, who knows, maybe in 50 years we'll have a new paradigm and Benedict Arnold will be regarded as a hero because it will have been concluded that the American Revolution was a mistake and we should have stayed a British colony. I actually heard someone say that on some TV documentary because he declared, "If we had stayed a British colony, we'd have socialized medicine." Objectivists should stay open-minded to such possibilities.) Fred Weiss
  2. "What is Consciousness For?"

    I guess you've never had the experience of a cat's "in or out" routine? :-)
  3. "What is Consciousness For?"

    Or when he says, "But if your "some bit" is meant to reflect modern times -- to encapsulate our huge, enormous, voluminous amount of scientific knowledge -- then since all of the evidence demonstrates non-volitional causal mechanisms, it would be absurd to conclude otherwise. Hence I give no leeway to modern man attributing volitional powers to rocks, trees, or the woolly mammoth." However, I don't want to get into a "you said-no I didn't" debate. The question on the table is what evidence would you accept to support the possibility of choice in animal behavior? A related question is whether we should even be debating it, assuming it is entirely a scientific, not a philosophical question.
  4. "What is Consciousness For?"

    What concepts do you use when you choose between vanilla and chocolate ice cream? And how is it any different from a cat choosing between two bowls of food, one with tuna, the other with chicken?
  5. "What is Consciousness For?"

    That doesn't change the fact that we can control where we direct our attention. I also think to some extent we can control the degree of our attention, e.g. focusing on something more intently. Furthermore - and most importantly for this discussion - I don't see why that necessarily requires our conceptual faculty.
  6. "What is Consciousness For?"

    "Philosophy and science have discovered two fundamental and causally different modes of action -- deterministic or volitional -- with nothing in between.... In light of all this, it is utterly arbitrary to put forth the notion of volition in other than man, and it is contradictory to reason to demand that the burden of proof lies equally with both sides."
  7. "What is Consciousness For?"

    That's a very interesting claim, Betsy. Do you happen to have a quote(s) from AR where she says that? Or is this your own original view of it? I think volition is a prerequisite for a conceptual faculty, but I don't know that I'd turn that around to say that the conceptual faculty *causes* volition.
  8. "What is Consciousness For?"

    For some reason in responding to Stephen's last post, I couldn't get the block quote function to work, so I created my own somewhat lame separations. _____________________________ I give no leeway to modern man attributing volitional powers to rocks, trees, or the wooly mammoth _______________________________ We weren't discussing rocks and trees. So, why are you waving strawmen at me? ______________________________ As I said before, philosophy and science have discovered two fundamental and causally different modes of action; deterministic or volitional. ______________________________ And Lee is proposing the possibility of a third, providing reasons which I consider plausible and interesting. You can legitimately ask him for his evidence. But when I ask what evidence you will accept, you deny the possibility of evidence. _______________________________ Perceptual-level functioning is automatic _______________________________ This is a chronic equivocation in this discussion. The *content* of perception is automatic and we have no control over it. What is in our field of sight is in our field of sight and we can't make it go away. One assumes the same thing is true of animals. Lee is not denying that. He is merely pointing out that just as we can control *the direction* of our perception, i.e. what we attend to, perhaps animals have some similar control _______________________________ I will repeat what you chose not answer before: _______________________________ And I will repeat that you are still begging the question.
  9. "What is Consciousness For?"

    Yes, of course, as regards human volition. But obviously we can't introspect in regard to the consciousness of animals and of course we can't ask them. We can only observe their behavior. Here's my point: if we study some bit of animal behavior and discover some of its causal components but not all, what do we conclude from that? Do we conclude that we just don't know enough and that with further research we will discover the full causal explanation? Well, what if no matter how hard we try we still can't explain all of it? Does that prove that animals have choice? Or, do we just continually say, we don't enough and in time we'll know. What will you take as proof, then?
  10. "What is Consciousness For?"

    I think that begs the very question we are debating.
  11. "What is Consciousness For?"

    No. If Lee - as you said and as he seemed to have acknowledged - maintains that there is - or even can be - indeterminancy of any kind governing inanimate matter, he and I would part ways on that. (But that should be discussed in a separate thread). Incidentally, I don't necessarily agree with his position regarding animal consciousness either. I just thought he raised some interesting points which are worth considering and I've had some questions myself concerning at least some animal behavior.
  12. "What is Consciousness For?"

    I agree with Betsy that it is impossible to prove that all animal behavior is deterministic. But isn't it equally impossible to prove that some of it is chosen and therefore not deterministic? What would constitute such a proof? If there were some behavior that we could not yet explain the causal conditions which prompt it, do we assume that there are such conditions but we just don't yet know what they are? Doesn't that beg the question? In other words, isn't it just as invalid to put the burden of proof on Lee as for him to put it on you?
  13. "What is Consciousness For?"

    Very good points, Ken. I agree completely. This specific point that you make here is the key one - at least for me. I don't think "our cats" are like that robot you mentioned. Though I'm very doubtful I'd go as far as including bees. :-) Incidentally, Lee did raise this very issue in his post #76 where he says, "I do think that a clear sub-division should be made that distinguishes human choice (which can support conceptual consciousness) from that of all other animals."
  14. "What is Consciousness For?"

    They certainly appear to be doing that, Ken - activating their consciousness. I used to play "fetch" with my cat. In fact from time to time she would drop the item at my feet that she wanted me to throw. I didn't train her to do that. She figured it out herself - that if she brought me an item, I would throw it. If she brought it back, I would throw it again. I wouldn't go so far as to say there was anything conceptual in what she was doing. But she certainly seemed to be choosing, not acting in a mechanical, deterministic way.
  15. "What is Consciousness For?"

    I have a question that I'd like to pose to all - but I'd be particularly interested in Stephen and Betsy's answer. Is there a possible distinction between "the capacity to choose" and volition, such that a creature - including man, for that matter, in certain circumstances, such as young infants - could choose among alternatives, but doesn't necessarily possess volition. By "choose" I mean in this context, the ability to select alternatives where that selection is not completely determined, i.e. where it could have done otherwise? Going back to my example of the cat on the sill and what it does next, is what it does next necessarily always full determined and automatic, such that it could not have done otherwise?
  16. "What is Consciousness For?"

    In response to my example of a cat going upstairs to take a snooze, Are you now just referring to a cat or also including human choice? I hope you are not including human choice because if you are what you are saying is that when you select one ice cream over another you *had to do it* and you had no choice in the matter. But if you didn't have to do it, why did the cat?
  17. "What is Consciousness For?"

    So? Why does he have to? Remember, our cat is just trying to decide where to take a snooze, not get into Harvard.
  18. "What is Consciousness For?"

    What is the purpose of assuming it doesn't - although obviously its choices are limited to those possible to a cat. Unfortunately, we can't ask the cat. We can only observe its behavior and draw conclusions from that.
  19. "What is Consciousness For?"

    Choosing between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. An infant selecting which of several toys it wants to play with. Now, how about a cat sitting on a window sill which it has been observed will then do any of a dozen or more other things after that (with variations), from getting a snack, to taking a snooze (in any of several places), to scratching on the door to be let out, etc. etc. Now if you don't think your choice of the ice cream or the infant's of the toy is "automatic" and "wired-in", why do you assume the cat's is? When the cat jumps down from the sill and goes upstairs to snooze on the bed in the bedroom vs. any of dozens of other things it could have done (including snoozing in about six or more other places it likes to snooze), is it doing that because it had to and had no choice in the matter? Or did it go upstairs because that's where it wanted to go? I'm not assuming that the next thing the cat will do is fill out an application for admission to Harvard. But why couldn't it be assumed that it has a certain degree of choice in the actions it takes?
  20. "What is Consciousness For?"

    But, Lee, is that a concession your position can withstand? If some consciousness can occur without choice, why can't all of it? I thought your position was that choice was inherent to consciousness.
  21. "What is Consciousness For?"

    That is also the question for me. There is at least some animal behavior which is hard to dismiss as merely an automatic reaction to something. On the other hand, as Stephen points out, the temptation to anthropomorphize is very strong. The additional question is how much of this is a scientific question/ how much philosophical? If an animal behavior appears to be choosing - and sometimes it does appear to be - how do we find out if it is actually choosing vs. merely reacting to some stimuli? And is choosing at that level the same thing as volition? And at what point can the behavior be considered thinking? At best it is obviously very limited. The experiments which (questionably) purport to show that chimps can acquire language, with extraordinary effort and personal attention, seems to take them at most to the level of about a 2 year old. And, even with all of that, it is still controversial if what they accomplish can be considered language. But is there no choice or thinking involved, albeit primitive? All that said, my trouble with Lee's view is that it seems to overshoot the point he wants to make. Even if some animal behavior suggests choice, a great deal of it doesn't. Most importantly, even in those circumstances where it doesn't, it is still conscious. Do birds for example choose to migrate? It seems highly unlikely. And yet I assume that they are conscious during migration - and not in some animal equivalent of a trance - which suggests that consciousness doesn't necessitate choice.
  22. "What is Consciousness For?"

    I still don't quite see why you think that follows. On this view animals are something equivalent to very complex mechanical robots, with their consciousness functioning as their sensory input mechanism based on which they automatically respond in predetermined ways to the various stimuli to which they are exposed. Now, as it happens, I share your difficulty in viewing animals - especially the more advanced ones - in this way. One would have to accept that the action of the little bird in my yard which just swooped down to snare an insect was predetermined by physical events which occured billions of years ago. If it is entirely mechanistic, it is rather remarkable. But, then, life in general is, including many aspects of it which none of us dispute are in fact entirely mechanistic.
  23. "What is Consciousness For?"

    Lee, if one of your purposes here is to explain the evolutionary role/function of consciousness, couldn't it be explained as an advantageous - perhaps even necessary - characteristic of locomotion. In order to move around an animal has to have awareness of its surroundings both to seek out what it needs for its survival as well as to avoid threats. Volition wouldn't be required. In fact it could be dangerous to the creature, allowing it to make choices which are not beneficial to its survival. Further, since animals can't think, how can they decide which choices to make? In what sense then is an action they take *chosen*. Doesn't choice presuppose some kind of deliberative process? It's a very noticeable characteristic of animals, even the more advanced ones, that there actions are highly predictable, ritualistic and extremely repetitive, e.g. the migratory, mating, and nesting habits of birds. That we can't predict every precise movement they make is merely a result of the enormous complexity of the factors which influence that movement. It wouldn't necessarily suggest volition or anything comparable.
  24. Dollar Rally

    Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to provide such a detailed response. If I understand you correctly, while the dollar has been appreciating recently vis-a-vis other currencies and gold even while interest rates have been rising, your view is that it is *anticipating lower interest rates*. I assume you realize there's some very suggestive investment advice implied in that (in regard to bonds, for example - not to mention the stock market). Is that your view? How do you - and apparently dollar buyers - see interest rates going lower in the face of what appears to be the Fed's commitment to raising them? Fred Weiss
  25. Dollar Rally

    Hi Richard: If I understand you correctly, you suggest that a strong dollar would be accompanied by *lower* interest rates. Isn't it the opposite - or at least that's my understanding? It also appears that the dollar strength so far this year has been associated with rising rates. Also, just out of perverse curiousity, is there any talk in the "trade" about how much money Warren Buffett has lost so far going short the dollar? The last time I read anything about it was some months ago when Buffett was still predicting a much weaker dollar - and at that point he had already lost several billion I believe. It's got to be much higher now. Fred Weiss