Nate Smith

Free Will

82 posts in this topic

The choice to focus one's mind does not refer only to focusing on abstracted attributes.

Humans do learn to automatize the process of concept formation, especially low level concepts, but that does not make them automatically correct in the way that percepts are. See IOE.

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The process of abstraction that only human beings are capable of presents options -- and has to -- and that is the essence of free will.

Not to derail the discussion, but would you say that animals can make choices?

Animals can respond to whole percepts, but cannot abstract attributes from entities. As Mark Twain observed, "“The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won't sit upon a cold stove lid, either.” The cat cannot choose to focus on the heat of the stove lid, but people can. That ability to focus on and abstract individual attributes in pursuit of a cognitive goal is the locus and essence of human free will and it is the kind of choice that only human beings can make.

Here's an article that demonstrates how little some investigators understand about human volition that they think animals can think like us because of their behavior.

It’s not just man’s closer primate relatives that exhibit brain power. Dolphins, dogs and elephants are teaching us a few lessons, too.

“They understand concepts like zero, abstract concepts. They do everything that chimpanzees do and bonobos can do,” said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University who specializes in dolphin research. “The fact is that they are so different from us and so much like us at the same time.”

Dolphin brains look nothing like human brains, Marino said. Yet, she says, “the more you learn about them, the more you realize that they do have the capacity and characteristics that we think of when we think of a person.”

These mammals recognize themselves in the mirror and have a sense of social identity. They not only know who they are, but they also have a sense of who, where and what their groups are. They interact and comprehend the health and feelings of other dolphins so fast it as if they are online with each other, Marino said.

For dogs, a primary tool is their obsessive observation of humans and ability to understand human communication, Hare said. For example, dogs follow human pointing so well that they understand it whether it’s done with a hand or a foot; chimps don’t, said Hare, whose upcoming book is called “The Genius of Dogs.”

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Here's an article that demonstrates how little some investigators understand about human volition that they think animals can think like us because of their behavior.

It’s not just man’s closer primate relatives that exhibit brain power. Dolphins, dogs and elephants are teaching us a few lessons, too.

“They understand concepts like zero, abstract concepts. They do everything that chimpanzees do and bonobos can do,” said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University who specializes in dolphin research...

For dogs, a primary tool is their obsessive observation of humans and ability to understand human communication, Hare said. For example, dogs follow human pointing so well that they understand it whether it’s done with a hand or a foot; chimps don’t, said Hare, whose upcoming book is called “The Genius of Dogs.”

I once read an article entitled something like "Can Dogs Do Calculus?" about experiments showing that dogs optimize the time of their trajectory running along a shoreline and then swimming at an angle to fetch a ball thrown into the water. But the dogs weren't interviewed.

Alas, my border collie Hilbert is behind on her calculus homework again. Dolphins won't be able to do that at all until there are waterproof e-books.

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I once read an article entitled something like "Can Dogs Do Calculus?" about experiments showing that dogs optimize the time of their trajectory running along a shoreline and then swimming at an angle to fetch a ball thrown into the water. But the dogs weren't interviewed.

:lol:

Dolphins won't be able to do that at all until there are waterproof e-books.

Maybe conceptual dolphins will save us from the inevitable planet of the apes.

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I'm coming in late to this topic, but as it's of particular interest to me, I'll reply that 'freewill' is the ability to choose what is possible, and includes the choice not to choose. All volitional creatures possess freewill by definition, and are responsible for the consequences of their actions (or inactions) .

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I once read an article entitled something like "Can Dogs Do Calculus?" about experiments showing that dogs optimize the time of their trajectory running along a shoreline and then swimming at an angle to fetch a ball thrown into the water. But the dogs weren't interviewed.

:lol:
Dolphins won't be able to do that at all until there are waterproof e-books.

Maybe conceptual dolphins will save us from the inevitable planet of the apes.

Planet of the Apes vs. Sea World. Can dolphins conceive of a banana factory?

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Since I'm put in a position of playing devil's advocate, why couldn't it be argued that conceptualization could still occur without free will? Couldn't that be an automatic process? If the mind automatically can integrate sensations into percepts, on what grounds do we claim that it couldn't automatically integrate percepts into concepts?

There is no evidence of it. Where's the monkeys and apes and dogs that use concepts?

Determinists would argue that human beings are evidence of it. They would argue that conceptualization occurrs automatically for humans, but it doesn't happen automatically for other animals. They have different natures.

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Since I'm put in a position of playing devil's advocate, why couldn't it be argued that conceptualization could still occur without free will? Couldn't that be an automatic process? If the mind automatically can integrate sensations into percepts, on what grounds do we claim that it couldn't automatically integrate percepts into concepts?

There is no evidence of it. Where's the monkeys and apes and dogs that use concepts?

By the way, I'd like to try to redirect the conversation slightly. I agree with Miss Rand's identification of free will as the choice to focus or not. From everything I experience in my life, this seems very accurate. It is explanations along these lines that constitute most of the responses to my comments. And while there are a number of interesting comments I'd still like to pursue, I'm much more interested in reconciling her account with causality.

Instead of approaching the subject "macroscopically", I'd like to look at it more "microscopically." How can scientific/metaphysical causality as we understand it allow for the free will that Ayn Rand describes.

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Previous success is not a cause because it is not an entity. An influence is not a cause. Entities are causes of actions.

That is a surprisingly strong statement. Can beliefs be causes? They're not entities. It seems that beliefs that we hold function as causes for actions all the time. I do not steal from the grocery store because I believe it is wrong. I take certain actions in raising my son because I believe they will be beneficial for him. I choose to focus on some topic because I believe that I can benefit from doing so.

Here's a better example about myself that I remember as some of my earliest philosophic thinking. I remember a number of times at a fairly young age (before 10) hearing people say something like "that works in theory, but it doesn't work in practice." That always struck me as a bizarre claim. My feeling, even before I could completely articulate it, was that if a claim doesn't work in practice, then it isn't a good theory. The point of a theory is to identify reality. Much later, after getting a pretty good understaning of Objectivism, I realized that I had a pre-conceptual grasp of the law of identity. It seems to me that that belief caused me to make make intellectual choices to focus and think that most of the people around me didn't make. Is this determinism? I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far, but if someone did, I wouldn't do a very good job arguing against them. I also learned from Rand that without that metaphysical principle in place the world could seem like a chaotic and unintelligible place. This seemed to explain a lot of the behavior I saw in people that for a long time I couldn't understand. In both situations, the belief or the lack of belief seems to affect choices that individuals make.

Perhaps there's another account of this experience.

Attributes and actions do not cause actions or attributes. Of course a child's context of knowledge affects his subsequent knowledge, but it is the child that is causing the learning process through the choices he focuses his awareness on. In other words, it is the child's choice to be influenced by previous knowledge. No previous knowledge determines whether he focuses on his class test tomorrow or his choice to watch the NBA finals on TV.

While I think we would agree that the choice can be influenced by previous experience, you're making the claim that no previous knowledge determines the choice. I won't say I disagree with you (though I'll admit that I'm tempted to say it's possible). I will just ask--then what does? It sounds like you're getting close to saying that the choice to focus or not is a primary. That it is a first cause, which means it's uncaused. And the attempt to look for any reason why one choice is made over the other is to attribute to determinism. The choice to focus or not is equivalent to a mental coin flip.

I admit that I'm creating a dichotomy of either determinism or randomness. I don't like either option.

I have met many people influenced by Objectivism and have made immoral choices in their lives.

Brain states do not cause volitional choices. This is an invalid and unsupported assumption. Entities cause actions, not states of an entity. The principal feature of the brain is neural activity. This activity is not the same as the functioning of the consciousness of the individual.

Isn't the state of an entity the same thing as the entity? In other words, isn't an entitiy's state just its identity? And it's identity is what determines its causal potential.

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There is no evidence of it. Where's the monkeys and apes and dogs that use concepts?

Good point. The reason that perceptual-level animals do not use concepts is that concept-formation requires abstracting attributes of entities from the whole percept of an entity -- something lower animals cannot do.

The process of abstraction presents us with many choices and options. Which of the many, many attributes of the entity should we focus on and abstract? That depends on one's cognitive purpose.

Let's imagine I have a three-inch wooden ball that is painted red. If I want to know why it rolls, I can choose to focus on its round shape. If I want to know why it floats, I could choose to seek and discover that it was made of wood. If I were interested in knowing why it reminds me of an apple, I have to option of focusing on its size, shape, and color.

The process of abstraction that only human beings are capable of presents options -- and has to -- and that is the essence of free will.

Does the process of forming percepts from sensations involve any abstraction? More broadly, roughly what is the process? (I've always wondered what exactly a sensation is. I believe in ITOE AR states that we don't experience sensation directly. But if I experience a pin prick, am I not experiencing a sensation?)

The example you use is interesting. If I see a black ball and it immediately reminds me of a bowling ball, how is that volitional? It seems like that occurs automatically. I can see how some identifications (less obvious ones perhpas) might involve the volitional choice to focus. But are you claminig all abstractions are volitional?

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Since I'm put in a position of playing devil's advocate, why couldn't it be argued that conceptualization could still occur without free will? Couldn't that be an automatic process? If the mind automatically can integrate sensations into percepts, on what grounds do we claim that it couldn't automatically integrate percepts into concepts?

There is no evidence of it. Where's the monkeys and apes and dogs that use concepts?

Determinists would argue that human beings are evidence of it. They would argue that conceptualization occurrs automatically for humans, but it doesn't happen automatically for other animals. They have different natures.

Are you arguing their point or just playing devil's advocate? Or do you not understand the issue and are trying to understand it?

Such a position is question begging, dropping context, and, unless you provide some evidence for what "they" say, arbitrary assertions.

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Are you arguing their point or just playing devil's advocate? Or do you not understand the issue and are trying to understand it?

I am playing devil's advocate because I do not understand how to respond to these arguments. I am looking for answers.

Since I'm put in a position of playing devil's advocate, why couldn't it be argued that conceptualization could still occur without free will? Couldn't that be an automatic process? If the mind automatically can integrate sensations into percepts, on what grounds do we claim that it couldn't automatically integrate percepts into concepts?

There is no evidence of it. Where's the monkeys and apes and dogs that use concepts?

Determinists would argue that human beings are evidence of it. They would argue that conceptualization occurrs automatically for humans, but it doesn't happen automatically for other animals. They have different natures.

Such a position is question begging, dropping context, and, unless you provide some evidence for what "they" say, arbitrary assertions.

The evidence is the fact that everything in existence follows causally deterministic laws. Since our consciousness is the result of a process in the physical brain, it too must be a deterministic process. While it may seem, introspectively, that we can choose to focus or not, that can't possibly be the case because science doesn't allow for that.

When you claim that you experience the choice to think or not, or that the process of abstraction requires an act of volitional distinction, a determinist would say you must be mistaken. It would seem that the burden of proof woud lie with the Objectivists that contend that free will is possible given that it seems to function, by their account, differently than all other known phenomena.

I do admit I find this argument compelling. I can "imagine" that conceptualization happens automatically more easily that I can understand what free will would consist of in terms of molecules, electrical charges and discharges, physical laws, etc.

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Free will doesn't violate the law of identity (cause and effect). One just cannot expect consciousness to act as inanimate matter responding passively. It is consciousness that is the cause, the original cause of free will. That is the nature of awareness; it has control over the brains operation and is not just a zombie process of it.

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Free will doesn't violate the law of identity (cause and effect). One just cannot expect consciousness to act as inanimate matter responding passively. It is consciousness that is the cause, the original cause of free will. That is the nature of awareness; it has control over the brains operation and is not just a zombie process of it.

Do you identify consciousness with the physical activities of the tissues of the brain and nervous system?

ruveyn

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Free will doesn't violate the law of identity (cause and effect). One just cannot expect consciousness to act as inanimate matter responding passively. It is consciousness that is the cause, the original cause of free will. That is the nature of awareness; it has control over the brains operation and is not just a zombie process of it.

Do you identify consciousness with the physical activities of the tissues of the brain and nervous system?

ruveyn

No more than I identify the dots on a CD with music. The music arises from from the dots, but it is not the dots. The identity of a dot on a CD, is a dot on a CD; it is not music. In the same way consciousness arises from connections in the brain, but it is not those connections. I tried to explain this with Morse Code, but you did not give me the mass of the information I asked for.

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No more than I identify the dots on a CD with music. The music arises from from the dots, but it is not the dots. The identity of a dot on a CD, is a dot on a CD; it is not music. In the same way consciousness arises from connections in the brain, but it is not those connections. I tried to explain this with Morse Code, but you did not give me the mass of the information I asked for.

How can a physical state of the world (as a cause) give rise to a non-physical effect?

Just what IS consciousness then? What is it made of? What are its laws of operation? Where, in the physical universe does it exist? (Specify a frame and reference and give approximate co-ordinates in that frame). What is its energy source?

ruveyn

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How can a physical state of the world (as a cause) give rise to a non-physical effect?

Are the thoughts that led you to type the above non-physical effects?

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How can a physical state of the world (as a cause) give rise to a non-physical effect?

Are the thoughts that led you to type the above non-physical effects?

Yes. And everyone of them was the discharge of neurons causing the mirgration of ions through a semi-permiable membrane.

But soft. I am not like you. I do not have a mind. only a functioning brain. And I do not have thoughts and ideas. Only the electro chemical discharge of neurons.

ruveyn

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How can a physical state of the world (as a cause) give rise to a non-physical effect?

Are the thoughts that led you to type the above non-physical effects?

Yes. And everyone of them was the discharge of neurons causing the mirgration of ions through a semi-permiable membrane.

The physics of consciousness do not undo the axiom.

But soft. I am not like you. I do not have a mind. only a functioning brain. And I do not have thoughts and ideas. Only the electro chemical discharge of neurons.

That you can say that on a forum you've posted to 897 times is baffling.

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Why is anyone continuing to discuss an issue with someone who admits to not being aware of his own mind?

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There are those who think that what others have critiqued can be safely ignored and then somehow questions garner more weight by incessant repetition of the same questions that others have shown to be logically invalid.

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When you search your wallet for a ten dollar bill (thorough search) and do not find it, it is reasonable to conclude there is no ten dollar bill in your wallet.

Now apply the same common sense to searching for a mind either in or near one's body (and searching with the world's most sophisticated scanning equipment at that). And then not finding it. What might one conclude?

ruveyhn

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