Lee Pierson

"What is Consciousness For?"

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I missed this before. I'm busy watching the progress of the "Chatsworth fire" as it approaches closer to us.

So the upshot here is that the salmon's behavior in this context is basically controlled by physiological processes rather than by conscious memory. OK, but that does not come close to proving determinism.

For the record, please note that any previous or future lack of response on my part to any posts on this thread, is not to be taken as acceptance or agreement with comments addressed to me.

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For the record, please note that any previous or future lack of response on my part to any posts on this thread, is not to be taken as acceptance or agreement with comments addressed to me.

Ditto for me.

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Lee, you still have never answered Betsy, all you did was try to turn her question around back at her ... How can the burden of proof be on proving animals to be deterministic?  Is everything in the universe volitional until proven deterministic?  How could such a concept even make sense?  The responsibility is not on Betsy to prove animals are deterministic, it is on you to prove they are volitional.  Are you going to ask her to prove to you next that rocks are deterministic as well?

Not at all. We have reason to believe that inanimate matter is deterministic, that's all. But dogs and chimps aren't just piles of inanimate matter; not only are they living, they are conscious. One should not just assume that the laws of inanimate matter adequately account for the behavior of animals. Here I would echo Paul's recommendation of Efron's article (Robert Efron, "Biology without Consciousness--Its Consequences," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, vol. II, University of Chicago Press, 1968, pp. 9-35.). It was also reprinted in in _The Objectivist.

Lest anyone get the wrong impression from Lee's response, in the referenced article Robert Efron criticized those who would reduce the nature and actions of living conscious entities solely to the laws of physics, denying the causal efficacy of consciousness. No one here, of course, denies the causal efficacy of consciousness in those living entities who possess that attribute. There is not a single idea presented in that article that even hints at some form of "non-deterministic choice." I just want to make sure that there is no implication that the Efron article somehow mimics Lee's thesis.

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"You can't show that they don't have volition," is an invalid demand to prove a negative.  Not only that, but to even hypothesize the possibility of volition in other species requires a clear definition of what is being claimed and presentation of some positive evidence in support of it.

No one has asked you to "show that they don't have volition." The question you have been asked is: what is the evidence that support the idea that animals are deterministic?

"Deterministic" means non-volitional, so asking for "the evidence that support the idea that animals are deterministic" means to "show that they don't have volition."

That is, unless you are using the term "deterministic" to mean something different than Ayn Rand -- and every other philosopher who ever took a position on volition -- means.

That requires evidence just as much as the contrary position does.

In other words, there is a burden of proof on those who claim animal action is deterministic; it is not some kind of default position. Some evidence has been offered for animal choice; what is the evidence for animal determinism?

There isn't any, just as there isn't any "evidence" that God doesn't exist. Volition is the "positive" attribute whose existence must be proven (as Ayn Rand did in the case of human volition). I don't have to show that animals are deterministic -- i.e., do not possess the attribute of volition. The burden of proof is entirely in your court.

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"Deterministic" means non-volitional, so asking for "the evidence that support the idea that animals are deterministic" means to "show that they don't have volition."

That is, unless you are using the term "deterministic" to mean something different than Ayn Rand -- and every other philosopher who ever took a position on volition -- means.

As far as I am aware, to “deterministic” means more than simply “non-volitional” to every philosopher (including Ayn Rand). Determinism is the doctrine that whatever happens is necessitated by antecedent factors, and thus could not have happened any other way. This must be shown to be true (if it can be shown to be true, which I doubt), not just assumed to be true, for animal action.

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"Determinism is the doctrine that whatever happens is necessitated by antecedent factors, and thus could not have happened any other way. This must be shown to be true (if it can be shown to be true, which I doubt), not just assumed to be true, for animal action."

So is your position that all life is volitional until proven deterministic?

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I guess what I meant to say was, you have to place the burden of proof on one side of the issue here, and you make it to sound as if the burden has been placed on both possibilities simultaneously; how does that make sense? How can one be both guilty until proven innocent and innocent until proven guilty? That almost sounds like someone taking the position of an Agnostic to disprove the non-existence of God.

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As far as I am aware, to “deterministic” means more than simply “non-volitional” to every philosopher (including Ayn Rand). Determinism is the doctrine that whatever happens is necessitated by antecedent factors, and thus could not have happened any other way. This must be shown to be true (if it can be shown to be true, which I doubt), not just assumed to be true, for animal action.

This is a request for proof that it "could NOT have happened any other way." This can never "be shown to be true" because it is a logically invalid request to prove the impossible -- i.e. to prove a negative.

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Determinism is the doctrine that whatever happens is necessitated by antecedent factors, and thus could not have happened any other way. This must be shown to be true (if it can be shown to be true, which I doubt), not just assumed to be true, for animal action.

[bold, italics, and underlining added for emphasis.]

If I am understanding you correctly, your first statement (which I have underlined) is a "positive" statement. Asking for proof is appropriate.

Your second statement, which I have italicized, is a negative one, isn't it? And wouldn't asking for proof of the second statement be requesting that one prove a negative?

So, which statement does "this" (in bold) refer to above?

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As far as I am aware, to “deterministic” means more than simply “non-volitional” to every philosopher (including Ayn Rand). Determinism is the doctrine that whatever happens is necessitated by antecedent factors, and thus could not have happened any other way. This must be shown to be true (if it can be shown to be true, which I doubt), not just assumed to be true, for animal action.

Ayn Rand would not have stated that to be deterministic means non-volitional, because volition does not come first----THAT would be primacy of consciousness.

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[bold, italics, and underlining added for emphasis.]

If I am understanding you correctly, your first statement (which I have underlined) is a "positive" statement. Asking for proof is appropriate.

Your second statement, which I have italicized, is a negative one, isn't it? And wouldn't asking for proof of the second statement be requesting that one prove a negative?

So, which statement does "this" (in bold) refer to above?

I had intended the "this" to refer to the entire sentence in question, but, yes, the actual description of determinism is the "first statement." The "second statement," which I indicate to be a consequence of the first, could be reworded positively as "what happened had to happen."

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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?

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I've thought about this, and the problem is that the only concsciousness that I know firsthand is one that's volitional  (that is, one that can make choices (is not deterministic), in that what it does, it does not have to do), conceptual and self-aware.  So if I'm going to imagine the consciousness that I know, but with its volition abstracted away, then yes, what I do indeed see is a frustrated consciousness that can understand reality (conceptually), but can't affect it.  (One problem with this is that I don't see how I can even understand reality without making choices in my thinking - i.e., having some kind of volition.)

What I'd really need to do is to abstract away the conceptual-ness of my consciousness as well.  But that's something that's so totally different from my human consciousness that it's impossible (for me anyway) to imagine what it would be like to have such a consciousness.

So I'm going to have to think about a non-volitional, non-conceptual consciousness more abstractly: not by doing a thought experiment in which I imagine myself as I am, except with a different mental apparatus.

When I've done this, I don't see any problem with a consciousness that is non-volitional.  It's true that such a consciousness wouldn't do me, as a person, any good.  But for a perceptual-level animal, I see its consciousness as just its way of holding a perceptual view of reality - of automatically integrating its sensations into percepts.

Thanks for trying the thought experiment. I think that seeing that losing your power of volition would leave you with a consciousness that "wouldn't do me, as a person, any good" is a useful result. I will comment further on the "perceptual-level animal" case (in particular, that of the "associationistic cat") shortly.

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I guess what I meant to say was, you have to place the burden of proof on one side of the issue here, and you make it to sound as if the burden has been placed on both possibilities simultaneously; how does that make sense?  How can one be both guilty until proven innocent and innocent until proven guilty?  That almost sounds like someone taking the position of an Agnostic to disprove the non-existence of God.

Good question. I don't think that the burden of proof always operates as it does in criminal court, or with respect to God (a non-existent). For example, if you are chicken-sexing young chickens (not so easy!) you don't say that the burden of proof is on proving them male (or female). The burden is on proving which sex they are.

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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?

Out of curiosity, Fred, would you say the same thing in regard to inanimate matter?

All of reality is an integrated whole, and establishing one truth or identifying one consequence, connects directly to others. Philosophy and science have discovered two fundamental and causally different modes of action -- deterministic or volitional -- with nothing in between. Some in the world, most notably Objectivists, have, thanks to the genius of Ayn Rand, a firm grasp of the nature of a volitional consciousness. We know the identity of volition and we understand the nature of its actions, and we realize the consequence of those actions in physical reality -- from cave drawings to the Empire State building. Those consequences are absent from non-volitional entities, and with good reason. In addition, every valid scientific investigation has revealed, on every depth of study, from the macro to the micro level, for inanimate matter and living entities other than man, mechanisms of operation that are causally explained by non-volitional behavior.

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.

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Out of curiosity, Fred, would you say the same thing in regard to inanimate matter?

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.

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Philosophy and science have discovered two fundamental and causally different modes of action -- deterministic or volitional -- with nothing in between.

I think that begs the very question we are debating.

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Philosophy and science have discovered two fundamental and causally different modes of action -- deterministic or volitional -- with nothing in between.

I think that begs the very question we are debating.

In that case, Fred, you'll have to take the issue up with the Creator. I just report the facts of reality; I don't make them.

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QUOTE(ELS @ Sep 28 2005, 09:10 PM)

The mechanistic denies any causal relation between an animal's consciousness and it's actions, it's behavior. 

How does that remotely follow? A deer sees me bursting through the trees at it, it runs. A bear sees me bursting through the trees at it, I'll be its dinner. The cause in both instances is two-fold: my action towards the animal, and the type of animal it is. It perceives a threat, and it instinctual[ly] acts to preserve its life. In all acts of the animal, it is a direct causal chain. 

The cause is the nature of the animal (most importantly what nature has set it to pursue), and what it perceives in reality.

Read the full context of the post. Animal behavior is more complex than any explanation the old instinct theory provides. Even there, for example in Branden's presumed Objectivist days, he notes the deficiencies of explanation by "instinct".

And where did Ayn Rand give a hint of an intimation of this animal free-will idea?  Or give any shred of support for anything ten-million lightyears near the idea of perceptual choice?

She didn't directly. Certainly not any acknowledgment of any lower animal "free will" in the human sense. Her life's focus was the animal Man. The other animals, I have to assume from her writing, and from her philosophic premises, were only incidental, as biological context for man's life.

Her comment, alluded to by Klaus Nordby above, and which Paul's Here is clearly concerned about, re human infants and the self-direction of their means of perceptual awareness ("looking or not looking") as being a "minimal", "primitive" form of volition, clearly fits--integrates--with what we know of higher animal awareness and behavior (e.g., primates such as Washoe, the chimp).

How can viewing animals as having choice be anything but arbitrary? What is this perceptual-level choice that we could never experience?

We can and do experience it. If you decide to look around your room to perceptually locate some object, you make a choice to direct your perceptual organs, your eyes, your means of visual awareness, toward something specific, rather than nothing in particular.

The hungry lion--assuming (1) it is a conscious entity, i.e, an "animal", as identified by science over centuries, (2) it's motor activities are under its conscious control, another identification not rationally in issue--does the exact same thing.

It chooses to get up and go look for and get food.

By any and all animal behavior knowledge we now have there are hierarchical continuities in animal consciousness.

Remember it's been fourty or fifty years since Ayn Rand considered any of these issues. A lot of knowledge has accumulated since then: e.g., CAT scans of animal brain functioning, which show similar patterns of activity to man in similar situations.

This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with human versus animal cognition relative to the conceptual level, which only man has and therefore is the only species of animal who can choose between levels of consciousness.

Not even choosing between two different colors can be a perceptual choice for us as we already see them as units of class. This is simply a postulate, upheld against all the observed evidence in support of a theory that needs it to support its own weight.

If I understand you--and, given what you've written, I'm not sure of that--you're confusing the content of awareness with action from that awareness. What choice is invovled? What action represents a choice in regard to the colors are you referring to?

And we certainly do not have to worry about retrogressing back to the time of Descartes. They were talking about man as mechanistic. To view animals as such is not to commit the same error.

You'd best revisit the history of the times, when animals were, in fact, regarded as essentially mechanistic entities, without any sensations of pain or pleasure.

I'm more interested in the errors of today, pertaining to whatever knowledge we have gained about all animal consciousness, and how it relates to man.

That's why I fully support Lee Pierson, and recommend others to do the same. I may not agree with all of his views, but his essential approach is totally valid; he's actually trying to integrate all the facts about living species and the

nature of consciousness.

Not to overdo the encomiums, but he could be doing the scientific leg-work for Harry Binswanger's eventual book on Consciousness. If Dr. Pierson doesn't write it first. Or maybe a collaboration?

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Ayn Rand would not have stated that to be deterministic means non-volitional, because volition does not come first----THAT would be primacy of consciousness.

Not at all.

See this post (click here) where I give examples of Ayn Rand using "determinism" precisely that way including --

[D]eterminism -- the obliteration of the concept of volition, the tenet that men have "no possibility of being anything but what they are."

In terms of human knowledge, volition DOES come first. Volition is an axiomatic concept that is implicit in ALL human knowledge -- including our knowledge that almost all of existence is deterministic.

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Not to overdo the encomiums, but he could be doing the scientific leg-work for Harry Binswanger's eventual book on Consciousness.

Let's keep such wild speculation to ourselves. (Especially since HB has made clear that he is not one of those who might believe that some animals have some primitive form of choice.)

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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?

Not at all. Volition is ostensively defined. We can all observe it first-hand, directly, by introspection.

What would constitute such a proof?

In addition to the direct introspection of volition, there is the reductio ad absurdam type of argument that works whenever someone attempts to get away with a stolen concept. Human volition is axiomatic. The claim that no choice is ever possible is a claim to knowledge, but knowledge would be impossible if we had no real choice and couldn't really tell the difference between truth and error.

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?

No. We do not know how the nervous system gives rise to the faculty of consciousness, but we know, by direct introspection, that we are conscious and that we have volitional control over some aspects of consciousness.

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?

Anyone who claims that an entity is volitional bears the burden of proof. That burden can be met with regard to human volition.

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Stephen Speicher,Sep 30 2005, 11:21 PM]

Let's keep such wild speculation to ourselves. (Especially since HB has made clear that he is not one of those who might believe that some animals have some primitive form of choice.)

Simply an interesting possibility. It is always interesting when minds come together in symposia and argue their points.

AR's epistemology workshops brought various minds together, not all in agreement, and look at the result: more detailed knowledge of Ayn Rand's views than was given in her original ITOE.

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