Lee Pierson

"What is Consciousness For?"

444 posts in this topic

The thought experiment of Ayn Rand's immortal robot is "fallacious and contradictory," if by that you mean actually possible.

That's not what I said. You missed the point.

Nothing said so far answers my question

It's a shame you did not continue reading on past what you quoted, since therein was the answer. :)

how does consciousness contribute to the control of animal action? What does it add, functionally, to the automatic processes of the brain?

Again, consciousness is a regulator of action, and its basic function is awareness of reality. Awareness is not solely the senses of the animal, nor is it solely the integrative processes of its brain. Awareness is a faculty that results from the animal's entire sensory apparatus, functioning along with its pleasure-pain mechanism. The limited emotions that an animal can experience is not the same thing as the physical processes of its brain, though they result from the automatic integrations that the brain provides.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...the right question to ask is: what is the nature of animal awareness, and what purpose does its consciousness serve?

Exactly. That's presumably what Lee Pierson and Monroe Trout were trying to answer in their paper which started this discussion!

And, that question has been answered here repeatedly, as it has been answered many times in the Objectivist literature.

Not necessarily. What if the "the Objectivist literature" hasn't adequately dealt with all the facts? Knowledge, as you know, expands.

The fundamental philosophic principles of Objectivism would not be affected by this expansion; it would integrate the new knowledge into the old. There would be no difference whatsoever to philosophic fundamentals.

The scientific issues raised by Drs. Pierson and Trout should be addressed from their premises in their terms. Not so much a problem, since the concepts they use "attention", "volitional", "movement", etc. are much too unclear; their definitions are far too vague to be currently more than a rationalistic exercise.

It will take more explanation of the concepts and their referents to be sure of what they mean. Which is, of course, their problem, not ours. Our only problem is discerning any contradictions between the ideas and the facts.

There are too many biologically proven similarities between the higher animals and man (especially in the sensory organs and brain function physiology) to isolate man from the next lower animals in regard to at least organism-directed use of its sensory apparatus. Which is a form of "volition" defined as organism-initiated and directed consciousness-faculties: sensory-motor, for other animals; sensory, conceptual and motor for man. But Drs. Pierson and Trout don't adequately treat the issue; so much promise which goes unanswered.

...The operation of the animal consciousness is automatic, and the good it serves is to regulate and direct the actions of the animal as the animal moves through its environment. Without the ability of the animal to sense and learn about its environment, it would not survive. In short, awareness for an animal means the automatic functioning on the sensory-perceptual level.

But, what actually constitutes the operation of the animal consciousness? That's a scientific matter for Comparative Psychology. The argument in this discussion, for me, begins with the nature of the regulatory and directional action of the animals below man.

Which I thought Lee Pierson was trying to elucidate (but I may be wrong--I'm not sure now, since I can't quite decode the terms Lee Pierson uses to define his terms; they're still far too vague in their referents).

Man too possesses that sensory-perceptual level of awareness, but to this is added the conceptual level of consciousness, a self-aware consciousness that operates volitionally and regulates its own operation. This is different in kind from the automatic consciousness of an animal...

True. But there is still the (scientifically) open question of the ability of other animals to regulate their consciousness', and their actions, in some way related to their sensory organs. (This also relates to the human infant's "minimal", "primitive" means of volition in the use of it's sensory organs in "looking or not looking").

A next-lower animal (Chimps? Gorillas?) in the presumed biological consciousness-hierarchy could have either the same, or a similar "volitional" use of it's sensory organs. That's what evidence from animal observers so far implies. Which was my only agreement with Lee Pierson; the rest of his paper is too conceptually nebulous to have much real value. As I say, It really needs revision.

(Incidentally, I agree with you, Stephen, about the William James attributuions. James was as much a Pragmatic philosopher as a psychologist. To use a quote of his is like using a pro-Enlightenment quote of Immanuel Kant's; it's beside the point of the broader philosophic and historical context. Why not make the same the point without the references which support a thinker who should morally not be supported?

I see nothing in the question Lee asked that would "move the discussion forward," as was suggested. To move the discussion forward will require introducing new material or new notions, not digging an ever-deepening rut.

Yup. Absolutely. That means at the very least, as I said, clearer definitions of terms. I'm also through with this discussion until or unless Lee can offer much more clarity to his ideas and their referents, i.e., some factual examples providing"evidence" for his stated assertions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But there is still the (scientifically) open question of the ability of other animals to regulate their consciousness', and their actions, in some way related to their sensory organs.

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are too many biologically proven similarities between the higher animals and man (especially in the sensory organs and brain function physiology) to isolate man from the next lower animals in regard to at least organism-directed use of its sensory apparatus. Which is a form of "volition" defined as organism-initiated and directed consciousness-faculties ...

Self-generated action is a defining characteristic of life, but it is not synonymous with volition, in scare quotes or otherwise. With all due respect, come back and revisit the issue when you can provide actual evidence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Even if some animal behavior suggests choice ...

When an animal chooses to step forth and suggest choice for its behavior, it will have my full attention. It is not any "animal behavior [that] suggests choice," but rather those people who choose to ignore the scientific facts. Every proper scientific investigation reveals how animal behavior is a deterministic consequence of the nature of the animal and its interaction with its environment. And, the proper approach for that set of behavior that has yet to be explained, is not to arbitrarily posit volition as the answer. Instead we expect to eventually explain that behavior with the same sort of automatic mechanisms that has scientifically explained every other bit of animal behavior.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When an animal chooses to step forth and suggest choice for its behavior, it will have my full attention. It is not any "animal behavior [that] suggests choice," but rather those people who choose to ignore the scientific facts. Every proper scientific investigation reveals how animal behavior is a deterministic consequence of the nature of the animal and its interaction with its environment. And, the proper approach for that set of behavior that has yet to be explained, is not to arbitrarily posit volition as the answer. Instead we expect to eventually explain that behavior with the same sort of automatic mechanisms  that has scientifically explained every other bit of animal behavior.

No scientific investigation has shown that animal action, beyond reflexes, is deterministic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Again, consciousness is a regulator of action, and its basic function is awareness of reality. Awareness is not solely the senses of the animal, nor is it solely the integrative processes of its brain. Awareness is a faculty that results from the animal's entire sensory apparatus, functioning along with its pleasure-pain mechanism. The limited emotions that an animal can experience is not the same thing as the physical processes of its brain, though they result from the automatic integrations that the brain provides.

The phrase “functioning along with…” needs elaboration. What does it mean? Do the neural processes need help, and if so, how does consciousness give it? What does consciousness, as a non-physical phenomenon, do? "Regulate," sure, but how (other than by volitional action)?

I realize that my questions, which distinguish the causal powers of the non-physical phenomenon of consciousness itself from those of its neural substrate, would not seem useful to an advocate of physical determinism in animals, since the only non-physical cause he might acknowledge is human choice. Such advocates are the ones actually stuck in a rut. So my questions are directed to those who grasp that physical determinism does not apply to animal action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No scientific investigation has shown that animal action, beyond reflexes, is deterministic.

Which animals are you talking about? Remember that earthworms, insects, etc. are animals, too...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Exactly. That's [what is the nature of animal awareness, and what purpose does its consciousness serve?] presumably what Lee Pierson and Monroe Trout were trying to answer in their paper which started this discussion!

Not exactly. Our clearly stated purpose was to present a hypothesis about the connection of volition and consciousness generally. We hypothesize that "volitional consciousness," like "laissez-faire capitalism" and "free scientific inquiry," is a redundancy.

Regarding ELS's comments on our paper "What is Consciousness For?" I will limit myself at present to saying that I disagree with all of ELS's critical comments.

I do agree with him entirely here:

Not necessarily. What if the "the Objectivist literature" hasn't adequately dealt with all the facts? Knowledge, as you know, expands.

The fundamental philosophic principles of Objectivism would not be affected by this expansion; it would integrate the new knowledge into the old. There would be no difference whatsoever to philosophic fundamentals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I mean conscious animals, of course!

They are conscious, on the level of sensations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The additional question is how much of this is a scientific question/ how much philosophical?

Yes. Deciding what phenomena come under the concept "volitional" looks to me to be at least partly philosophical, but then deciding whether conscious animals have volition would seem be a question for science.

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?

Good questions.

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?

Also a good question.

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.

Yes, but as Phil suggested, this is true of humans as well. No one says that everything conscious organisms do is volitional.

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.

Migratory behavior is complex, and may have volitional elements. But even if it were completely automatic, it wouldn’t do for it to occur all “in the dark,” so to speak. Later volitional action by the bird would surely be better informed if it were made with the bird being aware that the it had traveled to a new habitat.

The point is not that consciousness necessitates choice, but that conscious experience subserves choice, in some cases, it subserves volitional action that comes after the experience. In the paper, we discuss an example at the human conceptual level, of experiencing fear while running away automatically from a lion. The conscious experience of fear motivates later attention to the problem of avoiding the lion in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No scientific investigation has shown that animal action, beyond reflexes, is deterministic.

You don't need a big scientific study to show that that animal action is deterministic. Anyone can see that simply by introspection.

In human consciousness, some functions are automatic and some are volitional. It doesn't take any choice to integrate sensations into percepts. It happens automatically. We remember huge amounts of information by simple exposure to it automatically and without effort (like that stupid advertising jingle you can't get out of your head). Pain feels bad and pleasure feels good automatically. Conceptual thinking, however requires volitional direction and volitional effort. It doesn't happen automatically.

If we take what we know about our own mental functioning and apply it to other animals we see that they are similar in many respects to humans. Higher animals have percepts and memory and feel pleasure and pain -- all automatic and non-volitional functions -- and that is sufficient to account for their actions. If someone can show me some animal behavior that requires functioning that can only be volitional, then I would like to test it scientifically.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
----------------

What does consciousness, as a non-physical phenomenon, do?

------------------------------

---------------

I think the answer to that question has already been addressed. Namely, consciousness provides the awareness of the surroundings that the animal needs to automatically guide its actions to further its life. If the animal did not have a consciousness, it would not be able to take any action. The neurophysiological processes occurring in the physical brain and the rest of the body would be just that: processes occurring in the brain and body with no action taken by the animal because it would have no awareness of the external world. It would be like an amoeba floating in the water waiting for some food to just happen by for it to ingest. A lion or other animal capable of motor locomotion would quickly starve to death if it had no awareness of the availability of food it required in the external world. The activity in the animals brain and body does not give that information to him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You don't need a big scientific study to show that that animal action is deterministic.  Anyone can see that simply by introspection.

In human consciousness, some functions are automatic and some are volitional.  It doesn't take any choice to integrate sensations into percepts.  It happens automatically.  We remember huge amounts of information by simple exposure to it automatically and without effort (like that stupid advertising jingle you can't get out of your head).  Pain feels bad and pleasure feels good automatically.  Conceptual thinking, however requires volitional direction and volitional effort.  It doesn't happen automatically.

If we take what we know about our own mental functioning and apply it to other animals we see that they are similar in many respects to humans.  Higher animals have percepts and memory and feel pleasure and pain -- all automatic and non-volitional functions -- and that is sufficient to account for their actions.  If someone can show me some animal behavior that requires functioning that can only be volitional, then I would like to test it scientifically.

Very good points, Betsy. Which brings me to the issue that I was discussing early in this thread: that the issue Lee is talking about is essentially philosophic and specifically epistemological. How is the concept of volition formed and what is the nature of the process that it applies to? The concept of volition can only apply to conceptual beings because reasoning and conceptual thinking are not automatic.

Lee has defined the concept of volition into the fact of consciousness. He states (in his article) "Our primary hypothesis is: The ultimate adaptive function of consciousness is to make volitional movement possible." In fact, the volition exhibited by man is not "movement" as such. It is mental activity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

I agree. And Stephen Speichers's point below I both understand, and agree with.

The problem with anthropomorphism is that based on observation of animal behavior and induction therefrom, there are clearly some similarities to human behavior. The problem, and I don't presume to have the answer (yet, if ever), is in evaluating the behavior of the "higher" animals relative to their form of consciousness to the equivalent form of consciousness in man.

If, as Lee Pierson attempts to show, even hypothetically, there is a biological continuity to consciousness--whatever the distinctive breaks based upon species differences, and reflected in distinctions from evaluating behavior--then we need to integrate those facts with what we know about man's consciousness.

Put simply: we need to place all animals with a proven consciousness in a hierarchy up to man--since there is no question that he is the pinnacle, the end of animal evolution. And how do you do that? What criteria do you use to organize the facts assumed about consciousness from animal behavior discovered by Comparative Psychology?

That's why Lee Pierson's approach, whatever his errors, is basically correct; there is a biological hierarchy to all of the attributes of animals, which must include their consciousness.

To use the attributes of man's consciousness to identify and evaluate all lower forms of awareness is similar in method to reducing the conceptual to the perceptual level: the "higher" form is the principle by which the "lower" form is evaluated. The lower forms have less sensory apparatus complexity to them, and they represent an evolutionary base from which develops the higher forms leading up to man. This is simple sensory physiology comparison; leaving open any considerations of the resulting differing consciousness', which have to be related to our own form, with no "anthropomorphic" premises unproven in the lower species.

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?

It comes from a knowledge which can either scientifically prove that the animal is "choosing" in a sense comparable to man's choosing--or from an assumption that the animal consciousness is behaving ("sometimes it does appear to be") consistent with what is known about human choosing Yes, this raises the question of anthropomorphism. But, given that man is an animal, by what cirteria do you then evaluate other animal actions in any consistent way with the facts?

... 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.

Exactly. I think, apparently you do too (and in this I agree with Lee Pierson), that the birds being conscious necessitates some form of (sensory) choice in that fact; to assume they have no "choice", no "volition" as defined as self (organism)-initiated action over their perceptual apparatus, defies all knowledge of animal behavior, from the lab and the field.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Self-generated action is a defining characteristic of life, but it is not synonymous with volition, in scare quotes or otherwise. With all due respect, come back and revisit the issue when you can provide actual evidence.

With all due respect, Stephen, self-generated action by an organism in regard to consciousness logically presupposes control over some of those actions by the entity. That, by simple definition, is a form of volition.

Granted, not mans' form, but it is a selection by an animal consciousness from alternatives available in reality. Even an animal's "primitive, minimal" perceptual-level "looking around" is an excersize of it's volition.

If you are going to assume the truth of "Self-generated action [as] a defining characteristic of [living entities], then you have to accept facts indicating whatever self-generated actions are apparently in evidence by those living entites.

I shouldn't need to cite the contents of every Comparative Psychology book, and all of the field observations by every animal behavior scientist from Darwin on up to "provide actual evidence" of this fact.

The more interesting points are in my reply to Fred Weiss.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They are conscious, on the level of sensations.

I am still waiting for a response to this. I don't know for sure about whether or not earthworms possess sensation (although I'm inclined toward thinking that they do), but I'm quite positive that flies, bees, and a great many other insects DO possess a sensory consciousness. Are you saying that they possess volition?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
With all due respect, Stephen, self-generated action by an organism in regard to consciousness logically presupposes control over some of those actions by the entity. That, by simple definition, is a form of volition.

Granted, not mans' form, but it is a selection by an animal consciousness from alternatives available in reality. Even an animal's "primitive, minimal" perceptual-level "looking around" is an excersize of it's volition.

I disagree. There are a great many actions involving my own consciousness that require no volitional effort, and are entirely sensory-perceptual. In fact, the only actions of my own that I have ever observed to be volitional in any way were in some way conceptual.

I still haven't seen any specific connection between a specific animal behavior and volitional action (if one was given and I missed it, please forgive me). I may even settle for an example human non-conceptual, volitional action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
With all due respect, Stephen, self-generated action by an organism in regard to consciousness logically presupposes control over some of those actions by the entity. That, by simple definition, is a form of volition.

You are equating "self-generated action" with volitional "control over some of those actions." This is an unwarranted assumption. Digestion and respiration are self-generated. Are you going to claim that I have some control over those processes when I eat food or breathe? Perhaps one of us could turn into a plant and start using carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. The only volitional control man has over his consciousness is in the realm of conceptual thought. Man has no control over the perceptual or sensory levels of consciousness. If animals share only the perceptual/sensory level of consciousness with man, then why would one assume they have volitional control over those aspects?

Granted, not mans' form, but it is a selection by an animal consciousness from alternatives available in reality. Even an animal's "primitive, minimal" perceptual-level "looking around" is an excersize of it's volition.

This has been addressed several times before. Selection among alternatives does not imply volition.

If you are going to assume the truth of "Self-generated action [as] a defining characteristic of [living entities], then you have to accept facts indicating whatever self-generated actions are apparently in evidence by those living entites.

I shouldn't need to cite the contents of every Comparative Psychology book, and all of the field observations by every animal behavior scientist from Darwin on up to "provide actual evidence" of this fact.

No, but one or two might be good. I've never heard of animals that have the ability of conceptual thought. If you can provide some, I might find it interesting. You point above does not require volition.

The more interesting points are in my reply to Fred Weiss.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree. And Stephen Speichers's point below I both understand, and agree with.

The problem with anthropomorphism is that based on observation of animal behavior and induction therefrom, there are clearly some similarities to human behavior. The problem, and I don't presume to have the answer (yet, if ever), is in evaluating the behavior of the "higher" animals relative to their form of consciousness to the equivalent form of consciousness in man.

I'm not sure what you mean by "form of consciousness." Consciousness is awareness of reality. Are you implying that animal consciousness is something other than awareness? Are you implying that animals perceive a different reality or perceive the same reality in a different form from man's? (E.g., dogs don't perceive color.) If the latter, then there is no problem in evaluating the behavior of higher animals relative to man's form of consciousness. One evaluates it by observation and comparison.

If, as Lee Pierson attempts to show, even hypothetically, there is a biological continuity to consciousness--whatever the distinctive breaks based upon species differences, and reflected in distinctions from evaluating behavior--then we need to integrate those facts with what we know about man's consciousness. 

Put simply: we need to place all animals with a proven consciousness in a hierarchy up to man--since there is no question that he is the pinnacle, the end of animal evolution. And how do you do that? What criteria do you use to organize the facts assumed about consciousness from animal behavior discovered by Comparative Psychology?

And what we know is that volitional behavior for man is a process of reasoning and conceptual thought. The sensory and perceptual functioning of consciousness is automatic for both man and animals. THAT is the "biological continuity" that we have with other species. As Rand has noted, man is not aware of the process of integrating sensations into percepts.

Awareness is not a passive state, but an active process. On the lower levels of awareness, a complex neurological process is required to enable man to experience a sensation and to integrate sensations into percepts; that process is automatic and non-volitional: man is aware of its results, but not of the process itself. On the higher, conceptual level, the process is psychological, conscious and volitional. In either case, awareness is achieved and maintained by continuous action.

Additionally, I think it would be better if you didn't "assume facts" about consciousness and animal behavior. I'm not sure what an assumed fact is or how one would organize assumed facts.

That's why Lee Pierson's approach, whatever his errors, is basically correct; there is a biological hierarchy to all of the attributes of animals, which must include their consciousness.

Is this another "assumed fact"? Where and what is the biological hierarchy of all attributes? Is my foot higher than an ape's foot or a horse's foot? Clearly, an ant's exoskeleton has certain advantages that I don't have. Is the ant's skeletal structure "higher" than man's? Cockroaches have been around for millions of years. Are they "higher" than man?

To use the attributes of man's consciousness to identify and evaluate all lower forms of awareness is similar in method to reducing the conceptual to the perceptual level: the "higher" form is the principle by which the "lower" form is evaluated.

This is a gross misinterpretation of the method of reducing concepts to perceptual level. The attributes of man's consciousness are not a concept, they are concrete attributes of concrete individual entities. One does not "reduce" volition from one entity to volition in another entity.

The reason that the man's attributes can be used to evaluate "lower" forms of awareness is because is because of the nature of any consciousness: it is awareness. Similarly, one does NOT evaluate an animal's consciousness as volitional because only man's consciousness can perform conceptual thinking.

The lower forms have less sensory apparatus complexity to them, and they represent an evolutionary base from which develops the higher forms leading up to man. This is simple sensory physiology comparison; leaving open any considerations of the resulting differing consciousness', which have to be related to our own form, with no "anthropomorphic" premises unproven in the lower species.
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?

Exactly. I think, apparently you do too (and in this I agree with Lee Pierson), that the birds being conscious necessitates some form of (sensory) choice in that fact; to assume they have no "choice", no "volition" as defined as self (organism)-initiated action over their perceptual apparatus, defies all knowledge of animal behavior, from the lab and the field.

It is NOT assumed birds have no volition. You have not demonstrated that they do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I may even settle for an example human non-conceptual, volitional action.

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?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Our view is that conscious experiences exist to inform, motivate, and sometimes even inhibit volitional action--not that they must all occur concurrently with, or as a result of, volitional action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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?

Your "Or did it go upstairs because that's where it wanted to go?" implies self-consciousness in the cat, an "I". And what would be the purpose of assuming that it has a certain degree of choice? And, what is a degree of choice?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.