kenstauffer

Why is Free will an axiom?

108 posts in this topic

---------------
I don't agree that volition is an epistemological axiom, because regardless of whether or not our choices are determined, we don't choose the content of our ideas, which we would have to if a rejection of volition were to commit the fallacy of the stolen concept or the fallacy of self-exclusion.

Can't make sense of this.

As best that I can make out of it, what Bill seems to imply here is that since we don't have perceptual volition (the content of our ideas) we would have to exclude that content from applying to the concept of volition. He seems to mean that since we don't choose to create reality, we can't choose to think about it because then we are creating our own reality.

Perhaps Bill could explain his position clearer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I am saying is that one's volitional actions -- i.e., one's choices -- are determined by one's values. There is nothing contradictory about this. It is a fact which can be observed in numerous, everyday examples, such as choosing to vote for a candidate, because one values his political views. It makes perfect sense to say that one "chooses" to vote for him even though it is one's political values that determine one's choice. One could have chosen differently, but only if one's values were different.

Secondly, as I've already argued, one doesn't "choose" to value something. A value can certainly result from one's choices, but, strictly speaking, the value itself is not chosen. It is a consequence of one's evaluation. The fact that I chose to write what I have written does not mean that my conclusions are not determined by my thinking. I agree that a person's volitional actions are beyond other men's control and that no one can force you to think, but that does not mean that a person chooses the content of his beliefs. He chooses to think; he does not choose his conclusions; they are determined by his thinking.

This succinctly expresses a view that I found intriguing and troubling for a very long time myself in the evolution of my own thinking and understanding of Objectivism's view of volition. The issue, in essence, is: what is the relation between free will and conscious choice in human consciousness? In particular, is the choice to focus one's mind (or not) motivated, like all of man's other choices? Are values acquired somehow, and then motivate one to focus or to "drift"? (I'm using "drift" here in the cognitive sense, as the opposite of focusing.) Do values somehow precede focusing?

(My own concern with this issue was originally motivated by biological reductionism. I sought to reconcile the apparent determinism of the laws of physics with "free will" in man, since man is made of atoms. This hasn't surfaced as a major issue in this thread so far, so I shall defer further comment about biological reductionism for now, unless others raise it.)

What, then, does the literature of Objectivism say about whether or not the choice to focus is motivated? In particular, how can Objectivism advise man to focus and think in order to live, taking life as a value to be achieved through focusing and thinking, if the choice to focus precedes any awareness (and causal operation of) values? If the choice to focus is not motivated, then how could concern for living operate as a reason or motive for focusing and thinking? Can man somehow grasp reasons and values in advance of being in focus? Isn't focus a precondition of conceptual awareness, according to Objectivism?

I found an extremely helpful discussion of these points in OPAR, Chapter 2, "Sense Perception and Volition," subsection titled "The Primary Choice as the Choice to Focus or Not." That discussion is far too lengthy to quote verbatim here. I highly recommend consulting the original text, especially from page 56 ("'Focus' in the conceptual realm names a quality of purposeful alertness....") through page 60 ("The most conscientious man....").

In sum, the Objectivist answer is yes, focus precedes conceptual awareness, including any conscious awareness of values, even if the values are deeply subconsciously automatized. Subconsciously automatized values do not compel one to focus; one can always drop focus at any time. The choice to focus or not is more fundamental and causally determining than any previously acquired values, even subconsciously automatized values.

What, then, could possibly be the motivational significance of "urging" a person to focus because his life depends on it? My own answer is that this connection provides a powerful reason to remain in focus once one has already started to focus. It is a key part of an integrated context of knowledge that can powerfully deter one from unfocusing one's mind too casually. But even that degree of knowledge and awareness never overrides the ever-present option to drop mental focus and merely drift. Those who do drop focus in favor of drift will, over time, automatize the habit of doing so, making it progressively more difficult to sustain a state of full focus for a substantial length of time. On the other hand, "difficulty" is not impossibility; one always retains the potential to focus one's mind. If one makes a big enough mess of one's life by not focusing enough, and somehow manages to connect a better life to a more consistent state of mental focus, then one may be more inclined (but never deterministically compelled) to focus more often.

I've also often thought that when a very young child is first developing his conceptual capacity, mental focus tends to happen naturally and haphazardly from time to time. Depending on the results of the child's intervals of varying degrees of focus, he may seek to do it more often and more fully as his conceptual knowledge gradually expands; or he may encounter experiences that lead him to avoid focusing and to favor mental drift. The philosophical influences to which the child is exposed as his mind develops certainly can have a powerful influence on what the child learns. Exposure alone is not determining, however; many children can and do "rethink" their ideas and conclusions as they grow older, for all sorts of reasons and motives. But ultimately the choice to focus one's mind (or not) remains completely with onself, and is not deterministically compelled in each new moment by one's prior knowledge or values (assuming a relatively normal mental development free of brain defects; I am not discussing mental retardation or physiological brain diseases here).

For adults, the simple act of waking up from a state of sleep has long been fascinating to me to consider in regard to focusing. Human beings somehow proceed from a state of total unconsciousness (except for dreaming and the potential to be aroused by loud noises or jostling) to a state of conscious awareness every day. How do they do that? If they end up in a state of mental focus, how exactly did they somehow "choose" to focus? There is no question that one can choose to unfocus if one is already in focus, but how does one make the transition from complete unfocus to some initial state of focus? Evidently, one does it without awareness of any conscious conceptual knowledge or values. What is the nature of such a "choice," and how is it possible? What does "choice" mean in regard to that process of waking up? I still don't have definitive answers for the process of awakening from sleep and how it relates to a "choice" to "focus." I've often thought that it may happen in a way similar to the conceptual development of an infant, i.e., we "happen" to focus "just a little" without any particular motivation, and then we either decide to stay in focus or go back to drift, depending on what we become aware of as we start focusing. Those who have acquired a habit of finding drift more pleasant than focus may prefer to drift. Those who know better may prefer focusing, especially if they have developed a history of achieving great personal rewards by doing so. But one always retains the capacity to drop focus at any time.

(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus? Is that capacity merely a legacy of man's mammalian evolutionary roots, perhaps? Is man as a species still evolving genetically in regard to the conditions under which he is able to drop focus? I realize that man today can drop focus at any time. But could man someday evolve genetially in a way that makes focusing more genetically compelled? Does man need to be able to unfocus, for example, in order to correct errors in his conclusions? If he is starting down an erroneous path of reasoning and finally realizes it, is the capacity to unfocus essential in allowing him to shut off the erroneous reasoning, back up, and then focus on finding the source of the error?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Secondly, as I've already argued, one doesn't "choose" to value something. A value can certainly result from one's choices, but, strictly speaking, the value itself is not chosen. It is a consequence of one's evaluation.

To "evaluate" means to judge the value of something. Is that not a process of choosing your values?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[...]

The issue, in essence, is: what is the relation between free will and conscious choice in human consciousness? In particular, is the choice to focus one's mind (or not) motivated, like all of man's other choices?[further relevant paragraphs omitted]

The choice to focus in terms of attaining a value is the creation of self-discipline, the self-regulation of one's actions. All actions, including the choice to focus, undertaken in pursuit of a goal requires the existence and choice of a value-based goal. An example of tuning focus selectively is to devote focus to the grammar of a sentence I am writing, but momentarily focusing on my memory to draw from it a relevant example or a good simile. I am doing that without a constant instruction to myself to "stay focused". The first thought I have when I wake up results in goal-directed activity. Conscious awareness, whether one is awakened by loud noises or not, is separate from focus. This example did not support your statement that "one [becomes focused] without awareness of any conscious conceptual knowledge or values." As I am thinking, my focus is usually not on my thinking unless that is my purpose (let's say I'm examining an error I keep making in judgement or I think my hierarchy of values is rearrangeable and I'm visually doing that in my mind); my focus is on the way my thinking relates to reality. I do not know if you mean that you think focus necessarily involves introspection on conceptual knowledge or values preceding a desire to focus?

I am hesitant to respond to the rest of your post regarding awake/sleep states although I am interested in the neurophysiological substrate of consciousness. The reason is that, generally (and not specific to your post), our understanding of consciousness during sleep is rudimentary at best and the use of a term such as 'conscious' with respect to brain activity is not the same as the use of that term in Objectivism. For example, "...a state of total unconsciousness...", to me, means death, not sleep. With respect to the process of awakening, I will mention two of the ways I control that process with a focused effort. The first has been unsuccessful: when I am in a dream, I have only been able to shift my mind to a non-dream state of sleep, rather than being awake as desired. The second has been successful in that I can decide before I go to sleep when I wish to wake up, focus on that time in relation to objectives, and I will awaken at precisely that time. Tentatively and speculatively on focus, then, I will say that some sleeping states are merely forms of beneficial drift. Beneficial in that there are physiological benefits to sleep in addition to information consolidation. Evolutionarily as individuals, some may require more drift to consolidate or hierarchy-amend than others to obtain the same benefits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What, then, does the literature of Objectivism say about whether or not the choice to focus is motivated? In particular, how can Objectivism advise man to focus and think in order to live, taking life as a value to be achieved through focusing and thinking, if the choice to focus precedes any awareness (and causal operation of) values? If the choice to focus is not motivated, then how could concern for living operate as a reason or motive for focusing and thinking? Can man somehow grasp reasons and values in advance of being in focus? Isn't focus a precondition of conceptual awareness, according to Objectivism?

I won't try to speak for "the literature of Objectivism", but I do have thoughts on your post that I think are consistent with what I have read.

To talk about making an argument to someone assumes that they have a mastery of language, which assumes that they have already focussed and used their conceptual level of awareness. As far as motivation, what of the first motivation? What motivates an infant to open his eyes for the first time? To reach out and touch his surroundings? To cry out and hear his own voice? The people you are talking about motivating have already felt that motivation because they're still alive. There's no point in trying to convince them of the benefits of being in conceptual contact with reality anymore than there's a point in convincing them to open their eyes. They already know what these actions will make possible for them, they already know what they need to know. If they choose to evade that knowledge, then I don't see how it's possible to motivate them to do otherwise.

For adults, the simple act of waking up from a state of sleep has long been fascinating to me to consider in regard to focusing. Human beings somehow proceed from a state of total unconsciousness (except for dreaming and the potential to be aroused by loud noises or jostling) to a state of conscious awareness every day. How do they do that? If they end up in a state of mental focus, how exactly did they somehow "choose" to focus?

You're confusing focus and consciousness. To be out of focus does not mean to be unconscious. You can be out of focus and drive to work, eat, pick up around the house, and even talk to people...how? Because we are able to automatize many conscious activities. It's what allows me to type while thinking of what I want to say, without having to look at the keys or think about how to spell each word. I'm focussed on my argument, not on these other things. However, I can choose to focus on them if I wish. I can't explain how I do it, but that's unnecessary. I do it, and you do it too. It's just not a philosophic problem.

(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus? Is that capacity merely a legacy of man's mammalian evolutionary roots, perhaps? Is man as a species still evolving genetically in regard to the conditions under which he is able to drop focus? I realize that man today can drop focus at any time. But could man someday evolve genetially in a way that makes focusing more genetically compelled? Does man need to be able to unfocus, for example, in order to correct errors in his conclusions? If he is starting down an erroneous path of reasoning and finally realizes it, is the capacity to unfocus essential in allowing him to shut off the erroneous reasoning, back up, and then focus on finding the source of the error?)

I don't think you understand what focus means. There is no way to "correct errors" while out of focus. To correct errors means to use your conceptual faculty, and to do that you must be in focus. I don't believe being out of focus serves any survival value.

I think it's an interesting question how volition evolved. Maybe a conceptual awareness, by the way concepts are formed, requires volition. Or maybe not. Maybe it's possible to have an animal that is rational but determined. Who knows?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two points, because I noticed that my post did not completely match up with what it was responding to.

You're confusing focus and consciousness.

I realize that consciousness was only an analogy, but it does seem like unfocus is being treated as a state of unconsciousness. Even out of focus you are aware on some level of what is going on, both around you and in your own head. If this were not the case, you would not know when it was necessary to focus.

I don't think you understand what focus means. There is no way to "correct errors" while out of focus. To correct errors means to use your conceptual faculty, and to do that you must be in focus. I don't believe being out of focus serves any survival value.

This technically does respond to the original comment, but I should have read more carefully. I don't think that any part of error correction, even to "shut off the erroneous reasoning", involves an unfocussed state. In fact, doing this means saying to yourself, "this reasoning is invalid or incorrect", which is being in focus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think it's an interesting question how volition evolved. Maybe a conceptual awareness, by the way concepts are formed, requires volition. Or maybe not. Maybe it's possible to have an animal that is rational but determined. Who knows?

I don't think so, here is my view. The thoughts of animals are determined, but ours are not. That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think so, here is my view. The thoughts of animals are determined, but ours are not.

Their consciousness is determined. Animals don’t think, because thinking is a conceptual process.

That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing.

Instinctual doesn’t mean programmed. This is a view I used to hold. The main difficulty was that given such a model of instinct, it’s not possible to refute claims that we have a mix of instinct and reason. In fact your description implies it; we have certain “instincts”, but we can control them. The problem is it doesn't define "instinct". For example, in one discussion, a person brought up studies of “fight or flight” responses in infants. Could I deny that such behavior was documented? No. Could I account for why it occurs? No (it’s not my area of study). More than once someone would point out that animals can learn behavior. What of instinct then? I could describe the difference between animal learning and reason, but what about irrational human behavior?

In both cases, the problem is defining instinct in terms of behavior, instead of psycho-epistemology. Volition means having the choice to utilize a conceptual level of awareness, whereas instinct means not having that choice. Men may not choose to think, and when that’s the case they can appear to act like animals. This is not proof that men have instinct; it’s proof that they have volition. There is no mix of instinct and reason, only the choice to act as a man or a beast. Also, there are survival mechanisms over which we have little control, such as hunger. These are no more “instincts” than your heartbeat. What makes an animal instinctual is not its behavior but the fact that its conscious processes are automatic and not open to its control. We can act like animals, but animals can't act like men.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think so, here is my view. The thoughts of animals are determined, but ours are not.

Their consciousness is determined. Animals don’t think, because thinking is a conceptual process.

That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing.

Instinctual doesn’t mean programmed. This is a view I used to hold. The main difficulty was that given such a model of instinct, it’s not possible to refute claims that we have a mix of instinct and reason. In fact your description implies it; we have certain “instincts”, but we can control them. The problem is it doesn't define "instinct". For example, in one discussion, a person brought up studies of “fight or flight” responses in infants. Could I deny that such behavior was documented? No. Could I account for why it occurs? No (it’s not my area of study). More than once someone would point out that animals can learn behavior. What of instinct then? I could describe the difference between animal learning and reason, but what about irrational human behavior?

In both cases, the problem is defining instinct in terms of behavior, instead of psycho-epistemology. Volition means having the choice to utilize a conceptual level of awareness, whereas instinct means not having that choice. Men may not choose to think, and when that’s the case they can appear to act like animals. This is not proof that men have instinct; it’s proof that they have volition. There is no mix of instinct and reason, only the choice to act as a man or a beast. Also, there are survival mechanisms over which we have little control, such as hunger. These are no more “instincts” than your heartbeat. What makes an animal instinctual is not its behavior but the fact that its conscious processes are automatic and not open to its control. We can act like animals, but animals can't act like men.

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. Drives are not instincts, but are what drive instincts. Animals have a program to process drives, and we don't. You are right that one needs to explain what is meant by instinct. In very primitive life forms behaviour seems only to involve sensual stimuli, but in more involved forms, stimuli interact with consciousness, to adapt behaviour to the environment. Regardless, I explain instinct as an automatic response to stimuli. That response may well come about by learning on the part of a conscious animal (IOW is not inborn). Animals can "think" on a perceptual level, which may look like real conceptual reasoning. Watch how a monkey uses sticks and stone tools to achieve it's goals. An animal that makes what we call an intelligent decision in an environment he has not been trained for, has a mental processing I call "perceptual reasoning" for want of a better word. I stress that this is in no way connected with our volitional conceptual reasoning. The responses of the animals are with mental processes directed outwards, not inwards. That makes their behaviour automatic, since they only react to stimulation, not to thought. Our behaviour is motivated from within. We consider our response, and that is a volitional exercise.

Share this post


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

What makes an animal instinctual is not its behavior but the fact that its conscious processes are automatic and not open to its control. We can act like animals, but animals can't act like men.

The concept of 'instinct' has a more important element than just conscious or automatic processes. The significant element is the issue of survival value. Man's means of survival is the use of reason which is not automatic and, hence, not instinctual. Animals have automatic means of survival, so the concept 'instinct' has been used to describe those observed behaviors. It should be pointed out that even for animals, describing an action as instinctual provides very little information about the causal process involved. The concept 'instinct' seems to bypass the function of consciousness in animals: it makes it seem that an automatic bodily action is what keeps the organism alive. Awareness of reality seems to become superfluous if one attributes actions to instinct. That an animal's consciousness is determined (just as our perceptual level of awareness is) would seem to be a sufficient explanation.

Share this post


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

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. --------------

What "drives" do we have? And why do you hold that a 'program' must be an automatic program?

Share this post


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

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. --------------

What "drives" do we have? And why do you hold that a 'program' must be an automatic program?

I repeat:

"That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing."

I didn't think I needed to list any more drives we share with many animals. Your dog is driven by many desires we have. It is driven to seek affection, it enjoys the drive to run and catch a ball, to seek warmth.

As far as "programs" are concerned, I am speaking of automatic behaviour, not volitionally constructed ones. We are not born with one, but lower animals are. If we use our reason, we can create a program, but that is not my point. My point is that we are not born with a program, and unless we have one, we are not fit for survival. A bear has an automatic program for surviving winter. We don't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The concept of 'instinct' has a more important element than just conscious or automatic processes. The significant element is the issue of survival value. Man's means of survival is the use of reason which is not automatic and, hence, not instinctual. Animals have automatic means of survival, so the concept 'instinct' has been used to describe those observed behaviors.

As it applies to morality, yes survival value is the important issue. However "automatic means of survival" has yet to define what it means to be "automatic". To do that, you have to focus on psycho-epistemology. For example, many human behaviors are automatized, which may be confused as automatic.

Share this post


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

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. --------------

What "drives" do we have? And why do you hold that a 'program' must be an automatic program?

I repeat:

"That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing."

I didn't think I needed to list any more drives we share with many animals. Your dog is driven by many desires we have. It is driven to seek affection, it enjoys the drive to run and catch a ball, to seek warmth.

As far as "programs" are concerned, I am speaking of automatic behaviour, not volitionally constructed ones. We are not born with one, but lower animals are. If we use our reason, we can create a program, but that is not my point. My point is that we are not born with a program, and unless we have one, we are not fit for survival. A bear has an automatic program for surviving winter. We don't.

Your answer really doesn't address what drives humans have, which is what my question was. A drive is a force that exerts inescapable or coercive pressure on an aspect of one's action. A desire is that which one wants to fulfill or achieve a value. Since man is volitional, which you agree with, there can be no inescapable force that puts pressure on an aspect of one's action. Nor can we have desires that are independent of our value system, which is an extension of our volitional nature. So I'm not sure what you mean when you state that we have desires similar to a dog. Humans (as well as animals) have needs, conditions of existence required for survival, but the drive or desire to acquire the need is not only not programmed, the existence of the need is unknown without the use of reason. There is no evidence that humans have drives or desires that are outside of their control. Animals have automatic processes that drive them to achieve their needs. Eating, procreating, seeking affection are not drives for humans. I'd classify them as needs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus?

The answer to this question is contained in the nature of the conceptual capacity and how it operates. We can see this most clearly by comparing the way our minds work with the way a perceptual animal is conscious of the world.

A dog or cat can be aware of what is immediately before him and any memories that are associated with his immediate sensory input, but nothing else. He cannot ignore his awareness, but he cannot go beyond it either. He cannot abstract from the immediately present. While he can associate his current perceptions with similar perceptions in his experience, he cannot integrate by essentials. He cannot evaluate, project into the future, nor imagine what does not yet exist. A perceptual creature cannot turn away from immediate awareness to abstract, integrate, evaluate, or project which are mental operations a conceptual consciousness is capable of and what gives man such an evolutionary advantage.

It is man's ability to step away from immediate awareness and choose to perform the mental operations his life requires that also makes it possible for him to ignore reality and not focus on what his life requires.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus?

The answer to this question is contained in the nature of the conceptual capacity and how it operates. We can see this most clearly by comparing the way our minds work with the way a perceptual animal is conscious of the world.

A dog or cat can be aware of what is immediately before him and any memories that are associated with his immediate sensory input, but nothing else. He cannot ignore his awareness, but he cannot go beyond it either. He cannot abstract from the immediately present. While he can associate his current perceptions with similar perceptions in his experience, he cannot integrate by essentials. He cannot evaluate, project into the future, nor image what does not yet exist. A perceptual creature cannot turn away from immediate awareness to abstract, integrate, evaluate, or project which are mental operations a conceptual consciousness is capable of and what gives man such an evolutionary advantage.

It is man's ability to step away from immediate awareness and choose to perform the mental operations his life requires that also makes it possible for him to ignore reality and not focus on what his life requires.

Thanks Betsy. IMO there aren't many who could have come up with such a good (logical, intelligent, concise) answer to this question. I'm sure that you didn't experience the kind of trouble I'd have had puzzling over the likely reasons, going down wrong avenues and having to eliminate them, struggling to organize, etc. Issues like this tend to be good pondering material for me, but even assuming that I could come up with a good answer eventually, it can take me a dog's age to figure them out.

Yet here is the answer, as far as I can tell, neat and essentialized. And it probably took you all of five minutes to think it out and write it up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
(Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus?

The answer to this question is contained in the nature of the conceptual capacity and how it operates. We can see this most clearly by comparing the way our minds work with the way a perceptual animal is conscious of the world.

A dog or cat can be aware of what is immediately before him and any memories that are associated with his immediate sensory input, but nothing else. He cannot ignore his awareness, but he cannot go beyond it either. He cannot abstract from the immediately present. While he can associate his current perceptions with similar perceptions in his experience, he cannot integrate by essentials. He cannot evaluate, project into the future, nor image what does not yet exist. A perceptual creature cannot turn away from immediate awareness to abstract, integrate, evaluate, or project which are mental operations a conceptual consciousness is capable of and what gives man such an evolutionary advantage.

It is man's ability to step away from immediate awareness and choose to perform the mental operations his life requires that also makes it possible for him to ignore reality and not focus on what his life requires.

Enlightening - thanks.

Share this post


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

Related question: if focus is such a great value to human life, what might be the survival value, for purposes of human evolution, of having the capacity to go out of focus?

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

Like pain serves a survival value: put your hand in a fire and you'll learn not to do that again, the capacity to go out of focus has similar survival value: if you don't think about tomorrow, you'll suffer the consequences and hopefully change your ways.

Share this post


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

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. --------------

What "drives" do we have? And why do you hold that a 'program' must be an automatic program?

I repeat:

"That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing."

I didn't think I needed to list any more drives we share with many animals. Your dog is driven by many desires we have. It is driven to seek affection, it enjoys the drive to run and catch a ball, to seek warmth.

As far as "programs" are concerned, I am speaking of automatic behaviour, not volitionally constructed ones. We are not born with one, but lower animals are. If we use our reason, we can create a program, but that is not my point. My point is that we are not born with a program, and unless we have one, we are not fit for survival. A bear has an automatic program for surviving winter. We don't.

Your answer really doesn't address what drives humans have, which is what my question was. A drive is a force that exerts inescapable or coercive pressure on an aspect of one's action. A desire is that which one wants to fulfill or achieve a value. Since man is volitional, which you agree with, there can be no inescapable force that puts pressure on an aspect of one's action. Nor can we have desires that are independent of our value system, which is an extension of our volitional nature. So I'm not sure what you mean when you state that we have desires similar to a dog. Humans (as well as animals) have needs, conditions of existence required for survival, but the drive or desire to acquire the need is not only not programmed, the existence of the need is unknown without the use of reason. There is no evidence that humans have drives or desires that are outside of their control. Animals have automatic processes that drive them to achieve their needs. Eating, procreating, seeking affection are not drives for humans. I'd classify them as needs.

We are animals. We have many of the drives of animals. We are normally driven to eat, to have sex, to seek companionship, to seek shelter, to escape harm. You don't need reason the experience these drives. The evolution of reason did not stop us being animals in a physical sense. Neither did it wipe out much of what we have in common with animals. Reason added a whole new dimension to what we are, but I fail to see how this eliminated all our animal heritage.

Reason can override drives. It is man who decides if a drive is a desire, but for an animal they are the same thing. I never even hinted that man could not control desires. For example, a human can decide to give his coat to someone he loves and freeze to death. His drive is to stay warm, but he desires to ignore it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yet here is the answer, as far as I can tell, neat and essentialized. And it probably took you all of five minutes to think it out and write it up.

Actually, it took me about half an hour of writing after several decades of introspecting and figuring out how the conceptual faculty operates.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yet here is the answer, as far as I can tell, neat and essentialized. And it probably took you all of five minutes to think it out and write it up.

Actually, it took me about half an hour of writing after several decades of introspecting and figuring out how the conceptual faculty operates.

This is exactly the kind of answer I was interested in hearing. I have been very impressed before, and am now, by what a rational person who has studied for many years can produce after only half an hour of effort. I suspected that five minutes was so low as to be virtually impossible; at least, it was impossible for me to conceive of anyone doing it that quickly, and I admit that I exaggerated my guess.

But only by half, because I wasn't actually sure that you wouldn't come back with "No, that took me ten minutes," at which point I'd have been shocked, yet not totally surprised, because I've been shocked before by how little time you've apparently spent on answers that I found very impressive. Anyway, I'm fully impressed with 'half an hour,' and am hyper-aware of the decades of introspection and learning that makes the quality of your posts possible. That's why I love hearing from you on almost any topic that you care to address.

Share this post


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

I said we had certain "drives", just like animals, but we had no program to deal with them. --------------

What "drives" do we have? And why do you hold that a 'program' must be an automatic program?

I repeat:

"That is the price we paid for volition. We traded in programmed (instinctual) behaviour for volitional control. The two are mutually exclusive. That has not put an end to the determined animalistic drives we have, such as eating, procreating and companionship, but we have control over how we react to them. Unlike an animal, we can choose to do what we don't FEEL like doing."

I didn't think I needed to list any more drives we share with many animals. Your dog is driven by many desires we have. It is driven to seek affection, it enjoys the drive to run and catch a ball, to seek warmth.

As far as "programs" are concerned, I am speaking of automatic behaviour, not volitionally constructed ones. We are not born with one, but lower animals are. If we use our reason, we can create a program, but that is not my point. My point is that we are not born with a program, and unless we have one, we are not fit for survival. A bear has an automatic program for surviving winter. We don't.

Your answer really doesn't address what drives humans have, which is what my question was. A drive is a force that exerts inescapable or coercive pressure on an aspect of one's action. A desire is that which one wants to fulfill or achieve a value. Since man is volitional, which you agree with, there can be no inescapable force that puts pressure on an aspect of one's action. Nor can we have desires that are independent of our value system, which is an extension of our volitional nature. So I'm not sure what you mean when you state that we have desires similar to a dog. Humans (as well as animals) have needs, conditions of existence required for survival, but the drive or desire to acquire the need is not only not programmed, the existence of the need is unknown without the use of reason. There is no evidence that humans have drives or desires that are outside of their control. Animals have automatic processes that drive them to achieve their needs. Eating, procreating, seeking affection are not drives for humans. I'd classify them as needs.

We are animals. We have many of the drives of animals. We are normally driven to eat, to have sex, to seek companionship, to seek shelter, to escape harm. You don't need reason the experience these drives. The evolution of reason did not stop us being animals in a physical sense. Neither did it wipe out much of what we have in common with animals. Reason added a whole new dimension to what we are, but I fail to see how this eliminated all our animal heritage.

Reason can override drives. It is man who decides if a drive is a desire, but for an animal they are the same thing. I never even hinted that man could not control desires. For example, a human can decide to give his coat to someone he loves and freeze to death. His drive is to stay warm, but he desires to ignore it.

Please explain how "we are driven to eat" as opposed to we need to eat and discover how to acquire food. It is not the common requirement of eating, sex, or companionship that makes us similar to animals. Those characteristics are not listed in my dictionary definition of 'animal'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please explain how "we are driven to eat" as opposed to we need to eat and discover how to acquire food. It is not the common requirement of eating, sex, or companionship that makes us similar to animals. Those characteristics are not listed in my dictionary definition of 'animal'.

Beyond saying that a mosquito responds to drives when he looks for blood to suck, and that "need" never enters his little mind, I don't know what you are getting at. When a baby looks to eat, he doesn't consider the biological needs of his body, he responds to the drive to eat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please explain how "we are driven to eat" as opposed to we need to eat and discover how to acquire food. It is not the common requirement of eating, sex, or companionship that makes us similar to animals. Those characteristics are not listed in my dictionary definition of 'animal'.

Beyond saying that a mosquito responds to drives when he looks for blood to suck, and that "need" never enters his little mind, I don't know what you are getting at. When a baby looks to eat, he doesn't consider the biological needs of his body, he responds to the drive to eat.

I never said that need implies knowledge, and you have not identified what you mean by 'drive'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please explain how "we are driven to eat" as opposed to we need to eat and discover how to acquire food. It is not the common requirement of eating, sex, or companionship that makes us similar to animals. Those characteristics are not listed in my dictionary definition of 'animal'.

Beyond saying that a mosquito responds to drives when he looks for blood to suck, and that "need" never enters his little mind, I don't know what you are getting at. When a baby looks to eat, he doesn't consider the biological needs of his body, he responds to the drive to eat.

I never said that need implies knowledge, and you have not identified what you mean by 'drive'.

Urge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites