I've just finished Sam Harris' Free Will.  It isn't exactly a book, rather an extended essay.  I'm also reading The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner published in 2002 so it is more a review of and background material for Harris' discussion.  

My question is one of predictability.  Nobody likes to think their actions, their thoughts, their very lives are predictable.  But does determinism imply predictability?  If not, then how does the belief in determinism distinguish itself from free will?  I don't know what you will do next...I don't know what I will do next...I do not know what will happen next...all  of these statements would seem to be valid whether you take the free will position or the deterministic position.

My position could be described by the term "apathetic determinism."  Everything I do and say...and you do and say...and that happens in our world...has been determined by the culmination of a long train...perhaps infinite?...of cause and effect.  I agree.  When it comes to particulars in our lives, then who we are and what we do, can with some degree of predictability, be assigned meaning.  But to what point?

With each person traveling along a line from being abused to being an abuser, then at what point can we say they went from victim to perpetrator?  For that matter, can we ever make such a distinction?  

Free will...conscious will...is necessary if we are to feel justified in condemning and punishing other people.  But it is the last thing we apply when we are reviewing our own life and actions.  This explains the idea that there are no guilty men in prison or that when Judge Judy cast her verdict the people who she claims to be guilty still use their final minutes of their fifteen to declare their innocence.

The question is never "Do we have free will?"  There are always extenuating circumstances that are just as valid as those that would be used to condemn us.  The question...and answer...is "Do other people have free will?"

Religion is a sick delusion not because it offers forgiveness but because it allows people to judge and condemn others for the same sins we commit.  

The original subject, which I seem to have drifted from, is simply:

If determinism does not imply predictability then what good is it?

 

Tags: Christianity, Sin, conscious, forgiveness, free, will

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 I only wish I was a high school graduate having this access to such ideas.  In my day, being intelligent was worse than being disabled.  At least the disabled had some special eductation classes.  I was a high schooler who when, asked to turn in a poem in the form of a Shaksperian sonnet turned in:

the clown

 

before boarding the sleek gray shining bus

i studied those who would travel with us

across the rain swept ramp i spied a joe

whose face i’d seen on many a late night show

he seemed a bit shorter and not as young

as when he’d sit and make me us laugh in fun

they say he drinks, but then can you blame him?

he’s had it rough, he’s not the type for gym

work or exercise or anything like that

so as he ages he’s gotten quite fat

he spends his nights out on the nightclub floor

and oft he’s not back in his bed till four

he sure can dress and knows the latest style

his clothes are neat and clean and all the while

he makes them look like they’re a size too large

he can tell a story and give a guy a charge

and yet he travels on my bus alone

i caught his eye but no bright smile was shone

he held my gaze and then he looked away

he couldn’t smile without his usual pay

 

 And got nothing...no reaction from my so called 'teacher'.  

Phillip, thank you for the welcome to your topic.

I think no one has addressed the final question in your first post: If determinism does not imply predictability then what good is it? What it's good for is weakening religion because it deprives God of any opportunity to act on anyone's behalf independent of physics. No miracles. It's also good for darwinists because it saves them having to account for anything that isn't determined by such physical processes as natural selection and mutation of genes. For the rest of us, determinism doesn't do any good at all. It is merely a magical belief, like "fate" or "the stars."

You say: who we are and what we do, can with some degree of predictability, be assigned meaning. By bringing in "meaning" you introduce an element that contradicts determinism. If meaning is important, determinism cannot rule. There is no meaning in a determined universe, only causes.

-------------------------------- 

Trick, the cloak of authority you have finally adopted may turn out to a curtain separating you off from the rest of us.

The burden is on the person claiming otherwise [than science] and what they are talking about when they say it's produced by something that is not matter or energy, etc.

You may exist in a community where science is an unchallengeable authority, but in the real world conscious experience has greater authority. Science exists inside consciousness, and depends on it. Once we decided eugenics must be abandoned evolutionists abandoned it--they've never said why they suddenly decided it wasn't true, they just bowed to our insistence it wasn't. Before humans came along there was no science, there will be none when conscious creatures go extinct. Science is secondary to consciousness. It exists by our decision to tolerate and exploit it. If we decide it's incomplete then that becomes the rule. I am making that case, and I just have to persuade enough people for it to become true.

I'd suggest, that consciousness is no different than the physical constituent that produces it.

Consciousness is entirely unlike the matter that causes it. Pain is totally unlike the blade that causes it. One's experience of outrage on seeing a cartoon is totally different from the printed sheet bearing the cartoon drawing. Not to make that distinction is literally to be insane. Curiously there is an entire community where this insanity is common. That doesn't make it any the less a problem of public health. It's an unhealthy belief. Among those sufficiently sensitive it fosters fatalism.

Can I help you see this? If I decide to remember someone's name, and make an effort to drive it into long-term memory, I make changes to my brain chemistry. Is my decision to remember that name identical to the chemical changes I induce? The chemical changes I induce science can detect. But the cause of those changes it cannot detect. That today's physics cannot detect conscious decisions does not mean they don't exist. It just means today's physics is incomplete.

Here's Phillip: Nobody likes to think their actions, their thoughts, their very lives are predictable. How do you feel about being determined? People who like thinking they're determined (as I did for a while) are a small minority, with no right to adopt a cloak of authority from science. Science does not imply determinism. It supports a growing body of "facts," but among them is not any proof that all our thoughts are determined. That is an unwarranted extension of science to phenomena the methods of science prohibit it from pronouncing on.

free will (the type most think they have) is not only problematic in a physical universe, but it's logically incoherent in any context.

I am troubled  by the assertion that the universe is only physical. Science cannot know that when its methods prohibit it from studying anything other than matter.

More troubling is your assumption that logic takes precedence over conscious experience. The logic you refer to is a system that pre-dates the discovery of evolution, and hence is obsolete. The new axioms are, we evolved, evolution is capable of generating novelty as physics can't, I experience being capable of conscious thought, within it I experience being able to generate novelty as physics can't, and when I do so I have an experience conventionally referred to as having free will. These are axioms. They are fundamental, all other axioms are secondary. Science can only challenge them when it's methods are agreed to apply to what is under discussion.

I still don't understand how novelty = freedom. Seems a strange equation to me. I get the non-physicalist notion of consciousness...but still don't know how that would lead to such freedom either.

The discovery of evolution as a process capable of generating new living species rearranges the axioms of logic, so new equations are to be expected. Evolution can generate novelty, in ways and to an extent that today's physics cannot account for, or match. Therefore some axioms of logic based on physical constancy will have to be abandoned. We are a product of evolution, therefore what we experience as evolved creatures adds to what we know about the process of evolution, and may call for the abandonment of other axioms of logic based on physics.

What's puzzling to me is why this isn't seized on as material for a hundred thousand PhDs and dozens of Nobel prizes. The discovery of evolution is truly revolutionary. It implies a change to natural philosophy as least as fundamental as the discoveries leading up to Newton's gravity.

You see the trouble you cause Phillip? Do I have free will?  Of course not.  Does my identity...the person I am in interaction with others...have free will?  Yes.  But only the free will to decide if I will Dance and which partners I will choose in my Dance.

Free will for himself isn't so important to him, what's important is that he has free will in his relations with others. He wants to be free to choose his partners. Will you curdle his joy in communing with others? How would you feel if presented with two candidates for friends. One announces he is determined and has no free will. The other insists he has free will. Do these declarations make no difference to your choice? Would you ask the one who says he's determined if he feels robotic, that all his remarks will feel pre-digested to him, and he'll expect yours to feel the same? Or do you feel confident that everyone who says they feel determined will feel like you?

I detect more heat in this post than I usually allow myself, but the issue really is personal for me. Unlike Phillip, my experience even when alone is colored by my assumptions about free will.

Trick, I hope you will feel OK about continuing our communication.

Sorry that this is going to be long winded...but you said a lot that needs addressing. Again, please do not take my criticisms personally. Think of a relaxed calm taking voice discussing this with you rather than arguing. :D

And with that, here we go....

"Trick, the cloak of authority you have finally adopted may turn out to a curtain separating you off from the rest of us."

If I came off as authoritative, allow me to elaborate...

"You may exist in a community where science is an unchallengeable authority, but in the real world conscious experience has greater authority. Science exists inside consciousness, and depends on it."

I don't think science is unchallenge-able, I think it is one of our best (meaning most consistent and reliable) epistemological standards (standards of knowledge). I understand that all epistemological standards are filtered through our consciousness, but our understanding of such things as "consciousness" are also filtered through our epistemological standards we apply.

"Science is secondary to consciousness."

I'd suggest this is a poor choice of words. Science does not compete with consciousness. Consciousness is not a standard of obtaining knowledge, it's the reflective medium that hosts such standards.

"Consciousness is entirely unlike the matter that causes it. Pain is totally unlike the blade that causes it. One's experience of outrage on seeing a cartoon is totally different from the printed sheet bearing the cartoon drawing. Not to make that distinction is literally to be insane."

Is sound different than the sound wave? Is a song different than those sound waves? Is the roundness of the ball different than the ball? Is the roughness of sandpaper different than the sandpaper? I'm not suggesting that matter causes consciousness, I'm saying consciousness is an inherent quality OF the configuration of matter playing through time.  Similar to a song being inherent in the specific playthrough of soundwaves. I'm saying that the brain playing out through time IS the consciousness, just as the sound waves playing out through time, IS the song (e.g. a specific melody that can be differentiated from another). I find nothing "insane" about thinking this (or a high chance of this), in fact I find it (more) insane to think a song as separate from the sound waves that produce it.

"It's an unhealthy belief. Among those sufficiently sensitive it fosters fatalism."

This doesn't follow.

"If I decide to remember someone's name, and make an effort to drive it into long-term memory, I make changes to my brain chemistry. Is my decision to remember that name identical to the chemical changes I induce? The chemical changes I induce science can detect."

You have this incorrect. The electro-chemical playout aren't separate from the conscious state  that tells you to commit something to memory. The changes to brain chemistry that happen after the fact isn't the same as the playout of your brain state at the time before.

"That today's physics cannot detect conscious decisions does not mean they don't exist. It just means today's physics is incomplete."

 

Actually we are getting much closer here. For example, by examining brain scans, we can determine if a person will press a button with their left or right hand 7 to 10 seconds before they are even consciously aware of that decision themselves. What this implies is that the brain setup leads to their conscious choice.

"People who like thinking they're determined (as I did for a while) are a small minority, with no right to adopt a cloak of authority from science. Science does not imply determinism."

I never said "science implies determinism", and in fact I'm not a determinist. I'm a hard incompatibilist, which means that I think free will is incompatible in either a deterministic universe or an indeterministic universe. Determinism means all events have a cause, indeterminism means some events are acausal. There is no other logical possibility, either in a physical realm...or a non-physical realm. Determinism also doesn't mean "predictable"...fyi. 

"I am troubled  by the assertion that the universe is only physical. Science cannot know that when its methods prohibit it from studying anything other than matter."

Actually, science is not prohibited in studying anything other than matter (even addresses dark matter or antimatter). It can only study, however, what is available to study. If consciousness is "something else", science has yet to find out what that possibly could be. It does know where it stems from and what affects it. Again, I'm not knocking your non-physicalist notion of consciousness...I just have no idea what such a thing could be, and have no reason to believe it would be something beyond physical (what we do know). If it is non-physical, or their is a non-physical component....that cannot help the problem with free will. This really is what should be stressed.

"More troubling is your assumption that logic takes precedence over conscious experience. The logic you refer to is a system that pre-dates the discovery of evolution, and hence is obsolete."

Again, logic does not compete with conscious experience. Logic is an epistemological standard, conscious experience is not. Logic is not "obsolete" and when I address it I'm talking about current day models of induction and deduction, analytic and modal logic.

"The new axioms are, we evolved, evolution is capable of generating novelty as physics can't, I experience being capable of conscious thought, within it I experience being able to generate novelty as physics can't,..."

Evolution made novelty, entirely through physics, before any consciousness arised. Just look at the many different species of plats that exist. These are entirely physical processes (no conscious thought needed). Conscious thought came about as those with it were better able to survive than those without under very specific conditions. The novelty existed before it.

"These are axioms."

Axioms are common sense acceptable bases. I don't accept this nor do I think it's common sense.

"Therefore some axioms of logic based on physical constancy will have to be abandoned."

Just to be clear here, what axioms of logic are you referring to that are "based on physical constancy" and can be abandoned? 

"What's puzzling to me is why this isn't seized on as material for a hundred thousand PhDs and dozens of Nobel prizes. The discovery of evolution is truly revolutionary. It implies a change to natural philosophy as least as fundamental as the discoveries leading up to Newton's gravity."

The thing is, it really doesn't imply a change to natural philosophy. That's only if we except the unproven claim that consciousness isn't just a quality of the material world. Maybe once that is proven, some books will be made and Nobel prizes handed out. ;)

"You see the trouble you cause Phillip?"

I don't mean to cause trouble. Really. :)

I just think the truth is important. I don't think the determinist needs to "feel robotic" nor do I think being one causes this feeling. It's more of an understanding of the truth, rather than a feeling Just as those parallel train tracks don't merge in the distance...though we still see them as - we understand that they do not. And this knowledge that we lack free will is very important. It ties into everything we do, and a number of important philosophical and economic topics.

Anyway, just an FYI, I'm about 65,000 word in on writing a book on this topic. There is just so much that can be said on a forum. Let me know if I missed something. ;)

Have a great day!

'Trick

Trick: "I'm about 65,000 word in on writing a book on this topic" You've taken the wind out of my sails. I couldn't bear to be responsible for making you go back and rewrite all those words. No wonder, though, we're both so unmovable. I'm also in the process of writing a book on the subject.

More interesting than differences of opinion I think is differences in motivation. I will shift to that.

My basic awareness takes the form of a wide window. It's so wide I can't see any edges to it, it seems to wrap right around me. In that window I get impressions of my thoughts, my feelings, of being able to direct my attention, and retrieve memories I can then think about. And I get the impressions I can express my thoughts by sending instructions to my muscles.

Set into that primary window is a second, smaller window. In that window I get a sense of an outside world. Bits of my own body such as my arms and legs show up around the edges, so I get a sense of having a body that's like everything else that shows up in that second window. Also in that window appear other people who look like me, also animals and plants, and objects, clouds and landscape and so on. Most of these things show a constancy which leads me to find distinctive to this second window the idea of a material world.

And for a while, that was that. Eventually, though, I noticed in this secondary window an even smaller window. In this window, matter fell into order. It behaved invariably, according to laws. I saw contents being added to what showed up in this window through scientific experiment, maths and logic. I learned to think of what I saw in this tertiary window as scientific.

Finally I noticed a face peering in at me through this tertiary window, trying to get my attention. "I know something you don't know," said the face. "All of you, everything in all three windows, takes place according to the laws special to this window." Then it told me about evolution, how species gave rise to each other, and I found that very convincing. Then it told me how evolution was run by a couple of simple physical processes--random damage to our genes followed by a sorting process (together, stochastic)-- and how we humans were just one more species evolved through physical mechanisms. Everything in the universe, including everything about us, ran according to the laws operating in the tertiary window. There wasn't even a separate primary window, or secondary window, there was only the tertiary window.

In the second window, the outside material world, I noticed living creatures coming as separate kinds. I have two pet cats. Evolution tells me I'm like them in being an animal, as they are. But when I compare us I note that they're more similar to other animals, such as dogs and dolphins, than I am. That makes me wonder, what makes us humans so exceptional? I ask the face in the tertiary window what makes us humans so exceptional. "You're not," it says. "You're just like any other animal species, you just have bigger brains."

That puts me in a quandary. From how other people behave I'm convinced they have primary and secondary windows like mine. But animals don't show signs of having a primary window like ours. What they experience through their primary window seems to be what I see through my secondary window--the outside world. So what makes us humans exceptional seems to be that in our primary window we experience conscious awareness and thinking. And that's nothing like what I see in either of the other two windows. It doesn't seem to run according to physical principles--thoughts can't be conserved, or counted, or measured. So we seem to be exceptional, and what it is that makes us exceptional has nothing to do with what shows up in the tertiary window, whatever the face peering in at me from it says.

Who's right? Me, or the face in the window?

Here's how I've worked this out. Simple physical processes like mutation and natural selection can't make primary windows like we have, where things aren't limited by simple physical laws. But we do have primary windows like that, so we must have evolved through some other mechanism, that isn't limited to what's in the tertiary window. "Impossible," says the face in the window, "There can't be any other kind of mechanism," and it disappears. I'm left alone.

I sought out a wise man. "Tell me your problem," he said. "I want to know if conscious thinking can exist separate from physics," I said. "What is conscious thinking?" he asked me, but when I tried to explain it I couldn't. "If you can't even say what your problem is," he said, "how can you expect me to come up with an answer? You must create a discourse, terms we can use for talking about how conscious thinking could have evolved. Then we can look for an answer."

And that's where I am. I'm trying, as the wise man instructed me, to come up with a new discourse for talking about how conscious thinking could evolve. Then I'll go back and teach him how to use my discourse so he can tell me if conscious thinking can exist separate from physics. And then I'll have something to say to the face when it next shows up.

I've made a preliminary list of terms. Here it is.

Awesome, a fellow writer. I can appreciate your determiniation. :)

I find your window talk very poetic. In that way it's rather nice. I do find this type of prose a little inappropriate for a philosophical topic.

I think your list (linked at the end) has numerous flaws - even before we get to #6, which talks about how you define "free will" (which again, I would suggest is a compatibilist notion of free will - and I don't have a problem except for it being an unnecessary redefining of the word)

I just want to start out with some problems I see in #1 and #2, which the rest seem to be based on:

#1 - "There's nothing in the universe except:
   -  matter acted on by physics
   -  whatever's involved in evolution and life."

Some, such as myself don't think "evolution and life" is separate from "matter acted on my physics". Maybe I'm wrong and it is, but it certainly is not in any way conclusive that it is.

#2 - "To initial observation, what's makes evolution most different from matter is, it's creative. Non-living matter can't generate anything like the succession of species of living creatures we observe."

You really need to pin down the semantic of the word "creative" here. Do you mean, for example, that complex configurations arise, or variations arise, or do you mean that there is actual "creative" thinking involved (as in what we might say about a "creative" person?)? These things are not the same thing.

If you mean that complex configurations arise, well the fusion in a star is rather complex, a winding river is complex and varies, mountains are complex and vary depending on the mountain, volcanoes, weather patters, planets, black holes, etc etc. Evolution is not needed for variation and complexity, it's only complexity and variation that's specific to a reproducing molecule.

If you mean there is some thinking process involved, there is a whole lot of life that happens via evolution that does not have the capacity for such thoughtfulness. The differing variations of trees, plans, fungi, etc.

So before you can say that evolution is "creative", you really need to pin down a strong definition of the word "creative" you are using.

I don't want to go on and criticize each of those on the list, but that would be overly critical and unnecessary. More importantly, even if we accepted everything on the list, it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense for your number 6 to call that "free will". When most people hear that word, they think they have tha ability to choose between more than one viable option or action, in which that choice it "up to them". It's this ability that most feel they have, and it is this claim that has important implications (if they do or do not).

Have a great night,

'Trick

Trick, we have finally managed to break through the problem of having different interpretations of terms to real differences in cognition, where such disagreements usually lie but are hard to discrern. I think these cognitive differences can be represented in Plato's terms of where we carve the joints in the world. Here is where I carve the joints--I think in each case you think the opposite or do not make some distinction I do:

  • Life is fundamentally different from non-living matter, for me.

  • Life is fundamentally creative as non-living matter cannot be, for me.

  • Conscious experience reflects back to me a human nature that is genuinely creative and not entirely subject to the physical laws that determine non-living matter (an experience referred to in traditional discourse as "having free will.")

  • In the universe I see that nature reflected to some extent in other living creatures and also in the process of evolution itself.

For me these bring us to a terminus. Deeper than this one cannot go. I do not believe these beliefs can be decided upon by current modes of inquiry. There is no reason why either of us should abandon one set of beliefs in favor of the other.

Besides having these differences we also differ in that your carving of the joints is served by a traditional body of discourse and terms, that comes with well-worked-out rules for how discourse should be conducted. I carve the joints in a way that, to be honest, I have found nowhere else, maybe more like how vitalists carved the joints a century ago. Anyway, it comes with no traditional discourse, or way that discourse should be conducted. I make it up as I go along.

Someone in my situation cannot use a discourse developed to express a different more established belief system. Not only are the terms chosen specifically to fit and favor that other set of beliefs, but even the way discourse is conducted mirrors and implies those beliefs. For a person in my situation, it is customary to resort to the universal discourse of story-telling. Plato did that to communicate the ideas of Socrates, Galileo used the dialogue format to communicate his ideas on celestial dynamics, and stories about Flatland were created to communicate geometrical concepts to non-mathematicians. Someone with beliefs served by a well-established discourse is of course upset by a resort to storytelling because stories are not limited to the envelope that older discourses are limited to. And since stories don't observe any rules their validity can't be proved by whether they obey certain agreed-upon rules of discourse, eg those imposed by maths and traditional logic.

So to express my ideas I resort to storytelling, that to you is not a legitimate form of discourse for discussion of topics your discourse covers. Friday night I gave a performance of a play to a group of 20 people and for the first time got my ideas over, that I had every time failed to communicate either in text or as a lecture.

So, again, we reach a terminus. What I have to say is not yet served by any discourse, so I resort to stories. For you, unless I express myself in your discourse, what I say cannot be given serious consideration, cannot be seen as a contribution to the field of inquiry with which your choice of discourse is associated.

Do you agree this resolves our differences, and expresses our respective carving-of-joints?

Unresolved is how much of humankind each of us represents. Those who subscribe to the form of discourse you employ are fully conscious of doing so and, if asked, could stand up to be counted. Enough of them testify to their belief to represent orthodoxy. Those I represent I believe are not yet aware I offer them a discourse that might suit them better, the issue may not even have occurred to them, yet they might subscribe to my discourse if made aware of it. To reach them, of course, I will use primarily stories, not the discourse of today's philosophy of mind. I don't need to reach philosophers of mind since, ultimately, where society as a whole carves carves the joints is a matter of voting, and all I have to do is reach enough of the undecided to shift the balance.

I have copied out specific points from your very thoughtful post I could respond to, but I think this post deals with most of them. If you prefer I will respond to them individually.

I agree, our disagreements stem from our differing epistemological standards. Where as you think:

"For me these bring us to a terminus. Deeper than this one cannot go. I do not believe these beliefs can be decided upon by current modes of inquiry. There is no reason why either of us should abandon one set of beliefs in favor of the other."

I think our current modes of induction and deduction can (or rather should) decide these beliefs (or lack of beliefs). Philosophy is about modes of reason and attempting to come to the best conclusions about our reality that we can. I also think that certain modes of communication important for clarity sake. The more poetic the language, the more we can slip in ambiguous language that can confuse, obfuscate, and bend perceptions to just about any conclusion that the person wants. It's the reason methodologies of logic and critical thinking came about.

But again, you are correct. If we cannot resolve the differences in our standards of knowledge, we are speaking different languages and will not get very far. You seem like a nice guy and it was an interesting discussion anyway. And ultimately that is more important sometimes than speaking the same language. ;)

Take care,

'Trick

Trick, storytelling is not the only way to challenge and explore standards of knowledge. A powerful alternative is the paradox. Apparently the paradoxes of Zeno and Parmenides, by challenging the discourse available to the Ionian Greeks, led Aristotle to come up with more elaborate discourse by which they could be resolved.

I have tried coming up with paradoxes for our time. Here are some attempts:

A scientist is studying a chemical reaction. How is she different from the chemicals in the test-tube, that makes it possible for her to come up with a hypothesis, create the experimental apparatus, and judge the significance of her results? What is it about her that justifies giving consideration to her conclusions? And what it is in us that asks and tries to answers that question?

Here's another, a story, involving evolution.

Are there paradoxes in your field for confounding vitalists, like me?

Cheers, Shaun

"A scientist is studying a chemical reaction. How is she different from the chemicals in the test-tube, that makes it possible for her to come up with a hypothesis, create the experimental apparatus, and judge the significance of her results? What is it about her that justifies giving consideration to her conclusions? And what it is in us that asks and tries to answers that question?"

I'm not really sure how this is "paradoxical". Just because questions are being asked or pondered does not make those questions, or even answers to those questions necessarily a "paradox".

How is the rock rolling down the hill different than the chemical composition of water (H2O)? Obviously it's not the same composition, it holds different properties (solid vs liquid, dry vs wet, close to spherical vs not,  etc), and even has different actions (e.g. rolling, flowing) through time. What makes it possible for the ball to roll when water does not? It's inherent configurations of matter and energy and the way those configurations causally play out through time.

Also, storytelling and paradoxes don't really challenge standards of knowledge, at least from where I stand.

I haven't read the other, but if I have time might take a gander later on.

Have a great day.

Trick, I think the chemist-"paradox" worked. It got you to acknowledge that to philosophers of mind  chemical processes going on in a test-tube are not fundamentally different from the mental processes a chemist experiences in carrying out an experiment, or while joking about it with colleagues afterwards, or while discussing it later around the family dinner table, or at any time, ever.

Now really, how large a proportion of the population ever could, or should, think that way! Isn't it right that the attention we give each other is fundamentally different from the attention we give to a stone or an ingot? Do you want to blunt everyone's sense of that difference just for the sake of some doctrinal purity? And it is doctrinal--science cannot prove that stones and people are fundamentally the same; some parts of the difference involve aspects of experience science cannot examine.

You may experience other people as not fundamentally different from non-living objects. But aren't you troubled to be propagating a belief that, if adopted by everyone, would lead to a barbarism much more profound than any mankind has ever experienced? Not everyone may be able to manage the balance of tradition and rationalism as you obviously do. What would happen when those traditions of human sociability fade away, and we'd be left with only your philosophy-of-mind?

Given how differently people in general behave, and I think are better off behaving, to other people compared to  inanimate things, consider; is it scientific, or rational, or logical, to say people and things are philosophically indistinguishable?

You are publishing a book, so you are an agent in the world. Do you really, in your heart, believe your philosophy? Or have you let your imagination get trapped in an academic enclave?

This is no longer just an academic issue. You confirm it's my duty to oppose you.

"It got you to acknowledge that to philosophers of mind  chemical processes going on in a test-tube are not fundamentally different from the mental processes a chemist experiences in carrying out an experiment, or while joking about it with colleagues afterwards, or while discussing it later around the family dinner table, or at any time, ever."

Contrary to your assessment of what I said, what I actually said explains how different configurations of matter and energy ARE fundamentally different from each other. How the qualitative state of chemicals in a test tube ARE fundamentally different than the qualitative state of the chemist.  Why the rock and its playout through time IS fundamentally different than the water and its playout.

If I were to guess I'd think your mistake is in thinking materialism and reductionism are the same thing. They are not. I'm a materialist, but not a reductionist. Just because wholes are comprised of the same type of "parts", does not mean that the wholes, or the whole's qualitative states, are the "same", or that downward causation does not occur from whole to part. The qualitative state of chemicals and rocks do not include consciousness (including the capacity to feel pain or suffer). The qualitative state of animals do.

...different from non-living objects.

Also understand that it is not a living / non-living thing. Moss is not conscious either, yet it's definitely "living". I wouldn't equate a dog with moss, and would have no problem stomping my foot on the moss. ;)

 

"You confirm it's my duty to oppose you."

I'm absolutely content with opposition, in fact I love criticism. Especially if it attempts to invoke analytic logic or science. When it doesn't, however, I'd suggest there may be an impasse as I probably won't agree with the epistemic methodology used.

C-ya later,

'Trick

Again, Plato's "carving at the joints" seems to provide a useful epistemic methodology. Although rock and water and human being are so different from one another, you see no primal joint separating them, while I do--between the human being and the others. For you, consciousness is a qualitative state not fundamentally different from the qualitative states that distinguish any one kind of non-living matter from another. While we kept to your epistemic methodology it was virtually impossible to realize this vital distinction between us. Distinguishing between compatibilism and incompatibilism, and reductionism and materialism, keeps discussion of mind far removed from the more fundamental issue of where, in the context of our own consciousness and for our times and our society, joints should be carved.

In the epistemic methodology of today's philosophy of mind, as you represent it and as I have experienced it in my reading, evolution doesn't figure, despite the social context for discussion of mind having changed from an origin story of special creation to one of evolution. Has any consideration gone into checking whether some adjustment should be considered? Isn't there a danger of philosophers of mind continuing to discuss the equivalent of angels dancing on heads of pins while science magazines forge new philosophies of nature--I want to quote from an article by Lee Smolin in the latest New Scientist but it's locked away from me at this moment--it ends by invoking evolution as a missing cosmological principle. Could you fit it into your epistemic methodology if you had to? Or might your epistemic methodology be too brittle to conform, no matter what the physicists discovered?

In the ages before evolution was discovered, the primary joint was carved between humans, angels, devils, spirits and Gods, and all the rest of creation. You carve joints between the products of various physical processes, top down or bottom up. I draw a joint between evolved creatures and everything else. What epistemic methodology can we use for comparing these three natural philosophies? (I assume natural philosophies take precedence over philosophies of mind.) I propose to base my comparison on the concept of human exceptionalism. For today's philosophy of mind, and I think you, there are any number of exceptionalisms, but the one concerning humans and human consciousness is no more exceptional than the others. In the age of special creation, humans were exceptional in all of nature in having God-like mental capabilities such as consciousness, intelligence, and a soul. For Stephen J. Gould humans were not exceptional at all, they warranted attention no more than any species of bacterium; all products of evolution were equally evolved through having survived adaptation for 4 billion years. I agree with him in placing my primary joint between life and non-life, but within life I carve subordinate joints between major leaps in capabilities: between prokaryotes and eukaryotes, between plants and animals, between fish and animals evolved to breathe air, and between animals able to consciously control the evolution of their thoughts (us) and those that cannot. Our ability to consciously control the evolution of our thoughts is what I see making us exceptional. Yes, we are evolved creatures, like any other, but within that category we are exceptional.

Now, supposing you thought that worth expressing in terms of your epistemic methodology, could your account capture the essence of what I mean, or would it merely allocate it to a compartment, such as "incompatibilism"? Are you on the right side of a division between methodologies that can accommodate new realizations, and those too rigid to do so? Obviously I feel you're in danger of entering this field with so much clanking armor behind and around that your freedom of movement will be too impaired to make you effective. To me you already exist in a citadel, arranged for your comfort, but well buttressed against currents swirling around you outside, in the pages of the New Scientist for example, let alone among a growing band of eccentrics like me.

I am relieved you enjoy challenge, then I don't have to be so careful of being sufficiently courteous.

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