I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".

Tags: Free, Harris, Michael, Sam, Shermer, Will

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Courage is too ambiguous of a word and way too subjective. It's like saying "chocolate tastes good", when for another it may taste bad. I'm certainly not saying that everything we subjectively perceive or think about an object is a "property" of that object.

Roundness, however, is inherent in the ball...and assists with the causal "rolling" of it down a hill (in which the slopeness is inherent in). It isn't at all subjective The ball would roll regardless if anyone was around to perceive and talk about the roundness of the ball....because it is a "property" OF the ball itself. It "exists" inherently within the structure. It isn't just an "opinion" about the ball.

"If you have to define swanness, then it is clearly a mental construct, something imagined. Swans are real, but swanness is an idealization."

I'm sorry but "swan" is a word with a definition just as "swanness" (a word you made up without giving a semantic to). My definition of swanness addresses a "realness" just as much as your definition of "swan" does (which I'm pretty sure needs to be described with properties).

Courage is too ambiguous of a word and way too subjective. It's like saying "chocolate tastes good", when for another it may taste bad. I'm certainly not saying that everything we subjectively perceive or think about an object is a "property" of that object.

Then you are obliged to distinguish between the things you believe are genuine properties of an object and those that are not. Notice, however, that the syntax is exactly the same whether I say John has courage or John has red hair.

Suppose we take a closer look at your balls. The moon appears from a distance to be perfectly spherical, but on closer examination reveals huge craters and a surface that is anything but smooth. The notion that it is a smooth sphere is nothing more than our perception of it from a distance, not an inherent property of the moon itself. If we could examine an ordinary sized ball with an electron microscope, it would no longer look as round. If the idea of "roundness" is imperfectly realized in examples, can it then be an inherent property? You could try substituting "approximately spherical" but you might have difficulty defining it precisely.

I'm sorry but "swan" is a word with a definition just as "swanness"

Which came first, the definition of swan or swans themselves? Swans are real and in my book precede the definition. The definition of the word swan and swanness, the property of being a swan, are mental constructions.

"Then you are obliged to distinguish between the things you believe are genuine properties of an object and those that are not. Notice, however, that the syntax is exactly the same whether I say John has courage or John has red hair."

I can say the same thing of objects (rather than properties): "Then you are obliged to distinguish between the things you believe are genuine object and those that are not. Notice, however, that the syntax is exactly the same whether I say John is a person or John is a Unicorn.

Suppose we take a closer look at your balls.

Hey now!

"The moon appears from a distance to be perfectly spherical, but on closer examination reveals huge craters and a surface that is anything but smooth."

The moon also appears to be 12" in diameter, yet we can and do assess the real diameter of the moon.

" If we could examine an ordinary sized ball with an electron microscope, it would no longer look as round. If the idea of "roundness" is imperfectly realized in examples, can it then be an inherent property? "

It's round enough for the ball to roll. I never said anything about being "perfectly round", but there is a real distinction that "exists" between the properties of the ball and the properties of a cube with "flat" sides (though may not be "perfectly flat" if there are bumps in it). The fact of the matter is, we don't use square tires for a very physical reason.

"You could try substituting "approximately spherical" but you might have difficulty defining it precisely."

Objects carry with it the same problem. What is a ball? Define it for me? You may say it's a sphere, in which I'd ask you to define "sphere" without the word "round"...in which case, per your assessment, unless it's "perfectly spherical" or "perfectly round" it's not a ball. This is a problem with language itself, not a problem with the ontological state of roundness or balls.

Which came first, the definition of swan or swans themselves? Swans are real and in my book precede the definition. The definition of the word swan and swanness, the property of being a swan, are mental constructions.

The properties of the animal are real and in my book precede the definition and word "swan" or "swanness" as well. Why can't you see that the swan you are referring to IS it's properties? It's properties don't just start existing when we developed language and thinking about them mentally. A swans properties existed before we even knew swans existed.

I can say the same thing of objects (rather than properties): "Then you are obliged to distinguish between the things you believe are genuine object and those that are not. Notice, however, that the syntax is exactly the same whether I say John is a person or John is a Unicorn.

Objects, that is to say, individuals in the logical sense, exist in the material world and can be directly pointed out—they need not be the subject of a proposition in order for their existence to be recognized.

Why can't you see that the swan you are referring to IS it's properties? It's properties don't just start existing when we developed language and thinking about them mentally. A swans properties existed before we even knew swans existed.

This point of view is known as Bundle-theory and is, if I recall correctly, due to David Hume. I believe it is correct as an explanation of the idea we hold about an object, but not as an explanation of the object itself.

Your idea of a swan is composed entirely of properties you perceive or have learned about, but an actual living swan is a completely different kind of bird: it actually has real feathers, not just the property of having feathers.

Objects, that is to say, individuals in the logical sense, exist in the material world and can be directly pointed out—they need not be the subject of a proposition in order for their existence to be recognized.

Properties, that is to say, in the logical sense, exist in the material world and can be directly pointed out.

"Your idea of a swan is composed entirely of properties you perceive or have learned about, but an actual living swan is a completely different kind of bird: it actually has real feathers, not just the property of having feathers"

Feathers are objects, the properties of those feathers (their softness, pattern, weight, consistency, etc) are what make them "feathers" and also what allow a swan to "fly". Without those properties a swan wouldn't be able to fly. The lightness of the swan also allows it to stay afloat on water (buoyancy). This buoyancy is a property of the water and the swan (in which the swan is lighter than the water it replaces). These properties not only "exist in the material world" but can be "pointed to", measured, etc.

At this point we are repeating. I can agree with you that properties are different than how we classify the whole object, I'm suggesting, however, that they exist in the real world just as much as the object does (as they are essential to the object and must for the object to exist).

This entire tangent discussion is about whether we can say properties "exist", or "relations" exist, etc. The only thing I'm saying is that they can be said to "exist" (in the material world) just as much as the object. I'm not saying they are identical to how we view "objects" only that they are not ontologically less.

If we can agree on that then perhaps there may be an end to this discussion. ;-)

Properties, that is to say, in the logical sense, exist in the material world and can be directly pointed out.

All of them? Swans mate for life, a property for which they are well-known, but that is not something you can directly point to. It can be observed by tagging them and observing their behavior, but that involves mental actions, not simple, direct observation.

The only thing I'm saying is that they can be said to "exist" (in the material world) just as much as the object. I'm not saying they are identical to how we view "objects" only that they are not ontologically less.

If we can agree on that then perhaps there may be an end to this discussion. ;-)

No. Properties are ideas that recognize and model in approximate ways the factual content of the world.

All of them? Swans mate for life, a property for which they are well-known, but that is not something you can directly point to. It can be observed by tagging them and observing their behavior, but that involves mental actions, not simple, direct observation.

"Mate for life" isn't a property, it's a behavior of "some" swans. And yes, behaviors exist as well (they just aren't inherent in specific objects - but rather in the physical actions objects take - e.g. a particle behaves like a wave until measured). For properties, there are "essential properties" meaning that the properties are essential to our categorization as an "object" and there are properties that aren't essential (e.g. baldness isn't inherent in all humans, but some people are bald).

No. Properties are ideas that recognize and model in approximate ways the factual content of the world.

Then objects are ideas that recognize and model approximate ways the factual content of the world. You simply can't have it both ways. Considering you can't even describe an object without describing it's properties, it's simply absurd to postulate that objects exist but properties do not. That somehow one is 'only in our minds' even though we know that a sphere shaped object will roll down a hill without a single human even existing or modeling it  -- with the roundness of the sphere being an important physical factor for such rolling.

Properties existed way before life evolved on any planet to "model" or use "words" such as "objects" or "properties".

Considering you can't even describe an object without describing it's properties, it's simply absurd to postulate that objects exist but properties do not.

Describing an object is a mental exercise, but for objects within my sensory range, I can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste them. Objects outside my range of my senses are posited by descriptions and, as a result, are less certain. For some objects we have direct experience as well as an idea of the object, while for others we have only the idea.

It is easy to distinguish between an object and the idea of the object. With properties there seems to be no difference: a property and the idea of the property appear to be exactly the same thing.

Bouyancy you cite as "a property of the water and the swan." That seems to me to involve a complex mental construct. Neither the swan nor the water can be said to be bouyant themselves so this property cannot be inherent in either. It appears by magic when the two come together.

It is easy to see that the swan floats—that is a state of affairs which can be apprehended visually, but as soon as you try to get behind the appearance and introduce the abstract notion of bouyancy, you have engaged in some mental construction. You can't see bouyancy itself, only the fact that the swan floats.

Once you accept Archimedes priniciple, then bouyancy completely disappears from view. The swan floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the swan. With the two forces in balance, nothing moves up or down. This state of affairs is adequately explained without any notion of bouyancy at all. In fact you would have to say that the notion of bouyancy is misleading in view of the physics.

Describing an object is a mental exercise, but for objects within my sensory range, I can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste them. Objects outside my range of my senses are posited by descriptions and, as a result, are less certain. For some objects we have direct experience as well as an idea of the object, while for others we have only the idea.

No, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting are all mental exercises. There is no getting around that our mind  represents what exists (through the senses), and it does so by distinguishing properties - not "objects". Objects are what we label a grouping of properties we sense. We never have "direct experience" of an object.

It is easy to distinguish between an object and the idea of the object. With properties there seems to be no difference: a property and the idea of the property appear to be exactly the same thing.

There is no distinguishing factor between "object" and "property" in this regard. In fact, the very thing you might sense would be "shape", "color", "texture", "flavor", and so on, which only when a number of these are put together do you "objectify" it.

It is easy to see that the swan floats—that is a state of affairs which can be apprehended visually, but as soon as you try to get behind the appearance and introduce the abstract notion of bouyancy, you have engaged in some mental construction. You can't see bouyancy itself, only the fact that the swan floats.

No, we can understand that swans have properties that allow them to "float" (that those properties must exist).

Once you accept Archimedes priniciple, then bouyancy completely disappears from view. The swan floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the swan. With the two forces in balance, nothing moves up or down. This state of affairs is adequately explained without any notion of bouyancy at all. In fact you would have to say that the notion of bouyancy is misleading in view of the physics.

Bouyancy also explains the properties needed for "the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity". Otherwise we can say that "The rock floats because the upward pressure due to displaced water balances the downward force of gravity on the rock", but obviously I can't just replace the object because the rock doesn't float. That is because the configuration of a rock outputs different properties than the configuration of a swan, and those properties do different things when placed in water (and that we must address those properties to understand the distinction that "exists" between them...even if the rock is shaped like a swan and painted to look like it. And no, bouyancy is not misleading at all. If just addressing the swan we can say the swan is bouyant and the rock is not bouyant, meaning one contains the properties that allow it to float and the other does not.

a particle behaves like a wave until measured

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

Now you have introduced a new concept into the discussion: behavior. An object has properties which are inherent and engages in behaviors which are not properties and not inherent in the objects themselves, but nevertheless just as ontologically robust as objects or properties.

What about instinctive behaviors? Birds of a particular species build certain kinds of nests entirely on the basis of instinct, which seems somehow inherent in the bird. The behavior of types of bees would again seem to be inherent in its type and entirely instinctive.

The difference between properties and behaviors seems rather artificial.

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

It's not a "description of QM", it's a description of particles behavior supported by various experiments. A "description of QM" is much more complex indeed.

"What about instinctive behaviors? Birds of a particular species build certain kinds of nests entirely on the basis of instinct, which seems somehow inherent in the bird. The behavior of types of bees would again seem to be inherent in its type and entirely instinctive."

Behavior only exists at the time it's acted.  How a bird "will behave" or "might behave" is not the same thing as it's ontological behavior through time. The behavior of the motion of the planet, gravity, and the sun is the planet orbiting around it (which is a constant momentum and velocity that compensates for the gravity of the sun). Orbiting "exists" in reality (it happens, we can observe it, and we can measure it).

Like I said, ontology doesn't just recognize "objects' but properties, relations, happenings, and so on. The expansion of the universe is ontologically real and is an output of the so called "big bang".

The difference between properties and behaviors seems rather artificial.

I can say the same thing of objects. Considering that everything we consider an "object' is a compilation of other objects, properties, relations, and behaviors, to suggest that any one of these doesn't exist pretty much knocks the object into non-existence as well.

Not an accurate description of quantum mechanics anymore, if it ever was considered to be. The actual situation is much more complex as recent experiments have revealed.

You seem to have infinite patience. 

There may be no omnipotent or omniscient being. 

But there seems to be a omnipatient being.

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