Naturalism states that we are all completely natural human beings, that there is no immaterial god "out there" and there is no immaterial soul "in here". It also states that freewill is an illusion, that we are as individuals who we are because of our genetics, environment, and culture.

Thoughts?

Tags: freewill, illusion, naturalism, soul

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How so? If we are to assume materialism, then the truthfulness of perception is self-evident. Your argument could be applied against anyone who doesn't think his subjective mind experience is objective. Do you believe in idealism?

If we are to assume materialism, then the truthfulness of perception is self-evident.

However we know perception is not always truthful. Simple repeatable experiments show this. Two are described in the book Phantoms in the Brain. If materialism implies the truthfulness of perception (and I don't believe it does) then you would have to conclude that materialism is incorrect.

I'll put this another way. Previously, you wrote:

It follows that you only think you believe in materialism and determinism, there is really no difference between that and any other view—you only have the illusion there is.

That is incorrect. The difference between views are self-evident. We can prove thoughts and beliefs exist by communicating or recording them. Are these ideas really our own? Yes, if you assume the physical body is part of a person's identity. Do we have any choice in having these ideas over any other ideas given the same situation? No, as proven by the thought experiment I previously laid out.

If you could explain why you think Newton's Laws don't apply to brain molecules, but apply to everything else, or why I have misapplied them, then maybe you could prove me wrong.

Now as for this:

Your feeling that you are repeating an idea may itself be nothing more than an illusion. In other words you are now relying on your subjective feeling of holding (or repeating) a belief as justification that the content of the belief itself is not an illusion.

This applies whether I believe in determinism or not. It applies to all forms of naturalism that by definition assumes the natural world is real. However, it should also be true that we cannot possibly assume subjective experience reflects an external world. That is the basic flaw of all empiricist ideas, including almighty science.

What is truly ironic, though, is that, so far as I could ascertain, a variation of Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism is being posted here in Atheist Nexus of all places. Here's a summary:

If, as naturalists claim, there’s no god guiding the evolutionary process, then there’s no reason to think our cognitive faculties are reliable in giving us true beliefs about the world. Since we can’t trust our cognitive faculties, any conclusion we reach about the world is untrustworthy. Therefore naturalism is self-defeating and must be given up. For us to trust our own beliefs, God must exist.

All you have to do is replace wherever it says "God" with "emergent self" -- the logic behind the arguments will be identical. But I hope most people would realize we can tell whether our cognitive faculties are reliable in giving us true beliefs about the world as long as we assume some acceptable, self-evident, facts (i.e. axioms) and use the powers of deduction. We do this whether God or the soul, or free will, exists. A calculator outputting 1+1=2 is neither more right nor more wrong than a human regurgitating the same -- that is because we accept the definition of all the symbols as analytic fact.

If my thought experiment could not be falsified, regardless of the reliability of my perception, then its conclusion holds true according to rules of logic and deduction.

Simple repeatable experiments show [perception is not always truthful]... If materialism implies the truthfulness of perception (and I don't believe it does) then you would have to conclude that materialism is incorrect.

Perception is not always reliable, but:

1) It is possible to repeatedly test against perception for facts that appear to be reliable and "true" (i.e. scientific method).

2) It is possible to test for the truthfulness of perception.

3) Therefore, perception must be reducible to predictable, physical, processes.

If I post a "thought" online -- say 1+1=2 -- and hundreds of people see this and recognize the meaning of it, then, also assuming materalism, the "thought" exists objectively, and we know that to be a fact. And this is true regardless of whether determinism is true.

Perhaps a bit too much for a single response, but a few points.

If you could explain why you think Newton's Laws don't apply to brain molecules, but apply to everything else, or why I have misapplied them, then maybe you could prove me wrong.

Newton's laws of motion are laws of mechanics—they apply to moving bodies provided the speed is not too great. Processes in the brain relevant to your arguments would be in the realm of chemical and electrical phenomena, not mechanical phenomena.It's difficult to see how mechanics can supply the arguments you need, but perhaps you can explain that in greater detail.

Do we have any choice in having these ideas over any other ideas given the same situation? No, as proven by the thought experiment I previously laid out.

The difficulty is precisely that it is a thought experiment which can never be verified. It is not possible to define brain state at time t nor does it seem likely that under any possible definition you could verify that the brain returns to a given state at any other time. Everything you experience would seem to alter the state of the brain at the very least by creating a new memory. Without knowing what a brain state is or whether the brain ever returns to a former state, you don't have repeatability and your thought experiment vanishes.

The difficulty is precisely that it is a thought experiment which can never be verified.

The very purpose of a thought experiment is to take a conceivable hypothetical scenario and logically deduct a conclusion from it. If you accept the premises and the argument, then the conclusion is sound despite not being verified. I wonder what you think, for example, about God or quantum physics or heck, any philosophical theory that isn't firmly grounded in what we could already prove with science (which makes most of them), since they cannot or have not been tested, and this includes materialism whether or not you believe in determinism. To take the position that thought experiments cannot be true because they cannot be empirically verified, in my opinion, amounts to epistemological nihilism.

It is not possible to define brain state at time t nor does it seem likely that under any possible definition you could verify that the brain returns to a given state at any other time.

Sorry, but it's incomprehensible to me how you could not assume that for any given time t, there is a physical state of the world that corresponds to t. The brain is not an exception. And it's verifiable because we know that, with everything we've ever known, if you apply the same external force to a hypothetical model, it will give either a predictable, or an unpredictable (i.e. random, chaotic) response. Science has not shown that a double pendulum is "conscious" and has "free will" because it moves unpredictably, merely that it is chaotic -- and frankly, to assume that because something is unpredictable that it must comprise some sort of duality is like the intelligent design argument against evolution. We eliminate those kinds of arguments with Occam's Razor.

We know, for example, exactly what would happen when we put a specific electric charge through a capacitor, or cool water down to 0 degrees. We do not need to know the state of water at every time on a continuous scale of t to be able to use induction (scientific reasoning!) to "know" this fact. Water does not, and has not, decided, "Next time, when they cool me down, under the same conditions as last time, I will freeze at 5 degrees instead of 0."

Likewise, when you apply the same electric charge to whatever molecular structure of a neural system, it should respond in the same way as another neural system with the identical molecular structure. We know this despite not being able to currently verify this, because if a physical structure could "will" itself into another physical state without an external actor, then it will be the downfall of all modern science. The elemental periodic table would be useless.

Everything you experience would seem to alter the state of the brain at the very least by creating a new memory.

So from your perspective, perception is not a physical process? You seem to be saying that we experience something as a mental process, and then record that experience into physical memory.

Without knowing what a brain state is or whether the brain ever returns to a former state, you don't have repeatability and your thought experiment vanishes.

The thought experiment assumes we have futuristic technology to capture the essence (or all pertinent factors) of a brain state, the exact same molecular structure -- and under materialism, the mind/brain is reducible to molecular structure. The brain doesn't need to "return" to a former state. Under this scenario, we could test as many times as we like.

The reason such a test is valid despite not being grounded in reality is the hypothetical nature of physics. We teach physics by describing hypothetical gravity, directionality of force, etc. with mathematical models and drawings. Just because a ball drawn on the pages of a textbook has never existed doesn't mean the hypothetical example of it is invalid.

To take the position that thought experiments cannot be true because they cannot be empirically verified, in my opinion, amounts to epistemological nihilism.

That is not my position. I only say that particular thought experiment you described is not valid because it is not clear that its essential terms can be well defined.

Sorry, but it's incomprehensible to me how you could not assume that for any given time t, there is a physical state of the world that corresponds to t.

Again, that is not what I'm saying. The question is what can be known about the physical state of the brain. The position and momentum of an electron—or any atomic particle—cannot be known precisely at the same time. The same is true for any non-commuting pair of observables in quantum mechanics. That means it is at least open to question whether any such thing as the state of the brain at time t can be coherently defined. If it is not possible to make such a definition you cannot know that the brain is in the same state at two different times. Here is the description you gave of your thought experiment:

Or we could go on and say each brain state (if you imagine an instantaneous snapshot of all the molecular structures at any given time), when acted upon by the same forces (nerve endings activated by perception at the same given time), will produce the same next brain state. If we were able to reproduce this 10 times using futuristic technology to clone a brain state, and then simulate the exact same perceptual responses, then the next brain state would be the same each time. The objections, either by chaotic movements (e.g. double pendulum) or collapsible wave are both not consciously controllable. Therefore, free will is false.

It doesn't appear there is a cogent argument in this, just a restatement of determinism.

The question is what can be known about the physical state of the brain. The position and momentum of an electron—or any atomic particle—cannot be known precisely at the same time. The same is true for any non-commuting pair of observables in quantum mechanics.

The position and momentum of an electron does not need to be known, only that for any given time t, there's a corresponding physical state s, and by acting upon this physical state with an external force, the result will either be determinable, or indeterminable and random -- neither which allows for the existence of free will.

What's your alternative? Non-conscious particles that do not have free will that create conscious beings with free will, or that the 4th dimension is one of consciousness -- either of which would assume far more than than my position.

It seems you recognize that your thought experiment is not valid. That's progress. This statement:

the result will either be determinable, or indeterminable and random -- neither which allows for the existence of free will.

seems to require quite a bit more justification. As it stands, you are just repeating your claim of determinism in a slightly different form.

I have always allowed for the non-determination of quantum physics in my arguments, as seen here in my first response to you:

The objections, either by chaotic movements (e.g. double pendulum) or collapsible wave are both not consciously controllable.

I disagree that we've progressed. It seems you are not interested in making cogent arguments of your own, so you resort to contradiction qua contradiction. Repeating, and clarifying, a claim does not make it false, and you have not shown why determinism should be false, you've only reiterated your obvious disapproval against any clarification. And since there is absence of evidence on your part, I was forced to repeat myself.

The only recognizable argument you've made so far against me is ironically Alvin Plantinga's argument against naturalism, or the self-evident argument for God (or in your case, the self-evident argument for a non-empirical "emergent" agent).

I've done my part. I guess that's that. The onus is on you to explain why you think there is free will despite the almost inconceivability of an "uncaused event". Good luck doing that without anything reminiscent of Cartesian dualism.

You've claimed a proof of determinism by a thought experiment that has no validity—you have failed to show that any state of the brain is determined completely by previous states and sensory input.

You attribute to me arguments and statements I have not made. You interpret challenges to your arguments for determinism as arguments for free will. They are not.

The thought experiment first assumes classical physics' cause and effect, but I've also allowed for the exception that if an effect could not be determined by a cause, then neither would that prove free will because it would involve chance. And if you could predict the position and direction of an electron, as if you've previously mentioned, then you would not have to guess, but then it would be determinable. Something is either determinable with prior facts or it is not -- there is no middle ground.

You previously asked me how I could rely on subjective judgments if I lacked free will, so I will counter your superstition with another superstition -- how can you trust your subjective judgments if you lack God?

If saying that my logic is false and that you didn't actually say anything I perceived you said is your only card, then I am no longer interested in this cat and mouse game of moving targets.

Perhaps someone besides Dr. Clark would like to give a shot at this. Suppose you're a hard naturalist, that is that you believe science and logic, and only science and logic, should be the guide of knowledge, you should also believe that there is nothing beyond the natural, material world.

If you accept that, then on the account of known scientific principles such as evolution, you should also believe the mind is completely reducible to the physical brain: If all animals evolved from simple molecules, then they are reducible to simple molecules; nothing else has been since introduced.

[Aside: I previously used a "thought experiment" to try to prove determinism, thinking that it would be easier to understand and accept, but it seems the more wordy an argument is, the easier it is for the temptation to cherry-pick pieces of it.]

Therefore, I will do this the straight-forward, abstract way:

For every time t, there is a physical state of the world S(t).

If classical physics is true, and assuming that you can determine the position and force of any given particle, then every S(t) is completely determinable, therefore free will is false.

If it is not possible to determine the position and force of any given particle, as with some popular quantum physics principles, then S(t) is by definition indeterminable and left up to chance, therefore free will is false.

If it could be argued that there is some physical composition within the brain that can determine the otherwise indeterminable outcome of some particles, then those "indeterminable" particles becomes physically determinable, through some source of reproducible and dependable logic in the brain, then free will is false.

Therefore, free will is false because all possibilities have been exhausted.

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