Friday, February 21, 2014

REPOST: Where's my free will?

I don’t know about you, but when I tune in to the infantile ‘debate’ about obesity – about  who to blame when folk get fat and how ‘someone must do something” (for “someone” read “government,” and for “something” read coercion) – I find it disturbing that fatties and pollies alike find common cause in removing personal responsibility from their respective equations.
    If you're a fat bastard and you don't want to be, how about you stop blaming vending machines, your school, your parents, your genes and just try the 'don't-eat-so-frigging-much' diet. (Do you see many fat starving Africans in famine photos hiding at the back going, "Oh, I've just got big bones"? No? Is that a clue? Sheesh!)
And if you're a politician, how's about you implementing a self-imposed 'I-won't-poke-my-nose-into-your-business' week, and just leave us and our eating habits alone.
You see, it's not about victims, it's all about choice -- something you educated people want to remove from our understanding of human affairs.

Why would you choose to do that?

You've probably seen me mention a few times Tibor Machan's view on the basic errors made in the 'ongoing' nature/nurture debate (here for instance). As he's just blogged on how this error affects the 'obesity debate,' allow me to quote:

So once again we see the age old battle between two kinds of determinism, inherited versus environmental factors. But there is another option that needs to be added. This is personal responsibility.
    We are all saddled with aspects of ourselves that we had nothing to do with, and we all face elements in our environment we cannot control. But there are also choices we can make, given who and what we are and the world in which we live. The very idea that we should look more to environmental factors than to our hard wiring suggest that we have a choice. This also suggests that no one has to eat fast foods, or clear his or her plate, or go on various binges.  Some of us may find it more difficult to resist temptations than others, but so what? Tall people have different challenges from short ones but both need to meet those challenges they face.
    As a teacher of ethics, I find it disturbing that so many educated people opt for removing individual responsibility from the picture as they try to understand human affairs.
Me too. I just don't know how they do that. Are they wilfully blind?

vermeer32     THE LIKES OF BRIAN EDWARDS will still argue that criminals “can’t help it” when they do bad things—which means, conversely, that neither do heroes when they do good.
    Tell that to Thomas Jefferson. Or Nelson Mandela. 
    But such is the incredulity of the determinist’s conclusion: that between them nature and nurture completely determine human behaviour, so completely that humans themselves should be neither praised nor condemned.
    ‘You see that triple century that Brendon McCullum just scored,’ a convinced determinist will say, ‘he didn’t build that.’
    Sounds like horse shit to me.  But then, according to Edwards et al they have no choice about shovelling this shit—and nor do you about taking it.
    So much for the nonsense of “hard determinism”—a theory that says man is nothing more than a piece of meat, controlled by forces about which he knows nothing.
Let us take the determinists at their word then: they know nothing—and by their own theory they’re constrained to demonstrate it.
    In her advice to authors, Ayn Rand reckoned that the determinist argument—that you’re neither to be blamed nor lauded for your behaviour—is nothing more than “an alibi for weaklings.”

Don't excuse depravity. Don't drool over weaklings as conditioned ‘victims of circumstances’ (or of ‘background’ or of ‘society’), who ‘couldn't help it.’ You are actually providing an excuse and an alibi for the worst instincts in the weakest members of your audience. . .
    . . . the best advice I can give you is never to regard yourself as a product of your environment. That is not the key to me, to you, or to any human being. It is not a key to anything, it is merely an alibi for weaklings.

Building on Ayn Rand’s observations on free will and the manifest contradictions in the determinists’ arguments, philosopher Tibor Machan points out that since the determinist argument utterly ignores free will—the faculty that allows us to make decisions for ourselves—it ignores the very faculty that truly does determine our character .
image    While nature and nurture certainly play a part in forming our talents and personality, he argues, what we do with what we’re given is up to us.  It’s up to our free will – in other words, to the choices we ourselves make.
    In his argument, nature and nurture together build our personality, but it’s our free will –what we choose to do with that foundation – that builds our character.
It’s the choices we make that define us.
    But where does our free will come from?  Where does it reside?  How does it work?  To answer you, we’re going to have to go back to bed. . .

    THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE through the fog of sleep is a loud, ringing sound. As you rise up through the fog of sleep you recognise it as an alarm of some sort. Your alarm clock. You focus further and realise that it's not going to turn itself off. As you force yourself awake you direct your focus to your limbs, lifting yourself out of bed, and you turn off the clock on your way to the bathroom, making yourself shake the sleep from your mind as you go. It's the start of another day.
    As you shower, you set yourself thinking about what you need to do today and, as you do and as you shower, the scales of sleep slip ever further away. You understand you have an important day ahead, and you feel yourself rising up to meet it. You choose to. In a few short minutes, by your own direction, your mind has changed from an inert unconscious thing, one barely able to grasp what's going on around it, to one that is now focussed upon the events of the day and is starting to make plans to meet them ... and all this even before the first coffee!
    Most of us manage this process in a few minutes. Some take hours. Some will choose to stay unfocussed for days. But everyone who has ever experienced this -- which is all of us, at some time – even Brian Edwards and his criminals--has experienced what it is to have free will.
image   At its root, free will is that process of choosing to focus, of deciding first of all to lift our level of awareness from a lower level to a higher one (or to decide not to), and then directing our focussed attention to something on which we've determined we need to pay attention. To a lecture, perhaps. Our alarm clock.  A book. A piece of music. A blog post on free will. Someone offering us a beer. At each stage of listening, reading, comprehending, trying to grasp a thought, we can choose to maintain attention and focus on what we're trying to take in, to weigh the thoughts and melodies and information that is coming in, or we can choose to float off in a vague fog and let everything just wash over us.
    Take a look at the painting of Vermeer's Geographer above, in the very process of grasping a thought. That’s what it looks like from outside. Look at a child when she does it for herself. See the way her forehead wrinkles? That’s what Victor Hugo called poetically ‘the first mark of God on the face of a child.”
    This is special – it’s at the very heart of what makes us human. Riffing on Hugo’s theme, Ayn Rand asks you to:

project the look on a child’s face when he grasps the answer to some problem he has been striving to understand. It is a radiant look of joy, of liberation, almost of triumph, which is unself-conscious, yet self-assertive, and its radiance seems to spread in two directions: outward, as an illumination of the world—inward, as the first spark of what is to become the fire of an earned pride. If you have seen this look, or experienced it, you know that if there is such a concept as “sacred”—meaning: the best, the highest possible to man—this look is the sacred, the not-to-be-betrayed, the not-to-be-sacrificed for anything or anyone.

This is what the determinist wishes to expunge.  This ability with enormous consequence.   This process, begin by turning on instead of dropping out.
     The process of turning our alarm clock of and heading off to a lecture shows the process in microcosm: choosing to focus more intensely at each new level of awareness we reach. From the fog of sleep right up to the intense awareness needed to focus on your lecturer (to integrate her points with your previous knowledge, and to spot her errors) every step of the way we’re choosing to focus more intensely.
    And even if we choose not to, we still have made a choice.
    The act of choosing to pay attention (or not to) is a volitionally focussed act. It occurs in two stages, by which we first say to ourselves, "I need to focus on this, to understand this," and then acting -- choosing to act -- so as to direct our minds to that on which we ourselves have determined that we need to understand.
    Observe your own mind while you’re reading this post. Are you focussing on the arguments in an attempt to understand and address them, or have you already drifted off into non-comprehension and evasion?

AS I’VE DESCRIBED IT ABOVE, the act of focussing is voluntary, and is almost like continually turning on a car. At each stage we can choose to go either to a higher level of awareness, or not; we can choose to focus, or we can choose to drift back off either to sleep, or into a state of unfocussed lethargy. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Equally, you can lead someone else's brain to stimulus, but you can't make it respond. That person must do that work for themselves.
image    Volition is a powerful factor. Thoughts, values, principles aren’t just given to us out of the ether, or imprinted upon us by our genes; rather, they are things to identify and think about and grasp for ourselves. Or not. No one can do the thinking for someone else. With sufficient will we can work towards grasping the highest concepts open to us, or we can even sleep through the warning alarm clocks of our consciousness.
    That choice -- to focus or not; to switch on or not -- is contained entirely within ourselves, and from that choice made by each of us every minute of every day all human thought and all human action is the result. The fact that we are continually making this choice (or choosing not make it) every waking minute of every working day is perhaps why we sometimes fail to see that we're doing it. We've almost automatised our awareness of it, but honest introspection (if we honestly choose to do so) is all it requires to be identified.
   This is the nature of the volitional consciousness that each of us does possess, even Brian Edwards, and is the fact those who choose to deny free will wish to evade: that this great thinking engine resting on top of our shoulders does not turn itself on automatically. We ourselves own the keys to the engine, and it is in that fundamental choice -- to think, or not to think; to focus, or not to focus; to go to a higher level of awareness, or to drift in and out of awareness -- that the faculty of free will itself resides.
    So given that very brief discussion of free will -- to which, if you like, you can add previous similar discussions here, here, here, here and here -- what then do you make of this discussion from the former Sir Humphrey's blog.  in which Lucyna (now posting at NZ Conservative) not only argues that free will is a product of the god she subscribes to, but if you subscribe to free will you ipso facto must join her in worshipping him too.

_Quote_Idiot "...if there is no God there’s no free will because we are completely phenomena of matter... we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. We do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment." [Comments by David Quinn in The God Delusion: David Quinn & Richard Dawkins debate]   Logically, if you are an atheist, you will believe that we are completely influenced by our genetics and environment. That there is no free-will, that moral responsibility has no ability to manifest in any human being. If you don't believe all of that, then you cannot be an atheist and you must have some inkling that God exists.

What do you make of that then?
   Let’s turn on our brains – by ourselves, without any diving assistance -- and examine it for ourselves. "If there's no God then there's no free will"? And “If you are an atheist” then “logically” [logically?] you can't "believe" in free will?
    Doesn’t this sound like horse shit too?
    As I've suggested above, we don't need to "believe" in free will in the same way a Christian chooses to “believe” in the existence of a supernatural being; instead, to identify that we do have the faculty of free will all we have to do is introspect—to apply our cognition inwards (to choose to) and watch ourselves making choices. 
    What you’ll see by looking inward is your own process of weighing arguments, or evading them.
    Indeed, you can see it for yourself right now as you weigh in your mind that last proposition, and choose whether or not to accept it -- or whether to evade the effort or the knowledge. (And recognise, dear reader, that if you choose not to accept it or to evade it, that you still have made a choice.)
    So much for needing to believe in the supernatural in order to "believe" in free will.  As Ayn Rand identified:

That which you call your soul or your spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call your "free will" is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.”

We have consciousness.
    Consciousness is endowed by its nature with the faculty of free will.
    What we each choose to do with our own consciousness is up to us -- it's there that the discussion of morality really begins.
    Yet without this recognition, it’s a discussion that could never even get off the ground – because without the ability to choose what we value, what use is a science of value at all?
    So stay focussed, I say, and eat what you damned well please.

RELATED POSTS: Nature v Nurture: Character is all - Not PC
The chemistry of love - Not PC
The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order - Not PC
More on value judgements in art - Not PC
Excusing the 'bash' - Not PC

Labels: ,

41 Comments:

Anonymous Chaz said...

Interesting, thanks. Do 11 year olds have all the information and faculties necessary to make rational decisions about their diet sufficient to make them immune from saturation advertising?

2/21/2014 01:31:00 pm  
Blogger Peter Cresswell said...

@Chaz: Was your hypothetical 11-year-old born with any parents? Or did it simply appear in a gorse bush, fully grown, after a bolt of lightning struck it?

2/21/2014 01:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

OK thanks. Perhaps they have parents, perhaps not. Is it relevant? They're permitted into shops I presume. And at what point do they turn from being a chattel into a sovereign individual?

2/21/2014 01:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Children are not chattels. Advertising is not evil.

2/21/2014 02:38:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

"Children are not chattels. Advertising is not evil."

Agreed, so then; do 11 year olds have all the information and faculties necessary to make rational decisions about their diet sufficient to make them immune from saturation advertising?

2/21/2014 02:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PC

Thank you for this essay. It is a pity that some in our midst will deliberately fail to understand or appreciate it.

Amit

2/21/2014 05:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

You've chosen to ignore the scientific findings that debunk this outdated philosophical position. There are genes responsible for obesity: this is scientific fact. You can't just dismiss this because you don't like the conclusions.

Studies have shown our subconscious & emotional faculties are far more dominant than what many would like to believe.

A case in point would be Ayn Rand. If she had the free will you describe then why would she choose her private life to be an emotional mess full of philandering, bitterness and amphetamine abuse?

2/21/2014 06:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Do 11 year olds have all the information and faculties necessary to make rational decisions about their diet sufficient to make them immune from saturation advertising?

man what a leading question.
11 yr olds have minds that are just as capable of learning as yours or mine.
hell they have already created a vast amount of knowledge in their minds like all kinds of motor skills, mastering a language, and being skilful at computer games.
that wasn't automatic. it took free will, creativity, and lots of error correction.
do they GAF abt diet and advertising or being "immune" from it? who cares? none of your business.

u know there isn't some continuum here with babies and animals being at one end and adult humans being at the other.
babies already are way diff to animals. babies are general purpose knowledge creators. that's what their genes gave to them.
they are general purpose because there is no such thing as a entity which can create only some knowledge. u can either create knowledge - all kinds of knowledge - or u can't.
animals can't. they're just programs on legs.

it's like there is no such thing as a computer which can only run some programs but not others. computers are universal or they are not computers at all.
u know what I mean?

so anyway that's why babies and children are people.
they are not half-people with only some free-will.
they are fully fledged people. where they differ maybe from adults is just on particular knowledge they have.

2/21/2014 08:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Sorry, is that a yes? If so what empirical evidence can you produce to support this remarkable assertion?

2/21/2014 08:41:00 pm  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Volition, or free will, is not just the ability to make choices, but its precondition. Volition is simply the self-generated action of a consciousness, as opposed to automatic reaction.

An animal's consciousness, or awareness, is an automatic, involuntary reaction to sensory stimuli. An animal can and does focus its attention, but it does it as an automatic response to the strongest sensory stimulus of the moment.

Man's consciousness is capable of a new type of action, an action that an animal can't perform, to any significant extent.

Watch yourself look around the room. Pick some particular thing to look at, something that did absolutely nothing to attract your attention. You are watching a volitional consciousness in action.

Volition is the ability to *initiate* attention.

All life is a process of self-generated, self-sustaining action.

The evolutionary leap from plant to animal was marked by a new type of physical action that the organism could perform (locomotion and all it entailed, including the brain, nervous system and consciousness), and *the* change from animal to man was when consciousness itself became capable of a new type of action: self-generated action.

Consciousness could now do more than just react automatically to external stimuli. Awareness could now be generated, or directed, by the organism itself.

It is this self-generated action of consciousness, this ability to initiate attention, that makes us different from animals. Some who post on this blog will try to blur this distinction. But it's a simple fact: man is the rational animal because his consciousness, unlike that of animals, is capable of self-generated action. Human consciousness is volitional.

It is a volitional - rather than just automatic - consciousness, a consciousness capable of initiating attention, that makes concept formation and reason possible, and freedom necessary.

2/21/2014 10:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott

You begin thus, "You've chosen to..." and thereby concede the entire argument. Think on it.

Amit

2/22/2014 05:45:00 am  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Thanks Bonnie! So does all that mean man should be free to choose to market heroin to children, for example? I'm thinking yes!

2/22/2014 08:09:00 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

You've really exposed the simplicity of your thinking there Amit

"You've chosen to"

The 'you' is always a product of nature and nurture, nothing else. No one makes decisions as a blank canvas. The Article mentions Brendon McCullum: The reason he hit a triple century as opposed to someone else is due entirely to his genes and upbringing. Usain Bolt is the Olympic sprint champion because he was born that way. So what? that doesn't mean he deserves less credit for his achievements.

Interestingly, Stephen Hawking's view on free will is that since our brains are composed of matter that is subject to the physical laws of the universe, free will is an illusion. Think on that!

2/22/2014 11:27:00 am  
Anonymous the drunken watchman said...

yep, and while we are about it, perhaps we can suggest to an OCD sufferer they just snap out of it :)

simplistic is too kind

2/22/2014 03:51:00 pm  
Anonymous the drunken watchman said...

@ Bonnie "Man's consciousness is capable of a new type of action, an action that an animal can't perform, to any significant extent."

mind defining "to any significant extent"?

2/22/2014 04:51:00 pm  
Blogger Bonnie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/24/2014 12:03:00 am  
Blogger Bonnie said...

@ the drunken watchman: "significant extent" would be using the capacity for volition - the ability to initiate attention - consistently. To develop its use to the point where directing one's own attention towards two or more perceived objects resulted in the observation of similarity among those objects, and eventually the formation of concepts, which is what man did.

Since the development of life on earth is an evolutionary process, it's probable that the higher mammals had some rudimentary form of volition, but they never did anything with it.

The human species is the species that gradually used its consciousness' new capacity for self-generated action to reach the conceptual level of awareness. We are the species that used volition to a "significant extent."

2/24/2014 05:12:00 am  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Great Bonnie!

What's the difference between "volition" and instinct, where is the line drawn and how do you know? What is the evidence to support this theory? Is it consistent with what is known about human psychology and genetics? What are your sources?

2/24/2014 07:33:00 am  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Chaz, I'm sorry, but your first question does not make sense to me. As to being consistent with any of the other sciences, the test of philosophy is: does it correspond to facts of reality that we can observe through our senses? So the answer to your questions about evidence, science and sources - in other words, how do I know this - is: because I can see it.

That's why you have to actually *look* at yourself selecting something to look at, something that did absolutely nothing to attract your attention, in order to know what volition is, in order to see that your attention was self-generated and not an automatic response to some sensory stimulus. Your senses are still operating, but *you* are directing them.

Volition is axiomatic, it's a corollary of the axiomatic concept "consciousness" (a type of action of consciousness) and so the only way to "prove" it is ostensively, to see it for yourself, to actually watch the action take place.

Once you've seen this happen, you can't go back.

2/24/2014 09:38:00 am  
Blogger Bonnie said...

I should add that the idea about looking around and choosing something to look at did not originate with me, but I haven't been able to find the original source.

I thought I read it in OPAR years ago, but haven't been able to find it since. All I remember is that he called it his "Science Experiment," something you could do right where you were with no special equipment.

A year or two ago I emailed Dr. Peikoff about it and got a nice reply from his office that he wasn't aware of it.

So if anyone knows the actual source I'd really appreciate that information.

2/24/2014 10:42:00 am  
Anonymous Chaz said...

So there's no support for your theory from the sciences, Bonnie?

"I know this - is: because I can see it."

How do you know that's what you're seeing?

2/24/2014 10:54:00 am  
Blogger Bonnie said...

It is the special sciences which are dependent on the science of Philosophy, not vice versa.

How do you know you're reading this? If you deny the validity of the senses, no rational discussion is possible.

2/24/2014 11:53:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eh Bonnie, I think you want get into less difficulty if you stuck to saying people create knowledge, animals don't. that's pretty clear cut. and it's true. like when was the last time a cat wrote a philosophy novel? or even wrote?


2/24/2014 12:28:00 pm  
Blogger Bonnie said...

My cats are pretty smart though. They learn a lot by association, which works fine for them.

But I agree, there is a difference between human knowledge and the strictly perceptual knowledge possessed by animals.

And knowing that the essential difference is between a volitional consciousness and an automatic consciousness is the only way, ultimately, to protect ourselves from those who would take away our french fries (and all other rights) through the force of law.

You can't think and act according to your own will, your own volition, your own nature, when you are forced to act according to the will of another.

We really need to get a handle on exactly what volition *is* and why it's the source of our need for freedom, if we're ever going to have a government that does nothing but protect individual rights.

2/24/2014 01:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

"If you deny the validity of the senses, no rational discussion is possible."

Why would you say this? Are your senses completely inviolate? Have you ever been mistaken?

"It is the special sciences which are dependent on the science of Philosophy, not vice versa."

Philosophy is not a science. You're making claims about axioms which drive your views on reality and the universe and it appears they rely solely on assertion, without support from any field of science at all. That's fine for you, Bonnie, but I'm not religious!

2/24/2014 02:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bonnie, cats are not smart. they never stop doing dumb animal stuff.

humans are the only smart things on the planet. at least currently. compare all the things created by humans through knowledge to all the things created by cats. enourmous gigantic difference right?

cat knowledge comes only from genes, human knowledge comes from our minds.



2/24/2014 03:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

"cat knowledge comes only from genes, human knowledge comes from our minds."

Where do we get our minds from?

2/24/2014 04:26:00 pm  
Blogger Bonnie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/24/2014 04:37:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott

You wrote "chosen", as in "You've chosen to...", and that is where you conceded the entire basis of your argument.

Anyway, in taking the approach you have done, you are supporting determinism. Assuming you have represented him correctly, then that is what Stephen Hawkins is promoting as well, or rather, that is what you are ascribing to him. Either way, it's false.

Amit





2/24/2014 05:14:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Chaz: How do you know, how do you know, how do you know? How you know anything? Do you accept that observing reality, abstracting concepts based on what we see, and testing them against reality for consistency is how is how we gain knowledge? Or are you on a quest to try and tell us that (you know) we can know nothing?

If the latter it suggests an attempt to engage with you on any subject will lead to an intellectual dead end.

2/24/2014 05:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Thanks for your bullish response, Mark! You're certainly very strident. However, what do you mean by "abstracting concepts"? And can you please define "knowledge" for me. It's all very well to suggest you're being led to an intellectual dead end, but you might find you've already arrived there.

Anyhow, Bonnie seems to think there just is some stuff that just is and doesn't require proof. I disagree, as I'm not religious. She obviously is. Are you?

2/24/2014 06:03:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Chaz: I was about to reply that you hadn't answered my question. Then I read your response and perhaps you have (albeit evasively). If you think we need to "prove" the validity of the senses (using our senses) then you're not only heading towards an intellectual dead end, but well and truly clearly hit it. I can only conclude your motivation is not knowledge (and good faith debate) but some silly little game of sophism.

If you dispute that conclusion then perhaps you'd like to explain your motivation for commenting on this site - and perhaps answer my question less evasively. i.e. how do we know anything? If you have a point to make then surely you should make it clearly, not just keep asking questions?

2/24/2014 06:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Amit

To choose doesn't imply free will. Animals and computer programs make choices.

I was going to suggest you read some Stephen Hawkins (sic) to broaden your mind but that would most likely be futile.

2/24/2014 08:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Given the claims you are making regarding the derivation of all knowledge and, remarkably, claims you have deduced normative action from this knowledge, of course you need to prove the validity of the senses, Mark. Unless you're suggesting your senses are infallible? I appreciate this is difficult for you, hence your very negative and borderline aggressive tone, and the questioning of my motives, but there you go.

How do we know anything you ask. You tell me (you've done a poor job so far, sadly).

2/24/2014 09:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott

"To choose doesn't imply free will."

False. In the case of human beings it necessitates it.

Here, a question. Are you certain Steven Hawkins is as you represent him- a determinist?

Amit

2/24/2014 10:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

"In the case of human beings it necessitates it."

How do you know?

2/25/2014 07:53:00 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Amit

You don't seem to understand the difference between 'will' and 'free will'.

Yes Stephen Hawking is a determinist. I quoted from his book 'The Grand Design'. You questioned my representation of him even though you don't know his name which says a lot.

2/25/2014 11:23:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Chaz - Our senses are our only means of contact with the world, the starting point for everything, including 'proof'. To prove something means to reduce an idea back to its sensorial foundation, something that can be appreciated on the perceptual level. But you can't go any further back then that.

Implicitly you have to accept the validity of the senses to even have discussions like this. If you didn't then you couldn't even respond to my posts, because you couldn't trust that the words your eyes saw in front of you were actually what I wrote, and you wouldn't know whether the words you typed and saw on your screen when were actually what you intended. Nor would you know whether you did in fact hit the send button or whether you just imagined it.

The moment you open your mouth or start hitting the keyboard you're implicitly affirming the validity of the senses - whether you acknowledge it or not. The contradiction there is yours.

As for your senses 'playing tricks' on you (eg: a stick in water that looks bent), concluding that the stick is actually bent is not an error of your senses, but an error of integration - in this case failing to allow for the refraction of light when it passes through water. When reality impacts on your senses it has an effect that your brain records. That effect may vary between individuals, or it may change with age or following injury. But regardless of that, it has an effect and that is indisputable - working out what that tells you about reality (i.e. gaining knowledge) is another matter.

As for my tone..... to endlessly ask questions, trying to cast doubt on everyone else's posts, at the same time not prepared to answer questions yourself or state a position on anything is bad form - and in my experience usually indicates bad-faith. If my tone reflects that, then so be it.

2/25/2014 01:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

"Implicitly you have to accept the validity of the senses to even have discussions like this."

That's nonsense. Care to explain why it is you think that's so?

"To prove something means to reduce an idea back to its sensorial foundation"

That's not even close to the definition of proof.

Anyway, you seem to have landed somewhere in the realms of logical positivism with all its attendant issues, which is interesting. Not sure how you get from there to Bonnie's evidence free and unsupported theories about volition, which apparently don't require any external validation by the senses or otherwise.

2/25/2014 01:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott

So he's a determinist. OK. That's nice.

What about you?

Amit

2/25/2014 05:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Chaz said...

The thing is, Amit, you don't seem to have a well thought out and clear argument using actual evidence to support your staunch and aggressive "free will" assertion. I've noticed this is common to most positions you hold (vaccines cause autism being the most egregious example). Not sure whether this is driven by deliberate ignorance, or whether you are simply a bit dim.

2/25/2014 05:22:00 pm  

Post a Comment

Respond with a polite and intelligent comment. (Both will be applauded.)

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. (Do others the courtesy of being honest.)

Please put a name to your comments. (If you're prepared to give voice, then back it up with a name.)

And don't troll. Please. (Contemplate doing something more productive with your time, and ours.)

<< Home