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*sigh* The illusion of free will
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it may be possible that we are making this far too complicated in order to be entertained by this discussion.

Free will isn't a construct its a condition. Even if an omniscient deity knows all of the possible variables of choice, in advance, because his/her understanding of the minute details of existence towers over ours, doesn't make one iota's difference to what the actual process is for the being making the choice.

Joe already watched the football game but I recorded it and have no idea how it turned out.

If a life form is capable of making choices it exercises free will as a natural process of existing.

This would even apply to robots that are given enough sophistication to make even the most basic decisions.

I keep choosing to post in this thread. No one is forcing me to do so.

Unless...I am an extremely minor component in a highly sophisticated simulation being run by an omnipotent being who enjoys watching all of the little pieces of his massive puzzle run through pre determined actions. Like someone setting up hundreds of dominoes and watching them tip over and impact the next one exactly the way he/she designed them to fall. They already know precisely what is going to happen but its still entertaining to watch.

We are dominoes.

Damn, I wish I hadn't stumbled across the truth in this way. I blame Fist. Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:32 pm    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Why would you not pick the one you want the most? Why/how do you over-ride the option that the algorithm calculated to be the one you want? Even if you choose rationally, it might be because your hardwiring predisposes you to override your biological urges and psychological dispositions with logic in various types of situations.
If humans were "hardwired" to act rationally, then reason and ethics wouldn't have to be taught. This planet would be a much different place. Education and culture have taken on their own evolution, entirely independent of genetic evolution.

And this teaching isn't like training a dog. You can shape a dog's responses with the right stimulus. You can change its instincts/habits with a treat or a a newspaper to the nose. This is nothing at all like getting a human to understand the reason for an action, why it's better than the alternative.

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Why else would you choose against what you really want? People do it all the time, but there is a reason for it. Fear of what someone will say if you choose X instead of Y. A long-term goal that X will help you achieve, but Y won't. Whatever the reason, it is just another part of the equation.
Sure, there are psychological reasons to resist our biological urges. Let's take eating food. There is peer pressure to be sexy and look good. So people resist their biological urge to eat in order to fit into society, gain acceptance of peers, and find mates. That makes perfect sense on a Darwinian explanation. You could even say that religious taboos against eating certain foods makes sense, perhaps because people long ago noticed that eating shellfish or pork made people sick (because they didn't understand proper cooking techniques), and this knowledge was encoded in a moral code. Species that noticed these things and then developed crude rules to avoid them would live longer, hence nature would select these primitive creatures over others that didn't notice a correlation between certain foods and death, and didn't encode them into crude rules of behavior.

But this is entirely different from understanding that eating too much saturated fat is bad for your heart--understanding that isn't obvious without scientific research. Resisting a biological urge due to knowledge and reason is an example of freewill--and not a psychological disposition hardwired into your brain through natural selection. Sure, we're hardwired to have self-preservation instincts, so once we have that knowledge our action fits a Darwinian explanation, but the knowledge necessary to make this decision isn't an instinct. The reason for indulging this self-preservation instinct is itself not an instinct, and cannot be accounted for by natural selection.

Evolution could not have selected us for our ability to conduct scientific studies to determine if one kind of diet will make us more likely to die in old age than another. In fact, in our "natural state," a high fat diet probably aided our reproductive success. That's why we're "programmed" to like fatty foods; that's why they taste good. When you're running away from lions and dying before the age of 40, you don't have to worry about things like heart disease.

We have risen above our survival context, our original environment in which we evolved. This has only been possible through understanding and rational decision making. Perhaps not everyone had that understand and reason ... the multitudes probably followed the leaders in a way that could be explained in Darwinian terms (psychological pressures, social structures, etc.). But we all have the potential for the understanding and reason, to make our choices to participate in this society and knowledge freely ... or not.

There is quite a lot of momentum in history, pushing us along, but the people who are engaging their freewill the most are the ones having the biggest individual impact on the future course of our race.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
... But even after all that is taken into account, you say free will has you make a different choice?


"Has you make"?

You seem to be implicitly positing some sort of infinite regress of determinism (i.e. "Free will may very well determine your choice, but then again, what determines free will?").

Take it back as many steps as you want, but there's no ghost in the machine.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

aTOMiC wrote:

If a life form is capable of making choices it exercises free will as a natural process of existing.

This would even apply to robots that are given enough sophistication to make even the most basic decisions.

Though I agree with the 1st statement, I disagree with the 2nd. That would make freewill nothing more than "sophisticated determinism." A robot executing an "If ... then" command isn't making a choice. No amount of sophistication will ever change this.

We don't follow rational processes because we're programmed to do so. We have a choice. When we do choose to follow reasonable courses of action--perhaps even by some evaluative process like an algorithm--we do it because we can see the inherent value in doing so. Or, we choose to ignore that value and act irrationally. Robots don't understand the value of their own programming. They don't choose to execute it, they simply do.

Freewill cannot be anything at all like executing a program. An algorithm doesn't understand, isn't conscious, and certainly is not free. We are more than algorithms. Computers (and hence robots) are never anything but algorithms.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Fist and Faith wrote:
Why would you not pick the one you want the most? Why/how do you over-ride the option that the algorithm calculated to be the one you want? Even if you choose rationally, it might be because your hardwiring predisposes you to override your biological urges and psychological dispositions with logic in various types of situations.
If humans were "hardwired" to act rationally, then reason and ethics wouldn't have to be taught. This planet would be a much different place. Education and culture have taken on their own evolution, entirely independent of genetic evolution.
I think humans are hardwired to act rationally. Rationality is part of our intelligence. No, they aren't the same thing. Rationality is a result, or byproduct, or whatever, of intelligence. It must be, because no other species acts rationally. Our intelligence is an extremely successful evolutionary development. It more than makes up for the physical superiority of the many animals that would otherwise prey on us with little difficulty, and those we prey on who we would never catch if not for our intelligence. It makes up for the fact that we don't have instinctual knowledge of which plants are safe to eat; how to survive the elements; etc.

Of course, humans are not all wired for rationality equally. (Possibly it's more accurate to say same are more strongly wired for emotion, which overpowers rationality?) Many act against rationality, and all intelligence, fairly often. But the genes they inherited came from ancestors who were kept alive by their tribe, because they were valuable in other ways. We still keep them alive. Laughing
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Z, don't get me wrong. I don't hold a software driven automaton to the same level of esteem as human being, but in my mind, when you break everything down to its base form, the freedom to make any choice can be thought of as free will.

I don't consider Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!" pronouncement on par with whether a robot chooses to turn left or turn right based solely on an evaluation of the grade of the surrounding terrain. There's a galaxy of difference between the two choices however a choice is a choice in the end and to me it doesn't matter if the entity making the decision has a soul or understands patriotic jingoism or can feel heartbroken or experience loss or joy.

There exists a freedom of choice that in my mind defines whether the action is permitted or not but I, of course, do not believe there is no distinction between a man choosing the path that defines his future and a software driven A.I. that behaves according to a finite set of parameters.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
... But even after all that is taken into account, you say free will has you make a different choice?


"Has you make"?

You seem to be implicitly positing some sort of infinite regress of determinism (i.e. "Free will may very well determine your choice, but then again, what determines free will?").

Take it back as many steps as you want, but there's no ghost in the machine.
I fully understand what you mean. I just don't know how to express what I'm thinking. If all issues of hardwiring, cause & effect, and anything else that can be attributed to physics tell you to choose X, but you choose Y... How is that explained? I know I have not yet been able to clearly explain why I think rationality falls into the physics/C&E category. But I do, so I don't consider it to be an opposing (at least sometimes) force within the decision-making algorithm. I'm looking for something outside that algorithm that has you act against the other forces.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wayfriend wrote:
aTOMiC wrote:
Its the opposing notions of personal free will and predestination that I'm describing. There is simply no way to personally perceive the difference between the two unless you have a verifiable frame of reference to make a comparison and there is none.

Actually, your post has put me in mind of a solution to FnF's original issue.

Fist and Faith wrote:
But I couldn't just declare "Yes, there is free will!", and pretend any victory. I couldn't even fool myself into thinking I was on sure ground. I needed to understand what I was talking about. I needed specifics. So I tried to figure out exactly where free will could be found.

I submit to you, Fist, that you imagine yourself as the prosecutor in a murder trial. The defendant claims he killed a man, but he had no choice, it was all predetermined, and therefore he should not be charged with any crime.

I should hope that you would not agree with that defense. But can you articulate why? Perhaps there're legal reasons for denying a "determinism defense", but that's not the point ... imagine you had to argue the case as a philosopher, not as a lawyer.

I think that, if you undertake such a mental exercise, you would reverse a lot of your reversal (if you will). You would come to get a sense as to how free will still matters in a deterministic world - what it implies, and what it doesn't imply. For instance, that making a choice is still making a choice, even when deterministic forces are at play.
Many people murder, despite knowing what very often happens to murderers. I'll bet many more people want to murder, but do not because they don't want to risk what very often happens to murderers. If the consequences were taken away, by not prosecuting murderers, there would be even more murders than there are. This applies whether or not there is any kind of free will. If there is none, the algorithm takes things like the likelihood and type of punishment into account, and weighs it against the reasons the murder is desired.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:09 am    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Why would you not pick the one you want the most?
Which you pick is not important...the point is the ability to pick either. Even if it's just to prove a point.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:05 am    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Fist and Faith wrote:
Why would you not pick the one you want the most?
Which you pick is not important...the point is the ability to pick either. Even if it's just to prove a point.
Right. But it's possible that you were unable to not choose that way in order to make that point. Your psychological need may have weighed more than all other considerations in the given circumstances. We can't know that you were not required to make that choice at that time. The only thing we know is you did make that choice at that time.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:04 pm    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
We can't know that you were not required to make that choice at that time. The only thing we know is you did make that choice at that time.


Why stop at questioning your freedom? Why not question your memories or even your existence?

Then, we can change the name of this forum to "The Hall of Mirrors". Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:42 pm    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
We can't know that you were not required to make that choice at that time. The only thing we know is you did make that choice at that time.


Why stop at questioning your freedom? Why not question your memories or even your existence?

Then, we can change the name of this forum to "The Hall of Mirrors". Wink
That's not a bad point. I was thinking of a similar argument: why not assume that consciousness itself is an illusion? Many philosophers (like Daniel C. Dennett) do. [The previous link contains Thomas Nagel's response to Dennett's position.] A mere "epiphenomenon," without any causal power whatsoever. A useless aftereffect of neural activity.

But we can ask why evolution would waste resources giving us these illusions. If all we actually do is follow the dictates of our biology and psychology--urges and habits--then this could easily be done without an illusion of freewill. If we're not actually making choices--like cows mindlessly grazing--why does it feel like we are? Why did evolution trick us like this? What possible use does that illusion have in terms of our survival?

We can say the same thing for consciousness itself. Why do we have qualia and intentionality, when our perceptual apparatus works just fine without it? Experiments on brain surgery patients reveals that we can still "see" things in our visual field even when we're not consciously aware of them. Patients can identify these objects, even when it seems to them that there is nothing there. This is an example of Blindsight, a phenomenon discovered first in a chimpanzee who could navigate its world even though its brain was damaged, making it blind. Qualia are not necessary, so why do we have them?

It is much too convenient to suppose that the most problematic aspects of living beings are just useless illusions. Even if they are, this still does not account for them. The appearance of an illusion is still a phenomenon ... an appearance to whom? If there is no consciousness, if there is no being with a will, then where are all these illusions happening? If I'm a mindless automaton tricked into believing that I'm an active, conscious, reflective, willful being, then there is still a mental entity that is being tricked.

This is much too similar to Descartes's "evil demon," except applied to the self rather than the world.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:54 am    Post subject: Re: *sigh* The illusion of free will Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Right. But it's possible that you were unable to not choose that way in order to make that point.


It's possible, but I see no evidence for it. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I question free will because it cannot be accounted for. What part of the mind is independent of brain activity? What part of brain activity is independent of the laws of physics and chemistry; of Cause & Effect?

But free will, which must surely arise from the brain, is free from these laws. And this aspect of us has the power to override the aspects that are bound by these laws. We usually call such things supernatural.

Zarathustra wrote:
But we can ask why evolution would waste resources giving us these illusions. If all we actually do is follow the dictates of our biology and psychology--urges and habits--then this could easily be done without an illusion of freewill. If we're not actually making choices--like cows mindlessly grazing--why does it feel like we are? Why did evolution trick us like this? What possible use does that illusion have in terms of our survival?
To the degree that there is an illusion of free will, I think it's a ... I guess byproduct is the best word. There are so many variables that go into the algorithm. Hardwiring; biological imperatives; the events of our lives; the levels of serotonin, blood sugar, etc; how much sleep we got; on and on. There's no way for us to be consciously aware of all that. All we know is one thing was chosen from among the options. With no way of understand everything about how the choice was made, we say we made it of our own free will.

Animals have fewer variables, but they still have many. They make choices all the time. But they don't have the added awareness of things that we have that gives rise to the question of how the choice was made.

A computer might make a decision using only one criterion; whatever the program code tells it to do. If it was at all aware, it might know full well that it has no free will, because the process of decision making is clear.

However, when seriously considered, I don't think we have the illusion of free will. I think it's just an accepted notion. I believe we could make a decent sized list of things that were commonly accepted and/or intuitively known that have been proven false. Despite knowing it is false perception, we would all swear that time passes the same for all of us. Seriously consider a decision, and tell me where the C&E elements are disregarded. Tell me how you know the process - whichever process you think it is - that is responsible for your free will is not also the result of wiring, past experiences, etc. How do you know your choosing just to make a point is not the only choice you could have made? Remember, we all agree that the universe operates by certain laws. Yet you are insisting that this particular aspect of the universe is outside of those laws. You're making a claim that I think needs to be supported.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
I question free will because it cannot be accounted for. What part of the mind is independent of brain activity? What part of brain activity is independent of the laws of physics and chemistry; of Cause & Effect?
You think the laws of physics and chemistry dictate the content of our consciousness? How? That would mean there is some equation that could predict which word I typed next, which thought I have next.

Thoughts don't occur to us because of some chemical/physical process. Thoughts follow other thoughts, they chase after meaning. When one thought makes me think of another thought, the causal chain is between two mental states, not between two physical brain states. In coming up with the words for this post, right now, my neurons have no idea what I'm saying. They don't understand the meaning of my words. My words come from my own understanding of the subject matter, and the point I'm trying to get across.

How could atoms following physical laws achieve that feat? Physical laws describe the motions of matter, not the flow of meaningful statements from one to the other. If everything in consciousness--including freewill--is merely an effect of a physical cause, then things like this very post (and every possible novel humans could write) would be contained in the laws of physics. The laws of physics don't write novels. Atoms are entirely neutral to words. The atoms in my brain no more dictate the flow of those words than the atoms on this computer screen ... though the words appear in both. The meaning of those words isn't contained in the position and motion of atoms.

Consciousness and freewill do arise from the brain, but this doesn't mean that the hardware of the brain dictates the change from one mental state to the next. The mental states themselves affect their own changes. The causation happens holistically, from the top-down, rather than bottom-up. We can intentionally direct our consciousness, so that the content of current consciousness causes the content of future consciousness. Our individual neurons have no idea what the content is. Only the mind as a whole knows this.

Think of it like this: a TV's image is produced by the hardware of the TV. But the content--what's on the screen--isn't dictated by the hardware of the TV. Sure, the content of the images are produced by other hardware elsewhere, so they're not exactly nonphysical. But imagine if those images actually affected themselves, so that an image of "1+1" causes an image of "2" to appear. Our mind is like that. It completely circumvents the hardware in coming up with the answer. Mathematics is not in our neurons. We don't have the answer to every possible equation hardwired in our brains. We figure them out. The understanding of what "1+1" means causes us to get the answer, "2." Not an algorithm programed into our neurons (like a calculator), but consciousness understanding itself.


Fist and Faith wrote:
Remember, we all agree that the universe operates by certain laws. Yet you are insisting that this particular aspect of the universe is outside of those laws. You're making a claim that I think needs to be supported.
The absence of a law that describes what I'll say or do next already supports my position. You are the one claiming that my actions and words can be codified in some physical law. I'd say that puts the burden on you to come up with that law.

I experience the phenomenon of my will. I know it exists because I have direct access to it. The *theory* is that materialistic science accounts for it. That theory hasn't been proven. I don't have to prove I have freewill any more than I have to prove I exist. Mind, consciousness, and will are *already* outside of physical laws, because no physical law explains them. No one can even propose how physical matter produces mental entities, theoretically. We have absolutely no clue, and yet we pretend that we already know based on our faith in science. But it's not science we're talking about here, it's actually materialistic reductionism. It's an ontology ... the belief that everything in the universe is physical. But we already have evidence that this is false. Mind is not physical. Meaning is not physical. Intentionality is not physical. Mathematics and logic are not physical. Yet all these are real. In the case of math and logic, they're even objective. The relationships in math and logic exist without us, beyond us, and beyond all matter and energy.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In 'How to Create a Mind', Kurzweil wrote:
The story of evolution unfolds with increasing levels of abstraction. Atoms - especially carbon atoms, which can create rich information structures by linking in four different directions - formed increasingly complex molecules. As a result, physics gave rise to chemistry.

A billion years later, a complex molecule called DNA evolved, which could precisely encode lengthy strings of information and generate organisms described by these "programs." As a result, chemistry gave rise to biology.

At an increasingly rapid rate, organisms evolved communication and decision networks called nervous systems, which could coordinate the increasingly complex parts of their bodies as well as the behaviors that facilitated their survival. The neurons making up nervous systems aggregated into brains capable of increasingly intelligent behaviors. In this way, biology gave rise to neurology, as brains were now the cutting edge of storing and manipulating information. Thus we went from atoms to molecules to DNA to brains. The next step was uniquely human.

The mammalian brain has a distinct aptitude not found in any other class of animal. We are capable of hierarchical thinking, of understanding a structure composed of diverse elements arranged in a pattern, representing that arrangement with a symbol, and then using that symbol as an element in a yet more elaborate configuration. This capability takes place in a brain structure called the neocortex, which in humans has achieved a threshold of sophistication and capacity such that we are able to call these patterns ideas. Through an unending recursive process we are capable of building ideas that are ever more complex. We call this vast array of recursively linked ideas knowledge. Only Homo sapiens have a knowledge base that itself evolves, grows exponentially, and is passed down from one generation to another.

..............

It should be noted, before we further consider the structure of the neocortex, that it is important to model systems at the right level. Although chemistry is theoretically based on physics and could be derived entirely from physics, this would be unwieldy and infeasible in practice, so chemistry has established its own rules and models. Similarly, we should be able to deduce the laws of thermodynamics from physics, but once we have a sufficient number of particles to call them a gas rather than simply a bunch of particles, solving equations for the physics of each particle interaction becomes hopeless, whereas the laws of thermodynamics work quite well. Biology likewise has its own rules and models. A single pancreatic islet cell is enormously complicated, especially if we model it at the level of molecules; modeling what a pancreas actually does in terms of regulating levels of insulin and digestive enzymes is considerably less complex.

The same principle applies to the levels of modeling and understanding in the brain. It is certainly a useful and necessary part of reverse-engineering the brain to model its interactions at the molecular level, but the goal of the effort here is essentially to refine our model to account for how the brain processes information to produce cognitive meaning.
Or, as Daniel Do says in a TedX Talk:
Quote:
We know that brain function, which is based on nerve cells, or neurons, is the product of cellular activity. And we also know that cells, which are complex systems of molecules, are the products of molecular activity. And molecules, or groups of atoms, are the products of atomic and subatomic activity. So now we can ask the question: What governs the atom and its components? The laws of physics, and nothing else. So if we follow this chain of logic, we find that our choices can be traced back to biological, chemical, and atomic interactions, and are ultimately determined by the laws of physics.

So what does this mean for free will? Well, to have free will is to have control over our thoughts and behaviors. But physics has a monopoly on control. In a universe made entirely of particles, that follows laws, whatever they may be. Now it doesn't matter if these laws are random, non-random, or some combination of both. If they are non-random and predictable, as Newton and Einstein believed, then the future is set, and we have no control over the outcome of our lives. If they're random, or probablistic, which, in light of quantum mechanics, we know is true at the subatomic level, then we also have no control over the outcome of our lives. And there's no combination of randomness and non-randomness that is compatible with free will.


It all traces back down to particles. No, I'm not saying the particles know or determine what choice I will make. But the mind arose from biology, which arose from chemistry, which arose from physics. The properties of biology are not the properties of chemistry, but they are built from them, and cannot violate them. The properties of chemistry are not the properties of physics, but they are built from them, and cannot violate them.

But you tell me there are properties of the mind that, though built on all of that, violate the hell out of it. It has evolved beyond these laws, yet controls the brain that is entirely subject to them. It reminds me of Dennett asking how Casper the Friendly Ghost can both flow through walls and pick up real objects.

I am not more interested in what you and I feel that we experience than I am in what we all experience about the passage of time. As I said, we experience, and intuitively know, it incorrectly. And you and I share an opinion about the experience of divine beings that the vast majority of humans tell us is absolute fact. Humans are very often fooled by what they experience. I have much less difficulty believing this is one of those times than I do believing in what amounts the supernatural.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
It all traces back down to particles.
That's materialistic reductionism. It's an assumption, a metaphysical belief--not a fact--that underlies our modern worldview in light of the success of science over the previous supernatural worldview. It was the right move at the time, but the pendulum has swung too far the other way, leaving us entirely unable to explain things like how consciousness works and how it arises historically. I believe that the anomalies of consciousness and reason will have the same paradigm-revolutionary effect that other anomalies have had in the history of science, swinging the pendulum away from materialism back to a more comprehensive view of the universe. I'm not talking about embracing mysticism, but rather expanding science.

Maybe everything in the universe is not reducible to particles. Maybe there are levels of reality that are only achieved holistically once particles reach a certain level of complexity, so that they behave as a whole in a way that is more than the sum of its parts, and cannot be reduced to the laws that govern parts.

Your quotes already admit that atoms "encode" information, thus information and knowledge can be effects of matter. These are immaterial effects! Thus, matter is already inextricably linked to things that aren't material. How is that possible? Even at the level of atoms and molecules, science can't explain it. How does meaning and information attach itself to matter? Perhaps because matter is more than mere material to begin with ...

But let's go further. Why can't an effect also be a cause? If (immaterial) information and knowledge can be effects of matter, then why can't they also be causes of change in matter? In other words, if every effect is not necessarily material, then neither does every cause have to be material. So if ideas and meaning and knowledge can be causes, then there is your opening for freewill. The links between knowledge, meaning, and information aren't dictated by science--especially at the symbolic level where consciousness deals with them--even though our ways of encoding them in physical systems are dictated by science. Thus, the causal relationships between meaning, knowledge (and the consciousness that understands and manipulates them) completely circumvents the laws of science, even though it is "riding on top of" particles that are themselves dictated by the laws of science.

Think of it like this: nothing in nature--no arrangement of particles--can violate the laws of science. And yet there is still a vast difference between particles that have accidentally self-arranged into ordered structures (like us) and particles that have been intentionally arranged for a specific purpose, like humanity's artifacts. Neither violates the laws of science. Both are still "pulling the levers," so to speak, of physics and chemistry. But certain arrangements of matter are entirely accidental, while others are artifacts of purpose and intention. (Are purpose and intention reducible to the blind, purposeless laws of science??)

If it makes sense to draw a distinction between accidental and purposeful arrangements of matter, then it makes sense to note that the causes of these arrangements are inherently different: one is conscious and goal-oriented, while the other is "blind" and without a goal. From purely blind, purposeless processes, purpose and goal-oriented action have arisen in the universe. This is an undeniable fact ... yet entirely inexplicable in terms of reductionism.

But according to your analysis, this fact/distinction entirely disappears. If the workings of our consciousness and will are entirely reduced to the same purposeless physical cause-and-effect chains that have produced us in evolution, then it makes no sense to say that our artifacts are intentional and purposeful. They are just accidents, too. Humans would be nothing more than an acceleration of those blind processes, and all purpose would be an illusion. This computer would be just as much of an "accident" as any instance of ordered, arranged matter on the planet. We would have to say that all appearances of design (by humans) is as much an illusion as will ... leaving us with no criteria whatsoever to distinguish the order between (for instance) an airplane and a cell!

Your position--materialism and reductionism--reduces reality to absurd falsehoods, entirely eliminating the most interesting things to have arisen in this universe. Obviously, parts and wholes operate by different rules, not reducible to each other, or it wouldn't make sense that purpose can arise from purposelessness.

Fist and Faith wrote:
No, I'm not saying the particles know or determine what choice I will make. But the mind arose from biology, which arose from chemistry, which arose from physics. The properties of biology are not the properties of chemistry, but they are built from them, and cannot violate them. The properties of chemistry are not the properties of physics, but they are built from them, and cannot violate them.

But you tell me there are properties of the mind that, though built on all of that, violate the hell out of it.


I'm not saying that it violates the laws of science! I'm saying that it can't be reduced to the laws of science ... with an important caveat:as currently construed. That doesn't mean that science will forever be unable to explain it, we'll just have to update our science, as we're always doing. Our current laws are good approximations--like Newton's laws were at the time--but they leave out important anomalies that are only accounted for within an entirely new worldview, such as Einstein's transformation from an absolute space to a relative space-time. We are kidding ourselves thinking that we now have the final, correct worldview that will make every mystery explicable. Materialism works fine for dead matter. It doesn't work for living, conscious, rational beings.

I think we're in for a for more paradigm revolutions, perhaps an infinite chain of them.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No takers on the argument from purpose? Granted, it was a long post. Here's the important part:

Maybe everything in the universe is not reducible to particles. Maybe wholes behave in a way that is more than the sum of their parts, and cannot be reduced to the laws that govern parts. An example of such holistic behavior is the purpose and goal-oriented action we see in humans. If we're produced from purely blind, purposeless processes, then how did this allow the phenomena of purpose, design, and goals (teleology) to enter the universe? If everything we do reduces to physics and chemistry--which have no purpose or teleology in their laws--then at what point was it added, and how? This fact is entirely inexplicable in terms of reductionism.

In reducing everything to particles and physics, we must give up not only the idea of will, but even such noncontroversial ideas like human-created design and purpose, leaving us unable to distinguish human artifacts from naturally occurring, spontaneous order. Indeed, without the concept of will--willfully and intentionally creating these objects with their specific purposes in mind--human technology could not exist. It cannot arise spontaneously (i.e. by processes entirely reducible to laws of science), but only in the context of humans seeking a purpose.

Therefore, it does make sense to speak of parts and wholes operating by different rules, irreducible to each other, and this is most conspicuous in the operation of human consciousness upon the world and the creation of kinds of order that CANNOT be created (much less explained) by blind, purposeless laws of physics and chemistry.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am destine to answer your question. But I choose not to.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn, I make my best argument so far, and everyone loses interest in the topic. I was hoping someone could point out holes in my argument that I can't see, so I could sharpen it further.

Trying to imagine a rebuttal, I suppose one might say that our technology is merely more complex examples of, say, a beaver's dam or a bird's nest. They also make things that serve a purpose. Does this mean they necessarily have will? Maybe. But they're probably following instincts. Building a nest or a dam are simple tasks, basically a set of repeated steps. It could be done on "autopilot," without a clear, intentional goal in mind. Most likely, they don't understand exactly why they're performing these actions, they just know it feels "right." In this way, their actions might be viewed as an extension of evolution itself, which blindly creates organisms which serve a purpose (i.e. getting their genes reproduced). Thus, purpose would be an illusion--it's just an accident that resembles purpose.

But our goal-oriented technology is altogether different. Theirs do not require a knowledge of engineering, math, physics, mining, metallurgy, etc. I think that this knowledge, the self-reflective, understanding aspect, makes our technology altogether different, so that we're not just operating on instincts, but instead an understanding of what we're doing, the world in which we live, and the goal we wish to achieve. Not only does that mean it can't be an instinct--a habitual action "programmed" into us by natural selection, contained in our genes, and passed down as a heritable trait--but it also means that it requires a willful choice, especially as we create new things. Beavers and birds don't innovate. And it doesn't seem like they teach their skills to their young. This is not culture passed down to the next generation, but genetic dispositions. They don't create new technology because they're not willfully creating anything. They're not attempting to solve problems, they're just acting as natural selection has "programmed" them.

I'm basing my argument mainly on the purposeful action of humans being irreducible to the purposeless laws of science. Is there a flaw in my reasoning on that point? One might try to say that our purpose is an illusion, too, like will (and possibly consciousness itself). And in the case of birds and beavers, we have examples where this might be the case. But I think human purpose resists this characterization, due to points made above. We certainly don't build by instinct. We might have instincts that drive us to understand, to create, to make order, but those general dispositions are no different from a general urge to eat. It still wouldn't necessarily dictate which foods we choose, just as our disposition to create doesn't dictate which things we invent. In the purposeful creation of new technology, there is something added to the equation that cannot be contained in the laws of science (or our genes). The gap between blind, purposeless processes and the emergence of a brand new machine is only bridged by the mind striving to fulfill a particular goal, a goal which cannot exist in the motions of atoms which have no goals themselves.

So if it's not an illusion, it is a real problem to be explained. If everything we do reduces down to motions of atoms, then either a) purpose and intention are deeply embedded in matter and the laws of nature, or b) when atoms are arranged with sufficient complexity, new phenomena emerge which are irreducibly different from the building blocks upon which they are built.

Either way, there is something "extra" to nature which is not captured in a reductionist account. And that resistance to a reductionist account leaves open the possibility for even more phenomena--like the will--which cannot be described in terms of (current) laws of science.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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