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How Does Evolution Produce Consciousnes/Reason?
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:45 am    Post subject: How Does Evolution Produce Consciousnes/Reason? Reply with quote

I'm almost done with Thomas Nagel's MIND AND COSMOS, in which he argues that materialistic reductionism cannot explain either 1) the constitutive problem, i.e. how the brain produces a consciousness that cannot be reduced to brain states, and 2) the historical problem, i.e. how evolution brings about consciousness and reason in the first place. I'd like to focus on the latter, but we can discuss any portion of the book, if anyone else has read it.

The basic problem is that mental states cannot be reduced to brain states; in other words Identity Theory leaves out crucial elements of consciousness like qualia and intentionality. These are subjective qualities of consciousness, and it's not clear how an objective account can be "identical" to them, if they cannot be objectively described in terms of neurons firing. It's one thing to say that the neurons *produce* them, but how can they *be* them, if neurons don't look like qualia? How qualia look like (or smell/taste/feel etc.) was precisely the thing that was supposed to be explained. Is this simply "two views" of the same thing (inner/outer)? How can there be two views, when we've made an identity between them?

Therefore, there is a mental quality to consciousness that can't be reduced to physical qualities of brain states, even if we grant that consciousness is entirely produced by the brain.

So ... how does one explain a nonphysical quality arising through a physical process like evolution? Why would evolution produce mental things when it could just as easily get along with purely physical things? For lower animals (who don't have reason, judgment, reflection, etc.) it would be enough for evolution to have produced behaviors that are conducive to survival, which are followed blindly, purely by instinct. Qualia need not be involved at all. And who knows? Maybe this is what it's like to be an animal, though it would seem strange for humans to be the only animals with qualia, since it's such a basic feature of consciousness, and we assume that other animals share in consciousness. After all, ours is thought to be merely an "advanced" form of theirs, sharing much of the brain hardware with the addition of the neocortex and rational thought.

But it gets even trickier for evolution to explain us when we add rationality to the picture. Modern humans have been around for 200,000 years. We basically haven't changed physically in all that time. Those humans were smart enough to figure out quantum mechanics, if they'd have the culture and education that we've had. But figuring out quantum mechanics isn't conducive to survival in the environment that early humans found themselves. Sure, it's useful to be smart, to figure out things like how to make primitive weapons and predict seasonal migrations of prey. But humans could have had a FRACTION of our intelligence, and still did these things.

The question is: why did natural selection select humans with so much more intelligence than was needed to survive in their environments? Our big brain is costly, in terms of resources needed to fuel it. It's also risky for birth, with a careful balance between maximizing brain size and not ripping mothers apart. And the trade-off is a much longer development during childhood than most animals. Human infants are helpless for years while their limbs develop, whereas a horse is running around shortly after birth.

Virtually all humans possessed massive amounts of intelligence that was completely wasted for about 190,000 years. We've only started tapping into our intelligence in a significant way--transforming our environment to suit our survival--in the last 10 thousand years.

When modern humans were selected among the many varieties available, there must have been humans that weren't smart enough to develop calculus and quantum mechanics, but still smart enough to develop weapons. If it was a contest between these two, why would natural selection favor those who had intelligence that was so superior, nothing in their environment could possibly require it? There would be absolutely no survival pressure to favor such unneeded intelligence.

So, materialistic reductionism, neo-Darwinian evolution, and even physics are incomplete because they can't explain the most interesting thing in all of nature. Science must be able to account for how atoms can become aware of not only atoms, but the farthest galaxies and even the beginning of the universe. We know it happens, because we are collections of atoms that have done this. But NO physical theory can even attempt to explain how the universe becomes aware of itself.

Awareness must have been "built into" the universe from the beginning, in its very laws, as not only a possibility, but a likelihood. It's not enough to say that the most incredible thing in existence is a complete accident. That's not an explanation.

So, the universe must be in some sense mental and teleological.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does nature often go to unnecessary extremes? Does the redwood have to be that tall? Could the Blue Whale manage if it was only 90% its size? Does the Box Jellyfish really have to be that damned venomous?
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Growing big and having lethal poison are qualities that have immediate payoff within the lifespan of the organism. Taller trees can get more light, bigger whales aren't victims of predators, etc. However, having a brain smart enough to figure out the nature of the universe didn't have an immediate payoff in a single human's lifetime. It took about 10,000 generations for that to start paying off.

You can't just shrug it off. It requires an explanation. I'm not saying we can't explain it, but few people even treat it like it's surprising or problematic. Success in modern science has robbed us of the wonder and awe we used to have for such mysteries, so that we just assume that plugging away in the same direction we're going now will eventually solve everything.

I have a feeling that consciousness, reason, and mind will be a lot more difficult for science to explain than we currently hope. People can't solve what they don't recognize as problematic.
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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: Sat Apr 15, 2017 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought I read that an increase in calories from being more effective at hunting and the increasing complexities of spoken languages caused brain size to get larger.
And then the rise of agriculture kicked it up into high gear.
Going from hunter gathering to farming allowed for special skills to develop in a more relaxed and predictable environment.

Do we know for sure that the human brain 200,000 years ago was the same as today?
Maybe the overall size was but maybe certain regions of the brain were not as large and other parts were larger than today?
I have no idea.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not shrugging it off. Just questioning things. Does a tree that is already 50% taller than the surrounding trees need to be 100% taller? Does a snake that needs to kill a rabbit need venom that can kill a few people? Maybe nature overdoes things sometimes, and our intelligence might just be an example.

Or maybe this... A friend once said the reason cars need to go so fast - fast enough to reduce reaction time to negligible levels, meaning accidents are much more difficult to avoid - is that, if they couldn't, it would take a very long time to get up to the speed limit. Maybe that wasted intelligence wasn't really wasted. Maybe it would have taken millennia longer to invent tools and weapons if we couldn't do it quickly because of having the capacity to go far beyond such things. Maybe only the ones who could go far beyond weapons were the only ones who had invented weapons in a meaningful way.

Not sure what "meaningful" would mean. Maybe, let's say, members of different varieties of humans available at the time saw an animal run into a pointed stick while being chased. The members of one variety didn't think anything of it. Members of another variety saw what pointed sticks could do, and started using them. Members of a third variety also started using them, but were able to understand that a pointed stone at the end of the stick helps with the problem of the point going blunt too often.


In any event, I like Nagel's way of thinking right off the bat. More than a decade ago, I posted here that it doesn't make sense that the first living thing had a metabolic system and a reproductive system; survived long enough to reproduce so successfully that the survival of the species was assured; and mutation and natural selection were able to play a role pretty much right away, allowing evolution to take place. That seems a bit much to ask. Pretty much what Nagel says on the first couple of pages.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The question is not whether a tree needs to be that tall. The analogous question would be, "How did it happen?" It's not very hard to imagine that a gene for growth simply doesn't shut off like it does for other trees. The same can't be said for a brain that does more than merely replicating what all other brains do, except to a greater extent (linearly). Our brain isn't just bigger. It is more complex, with different features found in no other brains. And what we do with our brain is qualitatively different--abstract thought that allows us to go beyond appearances into reality.

Overdoing something like venom and height doesn't put the mother in danger. Redwoods come from normal sized acorns or whatever (I assume). No other animal has such a difficult and dangerous childbirth, specifically because of our brains. If there was not a corresponding benefit to balance out this enormous risk, it's difficult to see why nature would select us for survival over slightly less intelligent humans who didn't present so much of a risk.


Fist and Faith wrote:

Maybe that wasted intelligence wasn't really wasted. Maybe it would have taken millennia longer to invent tools and weapons if we couldn't do it quickly because of having the capacity to go far beyond such things. Maybe only the ones who could go far beyond weapons were the only ones who had invented weapons in a meaningful way.
That's interesting. However, I wonder who would fare better in the wild, Einstein or someone with the natural equivalent of "street smarts." I'm not sure that this extra intelligence--the kind that allows you to think in abstract terms--is all that good in practical matters. But this is the best argument you've made.

Fist and Faith wrote:

In any event, I like Nagel's way of thinking right off the bat. More than a decade ago, I posted here that it doesn't make sense that the first living thing had a metabolic system and a reproductive system; survived long enough to reproduce so successfully that the survival of the species was assured; and mutation and natural selection were able to play a role pretty much right away, allowing evolution to take place. That seems a bit much to ask. Pretty much what Nagel says on the first couple of pages.
So you've read the book? Or a sample of it?

As he points out, evolution is perfectly reasonable once there are enough varieties of genetic material for natural selection to start "selecting." But the problem is explaining where the variety came from in the first place ... or even where life came from in the first place. DNA is a bewilderingly complex molecule. It isn't immediately obvious how nature would develop a process for building these molecules, a system for chemically reading and replicating them, etc. in the absence of the complex environments we have today that aid in protecting and replicating genes (i.e. multicellular, sexually reproducing creatures).

It's the same problem with reason: it's easy to see how it would develop into something beneficial--in hindsight, standing on a mountain of benefit--but it's more difficult to explain how it got started and then kept going in the absence of that mountain of benefit.

Agriculture faces the same problem. In the beginning, there was hardly any payoff to agriculture that justified all the work necessary to get it going. Today, crops have been modified through 1000s of years of selective breeding to be pest and/or drought resistant. We've modified them to be more nutritious and productive. In the beginning, the risks involved in sitting in one spot long enough for your pitiful crop to grow, risking losing your crop due to weather or pests, risking losing months worth of labor that could have been directed elsewhere, doesn't really seem much better than hunting and gathering. Hunting/gathering societies had honed their skills for 1000s of years prior to agriculture, so they were probably much better at feeding people than the earliest farmers. [See NONZERO for a full discussion of this phenomenon.]

Speaking of NONZERO, I think what Nagel is looking for--teleological laws of nature--might be found in something like game theory, as applied to the problem by Robert Wright. I wonder if he has heard of Wright's work?
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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: Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
The question is not whether a tree needs to be that tall. The analogous question would be, "How did it happen?" It's not very hard to imagine that a gene for growth simply doesn't shut off like it does for other trees. The same can't be said for a brain that does more than merely replicating what all other brains do, except to a greater extent (linearly). Our brain isn't just bigger. It is more complex, with different features found in no other brains. And what we do with our brain is qualitatively different--abstract thought that allows us to go beyond appearances into reality.
I don't know enough about brains to know what features we have that are not in the great apes. I know ours are bigger. But what is the extra mass? I know vastly more neurons. But what else?


Zarathustra wrote:
Fist and Faith wrote:
Maybe that wasted intelligence wasn't really wasted. Maybe it would have taken millennia longer to invent tools and weapons if we couldn't do it quickly because of having the capacity to go far beyond such things. Maybe only the ones who could go far beyond weapons were the only ones who had invented weapons in a meaningful way.
That's interesting. However, I wonder who would fare better in the wild, Einstein or someone with the natural equivalent of "street smarts." I'm not sure that this extra intelligence--the kind that allows you to think in abstract terms--is all that good in practical matters. But this is the best argument you've made.
Drop Einstein and a street smart guy back 100,000 years in the past, and Einstein might be in trouble. But the people who lived back then were all street smart. If they weren't, they wouldn't have made it that far. The difference is, one group has more smarts than street smarts. And they're the ones who made it.

[Do we actually know this? Do we have enough information on the brains of all the varieties of humans to know if the one that became us was smarter than the rest? Could be one of the other varieties was smarter, but they weren't vicious enough to survive a war that the more vicious started. Or some other scenario where the smarter is wiped out.]


Zarathustra wrote:
So you've read the book? Or a sample of it?
I've started it. If you've ever put any thought into me, you will have noticed that I don't delve too deep into things. I have some thoughts and questions, but don't learn terribly much about them. My sleep apnea often makes it very difficult to read books with plots and characters that I find very exciting. It is not at all easy for me to read this kind of thing. And it doesn't help that I don't know the basics. Page 1, I have to look up at least a few terms, and hope the definition doesn't refer to too many things that I also have to look up. It's beyond frustrating. You talk about many books I'd love to read, and have tried at times.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, I'm impressed that you're giving the book at try. The book is straight up philosophy, pretty technical stuff. And even when he's not using technical language, he writes like a philosopher; doesn't try to make it easy on the reader. Sometimes I have to read a sentence a couple times to make sure I get it.

If you have any questions, let me know. Maybe we can figure him out together. There were a couple times when I thought his argument had problems. I wish I'd made a note of them. Maybe I'll reread now that someone else is giving it a go.

As you'll see if you keep reading, the arguments I've made here are largely my own. His points are actually a lot more penetrating and subtle. With that said, I really have an affinity for his position. He says a lot of things I've been trying to say myself.
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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 18, 2017 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm very glad to hear you say it's not necessarily an easy read. I was hoping it wasn't just me. Laughing I'm starting over. I had only gotten several pages in, and was already losing track of what I was supposed to have known.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, if you haven't had training in philosophy, this book is a hard read. Terms like epiphenomenalism, identity theory, etc. aren't laymen's terms. I actually read Nagel in my graduate level philosophy of mind course in college, a famous article he wrote about what it's like to be a bat. Smile Seriously, it's a classic in philosophy of mind.
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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 18, 2017 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I've read about the bat article. I have not yet found it online. Only paper so far.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe it's not about "need." Maybe it's more about "can."

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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So then! Smile
In Chapter2:4, Nagel wrote:
For either materialistic or theistic explanation to provide a complete understanding of the world, it would have to be the case that either the laws of physics, or the existence and properties of God and therefore of his creation, cannot conceivably be other than they are.
I would disagree, except he also seems to, as he goes on to say:
Nagel wrote:
Physicists do not typically believe the former...
and
Nagel wrote:
All explanations come to an end somewhere.
I would think there is either: an endless chain of rules, each explained by the one below it, or; the chain is not endless. I'm not yet sure what his stance is. Mine is that there is a bottom. Here https://www.ted.com/talks/brian_greene_on_string_theory#t-963937 - particularly for the four and a half minutes beginning at 11:30 - Brian Greene talks about the other dimensions of string theory, and how they might explain the specific numbers that describe the universe. That is, the exact strengths of the fundamental forces; the masses of the elementary particles; etc. So let's just say, for the sake of argument, this theory is correct. We now know why these values, none of which could be changed in the least without destroying the universe, are exactly what they are. Will we then find the reason that the dimensions are exactly what they are? And if we do, will we then be able to find an explanation for that as well? My gut tells me it ends. Somewhere. Something simply is. If it was not, this universe would not exist. This most basic thing could have been different, and the universe would be different, or there would be nothing other than that most basic thing. But this most basic thing is what it is, and so is this universe.
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The task of explaining reality might be infinite. At least that's what physicist David Deutsche thinks.

I think the key word here is "complete" explanation of the world. We may never achieve that. But if we were to do so, one would think (or so Nagel argues) that would include why the laws of physics are what they are, rather than something else. I think that's what he's saying.

Honestly, I don't think it's an important point to his larger argument. His main point is that the laws of physics are incomplete in an extremely important way: they don't account for life, consciousness, and intelligence as they're currently construed. He's saying that the development of life is so important, anomalous, and inexplicable, that a full explanation of it will necessitate a complete revision of the laws of physics, all the way down to the "bottom."
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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: Wed May 31, 2017 5:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They're more like...guidelines.... Wink

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I wasn't overly concerned with that point. Just sayin'.

So the bad news is I haven't read more since I posted. My brother in law moved out, so been busy. The good news is, I found my old beat up copy of The Mind's I. Which I had never read, and didn't even know what was in it. I got it for a dime or something, at a garage sale or something. Looked interesting, but I often don't get to things. Anyway, I will first learn what it's like to be a bat. Smile
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Mind's I is great. Haven't read it in years.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read What Is It Like to Be a Bat. (Seems like odd capitalizations. Laughing) I agree completely. If I was an author, I'd have written a series of books that explain, among other things, everything we've been discussing lately. In one scene, two telepaths are walking past a mound of sulphur, when one picks up thoughts coming from it. Turns out the thoughts are coming from a tiny thing that lives in the mound. It is impossible for them to understand this being's thoughts, much less communicate with it. The thoughts of a being that is born and lives its entire life within a mound of sulphur are so far outside of our experience as to be incomprenensible. It is extraordinary that the telepath recognized the presence of thoughts in the first place.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Carrying on the discussion here so we don't hijack MS's thread.]

Avatar wrote:
The universe doesn't act purposefully, any more than it cares what happens or intends for anything to happen.


That's like saying the universe doesn't act destructively, when pieces of it are destroyed. Whatever happens in the universe, we can say the universe is "acting" or behaving in this way. Purpose is a feature of the universe, because it happens in the universe. Now, that's not to say that it's a universal feature (no feature is), but it is a property of matter to come together in such a way that purpose is introduced into reality. If this is not the case, then we transcend our physical bodies (a possibility to which I remain open, though it's even harder to explain).

Avatar wrote:
Life can act purposefully, (and yes, it evolved in/from the universe) but its purpose is to live, nothing else.

We have other purposes, but they all arose from (and indeed in some sense serve) that fundamental purpose.
The purpose of life might be to live, but the purpose of consciousness is not. We can choose our own purposes, even destructive purposes which contradict our living.

If everything follows from the laws of nature, then religion and art and philosophy are all products/features of the universe. Either the possibility of these cultural entities is embedded in the laws of physics, or the hierarchal nature of physical laws means that emergent realities can't be reduced to the foundational laws, and what is happening in human consciousness can't be reduced to physics. And yet, somehow, it all rests on a foundation that can be described by physics.

Clearly, science is missing something. The laws of physics themselves can't account for all the ways that matter has come to be arranged in order to produce things like religion and philosophy. At some point, those arrangements of matter themselves contributed to their own arrangement. Purpose, telos, has structured us, to some extent. We may not have done this consciously or explicitly, but our choices have certainly shaped us. Granted, natural selection "decides" which of those choices go on to make up the future generations, so that it might seem like our choices don't matter, since nature has the final "say." But without our choices (e.g. behaviors such as mate selection), natural selection would have no alternatives from which to choose! Our purposes comprise the alternatives from which nature "selects." We are used to saying that there is no purpose behind evolution because natural selection is only the illusion of choice. Nature isn't really choosing, it's only "selection" by default (i.e. those organism which--by lucky accident--happen to be fit for their environments). But there are real choices being made here: those of living beings themselves. Thus, ours are much more real in this sense than natural "selection." Telos is only illusory in the sense of the negative selection process (i.e. the "weeding out" of inapt alternatives). In terms of the positive selection process--the choices and purposes of organisms--telos is very much real, and it played a fundamental role in producing us, for without those purpose-oriented choices, there would be nothing for nature to "select."
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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: Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
[Carrying on the discussion here so we don't hijack MS's thread.]

Avatar wrote:
The universe doesn't act purposefully, any more than it cares what happens or intends for anything to happen.


That's like saying the universe doesn't act destructively, when pieces of it are destroyed. Whatever happens in the universe, we can say the universe is "acting" or behaving in this way.


By definition the universe cannot have purpose:

Quote:

noun

1. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

a particular requirement or consideration, typically one that is temporary or restricted in scope or extent.

2. a person's sense of resolve or determination.

verb (formal)

1. have as one's intention or objective.


At least, not unless you believe that there is a god and he/she/they/it has a plan.

In the same way, the only way it can be said to be "acting" is in the sense of it having a particular effect. Every other usage of "acting" is one which is "purposeful." Having an objective.

I can't see (or accept) that the universe has an objective, (or purpose) because an objective implies a desired end, and the universe as a random collection of cause and effect has no desires or intentions or plans. It just is.


Quote:
Purpose is a feature of the universe, because it happens in the universe. Now, that's not to say that it's a universal feature (no feature is), but it is a property of matter to come together in such a way that purpose is introduced into reality. If this is not the case, then we transcend our physical bodies (a possibility to which I remain open, though it's even harder to explain).


That's quite different from saying that the universe has purpose. Rather say the universe contains things which have purpose. (Which at the moment as far as we know, is just us.)

Quote:
The purpose of life might be to live, but the purpose of consciousness is not. We can choose our own purposes, even destructive purposes which contradict our living.


Just because we can subvert that purpose through our consciousness doesn't mean that consciousness evolved for a reason. The fact that we can choose our own purposes is more a side-effect of consciousness. Very Happy If its evolution did have a purpose, wouldn't it have been to make us more likely to survive thanks to its ability to alter our circumstances in our favour?

Quote:
In terms of the positive selection process--the choices and purposes of organisms--telos is very much real, and it played a fundamental role in producing us, for without those purpose-oriented choices, there would be nothing for nature to "select."


If humans had never evolved, but other life was present, there would still be options for nature to "select" from, despite that other life not having the same sort of consciousness.

Or at least, I assume you're differentiating between the type of consciousness we have, and the type that, for example, cats have. Cats are however equally capable of "making choices" that negatively impact their survivability, so maybe you're not differentiating between sentience / self-awareness / consciousness?

--A
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