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*sigh* The illusion of free will
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Fist and Faith
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh crap. I've been busy with so many things lately. I've been writing a response to your last post, bit by bit, as I've had time. Now this. Laughing. Well, all the same topic, so I'll just respond once.

As soon as I can.

Honestly, it seems I cannot get enough of this topic. It's only what I consider to be the most fascinating and important of all topics. (Also the most frustrating.) I'm in it for the long haul!
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't feel like you have to address every point in detail. The latter post is probably more important than the former. The question about genetic engineering unites all my points into one. Taking over the process of our own evolution means either a) the universe itself is aware, intelligent, purposeful and free, or b) we are aware, intelligent, purposeful and free. It *is* happening. Someone has to be responsible. If not us, then something even more fantastic.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I barely know how to begin. Laughing I think part of what I see as the problem of your position is covered by Dr. Manhattan:
Quote:
Thermodynamic miracles... events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold... that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.
How many rapes are in my genetic history? How many people had to sail from different parts of Europe in what seem to me to be not much more than canoes in order to meet way the heck over on this continent in order to have sex at the exact moment with the exact sperm and egg meeting so their child could travel a couple hundred miles on horse and run into this other person and... It's not possible for me to exist. Go back 10,000 years and we have no means to imagining who will exist today. But it happened exactly as it happened, against a googol-to-one odds.

It seems to me you are looking at this impossibly complex thing - the mind - from the end, and saying it could not have come about.

But maybe all of that is not what you think, and I wasted time writing it. Well, I did write it, and it is Dr. Manhattan, so I'll leave it there. Laughing Still, I think it's more accurate to say you believe the mind cannot exist within, or maybe cannot have come from, the natural laws we know. So I'll try to address those ideas, using this as my starting off point...

Zarathustra wrote:
Fist and Faith wrote:
We can examine every atom in a computer, and have no idea of what it is about to do. The same is true of the brain. Not being able to predict what a brain will do by examining every atom in it is not evidence that the mind is anything other than the brain's activity.
I thought that by determinism you mean that if we understood a system down to its atomic level, we'd understand everything about it. If you know its current state, and the laws describing its change of state, then you ought to be able to predict its next state ... unless something more is going on that reductionism doesn't capture. For the brain, I believe this "something more" that you can't capture is the subjective content of experience (which influences one state to the next). It won't show up under any objective examination of the positions of atoms. The content of a computer program, however, would.

Therefore, since there would exist something that can't be described deterministically in terms of objective matter, then mind is indeed something more than the brain functioning.
Argh. Sorry. I didn't word it very well. I meant we can't predict what a computer is about to do by examining every atom. We could be on the holodeck, surrounded by a holo-representation of every atom in a computer. (Whatever scale we want. Atoms appearing the size of grains of sand, or basketballs, or whatever.) I don't imagine anyone would even know it was a computer, much less understand it to the degree we're talking about.

But an intellect VAAAAAAAASTLY greater than ours would. A great enough intelligence could understand what this group of atoms over here is currently doing, and how that will affect these atoms, and how electrons will move over here, then these atoms will do this, etc. And this intelligence would understand how that translates to the computer's operations.

And yes, I think the same can be said of the brain. Any number of things that might seem to poke holes in my position can be brought up. The problem with all of them is that they all exist within this reality. Therefore, the properties/characteristics of this reality are the answer.

-The mind controls the body.
-It does not do so by means other than bio-electrical/chemical.
-It cannot use those means without being of those means.
-If it is of those means, it is subject to the same properties/characteristics as everything else made of those means.

That's where we will find the answers to the tough questions. I can come up with a scenario for how anything came about, whether it's the mind or the rules of baseball. The degree to which my answers are not satisfactory are due to the fact that I am not the right person to be answering. I'm not an expert in one damned thing, and all of this stuff is way beyond me. But the answer must be in this stuff. The alternative is supernatural, by the literal definition. Beyond the laws of nature. But we know all of this is part of nature, so it cannot be beyond nature's laws.

And why should we think this is all beyond the laws of nature? With all the we've seen happen so far, all built from particles? Quarks and gluons join together be make protons and neutrons. Groups of protons and neutrons circled by electrons somehow manage to join together in specific ways, until we have RNA. Non-living, self-replicating. Eventually forming DNA. Somewhere along the line becoming living. How much of that sounds possible? And yet, out of that, comes us, life with minds of great awareness. It's the latest stage in an amazing progression. All driven by the ways particles interact. Yes, "higher" systems arise from "lower" systems. But the higher are not independent of the lower; they are merely an easier way for us to understand, and operate in, the higher level. We know how the particles behave when they are in groups we call "flesh", and in groups we call "metal". A surgeon does not need to understand how the scalpel's atoms separate the molecules of the flesh. But that's exactly what is happening, and it's happening because of the way particles interact. The antibiotic works by killing the bacteria. But it does so via some bizarre crap like hydroxyl radicals destroying the lipids and proteins in the cell walls of the bacteria. You can kill someone by not letting them breath. But that means the red blood cells could not pick up oxygen molecules and take them to the brain where they do whatever the hell they do there.

Now you say: "Yes, but this other phenomenon - the mind - is not like every other phenomenon."
And I say: "Neither is life."
You: "But life can be explained by the laws you're talking about. The mind cannot."
Me: "The mind exists in, and continually interacts with, those laws. It is part of those laws. It cannot not be. The explanation cannot be elsewhere. We just haven't come to understand it yet."

Pugh again: "If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't."

There is no freedom from the realm of particles. The mind is entirely dependent on them. We can easily demonstrate this by removing or adding particles (brain injury, hormones/chemicals), and watching the mind change. Or disappear.

So that's what I think. Now you ask this:
Zarathustra wrote:
What's the difference between a) natural selection shaping our genes and b) humans shaping their own genes through genetic engineering--if everything reduces down to particles/forces/fields?
This conversation brings to mind an episode of Colombo. He needed to prove this guy did not have ESP. But the guy pulled off an amazing trick. Colombo was being helped by this kid who was an aspiring magician. The kid said something like, "To figure it out, we have to remember it's not real. He doesn't have ESP. It's a trick."

I'm not saying we're dealing with an illusion. I'm saying we know what our starting point is. We have to build the answer from particles up, and never forget that it all comes down to particles. When we look for the answer outside of the ways nature works, we have gone off track. We know this, because the mind, controlling the physical body by physical means, reveals that it is of the same system.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 3:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Lee Smolin Public Lecture: Time Reborn (75 min.)

Quote:
What is time? Is our perception of time passing an illusion which hides a deeper, timeless reality? Or is it real, indeed, the most real aspect of our experience of the world? Perimeter Institute Faculty member Lee Smolin examines these and other timely questions from his book Time Reborn during his April, 2013 Perimeter Institute Public Lecture.

Smolin's new book, co-authored with Roberto Mangabeira Unger, is The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Singular-Universe-Reality-Time-Philosophy/dp/1107074061

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
I'm not saying we're dealing with an illusion. I'm saying we know what our starting point is. We have to build the answer from particles up, and never forget that it all comes down to particles.


The point, as I hope the above-posted video will begin to make clear, is that we don't "know" any such thing about "starting points" (that is, nothing other than the "real-world/real-life/common sense" starting point I mentioned on the last page of this thread).

Unless you can produce the scientist who was able to step outside of the Universe ("on the top of the world looking down on creation") in order to test the whole thing (as an Object for his transcendental Subjectivity), then there is simply no scientific content to these dogmatic statements about "starting points" or "fundamental substrates". They simply have no scientific warrant. It's bad philosophy masquerading as hard science.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we know a few things. I don't think the only way to learn anything about reality is to leave it and look back at it.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
It seems to me you are looking at this impossibly complex thing - the mind - from the end, and saying it could not have come about. ... I think it's more accurate to say you believe the mind cannot exist within, or maybe cannot have come from, the natural laws we know.
Correct only in the sense of, "the natural laws we know." It's time to expand our knowledge of natural laws.

Quote:
-The mind controls the body.
-It does not do so by means other than bio-electrical/chemical.
-It cannot use those means without being of those means.
-If it is of those means, it is subject to the same properties/characteristics as everything else made of those means.


Taking one at a time:

1. Fact. This (apparently) happens in conscious, intentional actions. Unless one claims it's illusion, it's a fact. [Edit: HOWEVER! I don't see how it's possible according to your view. Isn't it more accurate for you to say that the body is controlling the body, since the mind is (allegedly) entirely dependent upon the body? In this case, conscious/willful control of body is an illusion ... which also leaves you unable to characterize the difference between genetic engineering and natural selection.]

2. Assumption (= materialism, reductionism). We don't know exactly how mind works as a causal agent, i.e. how mental phenomena cause material effects. More importantly, mental states seem to cause other mental states, and this causation follows patterns that are ideal/formal, not physical (such as meaningful thought leading to meaningful thought, or mathematical insight leading to mathematical insight). It's not clear how that happens. The underlying "baseline" of consciousness may very well be an entirely bottom-up construction, while the content of that baseline phenomenon flows in ways that aren't bottom-up.

3. Assumption. I think this is the basis of your reductionism. Mind is produced by the body, and it affects the body. It doesn't seem that two entirely different "substances" (in the Cartesian sense) could possibly interact. Thus, it seems we have only two options: this interaction is illusion, or one substance reduces to the other.

However, there is a third option, neutral monism. Perhaps they are the same substance, a substance exhibiting both mental and physical properties. Or perhaps mind is an emergent quality of matter that is "greater than the sum of its parts" even though those parts are nothing other than physical. In the former case, you could have a neutral reductionism; in the latter case you could have no reductionism. I'm not sure which I believe.

The point is that just because something "uses those means" and is "of those means" doesn't prove anything about nature of the underlying substances, but only their functioning. Clearly, something weird is happening.

Quote:

The degree to which my answers are not satisfactory are due to the fact that I am not the right person to be answering. ... But the answer must be in this stuff. The alternative is supernatural, by the literal definition.
This is dogma and/or a failure of imagination. Materialist reductionism isn't the only possible way for things to be "natural." That's an assumption, based on the success it has had under Newtonian physics. But we've known for 100 year now (due to quantum mechanics) that this metaphysics is naive.

Quote:
Me: "The mind exists in, and continually interacts with, those laws. It is part of those laws. It cannot not be. The explanation cannot be elsewhere. We just haven't come to understand it yet."
Why are you so certain about something you don't understand? Don't you see how that is a philosophical position, and not a scientific one? I get it, you've committed. You have picked an ontology. But your refusal to admit any other alternative is dogmatic.

Quote:
There is no freedom from the realm of particles. The mind is entirely dependent on them. We can easily demonstrate this by removing or adding particles (brain injury, hormones/chemicals), and watching the mind change. Or disappear.


While mind is dependent upon particles (i.e. they are necessary causes), it is not entirely dependent upon them (i.e. they aren't sufficient causes). Mind is also dependent upon immaterial things like meaning, ideas, intentions, etc. There are necessary constituent structures, phenomenological structures, without which there would be no consciousness. For instance, without conscious of something, there is no consciousness. That "something" (the intentional object) is hardly ever a particle (except when we're thinking of particles).

Quote:
I'm saying we know what our starting point is. We have to build the answer from particles up, and never forget that it all comes down to particles. When we look for the answer outside of the ways nature works, we have gone off track. We know this, because the mind, controlling the physical body by physical means, reveals that it is of the same system.
We clearly don't know everything about the universe, so we can't say definitively "how nature works." Just because starting from particles and working our way up works for some inanimate objects doesn't mean it works for everything.

I'm pointing out anomalous phenomena. If current science doesn't explain anomalies, there are two possibilities: either we're not trying hard enough with current science, or science needs to be updated with something even better. In the history of science, we've done both. But you're saying now that we can only do one.

I think it's time for a paradigm revolution. (We haven't had one for at least 100 years!) And I believe it's necessary because the phenomena we're talking about aren't only complex, they also exhibit properties that seem to be of an entirely different reality than the tools we're using to explain them. Again, how is it possible, even in principle, for matter to arrange by purposeless laws into bodies that operate purposefully? If our starting point is particles, then it can never get us to the end, because particles are never purposeful.

I think you've got the wrong starting point. What's given is the phenomenon of consciousness. Particles are just ideas we use to explain things, including that phenomenon. We assume they're real, but even in our explanations, they're not real until we measure them, which requires consciousness. So maybe we should have been starting with consciousness all along.
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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: Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, another double post. (I don't think about this except in large chunks.)

Let's consider "sideways causation," or mental states causing mental states.

According to your view, this can't happen. A mental state containing the thought, "I'm going to figure out the sum of 567 and 678," couldn't be the cause of the mental state containing the thought, "Ah, so the answer is 1245." Instead, according to your view, what's actually happening is that some neural activity A is causing other neural activity B, and A just so happens to contain the first thought, while B just so happens to contain the second thought. The actual link between those two neural states couldn't be the conceptual numbers themselves, but would have to be explained entirely in terms of physics and chemistry, since it's impossible to ever be free of these rules, as you say.

But then how do we arrive at the right answer? How do we know the answer is right? According to your view, there's no relation between the mental states, only a causal relationship between neural activity. But the neurons don't know what they represent. So why do they fire in just this way to produce just these states? Is it just a coincidence that they seem to be doing calculus and algebra when all they're really doing is following natural laws (physics, chemistry)?

In fact, according to your view, mental states would be like epiphenomena, having no more connection between them than the shapes one might draw on a wall with a flashlight. The connections would be mere illusions "floating on top of" causal factors that are in truth much deeper.
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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: Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now THAT is gonna give me trouble! Nicely done. The specific idea, worded just so. Not sure I'll be able to talk my way out of that one. I started my response to your first post, but I'm going to concentrate on the second now.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Fist and Faith wrote:
I think we know a few things. I don't think the only way to learn anything about reality is to leave it and look back at it.


So, the choice is either 1) the absolute knowledge of a reductive model or 2) no knowledge whatsoever?

Granted, you seemed to be hinting as much when you'd asked "What is the alternative? If that is not how these things work, how do they?".

But as I'd said, maybe "these things" are just that: i.e. "these things". Maybe a cat "works" by being a cat — by simply exhibiting catness (Katniss?!?) — and not by some "really real" hiding behind a derivative "so-called real". Do you really want to commit to the view that this is "no knowledge whatsoever" (nescience)?
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