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  #11  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 12:41 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Tom, Alex, Fred:

Brain sientists Bill Calvin, in his book "How Brains Think" lays out the following hierarchy of persistent levels of organization in the human mind on page 37 in a cartoon-like diagram.

Starting below the ground (below consciousness) and working their way up they are:

Quantum Mechanics
Chemical Bonds
Bio Chemistry
Membranes
Synapses
Nerve Cells

Above ground are:

Consciousness (Which he describes as being, insight and bonding)
And at the top is the whimsical "Love is blind".

He states that quantum mechanics is to consciousness as spark plugs are to traffic jams. He suggests that the mind might be seen as something like a crystal, just ordinary matter like everything else temporarily organized in some complicated way - that ceases to have those properties if that organization is changed, as in injury or death.

Just thought this was interesting.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 12th, 2006 at 01:08 PM. Reason: Clairification
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  #12  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 01:00 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Tom, Alex, Fred,

Referring to Calvin's description in my last post (that Fred will not agree with) it seems to us that we are freely choosing from alternatives when we make behavior choices - blithely unaware of all those levels of organization down below that make the process and our limited perception of it possible.

Especially we are unaware of the strong emotions attached to our beliefs about the world that make it impossible for us to even consider some alternative ways to see it.

Because of those fundamental beliefs we hold some of us can't imagine a supernatural force at work in the universe or in our minds. Others can't imagine a universe where it is not there, endowing our special life form with the only possible capacity for morality. Whatever conclusions we draw or arguments we make they must be congruent with those beliefs in our mind. Logic has almost no power in these discussions - although each side will adamantly claim that only their view makes logical sense.

Each side is looking for logical justifications for their higher level beliefs that are being challenged and defended in this context. The only way any of us could come to the opposite conclusion about free will is to change those beliefs in our mind - and that almost never happens in adults save some life changing event like a near-death experience.

Those beliefs are a part of our identity. We would have to become a different person before we could see the question from the other side. Tom would have to become a theist or Fred would have to become an atheist. Does anyone believe that is possible? If you try to logically discredit someone's core beliefs all you will do is create anger and bitterness.

That's why I'm not interested in convincing anyone that my view (deterministic) is the correct one. These discussions become just a chance for each of us to prove that we are more clever at logically defending our higher level beliefs than our opponent. Alex is doing a great job teaching us how to speak "philosophy" and keep our definitions dry as we joust.

But for me the discussion is far more interesting at the EP level of how those beliefs get into our minds and how they can so easily overpower our intellect - no matter their connection to objective reality.

I know it's so compelling and emotionally satisfying defending our core beliefs on the intellectual field of battle. I've done plenty of that in my life. But just to shuffle the cards a bit (and probably get everyone irritated at me) I thought I'd throw in this unsettling view of intellectual impotency from the next level up.

Cheers, Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 12th, 2006 at 01:10 PM. Reason: Spelling
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  #13  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 02:01 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Free Will

Tom, I understand your fear that people with strong irrational beliefs are likely to destroy the world and us with it. I used to believe as you do that it was worthwhile opposing them.

I think we are well into a reformative cycle of civilization where strong belief systems swell in peoples minds paralyzing their ablilty to reason - until they explode in death and destruction. Maybe this time around the weapons are powerful enough that truly major changes in the ecology of our planet could result. Maybe this will be the next great extinction in Earth's "reformative" cycle. Those predicting the end times will get their way and homo sapiens will finally leave the stage.

But if history is any guide, it seems that these cycles only end after so much death and destruction is let loose that the "true believers" finally exhaust themselves. Lying in their smoking ruins they have no ability to stop the next age of enlightment and peace to bloom - or in this case perhaps the age of insecta.

Maybe I'm too old to find much hope in opposing the current wave of ideology that seems to be sweeping over us. I'll have to leave it to you youngsters to carry on as I know you will - but know that I'll be cheering you on and appreciating your efforts.

Margaret
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  #14  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 04:12 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
MM: Those beliefs are a part of our identity. We would have to become a different person before we could see the question from the other side. Tom would have to become a theist or Fred would have to become an atheist. Does anyone believe that is possible? If you try to logically discredit someone's core beliefs all you will do is create anger and bitterness.
I was an atheist for the first twenty some years of my life (I was raised an atheist), but I eventually concluded that such a worldview didn’t add up. The eminent and former atheist Antony Flew is no longer an atheist—I think he was eighty when his beliefs changed. And of course there are always those deathbed conversions.

You’ve probably heard of the Monty Hall problem, where there is a prize behind one of three doors and you guess which door—Monty then eliminates one of the two remaining doors (that obviously doesn’t have the prize) and asks if you now want to switch your choice to the other remaining door. A lot of people will strongly and emotionally argue that it doesn’t matter, that it’s a 50/50 chance whether you stay with your first choice or switch. However, many of those same people will, if they truly attempt to understand the statistics, eventually see that in fact their odds of winning will increase from 33% to 67% if they switch.

The proof of the Monty Hall problem is a kind of objective (statistical) truth, and I think that most are probably capable of comprehending such objective truth, even if it is initially contrary to their strongly held beliefs and/or presuppositions. So I’d say that people certainly can and do change their beliefs, especially when they perceive an objective truth that is contrary to those beliefs.

OTH, if you’re convinced that there is no “objective truth” and/or that we humans lack free will, then I suppose that could effectively lock you into those beliefs. (Similar in some ways to fundamentalists convinced that their understanding of their “inerrant” scriptures and sovereign God is the only absolute truth; and why I generally view religious fundamentalism and most varieties of atheism to be equally small-minded and intolerant.)
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  #15  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 04:34 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Hmm. I'm not sure what to say. When philosophers (or lay people) make claims about chemical substances or biological kinds the scientists brush us off 'why on earth should philosophy (people's pre-theorietical intuitions) be able to help! the answer is an empirical matter and involves us getting up off our armchairs and actually taking a look at the world'.

and this is correct.

scientists are authorative about the natural world because they conduct SYSTEMATIC INVESTIGATION into its nature.

but when scientists start speculating about the nature of knowledge or justice or free will... they think that philosophers are no more authorative than the common man. and this is laughable really because it is things such as these that are the appropriate subject matter for philosophy.

philosophers are authorative about these topics because they conduct SYSTEMATIC INVESTIGATION into its nature.

the distinctions may seem dry and boring...
but i think it is more to the point that philosophy is HARD. it requires a lot of EFFORT to come to grasp the distinctions and grasp the terminology and what is meant by the terminology that is used.

philosophers don't do this just because they can. just like the physicists don't draw distinctions like 'proton' and 'electron' and 'neutron' just because they can. those distinctions are drawn for a reason. so we can better understand the lay of the land. if you don't grasp the terminology of physics it makes it jolly hard to have a conversation about physics. if you don't grasp the terminology of chemistry it makes it jolly hard to have a conversation about chemistry. indeed... if you don't grasp the terminology then you can't even grasp the lay of the land.

and philosophy is the same... though people typically don't like this... but what on earth do they think philosophers learn about? it isn't people just yakking like we are doing now... it is a serious intellectual discipline with a body of knowledge that consists in a map. a map of the lay of the land. there is no 'the' answer. but there are various answers that have been offered. they each have strengths (which is why it is worth learning about them) and they each have weaknesses (which is why the problem hasn't been solved yet). you need to grasp the lay of the land BEFORE trying to take the good, abandon the bad, and come up with your own coherant theory.

any first year textbook in philosophy consists in such distinctions to grasp the lay of the land.

i don't consider myself authorative when it comes to biology, or evolutionary psychology. i don't know very much at all. but when it comes to free will i have a fair grasp of the lay of the land.

boring maybe...

but who said philosophy was going to be easy?

depends on whether you really want to know. or whether you are more interested in justifying your pre-theorietical intuitions i suppose...

but i didn't really come here to talk philosophy... i have enough peoples IRL who i can learn from.. and i don't want to teach... i want to research...
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  #16  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 04:39 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

just like the 'real' vs 'constructionist' debate.

if you think those two options are mutually exclusive then you are wrong.

i know of at least two varieties of realism.
i know of at least three varieties of constructivism.
and i know of one view... that lies somewhere in the middle (which is actually the one i favour)

but how can you have a well thought out view if you don't even grasp your possible options?

i object to PLATONIC realism.

because PLATONIC realism implies that there is this OTHER REALM OF FORMS where things exist in their IDEAL STATE.

i'm not opposed to other varieties of realism.

and as for constructivism... there are stronger and weaker versions of that. the weakest version is true (trivially)

There is a sense in which ALL concepts are social constructions because WORDS and the IDEAS conveyed by words... are products of our social and cultural evolution.

sigh.
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  #17  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 06:29 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
We typically consider acts of type one (I hope I remember this the correct way) free. We typically consider acts of type two not free.
I guess I'm not typical. I do not consider any of those acts as free, in ANY sense. We accept 'innocent by reason of insanity', something in the person's 'psychology' 'drove' them to pull the trigger. I'm insisting that this is just a darker shade of gray. ANY choice we make is driven by our psychology at the time. That we punch the guy instead of shooting him is different in the eyes of society because of the relative consequences, and the non-shooter is seen as being a 'better' person, but there's nothing different besides the brain that made that choice (and I know you'd agree with that).

I'm willing to concede that humans can choose, I've used that term before; that the choice is predetermined does not make the consequences any less deserved nor the result any less important. We can, however, pity the perpetrator rather than fear or hate him.
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
There is choice. But the choice is determined. There is no contradiction unless you thump on the table and say 'but choice isn't allowed to be determined by definition!!!!!'.
OK, we agree. But this, to me, is not FREE will. If you want to stick with 'choice', that's exactly what it is; but it's not FREE choice, as you have noted. Using Margaret's computer, one chooses door #1, but could not do otherwise. Yikes, I liked your answer in the other thread much better.

If Compatibilism is determinism + choice, I'm with you. If Compatibilism is determinism + free will, you're right, I have not read enough mind-muddling philosophy books to see those as anything but diametrically opposed statements, and I can't support the term.

And you're right in your posts in the other thread. I have little tolerance for philosophy that takes common words and then defines them so differently that you have to read volumes to figure out that they're saying something completely different. Defining a term 'compatibilism' is a great idea, using terms that are opposed: 'determinism' and 'free will', is not as much a great idea. Someone must have changed the meaning of one of them to the point where they probably ought to create a new word.

As long as I can focus on our identical definition of 'determinism', I can politely ignore your still-nebulous distinction in 'free will' that rubs my neurons the wrong way... Great posts, and thanks!!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandra_k
regarding the 'maybe free will can arise from quantum indeterminicies' idea. Sorry... but that is a bad idea...
Agreed. I stupidly offered a straw man from you that I don't support myself. I shouldn't have wasted our time. And yet, I'm wasting still more by apologizing for it!!!
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  #18  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 06:35 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
So on the one hand we humans lack free will in an indifferent world of a blind deterministic and/or random physical forces and genetic replication; and yet, nevertheless, it’s somehow my “illusions” (what, that 1+1=2 and that the infinite number of primes are objective truths?) that will cause our ultimate demise? Wow, that is scary, and so unfair somehow . . . or maybe it’s just laughable.
Thanks, Fred. I'm glad you replied and didn't insult me directly.

Math and primes are deemed 'objective truths' only because most everyone agrees and probably because everyone can work it out pretty much by themselves. Your extrapolation of someone's idea of entropy to mean God the Father Who Art in Heaven, is somewhat LESS than objective, at least to me because I do not accept it. So when you typed the number '1', it wasn't as cut and dried to me as it must have been to you. I'm actually quite good in math .

And, yes, my belief that we humans evolved many moral concepts all by ourselves allows me to treat everyone with respect and fondness. Your precept of everyone sinning and needing to bend to your imaginary beliefs (or what???) is what is scary. And not only because it puts everyone in the position of unearned shame.

Just let go. We are on the whole 'nice' people, otherwise we wouldn't have lasted long enough to evolve so far.
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  #19  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 06:37 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
Quantum Mechanics
Chemical Bonds
Bio Chemistry
Membranes
Synapses
Nerve Cells

Above ground are:

Consciousness (Which he describes as being, insight and bonding)
And at the top is the whimsical "Love is blind".
Good post, thanks. I'm glad that you included "Quantum Mechanics" so I can reiterate that I don't think they apply to the point of affecting social determinism.
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  #20  
Unread February 12th, 2006, 06:41 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free Will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
That's why I'm not interested in convincing anyone that my view (deterministic) is the correct one. These discussions become just a chance for each of us to prove that we are more clever at logically defending our higher level beliefs than our opponent. Alex is doing a great job teaching us how to speak "philosophy" and keep our definitions dry as we joust.
Great points. This may sound clueless, or dishonest, or worse, but my goal is not to change Fred. I'm concerned about those who might read this in the future and have not yet formed such immovable views; I want them to know there's an alternative to Fred's view. That they don't have to kneel before an invisible god, or worse. I was hoping to get less qualified agreement so there wouldn't be an appearance of disagreement for those who don't take the time to delve into it. I'm very happy with the level of qualified agreement from you and Alexandra.

Besides, I KNOW that I'm "more clever at logically defending our higher level beliefs", just ask my kids. I'm practically perfect in every way .
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