Intelligent Design

Well, So Long As They Are Not Just Any Old Preferences

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This will be my last post on this subject.  In the comments to my prior post, groovamos wrote a comment that contains a personal history followed by a gut wrenching story (which is in bold):

I am in no sense as qualified as most on this thread to debate philosophy. However as one who embraced materialism TWICE in my youth, separated by a 3 year period of interest in mysticism, I’ll have a go.

At the end of sophomore year I had converted to the typical campus leftist stance of the day, cultural zeitgeist being the driver, sexual license sealing the deal. Not outwardly religious as a kid, I quickly gave up belief in a supreme being. And just as naturally I gave up any belief in ‘truth’ as something relevant to all human activity, and sure enough out the window was any belief in ‘evil’ as a concept. Soon enough I found that lying was acceptable as long as it was me doing it. Especially since I was self assured as one with a degree in a difficult discipline (hip too, self-styled). And who enjoyed hedonistic pursuits and shallow short term relationships. And lying sort of fit into the whole picture.

But here is the interesting part looking back on it. Whenever I would read in the news of acts of insane depravity and wickedness, I would go into a mentally confused state and would feel like I had no bearings in order to process what I had just encountered. It was extremely uncomfortable. I’m talking about the acts of Jeffery Dahmer, and others. One of these I remember that particularly caused me disorientation as if I, the atheist, were the one that might risk insanity just thinking about it (in the early ’80′s).

In this particular case the police arrived at a house where a man had just dismembered and sliced up his mom, her screams having been heard by neighbors. The man did not notice the police had entered and was found masturbating with a section of rectum he had excised. When asked how he had disposed of his mother’s breasts, he said “I think I ate them”.

Congrats to any atheist on here finding the story ‘unfavorable’. Congrats on your faith that someday ‘science’ will discover every event in the long chain for that experience. ‘Science’, answering all questions, will describe for you every neural, synaptic event, every action potential, every detailed cascade of chemical analogues and concentration gradients in your visual system and brain. And you will know EXACTLY the complete ‘science’ behind your disfavoring the story, so it will fit like a glove over your materialist philosophy, and maybe even reveal why the guy did it. And if you are a little disoriented, like I seriously was, you may be saved from that in future by ‘science’.

In the very next comment Mark Frank writes (Mark added the bold, not I):

The OP quotes me but omits a paragraph which I think is important. Here is the complete text:

As a materialist and subjectivist I agree with Seversky:

A ) Personal preferences can be reduced to the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of each person’s brain.

B) There is no such thing as objective good and evil.

C) Statements about good and evil are expressions of personal preferences.

(I would add the proviso that these are not any old preferences. They are altruistic preferences that are deeply seated in human nature and are supported by evidence and reasoning. They are also widely, but not universally, shared preferences so they are often not competing.)

Now, of course, the point of this entire exercise has been to demonstrate a truth, which I will illustrate by the following hypothetical dialogue between Mark and the man in groovamos’s story (let’s call him “John” for convenience):***

Mark: John, dismembering and eating your mother is evil, and by ‘evil’ I mean ‘that which I do not personally prefer as a result of impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of my brain.”

John: But Mark, I preferred to dismember and eat my mother. Otherwise I would not have done it; no one forced me to after all. Therefore, under your own definition of good and evil it was “good,” which you tell me means ‘that which I personally prefer as a result of impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of my brain.”

Mark: Not so fast John, I would add a proviso that my preference is not just any old preference. It is an altruistic preference that is deeply seated in human nature and is supported by evidence and reasoning. It is also widely, but not universally, shared. And your preference is none of these things.

John: Are you saying that your preference not to dismember and eat your mother, which preference resulted from the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of your brain, is objectively and demonstrably good, and that therefore my preference to dismember and eat my mother, which preference also resulted from the impulses caused by the electro-chemical processes of my brain, is objectively and demonstrably evil?

Mark: Of course not. There is no such thing as objective good and evil.

John: Well at least you are being consistent, because we both know the electro-chemical system in your brain just is. And as Hume demonstrated long ago, “ought” cannot be grounded in “is.” Your preference just is. My preference just is. Neither is objectively superior to the other.

Mark: Certainly that follows from my premises.

John: You can say your preference is “good” but if good is defined as that which you prefer you are saying nothing more than “my preference is my preference.” Your little proviso, Mark, does not make your preference anything other than your preference; certainly it does not demonstrate that it is in any way more good than my preference. So, my question to you is, why do you insist on the proviso?

Mark: _____________ [I will let Mark answer that]

I will give my answer as to why Mark insists on his proviso. He has the same problem Russell did: “I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.” Russell on Ethics 165/Papers 11: 310–11.

Russell was incapable of believing the conclusions that followed ineluctably from his own premises. Dissonance ensued. For most people materialism requires self deception to deal with the dissonance of saying they believe something that it is not possible for a sane person to believe. Thus WJM’s dictum: “No sane person acts as if materialism is true.”

So why does Mark insist on his proviso that in the end makes absolutely zero difference to the conclusion that must follow from his premises? He is trying to cope with his dissonance.

If my premises required me to engage in acts of self-deception in order to cope with dissonance, I hope I would reexamine them.

___________
***I am not saying Mark has said or would say any of these things. I am saying that the words I put in his mouth follow from his premises. If he does not believe they do, I invite him to demonstrate why they do not

224 Replies to “Well, So Long As They Are Not Just Any Old Preferences

  1. 1
    Roy says:

    Debating with hypothetical opponents is so much easier than debating with real ones.

    UDEditors: Roy, do you have something substantive to add or do you just want to whine and snipe? I invited Mark to tell us if anything I said does not follow from his premises. He is a real opponent and can comply with that request if he likes. Or you, if you had the intellectual capacity to do anything other than post the blog comment equivalent of sheep-like bleating noises, could show me how the statements do not follow from materialist premises.

  2. 2
    ebenezer says:

    Roy @ 1:

    Well, it’s not like a real opponent has no opportunity to debate… perhaps “debating with” “hypothetical opponents” is kinder than in some mysterious way compelling debate with real ones?

    I am not saying Mark has said or would say any of these things. I am saying that the words I put in his mouth follow from his premises. If he does not believe they do, I invite him to demonstrate why they do not

    It appears that the entire point of the post is to give Mr. Frank an opportunity to respond, particularly if the “hypothetical opponents” don’t accurately represent his argument…

  3. 3
    Tim says:

    I ask any who have read it to recall Crime and Punishment:

    Groovamos’ dissonance . . .
    Rodya’s fever . . .

    That which can be rationalized and that which will not be reasoned away.

    Raskolnikov, the scientist, never justified nor redeemed through personal preference and idiosyncratic reasoning, but then through the “punishment” and his loved-one.

    I only mention it to remind us all that literature and narrative can inform our experience in a way that science does not.

  4. 4
    bFast says:

    “John: But Mark, I preferred to dismember and eat my mother.”
    Materialist: That’s fine. However we as a society have decided (based upon our electric impulses, and our scientific analysis and all that) that our society is a much better place if folks that make mother-eating preferences be cordoned off from society. We therefore prefer to through you into the gulag.

    BTW, we have decided that other members of our society who may get hungry for mom-steak will have different input parameters if they understand how we will respond to mother-eating behavior. Therefore, we will publish your fate far and wide.

    Mother-eating is not necesssarily compatible with freedom within society to the materialist.

    (Feels really funny to speak of such horrid events in such a cavalier way. However, I think that the main difference between the materialistic view and the theistic view is exactly this — the materialist should be very much more “matter of fact”.)

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Barry Arrington says:

    BFast, your comment boils down to “we can compel you to abide by our subjective preferences and/or punish you if you don’t.” In other words, “might makes right.”

    You are absolutely correct. That is how materialist ethics works in practice.

  7. 7
    bFast says:

    In other words, “might makes right.” As long as we recognize that community makes might. This, of course, is the core of our most cherished institution — democracy.

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    “This, of course, is the core of our most cherished institution — democracy.”

    Nonsense. The American founders recognized that a pure democracy (otherwise known as mob rule) is worse than a monarchy and inherently unstable. That’s why they established a constitutional republic with checks and balances on the whims of the mob.

  9. 9
    Mark Frank says:

    #2 ebenezer

    It appears that the entire point of the post is to give Mr. Frank an opportunity to respond, particularly if the “hypothetical opponents” don’t accurately represent his argument…

    As Barry knows, I am not getting into any further debates with him unless he undertakes to avoid some debating practices which make the whole process unpleasant and unproductive.

    UDEditors: Mark you can post or not as you choose. If you don’t it is not because you are unable to; it is because you are unwilling. You can hide behind “Barry is a meanie” if that makes you feel better. But we all know the real reason.

  10. 10
    nightlight says:

    Your preference just is. My preference just is. Neither is objectively superior to the other.

    That conclusion doesn’t follow at all.

    If “objectively superior” is defined as superior functionality (e.g. more efficiently functioning societies or individuals), then some preferences are “objectively superior” to others.

    Just as conventional computer programs and algorithms can be ranked by functionality, speed, memory consumption,… etc, so can be the programs and algorithms, including those implementing ‘moral judgment’ functionality, running in the neural networks formed by human neurons.

    Hence, it all comes down to the definition of the attribute “objectively superior” i.e. the utility function one chooses for the ranking. But once you decide on what utility function to use, there is no problem finding some of ethical programs and algorithms “objectively superior” to others.

  11. 11
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,

    That is how materialist ethics works in practice.

    Why don’t we skip the strawmen and semantic games and get to the point you really want to make: Materialists (by which you really mean atheists) have no fear of God, which makes them more likely to do bad things. You can play amateur philosopher all day long, but you and I both know this is exactly what you think. (And you really are an extremely poor amateur philosopher, by the way).

    You are dead wrong. People’s morality is not determined by religion, pure and simple. Theists, deists, athiests, agnostics, ignostics, and people who couldn’t care less about theological issues all have the same essential morality in the overwhelmingly vast percentage of cases. You and I have radically different views on politics, religion, science, and philosophy, but we agree on morality to a huge extent. Murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, theft, extortion, assault – we both abhor all of these things. Charity, fairness, honesty, compassion, justice – we both cherish all of these things. We both call the things we judge against “evil”, and we both call the things we approve of “good”.

    Neither of us chose to abhor the things we think are evil, and neither of us could possibly choose not to abhor these things. It makes no difference at all if our choices are free in a libertarian sense, or if our brains operate according to neural impulses or res cogitans. We both have strong moral perceptions and that is what determines what we call right and wrong.

    You tell me I have no logical reason to make moral judgments, and I tell you that you don’t either. You pretend that you have some logical, rational, objective basis for your morality, and that I don’t, and I tell you that you are completely confused and that you have no such thing at all. I tell you that making up a god and deciding that he tells you what to do doesn’t make your morality any more objective than mine, and you call me an idiot, and around we go…. But in the end, we both feel the same way about what is right and wrong.

    What about the moral issues we disagree about? Perhaps we disagree about abortion, or gay marriage, or drug laws. You must know that people of the same religion – even the same denomination – disagree about these things too. If you think people are wrong if they use recreational marijuana, that doesn’t derive from your theistic morality – it just comes from your innate moral sense, period. The constant moral judgments you make day in and day out do not derive logically from your objective moral axioms, and you should stop pretending that they do. So stop telling others that they can’t use the words “right” and “wrong” unless they believe in some god – it’s a really stupid thing to say.

    Your attempt to demonize people who don’t believe in the same god you believe is wrong, in exactly the sense I have just described. You should stop it. Judge people on their actions, and on their intentions, and stop pretending this is only possible if you believe in a god. Don’t judge people on their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs. You would be a better person.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  12. 12
    eigenstate says:

    From a materialist standpoint, the conversation here has been conspicuously “non-scientific”, from the materialist side.

    I don’t think RDFish (or others who agree with his position) is correct when he says that all moral convictions are subjective, or based in preference, where by “preference” is meant some degree of freedom in choosing between moral alternatives as “the right” or “the wrong”.

    Scientifically, and empirically, humans have ingrained, visceral, natural dispositions that are no more “preferred” or “chosen” than the color of their irises, their being straight, gay or some combination of both, or the color of their hair.

    If you try experiments with toddlers on fairness, for example in giving a cookie to two of three toddlers at the table, and leaving one conspicuously out of the equation — no cookie for you!, you find repeated, ubiquitous patterns of response. Such experiments evoke an emotional and cognitive predisposition toward what we generally call “fairness”.

    This is an objective fact about evolved human nature.

    Similar experiments can be done showing the evolved human propensity for compassion or empathy or jealousy or greed, and these can be done with very young children, just to satisfy concerns that these dispositions might be culturally acquired.

    We are wired with what we might call “moral sensibilities”. Demonstrably.

    This is what theist construes superstitiously as a “God-given conscience”, or more flamboyantly in some cases, the “imago dei”. From a materialist (and scientific) standpoint, this moral disposition of humans is just biology in action. It’s perfectly binding on the human — no human mind or preference can make the disposition otherwise.

    This is “objective morality” in the materialist understanding.

    These dispositions, however, are not wired into humans as an announced creed, or a set of predicates articulated in any human language. They are “instincts” and operate at more fundamental and often subliminal levels.

    Humans, as evolved beings, are quite diverse in their particulars. Some are more empathetic, some are more greedy by nature, some are “pathological”, and have natural dispositions that put them far afield from more common configurations, outliers in the phase space.

    This makes “empathy”, and “greed”, objective facts about human populations. Even if we might find an individual devoid of empathy or greed (good luck with that), it does not change the objective fact about human populations: humans are wired for fundamental “goods” and “bads” as a result of our evolutionary history.

    So there is no “good’ and ‘bad’ in the childish, cartoonish sense imagined by Christians. “Objective morality” in that sense is a fiction, an imaginary construct. But man as evolved animal is inescapably bound to moral dispositions at the core of his (collective) nature. As social animals, it cannot be otherwise, for these dispositions are the instruments and resources of social interaction.

    That makes many moral questions difficult, or even intractable. The objective basis for human morality is biological, and base, and emotional. So it’s not an oracle, or a magic 8 ball that can be consulted for universally consistent answers on particular and complicated question. Mileage varies from person to person, and culture plays a large role as the human grows and matures.

    But we are wired for moral thinking and moral responses by evolution, just as we are wired for two arms and two legs. It is no less mutable or less objective than that. Subjective preferences and degrees of freedom certainly do come into play in making moral and ethical choices, but they ride on top of human nature, which is objectively what-it-is and provides the foundation for any such choices on top of it.

    And no god needed for any this.

    Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that the question then is not “What makes those evolved dispositions ‘good'”. That has it backwards. “Good” or “Evil” are only grounded semantically in our objective, natural, evolved psychology. It’s not “evil” for a hawk to “murder” a mouse it catches in a field — that poor innocent mouse. To suppose so is to confuse human nature for “hawk nature”. What we are, objectively, is the basis for “good” and “bad”. It is the grounds for our values, not the other way around.

  13. 13
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quoting R D Fish addressing Barry Arrington:

    Your [Arrington’s] attempt to demonize people who don’t believe in the same god you believe is wrong, in exactly the sense I have just described. You should stop it. Judge people on their actions, and on their intentions, and stop pretending this is only possible if you believe in a god. Don’t judge people on their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs. You would be a better person.

    I hope Mr Arrington pauses for breath and reads this carefully.

  14. 14
    SteRusJon says:

    nightlight @ 10

    “But once you decide on what utility function to use” sounds kinda subjective to me.

    Just wondering how you can get an objective superiority out of a subjective decision? 🙂

    Stephen

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    eigenstate:

    From a materialist standpoint, the conversation here has been conspicuously “non-scientific”, from the materialist side.

    Materialism is non-scientific. What science is there to discuss?

    But we are wired for moral thinking and moral responses by evolution,…

    Talk about non-scientific declarations…

  16. 16
    Graham2 says:

    eigenstate: we are wired for moral thinking and moral responses by evolution

    That, in 1 phrase, summarises everything.

    Barry, et al, please read that phrase over and over and over until it sinks in.

  17. 17
    Roy says:

    I have no desire to enter into a debate with anyone whose debate style includes abandoning discussions and starting new threads entitled “X is an idiot”, particularly since the potential debatee ignored my initial request for clarification, and has repeatedly refused to allow their own views on the subject to be scrutinised, instead insisting that only the views of others are to be debated. The only reason I can think for limiting debate in this way is because the debatee knows their own views are untenable and will be ripped to shreds.

    If you want a substantial point, then consider that (i) you are still defining “good” from a materialist p.o.v as “that which you prefer”, despite several references being made to alternative definitions, and (ii) despite your comment in a previous thread, there are different levels of preference, and
    – I dislike X, but have no objection to others doing it
    and
    – I have very strong views against X and do not think it should be allowed by anyone
    are not, despite your attempt to claim otherwise, equivalent.

    Roy

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Why don’t we skip the strawmen and semantic games and get to the point you really want to make: Materialists (by which you really mean atheists) have no fear of God, which makes them more likely to do bad things.

    Well, RD, let’s face it. A man’s moral Grade Point Average will be a lot higher when he grades his own papers than when a true moral authority does the evaluating. Very few atheists are afraid that they will flunk their own self-styled, self-administered moral exams, which are calculated to rationalize their current behavior. As one philosopher put it, “it you hit the center ring every time, you are standing too close to the target.”

  19. 19
    RDFish says:

    Hi eignenstate,

    You’ve misread my position – I have made the point many, many times in these discussions that we cannot change our moral perceptions any more than we can change our perceptions of color or temperature, Barry’s cartoonish parody of subjectivism as “mere personal preference” notwithstanding. I simply deny that there are objective (external to our beliefs, desires, perceptions, and emotions) moral rules.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  20. 20
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Well, RD, let’s face it. A man’s moral Grade Point Average will be a lot higher when he grades his own papers than when a true moral authority does the evaluating.

    There is no “true moral authority”. There is also no Santa Claus, and no tooth fairy.

    Very few atheists are afraid that they will flunk their own self-styled, self-administered moral exams, which are calculated to rationalize their current behavior.

    This is so delusional. If you believe that I – or anyone – has sat down and chosen morals to match some base desires, you are frighteningly ignorant of human nature. It makes me think that if you wanted to, you could simply decide to believe that torture was moral. I know that I couldn’t do that. What is wrong with you?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  21. 21
    RDFish says:

    Hi Alicia Renard – thank you! 🙂

  22. 22
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish, the thing that is most conspicuous about your posts is that you absolutely refuse to address the topic in the OP. You don’t seem to be able to grasp this even though I devoted a whole post trying to explain it to you, but I will say it one more time (hope does spring eternal):

    Responding to an argument that is not made is not a response to an argument that is made.

  23. 23
    Roy says:

    Comment #18 would be so much more effective if theists didn’t selectively ignore or conveniently “interpret” large swathes of their supposedly divinely-ordained moral codes.

    Matthew 7:1, for instance, or Matthew 19:21.

    Roy

  24. 24
    JDH says:

    RDFish & eigenstate

    Have either of you heard of the term “begging the question”?

    Just wondering, because it looks like all of your arguments boil down to.

    1. Assume as a given by superiority of our intellect and education that Barry is wrong and there is no God and no objective morality.
    2. Therefore there is no God and no objective morality.

    Show me where I am wrong.

  25. 25
    Barry Arrington says:

    eigenstate @ 12:

    I believe that you believe everything you wrote in perfect good faith. Which means that you are exceptionally accomplished at self-deception. Let’s pick this apart:

    Scientifically, and empirically, humans have ingrained, visceral, natural dispositions

    Indeed. That is the materialist mantra. Another way to say the exact same thing is that the electro-chemical processes of each person’s brain impel them to prefer certain things and not to prefer other things. That is exactly what the OP says. I am glad you agree.

    Such experiments evoke an emotional and cognitive predisposition toward what we generally call “fairness”

    Now you are saying Mark Frank’s “provio” in different words. On the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer a certain thing we call fairness. OK; so far you have not strayed from the logic of the OP.

    This is an objective fact about evolved human nature.

    It is an objective fact that on the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer a certain thing we call fairness, and that fact is accounted for by evolution. Yes, that is what materialists say.

    We are wired with what we might call “moral sensibilities”. Demonstrably.

    If we call the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains their “wiring,” then it is clear that their wiring impels them to prefer what we might call “moral sensibilities.” Yes, you are saying the same thing over and over. But you are not saying anything different from the OP.

    this moral disposition of humans is just biology in action.

    This moral disposition of humans – i.e., the fact on the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer having a moral disposition – is just biology in action. Yes, that is what materialist say. Again, this is what the OP says.

    It’s perfectly binding on the human — no human mind or preference can make the disposition otherwise.

    Now, you’ve finally said something interesting. What do you mean by “binding”? That is, of course, the $64,000 question. As a materialist you cannot possibly mean that one person’s moral disposition caused by the electro-chemical processes of his brain is binding on anyone but that person.

    I take it, therefore, that you mean that a person is bound to prefer what the electro-chemical processes of his brain impel him to prefer. OK. Again, that is exactly what the OP says.

    This is “objective morality” in the materialist understanding.

    In the materialist understanding, objective morality means that a person is bound to prefer what the electro-chemical processes of his brain impel him to prefer. OK. But it should be obvious that this gets you exactly nowhere in terms of Russell’s dilemma. You objectively prefer what you prefer. Yes indeed you do. So?

    They are “instincts” and operate at more fundamental and often subliminal levels.

    Now you are back to saying the same thing over and over. Yes, we can call the electro-chemical processes of your brain “instincts” if you like.

    This makes “empathy”, and “greed”, objective facts about human populations.

    Once again, we are back to what you have already said. On the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer what we call “empathy” and not to prefer what we call “greed.”

    So there is no “good’ and ‘bad’ in the childish, cartoonish sense imagined by Christians. “Objective morality” in that sense is a fiction, an imaginary construct.

    Yes, that is certainly what the materialist says.

    But man as evolved animal is inescapably bound to moral dispositions at the core of his (collective) nature.

    You’ve repeated this several times now. This moral disposition of humans – i.e., the fact on the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer having a moral disposition – is at the core of human nature and people are bound by it. (“Bound” in the sense we have already stated: a person is bound to prefer what the electro-chemical processes of his brain impel him to prefer).

    But we are wired for moral thinking and moral responses by evolution, just as we are wired for two arms and two legs.

    Sigh. Saying something over and over and over and over and over does not make it any more or less true.

    And no god needed for any this.

    Yes, that is certainly what the materialist says.

    It’s not “evil” for a hawk to “murder” a mouse it catches in a field — that poor innocent mouse. To suppose so is to confuse human nature for “hawk nature”.

    It is not evil for the hawk to kill and eat a mouse. Check.

    It is evil for “John” to murder and eat his mother, because John has acted against human nature, by which you mean that the electro-chemical processes of John’s brain have impelled him to prefer that which the electro-chemical processes of most people’s brains impelled them not to prefer.

    Eigenstate, it appears that Mark Frank will not be answering John’s last question from the OP. It appears that you have thought about this a lot. So I hope you will help us out. Let’s say John asks you the following question:

    John: Eigenstate, you say it is evil for me to have murdered and eaten my mother, because I was acting against human nature, by which you mean that the electro-chemical processes of my brain have impelled me to prefer that which the electro-chemical processes of most people’s brains impelled them not to prefer.

    Eigenstate: Yes.

    John: Suppose I am the only person in the world who prefers chocolate ice cream and everyone else prefers vanilla ice cream. Under your reasoning that would make it evil for me to prefer chocolate ice cream.

    Eigenstate: On no. That is very different. As Mark Frank has said, our preference not to murder and eat your mother is not just any old preference. It is based on empathy and fairness.

    John: But “empathetic” and “fair” mean only that the electro-chemical processes of your brain have impelled you to prefer not to murder and eat your mother. That is no different from those same processes impelling you to prefer vanilla. Both preferences are based on nothing more than what teh electro-chemical processes of your brain have impelled you to prefer.

    Eigenstate: That’s not true at all.

    John: Why exactly?

    Eigenstate: ___________

  26. 26
    eigenstate says:

    RDFish,

    You’ve misread my position – I have made the point many, many times in these discussions that we cannot change our moral perceptions any more than we can change our perceptions of color or temperature, Barry’s cartoonish parody of subjectivism as “mere personal preference” notwithstanding.

    OK, I accept that at face value, and apologize for the misreading. Reading back a little bit, I find several stark examples of that point being made by you.

    I simply deny that there are objective (external to our beliefs, desires, perceptions, and emotions) moral rules.

    I don’t think there’s a meaningful quibble to be had on this. Phrased as you have it, I’d agree as well. There are no objective moral rules. But the fail in that claim is “rules” — that’s a word choice that succumbs to the theistic mistake, that there is a “ruler” to issue a “rule”.

    I think it is not difficult to show that “moral impulses” — I think that’s a better term — exist in human populations, and that these impulses obtain objectively; the existence of such is not dependent on any mind, personality or preference. That makes it at least “inter-subjective”, but in my view qualifies it as an “objective trait of humans”, no more and no less an objective quality of humans than their body plan (spine, two arms, two legs, etc.).

    If you believe “body plan rules” (to try and wedge the word you used in there) exist for humans, and these obtain objectively, then “human moral rules” obtain in the same sense.

  27. 27
    eigenstate says:

    @JDH

    Have either of you heard of the term “begging the question”?

    Just wondering, because it looks like all of your arguments boil down to.

    1. Assume as a given by superiority of our intellect and education that Barry is wrong and there is no God and no objective morality.
    2. Therefore there is no God and no objective morality.

    Show me where I am wrong.

    It’s not my objective to argue the scientific case here. It’s not needed, or germane. The bare fact that you grant there is a question to be begged is all I need, and if you affirm that as you have, Barry’s project collapses.

    Remember: the claim is that materialism cannot, in principle, ground its moral value. You can harumph all you like (if you like) about your problems with biological science, but it doesn’t help Barry: right there in plain view is the objective basis for moral values in human beings.

    If you (or Barry, or someone else) wants to argue the facts, I’m all for it, but it’s playing with the casino’s money in any case, then. As soon as we agree it’s a question, Barry’s whole series of posts here are hollowed out, with nothing left but his epithets and venom.

    So please tell me this is a matter of begging that question, and I can fairly declare Barry’s project a bust, here.

  28. 28
    REC says:

    “As a materialist you cannot possibly mean that one person’s moral disposition caused by the electro-chemical processes of his brain is binding on anyone but that person.”

    Get 5 more people with the same moral disposition in the room, and and it could be ‘binding’ on the odd man out.

    Society.

  29. 29
    ppolish says:

    A “hawk eating a mouse”. Eigenstate you crack me up:)

    Hawks don’t know good from evil. They have no soul. Soul is a much more evolved state. Higher form of consciousness, soul is. Connecting with the Creator. Eating mice lol again.

  30. 30
    cantor says:

    This is off-topic, but I don’t know how to create a new thread. Barry, would you please move (or delete) this post as you see fit?

    Over at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....95271.html there’s a video where Matt Dillahunty “describes a standard 52-card deck with 13 cards in 4 different suits. After dealing all 52 cards of a randomized deck into 4 hands, Dillahunty asks, what are the odds that one person will receive all 13 spades? He calculates the number of possible hands as 635,013,559,600, and notes that only one of those is comprised of all 13 spades.”

    That probability calculation is not correct. Any one of the 4 hands could be all spades, so the probability is 4 times greater than Dillahunty’s calculation.

    Since Dillahunty says in the video that he is not a mathematician and “not great at math” I wonder who he asked to vet that computation before making that video.

    .

  31. 31
    Mapou says:

    Eigenstate:

    Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that the question then is not “What makes those evolved dispositions ‘good’”. That has it backwards. “Good” or “Evil” are only grounded semantically in our objective, natural, evolved psychology. It’s not “evil” for a hawk to “murder” a mouse it catches in a field — that poor innocent mouse. To suppose so is to confuse human nature for “hawk nature”. What we are, objectively, is the basis for “good” and “bad”. It is the grounds for our values, not the other way around.

    You’re sorely mistaken. It is not evil for a hawk to kill a mouse, not because it’s the nature of the hawk, but because neither mice nor hawks have spirits/souls/consciousness. They’re just meat robots running their genetically programmed instincts.

    Again, spiritual entities (good, bad, immoral, ugly, beautiful, etc.) are not and cannot be properties of physical matter, emergent or otherwise. This is true by definition because we know what the properties of matter are. Materialism relentlessly comes short in the explanation department. It’s a religion for dirt worshippers with a chip on their shoulders.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC, again, you are correct. The materialist position boils down to might makes right.

  33. 33
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry

    Indeed. That is the materialist mantra. Another way to say the exact same thing is that the electro-chemical processes of each person’s brain impel them to prefer certain things and not to prefer other things. That is exactly what the OP says. I am glad you agree.

    So far, so good.

    Now you are saying Mark Frank’s “provio” in different words. On the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer a certain thing we call fairness. OK; so far you have not strayed from the logic of the OP.

    Ho hum. Yes.

    It is an objective fact that on the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer a certain thing we call fairness, and that fact is accounted for by evolution. Yes, that is what materialists say.

    Check.

    If we call the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains their “wiring,” then it is clear that their wiring impels them to prefer what we might call “moral sensibilities.” Yes, you are saying the same thing over and over. But you are not saying anything different from the OP.

    “Impels them to prefer” is problematic. “Prefer”, as I understand the term, entails some freedom of choice. The moral instincts I’m referring to, the disposition that is wired in, is itself a constant, “infrastructure” of human psychology. Human choices are informed by these instincts, but it’s not correct to say that any particular preference is “impelled” (the incoherence of that combination you used notwithstanding, granting what I think you mean). Our choices are the products of multiple competing values. For many questions, there is a competition, for example, between empathy and greed. I’m unavoidably influenced by both, but the particulars of one situation vs. another may yield choices that are alternately more “empathetic” or “greedy”.

    “Prefer” and “preference” aren’t implicated in what I’m offering. If you think that’s the case, please read that again, and let me state it clearly: The moral disposition of humans as a matter of biology may *inform* preferences, but is not itself an instance of preference.

    This moral disposition of humans – i.e., the fact on the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer having a moral disposition – is just biology in action. Yes, that is what materialist say. Again, this is what the OP says.

    No, you are conflating the drivers that inform our choices, our preferences, with the choices and preferences themselves. Empathy may inform my preference for doing nice things for friends, neighbors or complete strangers, but empathy itself is not a preference, not in any sense of the term. As I read back into the earliest threads in this chain of… posts, it’s clear this is you are confused about, as regards humans as natural, evolved, social beings.

    Now, you’ve finally said something interesting. What do you mean by “binding”? That is, of course, the $64,000 question. As a materialist you cannot possibly mean that one person’s moral disposition caused by the electro-chemical processes of his brain is binding on anyone but that person.

    It’s not evening “binding” on that person in the sense you are apparently using. It’s “binding” in the sense that gravity is “binding” on mass. But these moral instincts are not iconoclastic, any more than their DNA is. Your DNA is not the same as mine, but you are essentially identical. A “moral instinct” cannot be particular in isolation for one individual, as its an effect of our shared biology. So we are physical beings, operating under physical processes, and we have individual variations, just as we have varying hair colors. But these are variations of common themes that humans as species share.

    I take it, therefore, that you mean that a person is bound to prefer what the electro-chemical processes of his brain impel him to prefer. OK. Again, that is exactly what the OP says.

    If you are “bound to prefer”, then you don’t really have a preference.I can guess there’s some perceived rhetorical value you saw with your lawyering eye in that term, but it’s undermining the point you are trying to make. If one does not have a choice, one does not “prefer”. Here’s what Google tells me about “prefer”:

    like (one thing or person) better than another or others; tend to choose.

    There’s no “tendency” or “choose” as you are using the term, here. Find a word that fits what you actually mean. Here’s handy guideline: if you are tempted to write “impel to prefer” or some variation of that phrase, you are confused, and should consider terms that work toward clarity and coherence in making your point.

    I will continue my reply in another post a little later.

  34. 34
    ENich says:

    There are five or more men in a room which they all have the moral disposition to murder those that don’t like sock-hops. There is one man (Marshall) in the room that doesn’t like sock-hops. They bind Marshall to their morality and proceed to make Mr. Anti Sock-Hop extinct.

    Society.

    Your worldview rocks!

  35. 35
    nightlight says:

    #14 SteRusJon ““But once you decide on what utility function to use” sounds kinda subjective to me.

    Just wondering how you can get an objective superiority out of a subjective decision? “

    I am talking about “deciding” on the meaning of the term “objectively superior” (moral code). Without agreeing on what that exactly means, there cannot be meaningful discussion.

    But there is nothing subjective or arbitrary about programs and algorithms implementing moral codes in the neural networks of human brains.

    Much of that program you get from the fertilized egg which built your body, with additional locale specific customizations filled in by the early experiences and upbringing.These programs and their outputs (im/moral actions) are are as objective as apple falling from a tree by Newton’s laws.

    And no, that’s not something you can just flip-flop at your whim. Disgust and revulsion you feel in some situations are responses computed by those programs over which you don’t have any more control than you have over your intestinal or kidney activity, urination, your feeling of thirst, hunger, need for air, etc.

    What Barry was really trying to say is not ‘objective morality’ (or its superiority) but externally imposed/imprinted morality and its criteria. Further, it’s not just any external authority that he had in mind, but all that was supposedly imposed on humans few millennia ago by a very particular deity he happens to worship and anyone who disagrees is “immoral”, by his tautology. That’s what he keeps calling “objective” morality i.e. the one for which the “science is settled and debate is over” (it is “objective” after all), hence it ought to be worshiped by all of us.

  36. 36
    Mung says:

    As a materialist and subjectivist…

    Sorry, a bit late in catching up. How can one be both a materialist and a subjectivist? Seems contradictory.

  37. 37
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    In the materialist understanding, objective morality means that a person is bound to prefer what the electro-chemical processes of his brain impel him to prefer. OK. But it should be obvious that this gets you exactly nowhere in terms of Russell’s dilemma. You objectively prefer what you prefer. Yes indeed you do. So?

    This quote that someone else introduced into a previous thread helps:

    I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.”

    -Bertrand Russell

    There’s no dilemma, if one looks at humans scientifically, as evolved animals. Russell, like many atheists and materialists, succumb to “dualist thinking” regularly, supposing that “philosophy as philosophy” might provide some insight into some questions. It does not and cannot, and can only make headway insofar as it comprehends humans as evolved animals. To be sure, ethical and moral questions abound that have subjective qualities, and depend on the particulars of the viewer (or the “considerer”). But that doesn’t negate evolved human nature, our nature which invests each human born with “empathy” and “selfishness” and “desire to be loved” and “greed”, etc.

    Neither Russell or anyone else need look any farther than that to understand any anxiety experienced at the thought (or experience) of wanton cruelty. No “argument” is needed, or even appropriate, the reaction can be traced to empathy (and possibly other drivers) that obtain objectively in our nature. It’s “wired into us”, and can’t be argued for or against any more than the color of our irises.

    Russell’s problem is not a problem in the first place, if you view humans from a science-informed perspective.

    Now you are back to saying the same thing over and over. Yes, we can call the electro-chemical processes of your brain “instincts” if you like.

    This makes “empathy”, and “greed”, objective facts about human populations.

    Once again, we are back to what you have already said. On the whole the electro-chemical processes of people’s brains impel them to prefer what we call “empathy” and not to prefer what we call “greed.”

    Please refer to my previous post. Again, you are confusing the drivers for our preferences with the preference (or choices) themselves.

    It is not evil for the hawk to kill and eat a mouse. Check.

    It is evil for “John” to murder and eat his mother, because John has acted against human nature, by which you mean that the electro-chemical processes of John’s brain have impelled him to prefer that which the electro-chemical processes of most people’s brains impelled them not to prefer.

    I realize you’ve bundled this error many times into one post without having read my subsequent reply, but once again, you have confused the driver of our choices with the choices themselves.

    Eigenstate, it appears that Mark Frank will not be answering John’s last question from the OP. It appears that you have thought about this a lot. So I hope you will help us out. Let’s say John asks you the following question:

    John: Eigenstate, you say it is evil for me to have murdered and eaten my mother, because I was acting against human nature, by which you mean that the electro-chemical processes of my brain have impelled me to prefer that which the electro-chemical processes of most people’s brains impelled them not to prefer.

    Eigenstate: Yes.

    John: Suppose I am the only person in the world who prefers chocolate ice cream and everyone else prefers vanilla ice cream. Under your reasoning that would make it evil for me to prefer chocolate ice cream.

    Insofar as that choice has consequences for interests, well being and flourishing of myself and others, it’s a moral question. As you’ve cast it, it does not appear to have moral consequences, and thus not a moral question at all.

    Eigenstate: On no. That is very different. As Mark Frank has said, our preference not to murder and eat your mother is not just any old preference. It is based on empathy and fairness.

    John: But “empathetic” and “fair” mean only that the electro-chemical processes of your brain have impelled you to prefer not to murder and eat your mother. That is no different from those same processes impelling you to prefer vanilla. Both preferences are based on nothing more than what teh electro-chemical processes of your brain have impelled you to prefer.

    “Nothing more” signals a profound misunderstanding of the processes and the outcomes. A rock and a bolt of lightning are both “just matter and energy in space/time”. That’s true, but this should not having us confusing one for the other. They are both manifestations — outcomes — of the very same physical processes, but they have very different effects and attributes.

    A choice to murder has profoundly different social impacts than choice to eat vanilla ice cream. Scale it out, if you don’t see the different. What are the effects on a society where wonton murder becomes a common choice? How would you contrast that with a mass trend toward choosing vanilla ice cream?

    Eigenstate: That’s not true at all.

    John: Why exactly?

    Eigenstate: ___________

    The processes are all, at the core “just physics”. But the actual inputs and outputs in these processes vary greatly, and those differences are often quite dramatic. So, saying “it’s just electro-chemical processes” is both technically true, and deeply ignorant. A brain is just atoms, yes, but that is to misunderstand wholly what a brain is, even and especially when that brain is nothing more than matter and energy.

    “Nothing more than electro-chemical processes” doesn’t diminish the scope or the qualities of what it produced, Barry. That’s the blind spot your bringing to the discussion. I know that is somehow abhorrent and/or terrifying to the theistic mindset (I was unfortunately raised in a devout Biblical-Christian home, so know this intimately and first hand), but it’s no problem for choices to be profound and mundane, complex and simple, inspiringly creative or hopeless banal, all coming from the same platform, the same evolved machines we call humans.

    So, if I say the most meaningful and profound choices (in terms of human understanding and consequences) come from the same processes driven by our biological constitution as our most trivial choices, what of it? Why is that a problem for you or anyone, Barry?

  38. 38
    Mung says:

    nightlight:

    Without agreeing on what that exactly means, there cannot be meaningful discussion.

    Is that objectively true?

    Let’s say you and I both agree that the moon is made of cheese, and we both agree on what that exactly means. What sort of meaningful discussion might proceed from that agreement?

  39. 39
    ppolish says:

    “Why is there Evil in the World? Why? Why?”

    Dude, there is no evil. Just atoms & void.

    Just kidding, there IS evil and it is spectacularly bad. Very very bad.

  40. 40
    REC says:

    “REC, again, you are correct. The materialist position boils down to might makes right.”

    As does yours. I admit I might be wrong. You claim to be the diviner of transcendent objective morality.

    Which frightens me more?

    Oh, and Barry, we never revisited what you meant by intersubjective truth so many threads ago…..

  41. 41
    ebenezer says:

    eigenstate @ 37:

    To be sure, ethical and moral questions abound that have subjective qualities, and depend on the particulars of the viewer (or the “considerer”). But that doesn’t negate evolved human nature, our nature which invests each human born with “empathy” and “selfishness” and “desire to be loved” and “greed”, etc.

    Let me get this straight. We owe reverent obedience to “evolved human nature”? How are we sure that it evolved in the correct way? And mustn’t we be glad that it didn’t evolve in another way, which would not have told us to consider the killing of a fellow human “wrong”?

    The processes are all, at the core “just physics”. But the actual inputs and outputs in these processes vary greatly, and those differences are often quite dramatic.

    so? Their being different doesn’t distinguish them as good or bad.

    You never explained why a rock or a bolt of lightning are less worthy of our obedience and consideration as “moral” standard-givers than are any “evolved” reactions to wanton cruelty.

  42. 42
    REC says:

    “You never explained why a rock or a bolt of lightning are less worthy of our obedience and consideration as “moral” standard-givers than are any “evolved” reactions to wanton cruelty.”

    Do rocks and lightning express wants and desires and preferences to you?

    Do you have conversations with inert objects?

    Do you need help?

  43. 43

    Eigenstate:

    Beautifully done.

  44. 44
    ebenezer says:

    REC @ 42:

    I missed the part where you explained how the expression of “wants and desires and preferences” obligated me to anything…

  45. 45
    ppolish says:

    “So, if I say the most meaningful and profound choices (in terms of human understanding and consequences) come from the same processes driven by our biological constitution as our most trivial choices, what of it? Why is that a problem for you or anyone, Barry?”

    Not a problem for me, Eigenstate. For example, I often pray while I’m taking a dump. Jesus loves. Prayer is evidence of deeper evolution btw.

  46. 46
    REC says:

    @44-unrelated question. You asked what is different between a human and a rock.

    I replied.

    Now you ask why you have to act like a human being towards another human?

    You don’t. Just don’t be shocked when you get ostracized or punished by those who would prefer you would be.

    Is fear of God the only thing that leads you to be decent towards other people? Sad, really….

  47. 47
    ebenezer says:

    REC @ 46:

    @44-unrelated question. You asked what is different between a human and a rock.

    I replied.

    Way to redefine the question—I guess the straw man is always easier to vanquish than a real after all…

    Now you ask why you have to act like a human being towards another human?

    Surely there’s a way to make this argument without begging the question. Surely?

    “[Act] like a human being”? So now “morality” is just, you know, the way that humans act?

    A standard this is.

    You don’t. Just don’t be shocked when you get ostracized or punished by those who would prefer you would be.

    Selfishness! Ah! So this is the noble materialistic foundation of morality. I see.

    Of course, if one can simply get away with not “acting like a human” and evade the rule of anyone who can ostracize or punish, we’re all good. I wonder if that would except one from accusation of “wrong” under this definition… or how it could not…

    Is fear of God the only thing that leads you to be decent towards other people? Sad, really….

    Sad that we’d have to leave out the argument and what several of us have been saying all along—that we can “be decent” without having a logical basis for why it would be wrong not to “be decent”… and that logical basis is most profoundly absent from 46. Oh well.

  48. 48
    ppolish says:

    “Is fear of God the only thing that leads you to be decent towards other people”

    It’s love of God, REC, love of God. But also incredibly in awe, to the point of fear. Scary Awesome.

  49. 49
    nightlight says:

    Without agreeing on what that exactly means, there cannot be meaningful discussion.

    Is that objectively true?

    Let’s say you and I both agree that the moon is made of cheese, and we both agree on what that exactly means. What sort of meaningful discussion might proceed from that agreement?

    I was stating a necessary condition for a meaningful discussion (“without… there cannot be meaningful discussion”). But that is obviously not a sufficient condition for making meaningful statements since one can still spew nonsense that merely satisfies that particular necessary condition.

    — Analogy —

    Necessary Condition: without buying a lottery ticket, you can’t win the lottery.

    But merely buying the lottery ticket doesn’t imply you will win the lottery. You still need to pick the right numbers on the ticket you bought. Only the latter is the sufficient condition for winning the lottery.

  50. 50
    eigenstate says:

    @ebenezer.

    Let me get this straight. We owe reverent obedience to “evolved human nature”?

    Goodness, no. We don’t “owe” anything, nor are we obligated to “obey” our nature. It’s a contradiction in terms. If it is our nature, that is how we are, else it is not our nature.

    In practical terms, do you suppose that you “owe reverent obedience” to gravity? I should think you don’t see it that way. It’s just a fact of the extramental world around us. “Obedience” doesn’t even make sense, nor does “reverence”. It does what it does. Same thing with our moral instincts. They are what they are. “Obedience” and “reverence” don’t even make sense in relation to that reality.

    How are we sure that it evolved in the correct way?

    The “correct way” is not a meaningful term, here. It’s like asking “what lies 1km north of the north pole?”. We are here because our ancestors have evolved in such a way that we are one of the very few lineages of all the lineages that have come to be that have not gone extinct (yet). So, our evolved nature is “correct” in the sense that we have successfully persevered (and thrived, even) as a lineage, but there’s no “morally correct” quality to this use of “correct”.

    And mustn’t we be glad that it didn’t evolve in another way, which would not have told us to consider the killing of a fellow human “wrong”?

    No. In that case, an “alternate universe” scenario of our evolution, where killing a fellow human may be “right”, and “good”, even as a commonplace event. If there are evolutionary benefits to (what we in our state would call) murder, there’s the potential for realizing that in the population as “natural virtue”. I’m sure we could find other species where individuals are killed by their own species, and this is adaptive. If that were the case, and we had evolved differently, our moral instincts would reflect that.

    …so?bTheir being different doesn’t distinguish them as good or bad.

    You have no measure to apply to this that will produce “good” or “bad” as distinctions. The facts as they are, the way humans (or anything else) has evolved, is the basis for any semantic cargo we want “good” or “bad” to carry. You’re right to say that their being different doesn’t — itself — distinguish them as good or bad. Rather, they way they are is the ground for the meaning we give to “good” and “bad”.

    You never explained why a rock or a bolt of lightning are less worthy of our obedience and consideration as “moral” standard-givers than are any “evolved” reactions to wanton cruelty.

    I didn’t mention obedience at all, IIRC. Neither did I suggest that a rock or a bolt of lightning was a source of moral input, human or otherwise. My point was that a rock is not a bolt of lightning, and yet, both are “just physics being physics”. When you jump down to fundamental levels of description you necessary lose the meaningful and often profound distinctions that obtain at higher levels of description. If both a rock and a bolt of lightning are the same thing — both are just “physics being physics” right? — why do we distinguish them with different labels, do you suppose?

    If you understand that, you know what you need to know to see the error in Barry’s appeal to “electro-chemical processes”. It’s laughably transparent (and amateurish, to boot) to read, at least to my eye, but if it’s not to you or others, ask yourself why a rock is not a bolt of lightning; after all, both are just physics being physics, right?

  51. 51
    REC says:

    “we can “be decent” without having a logical basis for why it would be wrong not to “be decent”… and that logical basis is most profoundly absent from 46.”

    So absent the “logical basis” we can be decent? Ok. Thanks. Kinda renders your pearl clutching moot, no?

    Btw, social contract, the optimization personal desires, intersubjective morality, whatever you want to call it, is irrational?

  52. 52
    ebenezer says:

    eigenstate @ 50:

    Goodness, no. We don’t “owe” anything, nor are we obligated to “obey” our nature. It’s a contradiction in terms. If it is our nature, that is how we are, else it is not our nature.

    In practical terms, do you suppose that you “owe reverent obedience” to gravity? I should think you don’t see it that way. It’s just a fact of the extramental world around us. “Obedience” doesn’t even make sense, nor does “reverence”. It does what it does. Same thing with our moral instincts. They are what they are. “Obedience” and “reverence” don’t even make sense in relation to that reality.

    Whatever we’re calling “moral” here makes a poor natural law when compared to gravity. (You may have heard of a person being in the business of “law enforcement”, which is how humans deal with the crucial difference between the law of gravity and “our evolved nature”.)

    The “correct way” is not a meaningful term, here. It’s like asking “what lies 1km north of the north pole?”. We are here because our ancestors have evolved in such a way that we are one of the very few lineages of all the lineages that have come to be that have not gone extinct (yet). So, our evolved nature is “correct” in the sense that we have successfully persevered (and thrived, even) as a lineage, but there’s no “morally correct” quality to this use of “correct”.

    So… there’s no such thing as “good” or “evil” in a materialistic worldview? This, confirming as it does the OP’s argument, does not go very far toward refuting the OP’s argument.

    This is right back to what I brought up threads ago: equating survival value and whatever enhances or takes away from it with morality and what one can logically call morally “right” or “wrong”.

    No. In that case, an “alternate universe” scenario of our evolution, where killing a fellow human may be “right”, and “good”, even as a commonplace event. If there are evolutionary benefits to (what we in our state would call) murder, there’s the potential for realizing that in the population as “natural virtue”. I’m sure we could find other species where individuals are killed by their own species, and this is adaptive. If that were the case, and we had evolved differently, our moral instincts would reflect that.

    Again: “what we do or don’t do got us this far; ergo, what we do and don’t do is morally right or wrong.” I had a comment about this, as I said, some threads ago:

    In the last post’s thread there was a deal of “materialism can provide morality” arguing which was backed up with appeals to “this behavior enhances survival or reproductive value”, followed by a deal of “how can anyone say that materialism has only survival or reproductive value with which to determine morality?”

    Therefore, a note before we proceed: for the purposes of this exercise (refuting the OP’s argument), the most efficient practice would be to not confuse “what ensures that I have more offspring” and “what harms my species” with “what is absolutely right” and “what is unquestionably wrong”.

    You have no measure to apply to this that will produce “good” or “bad” as distinctions. The facts as they are, the way humans (or anything else) has evolved, is the basis for any semantic cargo we want “good” or “bad” to carry. You’re right to say that their being different doesn’t — itself — distinguish them as good or bad. Rather, they way they are is the ground for the meaning we give to “good” and “bad”.

    You’re trying to say that a particular class of “feelings about” or “reactions to” actions should be set up as the decider of right and wrong. You’ve failed to explain why that class has any objective qualification that any other feeling or reaction on the face of the earth does not possess in equal amount.

    I didn’t mention obedience at all, IIRC. Neither did I suggest that a rock or a bolt of lightning was a source of moral input, human or otherwise.

    Certainly you didn’t suggest that either was. You also didn’t explain why either wasn’t as valid a source of moral input as any human reaction or belief or feeling or…

    My point was that a rock is not a bolt of lightning, and yet, both are “just physics being physics”. When you jump down to fundamental levels of description you necessary lose the meaningful and often profound distinctions that obtain at higher levels of description. If both a rock and a bolt of lightning are the same thing — both are just “physics being physics” right? — why do we distinguish them with different labels, do you suppose?

    What level of description is going to rescue us from “they’re all just matter” if we’re in a materialistic worldview? “No, but see, conscious beings are really special”?

    If you understand that, you know what you need to know to see the error in Barry’s appeal to “electro-chemical processes”. It’s laughably transparent (and amateurish, to boot) to read, at least to my eye, but if it’s not to you or others, ask yourself why a rock is not a bolt of lightning; after all, both are just physics being physics, right?

    It’s laughable to me that one would want to solemnly declare a rock and a human being both “just physics being physics” while asking special treatment for or consideration of the human being…

    Rocks and lightning share a common lack of something. The materialistic dilemma has something to do with that not being the case and yet neither rock nor lightning bolt being responsible for anything.

  53. 53
    Cross says:

    eigenstate @ 37 and others

    So, in a long winded way you are saying that “evolution” did it and gave us our built in human traits (morals). Since you are a materialist evolutionist then reproductive success is all you have to work with. You provide no evidence of how this occurred, just assumption that it did.

    Here is a scenario (apologies to Kubrick for nicking it).

    Hominid male A is big and strong, he takes the first and best food for himself, leaving the other males weaker so he can have reproductive success with the females, he gets to pass on his greedy genes.

    Hominid male B also has his group of weak males and all the females. They are competing with A’s group for the food and water. Hominid A picks up a large bone and kills B. He then gets to rape B’s females, great reproductive success. A passes on greed, murder and rape.

    Now, without the evo pop psychology, how do we ever develop the good decent stuff ie empathy, love etc.

    Cheers

  54. 54
    ebenezer says:

    REC @ 51:

    “we can “be decent” without having a logical basis for why it would be wrong not to “be decent”… and that logical basis is most profoundly absent from 46.”

    So absent the “logical basis” we can be decent?

    Back to defining “decent” (I note you managed to avoid repeating my quote marks) as “whatever I can get away with in a particular group” we are, then. [sigh]

    Btw, social contract, the optimization personal desires, intersubjective morality, whatever you want to call it, is irrational?

    …and back to fitness and survival value as the judge of what’s actually “right” and “wrong”. “Is it not logical to do this? Why, it will ensure your offspring’s survival!

    (This is a quite clear departure from the thread of argument, by the way. It was not for nothing that Mr. Arrington told us “Responding to an argument that is not made does not refute the argument that is made” several posts ago.)

    These have been repeated for pages now and they’re not getting any closer to being relevant…

  55. 55
    ebenezer says:

    Cross @ 53:

    It boils down to if it got us here, it’s good. This of course leaves every possibility wide open, but such is the nature of the worldview… as the OP’s argument pointed out so many threads ago.

  56. 56
    Me_Think says:

    Cross @ 53

    Here is a scenario (apologies to Kubrick for nicking it)
    Hominid male A is big and strong, he takes the first and best food for himself, leaving the other males weaker so he can have reproductive success with the females, he gets to pass on his greedy genes…….A passes on greed, murder and rape

    Sigh. Evolution is about population, not an individual.It is always about population genetics, not individual genetics, and no, emotions and feelings are not passed down to the next generation.

  57. 57
    Cross says:

    Me_Think @ 56

    “Sigh. Evolution is about population, not an individual.It is always about population genetics, not individual genetics, and no, emotions and feelings are not passed down to the next generation.”

    Sigh, the last time I looked, individuals have sex and pass on their genes, not populations (are you thinking of the 60’s and free love?).

    Using populations is just a way of avoiding the details which don’t add up.

    If you don’t think that our ability to have emotions and feelings pass down then you seem to disagree with eigenstate.

    Cheers

  58. 58
    REC says:

    ““No, but see, conscious beings are really special”?”

    Yes. Duh.

  59. 59
    ebenezer says:

    REC @ 58:

    ““No, but see, conscious beings are really special”?”

    Yes. Duh.

    …because why?!

    The simplest of questions, and yet a materialistic worldview can’t answer it. “They just are! Don’t ask why—that’s where we must say a final farewell to reason and logic!”

  60. 60
    goodusername says:

    Hominid male A is big and strong, he takes the first and best food for himself, leaving the other males weaker so he can have reproductive success with the females, he gets to pass on his greedy genes.

    Hominid male B also has his group of weak males and all the females. They are competing with A’s group for the food and water. Hominid A picks up a large bone and kills B. He then gets to rape B’s females, great reproductive success. A passes on greed, murder and rape.

    Hominid male A sounds very anti-social and he’s up against a group of (probably pretty upset) males (and females). I don’t think ‘A’ would fare very well.

  61. 61
    Cross says:

    goodusername @ 60

    “Hominid male A sounds very anti-social and he’s up against a group of (probably pretty upset) males (and females). I don’t think ‘A’ would fare very well.”

    And here comes the evo pop psychology. So those upset weaker males form a gang and kill off Hominid A, so now we pass on gang mentality?

    It all boils down to “might makes right”. Where and how do the good traits get to pass down? As a materialist, you only have reproduction success to work with.

    Cheers

  62. 62
    eigenstate says:

    @Cross

    So, in a long winded way you are saying that “evolution” did it and gave us our built in human traits (morals). Since you are a materialist evolutionist then reproductive success is all you have to work with. You provide no evidence of how this occurred, just assumption that it did.

    I’m just stating the materialist position. It’s neither germane or practical to re-litigate the merits of the scientific-materialist understanding here. It is enough to just articulate it so as to show the basis for materialists’ grounding of their semantics, their basis for investing meaning in terms like “good” and “evil”. As JDH inadvertently pointed out at Barry’s expense, if I’ve succeeded in “begging the question” and nonchalantly shrugging off demands for “prove evolution did it, Barry’s whole project has been destroyed. Once there is a question to begin, an avenue to investigate, the gig is up for him.

    It’s a somewhat sneaky tack to take, but I don’t mind declaring it up front, as I’m not trying to fool anyone. If I can get you to say, “that’s your account”, how do I know it’s true”?, Barry has lost. His position is that there cannot be an account to investigate. It wasn’t a well thought out position in the first place, more of an emotional outburst, and appeal to “can’t you see the obvious?”, so this is not any big shakes on my part.

    Here is a scenario (apologies to Kubrick for nicking it).

    Hominid male A is big and strong, he takes the first and best food for himself, leaving the other males weaker so he can have reproductive success with the females, he gets to pass on his greedy genes.

    Hominid male B also has his group of weak males and all the females. They are competing with A’s group for the food and water. Hominid A picks up a large bone and kills B. He then gets to rape B’s females, great reproductive success. A passes on greed, murder and rape.

    Now, without the evo pop psychology, how do we ever develop the good decent stuff ie empathy, love etc.

    Cheers

    If it’s as simple as the cartoon sketch you’ve offered, I don’t think we do. There’s a lot of misconceptions packed into just a few sentences there, but if the world worked like your cartoon, we should be surprised to see empathy arise as a candidate for fixation in the trait set, let alone a successful one.

    First, greed, murder and rape are not heritable traits. The biological dynamics are such that the most cruel and aggressive father may produce a docile, kind and gentle son, at least in terms of disposition (upbringing and training arre influential on kids’ development, too, etc.)

    Male A, in a social setting, is security threat for all. Not only or less aggressive/strong other males in danger, the mothers in the population are at risk of losing any male mates who provide protection, care for the young, food, resources, etc. So in a village down the river a bit where the social norms discourage such mayhem, more males survive to help raise and provide shelter, protection and sustenance for the offspring.

    Male A, the efficient killer, may somehow eliminate all the competition in his little bend in the river, but the 100 males down the river, who are much less inclined to violence, will participate in a “village” that outcompetes, and handily, the “village with one badass Male A”. Village C. down the river, will produce more offspring that are themselves more fecund, because their social arrangements work better toward those ends.

    Evolution is not about individuals, it’s about populations. So right there, that should give you a clue you are not getting a basic handle on the dynamics here. Greed and brute violence do work, even in our “evolved” human society today. But they don’t work well enough to extinguish, or even prevail against other social patterns we have ingrained in us. Survival is a team sport, and what you’ve described may well serve the interests of Male A over the other reproductive successes of Male B and his other victims, but that heuristic doesn’t scale. Murdering all competitors may garner you the biggest reproductive share of the pie in your species, but may push your tribe to extinction in the process.

    Eliminating your competitors, then, is NOT a route to reproductive success if it means your offspring’s chances of survival are diminished by that. Now that Male A has killed all the other adult males in the village, and (say) impregnated every capable female, if there’s no males left to hunt, or to ward off other warring tribes from up or down river, your “reproductive success” is actually a reproductive disaster. Male A’s lineage dies out right around when he does, because his actions “outcompeted” his male peers in the village, but prevented the entire village from surviving and flourishing. In the real world, there are a multitude of threats and risks, and will others of the species are certainly competitive risks, they are also quite often your genes’ strongest asset in protecting against other mortal risks you must face daily. This is the evolutionary basis for social grouping and social contracts.

    Even my account here is really over-simplified, when you look at how real biology actually works. I’m a bit far afield as it is, but I invite you to investigate how evolution really works. If you do not come back to your vignette here and see “cartoonish” as a charitable view of it, you will know you’ve not gotten out of the creationist bubble and into a clear-eyed scientific view yet.

    Populations, not individuals. Populations, not individuals.

  63. 63
    Barry Arrington says:

    Eigenstate @ 33 and 37.

    Statement Group 1:

    The processes are all, at the core “just physics”.

    It’s [i.e., a person’s moral disposition is] “binding” in the sense that gravity is “binding” on mass.

    Statement Group 2:

    Our choices are the products of multiple competing values.

    Again, you are confusing the drivers for our preferences with the preference (or choices) themselves.

    My God man. Can’t you see how deeply confused these statements are?

    At first you say it is all just physics. Then you talk as if there is some person in your head choosing among competing values. Physics does not have values. Mass does not choose whether to act in accordance with the inverse square law.

    Your next ploy is to reify empathy.

    To “reify” is to act as if something abstract is concrete. Consider this statement:

    Empathy may inform my preference for doing nice things for friends, neighbors or complete strangers, but empathy itself is not a preference, not in any sense of the term.

    No “argument” is needed, or even appropriate, the reaction can be traced to empathy (and possibly other drivers) that obtain objectively in our nature

    Empathy is not a physical force like gravity. It is not a causal agent. It is an abstraction. It is a description of a feeling most people have, a feeling of understanding for the feelings of others. It is most assuredly not “physics.” Therefore, if, as you say, the processes are all, at the core “just physics” (and of course that is what the materialist must say), when you say “empathy informs this” or “empathy drives that” you are talking blithering nonsense based on your own premises. That feeling you call “empathy” is a chemical reaction in your brain. To say “empathy” caused this or that is to say “chemistry reactions caused this or that.” It does not help your case. Those chemical reactions follow the laws of physics like everything else. Chemistry does not “inform” a choice. There is no choice.

    Insofar as that choice has consequences for interests, well being and flourishing of myself and others, it’s a moral question.

    You are arguing in a great big circle here while you try desperately to have it both ways. Your ability to deceive yourself appears to be almost boundless.

    You say it is all just physics. The materialist must say that. We are amalgamations of chemicals. Amalgamations of chemicals operate according to physical laws. They do not choose. As you say, they have no more choice than mass has with respect to gravity.

    On materialist premises the physics compelled John to murder and eat his mother. John had no choice in the matter. Similarly, the physics compel John to eat chocolate ice cream and shun vanilla. Again, he has no choice in the matter.

    You distinguish what you call a “moral question” (whether to murder and eat your mother) from a question that is “not a moral question” (whether to eat chocolate ice cream and shun vanilla). But there is no “question” at all in either case. A question implies the ability to answer in alternate ways. But there is no such choice. In both cases particles are merely acting in accordance with the laws of physics. There is absolutely no ground on which to distinguish between physical forces causing particles to do what we call “murder and eat your mother” and physical forces doing what we call “eat chocolate ice cream and avoid vanilla.”

    Any attempt by a materialist to suggest there is a something called “morality” or “flourishing” or “well being” that somehow allows him to distinguish between the two acts is engaging in self deception on an epic scale. He is doubtless trying to cope with the dissonance caused by Russell’s dilemma.

    A choice to murder has profoundly different social impacts than choice to eat vanilla ice cream.

    You say that as if “murder” and “social impacts” are categories that particles obeying the law of physics take into account in deciding between two courses of action. On your own premises, you that is blithering nonsense. There is no choice.

    Scale it out . . .

    Utterly irrelevant as to whether the acts are in any sense anything other than “just physics.”

    So, saying “it’s just electro-chemical processes” is both technically true, and deeply ignorant.

    You say the processes are all, at the core “just physics”. I make an equivalent statement, and I’m deeply ignorant. OK.

    A brain is just atoms, yes, but that is to misunderstand wholly what a brain is, even and especially when that brain is nothing more than matter and energy.

    This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. A brain is just an amalgamation of particles obeying the laws of physics. It is nothing more than that. Indeed, on materialist premises nothing else exists that it can be. But to say what a brain is, is to wholly misunderstand it.

    Breathtaking in its stupidity.

    it’s no problem for choices to be profound and mundane, complex and simple, inspiringly creative or hopeless banal, all coming from the same platform, the same evolved machines we call humans.

    What choices. We have already established that particles obeying the laws of physics don’t have choices any more than mass has the choice of conforming to the inverse square law.

    You seem to think using flowery language somehow changes that. Of course that is part of the self deception you need to deal with your dissonance.

    So, if I say the most meaningful and profound choices (in terms of human understanding and consequences) come from the same processes driven by our biological constitution as our most trivial choices, what of it?

    The words “meaningful” and “profound” and “trivial” “choices” are all meaningless on materialist premises. Particles operating in accordance with the laws of physics do not make choices at all. It makes no sense to say that particles in motion are “meaningful” or “profound” or “trivial.” That you do not understand the obvious conclusions logically compelled by your premises is nothing short of astounding.

  64. 64
    goodusername says:

    Cross,

    And here comes the evo pop psychology.

    A loner male is being incredibly antagonistic and threatening towards all the other males and females, and you think that saying he isn’t going to fare well is “evo pop psychology”? Uh, if you say so. I have no idea what evolution has to do with that conclusion, and to me saying that it’s playing “psychology” is like saying 2 + 2 = 4 is playing “mathematician”.

    So those upset weaker males form a gang and kill off Hominid A, so now we pass on gang mentality?

    Yeah, those darn hooligans, taking out that poor violent homicidal psychotic thieving rapist. Well, you could call it a gang mentality, I guess. I would call it a social mentality. What do you think they should do instead regarding the pycho running around? Call the police?

    It all boils down to “might makes right”.

    That would imply an objective morality.

    Where and how do the good traits get to pass down? As a materialist, you only have reproduction success to work with.

    If you mean traits that we prefer, I think the example we used helps to show that. The violent rapist isn’t going to last very long. The social males who work together I think will do much better.

  65. 65
    eigenstate says:

    @ebenezer,

    Whatever we’re calling “moral” here makes a poor natural law when compared to gravity. (You may have heard of a person being in the business of “law enforcement”, which is how humans deal with the crucial difference between the law of gravity and “our evolved nature”.)

    “Poor” in what sense? I don’t understand what you apply to arrive at “poor” or “not poor”, here.

    So… there’s no such thing as “good” or “evil” in a materialistic worldview? This, confirming as it does the OP’s argument, does not go very far toward refuting the OP’s argument.

    No, there is, and my post above showed the grounds for the semantics of “good” and “evil” in human nature. Man as a natural product of impersonal evolution produces objective realities that ground terms like “good” and “evil”, but the meanings of these terms cannot be reconciled with religious superstitions about “moral absolutes” or “laws from a (personal) law-giver”. That means there is no “good” or “evil” as theists typically conceive those terms. They are terms rich in meaning and attached to our natural biology for those that do not insist on religious superstition as the grounds for their semantics.

    You’re trying to say that a particular class of “feelings about” or “reactions to” actions should be set up as the decider of right and wrong. You’ve failed to explain why that class has any objective qualification that any other feeling or reaction on the face of the earth does not possess in equal amount.

    Any “impulse” is only as qualified, objectively, as is it prominent in human wiring. That is, “empathy” is “right” for humans only insofar as it is is an objective impulse or instinct. Perhaps its just clearer to say it is “more central our human nature”. Is “desire for sceintific knowledge” a pervasive feature of human instinct. I’d say it’s more an aberration, especially reading this blog. 😉 But in any case, it’s not ubiquitous in the way empathy is, if it is even the same kind of disposition at all.

    Certainly you didn’t suggest that either was. You also didn’t explain why either wasn’t as valid a source of moral input as any human reaction or belief or feeling or…,

    It hardly need to be said, but if you are unclear on this, it’s because our psychology and cognitive process are not driven by the rock. Our psychology is driven by our instincts.

    What level of description is going to rescue us from “they’re all just matter” if we’re in a materialistic worldview? “No, but see, conscious beings are really special”?

    This will be easy for you to answer to your own satisfaction: what level of description is needed to distinguish a rock from a bolt of lightning? Is this a distinction you feel capable of making? If so, how do you do it, if it’s all just ‘physics being physics’. That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’m genuinely interested in your answer to that as I see that answers as likely to be “self-convincing” for you on this issue.

    It’s laughable to me that one would want to solemnly declare a rock and a human being both “just physics being physics” while asking special treatment for or consideration of the human being…

    At the most fundamental level of description, a rock is a bolt of lightning, right?

    Rocks and lightning share a common lack of something.

    Not at a fundamental level of description, at the “Barry Level”. They are the same, just matter and energy moving around in various ways!

    The materialistic dilemma has something to do with that not being the case and yet neither rock nor lightning bolt being responsible for anything.

    I think I can just point to this last sentence of yours as a kind of “tap out” on this matter! It’s almost sig-worthy.

  66. 66
    ebenezer says:

    goodusername @ 64:

    It all boils down to “might makes right”.

    That would imply an objective morality.

    Ah… no. No one might is guaranteed to want what another might does, so we don’t get objectivity from this. What we get is: as long as you can get rid of me, you can do whatever you want. This is pretty much as far from objective morality as one can get…

    If you mean traits that we prefer, I think the example we used helps to show that. The violent rapist isn’t going to last very long. The social males who work together I think will do much better.

    Again we are bringing this back to “increases survival value” as “right” and “harms a species” as “wrong”… when will this ever end? Evidently not as soon as someone points out that there’s nothing objective about that… all we can have are speculative theorizations to try really hard to show that, had we not “evolved” to “have empathy” and other such hard-to-deal-with-materialistically virtues, we’d have all been so much worse off, don’t you see, because…

    This is spinning in neat circles around the OP’s argument, marking it as correct.

  67. 67
    Cross says:

    eigenstate @ 62

    “If it’s as simple as the cartoon sketch you’ve offered, I don’t think we do. There’s a lot of misconceptions packed into just a few sentences there, but if the world worked like your cartoon, we should be surprised to see empathy arise as a candidate for fixation in the trait set, let alone a successful one.”

    The sketch was a simplification to make a point, it is not meant as a description of what happened. I don’t believe in any of the evo just so stories of how we got to here. They don’t add up when you look at detail.

    “First, greed, murder and rape are not heritable traits. The biological dynamics are such that the most cruel and aggressive father may produce a docile, kind and gentle son, at least in terms of disposition (upbringing and training arre influential on kids’ development, too, etc.)”

    Flowery words but what evidence. By what magic does an aggressive father produce a docile, kind and gentle son?

    In my worldview, this is easy to answer as DNA and genetics are NOT all there is and the “kindness” is a built in reflection of Gods design.

    The materialist only has DNA, errors and reproductive success. If it’s not in the genes (the predisposition to be aggressive for instance) then where is it?

    Cheers

  68. 68
    ebenezer says:

    eigenstate @ 65:

    “Poor” in what sense? I don’t understand what you apply to arrive at “poor” or “not poor”, here.

    Maybe I should have used “not” in place of “poor” here. Are we really to accept that our “morality” is as easy to forgo as the law of gravity?

    No, there is, and my post above showed the grounds for the semantics of “good” and “evil” in human nature. Man as a natural product of impersonal evolution produces objective realities that ground terms like “good” and “evil”, but the meanings of these terms cannot be reconciled with religious superstitions about “moral absolutes” or “laws from a (personal) law-giver”. That means there is no “good” or “evil” as theists typically conceive those terms. They are terms rich in meaning and attached to our natural biology for those that do not insist on religious superstition as the grounds for their semantics.

    For “those that do not insist on religious superstition” (hey, all I’ve been doing here is refusing to insist on anyone else’s religious superstition) they are terms with an embarrassment of riches as regards meaning: they mean anything anybody wants them to mean, and therefore they mean nothing. I don’t see how having every potential meaning in the world strengthens any case against a view which can assign them each one unchanging meaning which we won’t need to go over our own feelings about in order to clarify.

    Any “impulse” is only as qualified, objectively, as is it prominent in human wiring. That is, “empathy” is “right” for humans only insofar as it is is an objective impulse or instinct. Perhaps its just clearer to say it is “more central our human nature”. Is “desire for sceintific knowledge” a pervasive feature of human instinct. I’d say it’s more an aberration, especially reading this blog. 😉 But in any case, it’s not ubiquitous in the way empathy is, if it is even the same kind of disposition at all.

    So it’s all a matter of which instincts seem to be most widely accepted? The minute we realize that there are such things as headhunting tribes we lose any objective morality that a materialistic worldview can offer, then…

    It hardly need to be said, but if you are unclear on this, it’s because our psychology and cognitive process are not driven by the rock. Our psychology is driven by our instincts.

    How do our psychology and cognitive process boil down to something less material than the rock? Is that particular material… special? If not, at what point does it graduate into something which we deem worth taking orders from (e.g. psychology and cognitive process)?

    This will be easy for you to answer to your own satisfaction: what level of description is needed to distinguish a rock from a bolt of lightning? Is this a distinction you feel capable of making? If so, how do you do it, if it’s all just ‘physics being physics’. That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’m genuinely interested in your answer to that as I see that answers as likely to be “self-convincing” for you on this issue.

    A decently-low level of description is needed there—not too low, but below “does not possess spirit or soul.” Of course they’re fundamentally different things—yet they’re things, in a sense that no person we would want to be around would call a human being.

    At the most fundamental level of description, a rock is a bolt of lightning, right?

    Again, they’re clearly different things. What they’re not is moral agents; we can agree on that, and yet a non-materialistic theory can logically say why not, and a materialistic one, it seems from reading the comments thus far, cannot.

    Not at a fundamental level of description, at the “Barry Level”. They are the same, just matter and energy moving around in various ways!

    If we’re trying to refute the OP’s argument, this is a silly distinction. Mr. Arrington, using logic, shut this line of reasoning down in 63. Call the level what you like; the plain truth is that neither of us will hold rocks responsible for anything we don’t like. We likewise refrain from accusing killer whales of moral wrongdoing when they attack their trainers. It seems that we just somehow have to peer deep into the inner workings of (we’re to believe) purely material substance in order to obscure such a (yes) fundamental difference.

    I think I can just point to this last sentence of yours as a kind of “tap out” on this matter! It’s almost sig-worthy.

    Well you’d need to quote a bit from before it in order for it to make sense grammatically, but have at it.

    By the way: what I said (which I said would have to be quoted) was that those two lack something which we all clearly agree humans possess. I’m not the one trying to delve deep into the intricacy of fundamental differences between rocks and lightning by way of cop-out on the OP’s argument, which (if it could be refuted) could be refuted without reference to either!

    Maybe we agree that it’s getting comical at this point? And yet… where is that refutation?

  69. 69
    goodusername says:

    ebenezer,

    Ah… no. No one might is guaranteed to want what another might does, so we don’t get objectivity from this.

    Well, of course. That’s just one of many problems one will run in to if one seriously argued that “might makes right”.

    I don’t believe that “might makes right” because while the mighty can enforce what they believe to be right, that doesn’t mean that what they believe to be right is objectively right.
    I’m not going to change my mind on what I believe to be right based on who’s in power.

    Again we are bringing this back to “increases survival value” as “right” and “harms a species” as “wrong”… when will this ever end?

    Umm, no. I said “traits that we prefer”.
    I don’t prefer homicidal thieving rapists. Do you think I’m assuming too much to believe that most of the people here would agree?

  70. 70
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry,

    You have said that materialism has implications for morality that render its adherents unable to meaningfully talk about right and wrong, and that anyone who is a materialist must believe that mere personal preference is the only guide for right action.

    I have responded to and demolished every point you’ve tried to make, repeatedly (e.g. in post 8 in the previous thread). It is you who steadfastly has refused to respond to a single point I’ve made. You pretend I haven’t responded to your argument, but the truth is that my answers are directly responsive – you just don’t like my arguments because you can’t defeat them.

    Since you know you can’t defeat my arguments, you simply insult me like a scared schoolyard bully, while judging and castigating others for insulting you. That makes you a blatant hypocrite, something that both I and your own religion consider to be wrong (Romans 2:3). And most disgustingly, you are a religious bigot, making moral judgments against atheists purely because of their beliefs about religion.

    I’m quite done with you.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  71. 71
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Empathy is not a physical force like gravity. It is not a causal agent. It is an abstraction. It is a description of a feeling most people have, a feeling of understanding for the feelings of others. It is most assuredly not “physics.”

    Most assuredly? What? This can only be said over and against the witness of science. You admit as much a few sentences below when you refer to empathy as a “chemical reaction”. Chemical reactions are physical processes — physics in action, Barry.

    Whoops.

    Therefore, if, as you say, the processes are all, at the core “just physics” (and of course that is what the materialist must say), when you say “empathy informs this” or “empathy drives that” you are talking blithering nonsense based on your own premises. That feeling you call “empathy” is a chemical reaction in your brain. To say “empathy” caused this or that is to say “chemistry reactions caused this or that.” It does not help your case. Those chemical reactions follow the laws of physics like everything else. Chemistry does not “inform” a choice. There is no choice.

    Just so I understand you going forward, pick one of these mutually contraditctory statements you just offered:

    1. [Empathy] is an abstraction.
    2. Empathy is a chemical reaction in your brain.

    If 1), then necessarily not 2. If 2) then necessarily not 1). Which is it, or maybe you want to withdraw from both?

    On the matter of choice, for our purposes here, arguendo what does it matter if I say Chemistry informs choice, or that there are not choices at all. For my purpose here, I don’t think it matters. Do you? If so, why?

    You are arguing in a great big circle here while you try desperately to have it both ways. Your ability to deceive yourself appears to be almost boundless.

    This is just self-indulgent fluff, Barry. No substance here.

    You say it is all just physics. The materialist must say that. We are amalgamations of chemicals. Amalgamations of chemicals operate according to physical laws. They do not choose. As you say, they have no more choice than mass has with respect to gravity.

    On materialist premises the physics compelled John to murder and eat his mother. John had no choice in the matter. Similarly, the physics compel John to eat chocolate ice cream and shun vanilla. Again, he has no choice in the matter.

    Let’ grant, again, arguendo, that he indeed has no choice in the matter, none whatsoever. How does this make these instincts any less social or moral? I suggest such a stipulation does not affect the sociality or morality of human wiring in the least.

    You distinguish what you call a “moral question” (whether to murder and eat your mother) from a question that is “not a moral question” (whether to eat chocolate ice cream and shun vanilla). But there is no “question” at all in either case. A question implies the ability to answer in alternate ways. But there is no such choice. In both cases particles are merely acting in accordance with the laws of physics. There is absolutely no ground on which to distinguish between physical forces causing particles to do what we call “murder and eat your mother” and physical forces doing what we call “eat chocolate ice cream and avoid vanilla.”

    Irrespective of any conclusions we may come to about free will or determinism with regards to choosing and choice, the criterion for morality remains in any case. If the actions are social and interact with the interests of the self and others around you in your community, they are to that extent moral. That’s just a simple tautology — it’s what we mean by “moral” and “social”.

    If I stipulate for the purposes of argument here that there is no choice and the world is rigidly deterministic, “moral” and “social” are just as meaningful and carry the same semantic freight as if it were otherwise. Empathy in a completely deterministic universe is just as much a moral dynamic as a empathy in universe with “libertarian free will”, allowing for the moment that that concept is not logically incoherent.

    Any attempt by a materialist to suggest there is a something called “morality” or “flourishing” or “well being” that somehow allows him to distinguish between the two acts is engaging in self deception on an epic scale. He is doubtless trying to cope with the dissonance caused by Russell’s dilemma.

    Hmmm. Would you say we could assess the general “flourishing” of a human population in health terms? Let’s start there. If we can do that, then I think your claim falls apart; we would use a similar means of assessment for moral decisions. What are the effect of such an action, at the individual and population levels?

    You say that as if “murder” and “social impacts” are categories that particles obeying the law of physics take into account in deciding between two courses of action. On your own premises, you that is blithering nonsense. There is no choice.

    That would only be true if the “Barry Level of Description”, which is the most basic and fundamental, were the only one available. Happily, that’s not the case, and this is easily demonstrated. See my suggestion to ebenezer that a rock is not a lightning bolt (specifically chosen to avoid any moral dimensions, and focus on your problem with levels of description). Can you distinguish a rock from a lightning bolt? If so, how do you achieve this magic. After all, on your own grounds, they are the same thing — just energy and matter moving around, yeah?

    Utterly irrelevant as to whether the acts are in any sense anything other than “just physics.”

    So, saying “it’s just electro-chemical processes” is both technically true, and deeply ignorant.

    You say the processes are all, at the core “just physics”. I make an equivalent statement, and I’m deeply ignorant. OK.

    I say the assertion sticks if you are not able to recognize and interact with higher levels of description. Of course you can, you could not communicate and function day to day without doing so, so it’s apparent to anyone looking that your “ignorance” of higher levels of description available to is just a means to avoid distinctions that obtain at these higher levels of description. Unless you really do think a rock is a bolt of lightning, you are stuck.

    A brain is just atoms, yes, but that is to misunderstand wholly what a brain is, even and especially when that brain is nothing more than matter and energy.

    This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. A brain is just an amalgamation of particles obeying the laws of physics. It is nothing more than that. Indeed, on materialist premises nothing else exists that it can be. But to say what a brain is, is to wholly misunderstand it.

    Breathtaking in its stupidity.

    Ok, so you are committed to the idea that a rock is a bolt of lightning, then. They are both “just matter and energy moving around”, after all.

    Really, Barry, these are pretty basic concepts.

    it’s no problem for choices to be profound and mundane, complex and simple, inspiringly creative or hopeless banal, all coming from the same platform, the same evolved machines we call humans.

    What choices. We have already established that particles obeying the laws of physics don’t have choices any more than mass has the choice of conforming to the inverse square law.

    This fully misses the point being made. I could just as well have said:

    it’s no problem for actions to be profound and mundane, complex and simple, inspiringly creative or hopeless banal, all coming from the same platform, the same evolved machines we call humans.

    See what I did there? No choices, but the point remains as it was. Being “just physics” at the most fundamental level in now way diminished or discredits the distinctions and assessments we can make, objectively or subjectively, at higher levels of description. A human’s more actions — forget whether choice is applicable here or not for the moment — are in no way diminished by being whole natural, or the product of impersonal physical processes.

    You seem to think using flowery language somehow changes that. Of course that is part of the self deception you need to deal with your dissonance.

    This is more self-indulgent fluff, Barry. No substance.

    The words “meaningful” and “profound” and “trivial” “choices” are all meaningless on materialist premises. Particles operating in accordance with the laws of physics do not make choices at all. It makes no sense to say that particles in motion are “meaningful” or “profound” or “trivial.” That you do not understand the obvious conclusions logically compelled by your premises is nothing short of astounding.

    At this point, the intransigence here on levels of description is just tedious. Does “walking exist”, Barry? After all, if humans are just made of atoms, they necessarily cannot “walk”, on your position. Or do you suppose an atom can walk, Barry? If you don’t think atoms can walk, then humans cannot walk, as they are nothing but atoms!

    I can come up with examples that show your error by the hundreds, Barry. To say “X is just [Y at a lower level of description]” does not eliminate the higher levels of description, or the distinctions, semantics and concept we can put to effective use at that level of description. That’s why we can understand that “humans are made of out atoms”, “an atom can’t walk”, and yet, mirabile dictu!, “humans (and other beings) can walk” all as true at the same time, and without any logical contradictions.

    If you grant the coherence and compatibility of those three statements, your protest is surrendered, Barry. Matter and energy occur in different configurations that we can distinguish, measure and assess via higher levels of description. It is at these higher levels of description that moral and ethical semantics get grounded. Just as an “atom cannot walk”, and “atom cannot empathize”. Certain configurations of atoms can and do walk — they exhibit physical dynamics that map nicely and practically to our use of the term “walk”, even though not a single atom comprising the animal can walk. By the same principle, certain configurations of atoms can and do empathize, even though not a single atom comprising the “empathizer” can empathize.

    My question for you, then, is the same simple one I put to ebenezer: is a a rock a bolt of lightning, given that they are both just “matter and energy moving around”? There’s not dispute about free will and choices in this to distract or complicate, there’s no moral or ethical questions to bother with either. It’s a question that just looks at the problem you are struggling with, which is applying concepts at different levels of description. If you say “yes, a rock is a bolt of lightning, and they cannot be meaningfully distinguished”, I will be happy with that, and the discussion goes one way. If you say “no, a rock is not a bolt of lightning, and they are meaningfully distinguishable”, then you will have shown all ready the disingenuous nature of dozens of your posts here in the past few days.

  72. 72
    Joe says:

    Me Think:

    Evolution is about population, not an individual.

    Really? Populations don’t reproduce and evolution requires it. Natural selection, ie evolution, is all about individuals.

  73. 73
    Box says:

    Eigenstate: is a a rock a bolt of lightning, given that they are both just “matter and energy moving around”?

    If ‘matter and energy moving around’ cannot accommodate ‘agency’, ‘free will’, ‘choices’, ‘responsibility’ and other prerequisites of morality, then there is no relevant difference between a rock and a bolt of lightning.
    IOW your question may very well be irrelevant.

    Eigenstate: Matter and energy occur in different configurations that we can distinguish, measure and assess via higher levels of description. It is at these higher levels of description that moral and ethical semantics get grounded. Just as an “atom cannot walk”, and “atom cannot empathize”. Certain configurations of atoms can and do walk — they exhibit physical dynamics that map nicely and practically to our use of the term “walk”, even though not a single atom comprising the animal can walk. By the same principle, certain configurations of atoms can and do empathize, even though not a single atom comprising the “empathizer” can empathize.

    The difference between ‘walking’ and let’s say ‘choosing’ is that the latter implies downward causation. By definition a choice cannot be wholly upwardly determined. The same goes for ‘person’, ‘agency’ and ‘free will’—they all imply downward causation by definition.
    In order to accommodate downward causation a worldview must allow for the existence of phenomena independent and distinct from matter. It goes without saying that materialism does not allow for the existence of such things.

    W J Murray:

    Under materialism, if mind and morality are “emergent systems”, they are still nothing more than systems entirely generated by natural law and mechanical probability. Under materialism, emergent systems are not separate from physical laws and probabilities, but are necessarily expressions of them in certain conditions.
    Under materialism, physical processes cannot produce something that is independent of them and thus could intervene in them.

  74. 74
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Prof Wm B Provine, at the 1998 Darwin Day keynote at U Tenn:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    Without responsible freedom, of course, neither credible mind nor morality have foundation.

    The point is, this is reductio; we are responsibly free, we do have real ability to freely and soundly reason though we do err; so, an ideological/worldview scheme that profoundly runs contrary to such truths of consciousness simply cannot be true.

    It undermines itself.

    Never mind the lab coats.

    KF

  75. 75

    1. Whether or not the universe is determined, the logically consistent moral subjectivist admit that under materialism, all things are ultimately explicable by the interactions of matter and energy under the guiding influences of natural law and mechanical probability.

    2. Matter and energy are neither conscious or intentional agencies under materialism, but rather only produce effects that we label with those terms. However, those labels – under materialism – do not and can not indicate anything categorically different from matter and energy interacting according to law and probability. There is no such thing as anything “intervening” in the lawful and probabilistic outcomes of material processes because there is nothing exterior to such processes that can intervene and change them from their normal course.

    3. This means that conscious thoughts and intentions cannot suspend or intervene on the ongoing material processes; they are nothing more than product of or a part of those selfsame material processes. The sensation of an ought cannot physically intervene, suspend or change the normal, natural course of matter and energy interacting according to physical law and mechanical probability.

    The crucial point here is that while the sensation of an ought might be part of a sequences of events, and the temporal location of that sensed ought might be at the point where ones actions appear to change, the sensation of locally commanding the ensuing action in a top-down, mind-over-matter fashion is necessarily an illusion, because both the sensation of the ought and the “decision” to change physical course are entirely produced by ultimately non-conscious, non-teleological, bottom-up interacting materials and forces.

    4. Under materialism, there is no top-down ghost in the machine or emergent capacity available that can intervene in the natural procession of material interactions. Any so-called “emergent properties” are simply variant expressions of natural law and mechanical probability in certain specific conditions, ultimately generated entirely by bottom up, non-conscious, non-teleological matter & energy.

    5. So, under materialism, mind and morality can be accurately categorized as delusions, mirages of top-down, deliberate, prescriptive control, sensations manufactured by happenstance interactions of non-conscious, non-teleological matter that can have no prescriptive power whatsoever to alter the course of the normal, lawful and probabilistic behavior of matter.

    Under materialism, the self is nothing more than a set of illusory qualia entirely produced and directed by law and probability, existing as nothing more than a kind of happenstance-generated internal hologram that is along for the ride, so to speak, as the interacting matter (that is producing the local hologram of self) does whatever it does anyway.

    All that mind and morality can be is a description of sensation and they cannot have any prescriptive power to intervene or change material processes because that’s all they can be in the first place. A hologram cannot deliberately change its “programming” in any rational sense; its programming (what it does) is entirely generated by natural law and probability even if, from the hologram’s perspective, it appears as if he is doing it independently of natural law and/or probabilities, as if he has independent agency.

    It would be no more different than if a rock had consciousness and felt like it was making a decision to move every time it happened to move. The sensation of the teleological “decision” is concurrent with the movement but cannot represent a true top-down command of the movement because materialism doesn’t offer top-down, teleological control even from emergent properties.

    To sum up: under materialism, mind and morality are delusions of independent prescriptive power that a programmed hologram of “self” experiences while being carried wherever natural law and mechanical probability take it and while being whatever natural law and mechanical probability make it.

    TL;DR: In a materialist world, if you stripped humans of consciousness all you would ultimately lose (wrt the debate here) is the delusion that one has the top-down, prescriptive power to alter the normal course of matter and energy interacting according natural law and mechanical probability.

  76. 76
    Seversky says:

    Argumentum ad consequentiam

    Even if the the theory of evolution implies such consequences, even if they are regarded as adverse, they have no bearing on whether the theory is a sound account of how life on Earth changed and diversified over time.

    And, although Velikovskys provided a very good counter, there is still a very difficult question for Christians, which is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of our future itself undermines the possibility of free will.

  77. 77
    Box says:

    ** redundant

  78. 78
    Barry Arrington says:

    eigenstate, misquotes me to manufacture a contradiction:

    What Eigenstate said I said:

    Just so I understand you going forward, pick one of these mutually contraditctory statements you just offered:

    1. [Empathy] is an abstraction.
    2. Empathy is a chemical reaction in your brain.

    What I actually said:

    1. “Empathy is not a physical force like gravity. It is not a causal agent. It is an abstraction.
    2. “That feeling you call “empathy” is a chemical reaction in your brain. To say “empathy” caused this or that is to say ‘chemistry reactions caused this or that.'”

    E, if I had to lie about what people said in order to make my case, I hope I would stop and rethink. I doubt that you will.

  79. 79
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM –

    the sensation of locally commanding the ensuing action in a top-down, mind-over-matter fashion is necessarily an illusion, because both the sensation of the ought and the “decision” to change physical course are entirely produced by ultimately non-conscious, non-teleological, bottom-up interacting materials and forces.

    Compatibilism is the view that non-conscious, non-teleogical materials and forces do interact in such a way as to give genuine free will in any sensible meaning of the word (the bottom-up/top-down business does not apply – there is no up and down). This is a widespread, respected (and in my view correct) school of thought. I am sure you will disagree with it – but until you have understood it and found what is wrong with it your assertion is nothing but an assertion needing proof. The best book on it that I know is Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves.

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    nope.

    When the logical entailment of a view is that rationality and responsibility evaporate, it is self referentially incoherent. It is self refuting. You may find it all but impossible to acknowledge that but it does not change the point.

    Reppert is right:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    As, is Haldane:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Pearcey caps off:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.”

    Evolutionary materialism collapses in self refutation.

    KF

  81. 81

    Eigenstate @71 said:

    My question for you, then, is the same simple one I put to ebenezer: is a a rock a bolt of lightning, given that they are both just “matter and energy moving around”? There’s not dispute about free will and choices in this to distract or complicate, there’s no moral or ethical questions to bother with either. It’s a question that just looks at the problem you are struggling with, which is applying concepts at different levels of description. If you say “yes, a rock is a bolt of lightning, and they cannot be meaningfully distinguished”, I will be happy with that, and the discussion goes one way. If you say “no, a rock is not a bolt of lightning, and they are meaningfully distinguishable”, then you will have shown all ready the disingenuous nature of dozens of your posts here in the past few days.

    We can apply different labels that serve as place-holders for more detailed descriptions to different things we experience. You and I can point to the same thing and call it “immoral”, but the germane point is not that we agree to call the thing in question “immoral”, but whether or not our internal, more detailed description of that thing is the same, and whether or not: (1) we have really thought about what that more detailed description is, (2) what, if true, it means, and (3) if it comports with how we actually behave, and (4) if it is logically consistent with our other views, most importantly, our fundamental worldview.

    You seem to be making the case that whatever the internal, detailed description of “immoral” is, it is irrelevant to the fact that we both happen to point at the same thing and call it “immoral”. The question at the table is not whether we both agree it is immoral, but rather what the more detailed description logically indicates and whether it provides a basis for morality worth caring about in the first place.

    If Mr. Arrington’s more detailed description is valid (and it appears that you agree that it is), then that necessarily means that any sensation of top-down, prescriptive control over ones behavior is ultimately (more detailed description) illusory. So while you and I might point at a thing and we both might say “that behavior is immoral and we have the free will capacity to decide not to act that way”, those same terminological labels have entirely different, contradictory more detailed descriptions when you and I use them.

    The pertinent point that Mr. Arrington and others are attempting to point out is the materialist’s more detailed description of those terms renders morality logically and practically absurd for several reasons, and as I’ve pointed out, nobody can live as if the more detailed description is true.

    What you call a “higher level description” is a mere label, and in the case of materialist morality it is a label that hides the fact that the more detailed description reveals inescapable logical and practical problems.

  82. 82
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,

    Can you refer to a specific part of Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves? I have the book here right in front of me; just kindly point me in the right direction.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, Kindly cf Reppert above. Compatibilism, so called, fails. Fails, because to try to account for responsible freedom on blind chance and mechanical necessity must fail. But, it does help to enable this generation’s bewitchment to self refuting evolutionary materialism by making it seem that somehow the rabbit can be pulled out of the non-existent hat, and we can get North by heading West. KF

  84. 84
    Barry Arrington says:

    MF @ 79:

    [Compatibilism]is a widespread, respected (and in my view correct) school of thought.

    It is not correct. Briefly, a compatibilist is someone who tries to avoid the logic of his premises by resorting to semantic dodges about the meaning of free will. The compatibilist says that free will is compatible with determinism (thus the name). Isn’t that kinda like saying my existence is compatible with my nonexistence? Yes, it is.

    But the compatibilist avoids this problem by re-defining “free will.” The compatibilist says that “free will” does not mean “the liberty to choose, i.e., the ability to have done otherwise;” instead, says he, it means “the absence of coercion.” In other words, he says that so long as a choice is not coerced it is completely free even if it is utterly determined.

    The problem with this approach is easy to see – just as we don’t get to win a game by changing the rules to suit us in the middle of the game, we don’t get to impose meaning on words to suit the conclusion we want to reach. The entire issue in the determinism/free will debate is whether we have liberty to choose defined as “the ability to have done otherwise.”

    Suppose I ask my friend the following question: “Do I have free will, if by ‘free will’ I mean ‘the ability to have done otherwise?’” It is obviously no answer to that question for him to say, “Yes, indeed, you have free will if by free will you mean, ‘the absence of coercion.’”

    I really do want to explore the question about whether I have the ability to have done otherwise, and my friend’s answer is not helpful. You might even say he dodged the question. Thus, in the end, the compatibilist answers a question no one has asked.

    “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953, aphorism 109

  85. 85

    Mark Frank said:

    Compatibilism is the view that non-conscious, non-teleogical materials and forces do interact in such a way as to give genuine free will in any sensible meaning of the word (the bottom-up/top-down business does not apply – there is no up and down).

    In the first place, MF, you equivocate by using the phrase “in any sensible meaning of the word”. Sensible to whom? Sensible under what worldview? The label “free will” is necessarily a place-holder for a more detailed description, so when you say it you mean one thing, when I say it I mean another, and the two can be contradictory.

    So, when you say “compatibilism offers true free will,” you’ve offered nothing of any substance other than a series of words that semantically, but not substantively, counters my point. It’s like saying “does too!”

    Under compatibalism, even if blind, non-teleolgical physical forces determine a choice, “free will” still exists as long as no other people or institutions have interfered with or coerced their behavior.

    That is contradictory to the non-materialist view of free will, where an individual still has free will regardless of what others or institutions do, and that such free will is beyond the causal reach of the physical world.

    You can call a thing “free will”, or “moral”; but unless you are just using those terms to hide behind, what you must argue from is their more detailed descriptions, and what you must argue about is if those more detailed descriptions hold up logically and practically.

    This is a widespread, respected (and in my view correct) school of thought.

    Then unless this is just a blatant appeal to authority and/or popularity, you should be able to defend it. Do so.

    I am sure you will disagree with it – but until you have understood it and found what is wrong with it your assertion is nothing but an assertion needing proof.

    It’s not my job to show how your assertion that “it is correct” is wrong; it’s your job to defend it. It’s your job to present it and show how materialism can adequately ground morality, how it logically explains our actual behavior, and how it offers a morality worth caring about in the first place.

    Otherwise, you are saying “My position is described in this book; go read it and explain to me why it is wrong”.

    Really? You think that’s a proper defense of a worldview?

  86. 86
    Mark Frank says:

    #82 Box

    Good question. I am looking through my copy to see if there any sections that stand-alone. I would certainly recommend chapter 4 but you might find it hard going without the preceding chapters.

    Incidentally the highly religious immaterialist Terry Eagleton says this about free will:

    Can we still be free if we could not have acted otherwise? Baggini is surely right to claim that we can. In fact, most of the things that matter – being in love, composing a superb sonata, detesting Piers Morgan, feeling horrified by the slave trade – have a smack of inner necessity about them, as this book argues in a perceptive chapter on art. What define the self most deeply are the sort of commitments from which we could not walk away even if we tried. The point, however, is that we don’t want to. Freedom from such engagements would be no freedom at all. True liberty lies in being able to realise such a self, not shuck it off.

    (Thanks to Denyse for this reference)

    It seems compatabilist ideas are not confined to materialists! At least it may give the idea more respectability in some UD reader’s eyes.

  87. 87
    Mark Frank says:

    WJM

    This is not about whose job it is to make a particular point. I am just pointing out that you have made an assertion as though it is self-evidently true but many distinguished people disagree – so perhaps you should examine it more carefully. I don’t have the time, space or clarity to make the case myself so I refer you to a better source. Ignore it if you wish – but be aware you have not dealt with some significant counter-arguments.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    MF, the attempt to redefine responsible choice to say in effect it is an illusion but we can use the same terminology and say that if things are not gun to the head coerced they are “free” in the sense we now will accept is a case of a verbal bait and switch. Nope, if you do not have genuine choice across genuine alternatives so you could have acted otherwise — hence, are responsible to act aright in respect of intellectual and moral matters — you are not free. KF

  89. 89
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM @ 85:

    Otherwise, you are saying “My position is described in this book; go read it and explain to me why it is wrong”. Really? You think that’s a proper defense of a worldview?

    That tactic seems to be standard among materialists nowadays. RDFish employs it almost every time he posts. “I’ve read some books, and they say I’m right. QED.”

  90. 90
    eigenstate says:

    @Box,

    The difference between ‘walking’ and let’s say ‘choosing’ is that the latter implies downward causation. By definition a choice cannot be wholly upwardly determined. The same goes for ‘person’, ‘agency’ and ‘free will’—they all imply downward causation by definition.
    In order to accommodate downward causation a worldview must allow for the existence of phenomena independent and distinct from matter. It goes without saying that materialism does not allow for the existence of such things.

    First, this avoids the thrust of my comment, which was to ask how walking can exist when a person is made up of atoms, and everyone knows an atom can’t walk?! No one on the theistic side has yet shown they grasp the problem and related concepts, here. I’m sure it’s not beyond their skills, but acknowledging it makes Barry’s error a realized, and recognized error.

    As for choice, I think you are helping yourself to some self-interested definitions, here. There’s no contradiction between “choice” and “wholly upwardly determined”. On some forms of materialism that is how all choices occur, driven wholly by lower level interactions. So, your “definition” can’t be “the” definition, it’s just a definition you privilege to fit your understanding.

    But even if I grant the difference you are pointing to is a difference given your self-serving restrictions on the definitions, what of it? Does “top down agency” explain how “walking” exists when a person is made of atoms, and now has “agency”, in your view? Agency and downward causation don’t help on this point — it’s a red herring. The problem for you — this is Barry’s error that you are taking up — is that he (and you?) are apparently confused about levels of description. If you are familiar with the Fallacy of Division and the Fallacy of Composition, these errors stem from the same problem. My “walking” question is a riff on the Fallacy of Decomposition: if a person can walk and is “just atoms”, then by reduction, an atom can walk, right?

    Agency or no, Barry’s error is quite plain to see in considering this question. We don’t ascribe “walking” to any individual atom or any group of atoms. But we do understand particular configurations of in the form of an “animal” — a higher level description of a very large collection of atoms — to “walk”.

  91. 91
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks, No authority — individual, collective, oral or written, etc. — is any better than his/her facts, reasoning and underlying assumptions. To the merits, to the merits, to the merits . . . KF

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    ES, the emergence of walking as a mechanical process can be explained mechanically. The CHOICE as to where to walk or not to walk, is a volitional/intellectual process and is not accounted for on mechanisms. By their (flawed) analogies shall ye know them. KF

    PS: I recall seeing, ever so often in a neighbourhood etc in Cuba, more or less: Zona Militar — no pasa! (Think about the use of symbols to convey meaning and prescriptive information to instruct people not to pass that way . . . in a country officially devoted to a worldview that denies responsible freedom.)

  93. 93
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF @ 92:

    ES, the emergence of walking as a mechanical process can be explained mechanically. The CHOICE as to where to walk or not to walk, is a volitional/intellectual process and is not accounted for on mechanisms.

    That eigenstate seems genuinely incapable of grasping this concept beggars belief. His analogy between walking and making choices is patently absurd. His case of self-deception is perhaps the most severe I have ever seen. I truly feel sorry for him. The intellectual cancer of his worldview has metastasized to such an extent that it has been literally terminal vis-a-vis his ability to grasp the obvious.

  94. 94
    Box says:

    //on D.Dennett, ‘Freedom Evolves’, Chapter 4 //

    Dennett mostly seems to argue against determinism by means of pointing out unpredictable processes—as if unpredictability can secure free will. Boring reading material to me, because IMO it is irrelevant. It doesn’t occur to me to term some unpredictable quantum event “free”.

    Dennett: As Kane himself puts it, “In short, when described from a physical perspective alone, free will looks like chance” (Kane 1996, p. 147). And chance looks exactly the same, whether it is genuinely indeterministic or merely pseudo-random or chaotic.

    The obvious question is: who is in charge, a person of some randomizing process? And if the latter, then obviously personal freedom is completely out of the window.

    Dennett: Kane has suggested to me (personal correspondence) that “The indeterminacy-producing mechanism must be responsive to the dynamics within the agent’s own will and not override them or it would be making the decisions and not the agent.” His concern is that a remote source of randomness would threaten your autonomy, and be likely to take control of your thinking processes. Wouldn’t it be much safer and hence more responsible-to keep the randomizer inside you, under your watchful eye in some sense?

    Everyone can understand Kane’s concern here: What is meant by “free will” if some “indeterminacy-producing mechanism” is in the driver seat, so to speak?
    Here’s Dennett’s answer to Kane’s clear question, I leave it up to reader to judge whether Dennett actually addresses it:

    Dennett: No. Randomness is just randomness; it isn’t creeping randomness. Programmers routinely insert calls to the random number generator in their programs, not worrying about it somehow getting out of hand and providing chaos where it isn’t wanted.

    Okay, those were some first impressions. I leave it to Mark Frank to present more relevant parts of Dennett’s work.

  95. 95
    eigenstate says:

    1. Whether or not the universe is determined, the logically consistent moral subjectivist admit that under materialism, all things are ultimately explicable by the interactions of matter and energy under the guiding influences of natural law and mechanical probability.

    See my points on Barry’s problems with levels of description, above. It’s true to say what you’ve said by way of excluding, say, the supernatural, or some idea of an immaterial deity. Materialism is not constrained to descriptions, concepts and distinctions that are only expressed at the level of elementary particles. Humans are made of atoms, but humans can “walk”, despite the fact that any atom you might choose from human cannot “walk”.

    2. Matter and energy are neither conscious or intentional agencies under materialism, but rather only produce effects that we label with those terms. However, those labels – under materialism – do not and can not indicate anything categorically different from matter and energy interacting according to law and probability. There is no such thing as anything “intervening” in the lawful and probabilistic outcomes of material processes because there is nothing exterior to such processes that can intervene and change them from their normal course.

    Materialists are not unified on this, and materialism does not entail consciousness as purely illusory or as a real phenomenon. In any case, you are drinking from Barry’s cup of errors here with “Matter and energy are neither conscious or intentional agencies…” Again, atoms don’t walk under materialism, yet humans do, and humans are made from atoms! An atom is not “conscious”, and yet humans (in some flavors of materialism) are actually conscious, and humans are made of atoms!

    On materialism, any “intervening” if it were actual, would be a “material intervening”, though, you’re right, and thus part of the material universe and processes. There is no supernatural magic acknowledged by materialism.

    3. This means that conscious thoughts and intentions cannot suspend or intervene on the ongoing material processes; they are nothing more than product of or a part of those selfsame material processes. The sensation of an ought cannot physically intervene, suspend or change the normal, natural course of matter and energy interacting according to physical law and mechanical probability.

    On materialism, the sensation of ought *is part of* the normal, natural course of interactions, yes. That is just to say that “sense of ought” is a real phenomenon.

    The crucial point here is that while the sensation of an ought might be part of a sequences of events, and the temporal location of that sensed ought might be at the point where ones actions appear to change, the sensation of locally commanding the ensuing action in a top-down, mind-over-matter fashion is necessarily an illusion, because both the sensation of the ought and the “decision” to change physical course are entirely produced by ultimately non-conscious, non-teleological, bottom-up interacting materials and forces.

    It’s not correct to say “non-conscious”, at least under many materialist frameworks. Consciousness may be purely epiphenomenal or it may not be — materialism doesn’t demand it be one way or the other. But you are certainly right to say that materialism does not and cannot accommodate concepts like “mind over matter”, where I understand you to mean mind as “something more than matter (and energy), something immaterial”. That’s a feature, not a bug. You can call such an idea a “delusion” under materialism, or “imaginary”, doesn’t matter. On materialism, these ideas are superstitions that are not grounded in the facts of our extramental reality.

    4. Under materialism, there is no top-down ghost in the machine or emergent capacity available that can intervene in the natural procession of material interactions. Any so-called “emergent properties” are simply variant expressions of natural law and mechanical probability in certain specific conditions, ultimately generated entirely by bottom up, non-conscious, non-teleological matter & energy.

    No “ghost in the machine”. Right.

    5. So, under materialism, mind and morality can be accurately categorized as delusions, mirages of top-down, deliberate, prescriptive control, sensations manufactured by happenstance interactions of non-conscious, non-teleological matter that can have no prescriptive power whatsoever to alter the course of the normal, lawful and probabilistic behavior of matter.

    Well, *your* conception of “mind” and “morality” can be fairly categorized as delusions, yes. These are misconceptions, and badly understand the facts and effective concepts at work in our extramental reality on materialism. This does NOT mean that “mind” is not a real phenomenon or a meaningful concept on materialism. It just doesn’t resemble dualist intuitions about mind.

    Under materialism, the self is nothing more than a set of illusory qualia entirely produced and directed by law and probability, existing as nothing more than a kind of happenstance-generated internal hologram that is along for the ride, so to speak, as the interacting matter (that is producing the local hologram of self) does whatever it does anyway.

    Again, it’s “illusory” with respect to dualist intuitions about mind. On a scientific understanding, qualia may be understood as concrete phenomenon, the kind of phenomenon you could observe and measure with an fMRI, or some more advanced instrument yet to be developed.

    What’s at stake is not “mind” or “percept” in general, but dualist and theistic intuitions about those concepts. If your intuitions one this are wholly misgiven, “mind” and “percept” and “consciousness” remain real phenomena, and useful, semantically rich terms and concepts. They just don’t comport with *your* intuitions.

    All that mind and morality can be is a description of sensation and they cannot have any prescriptive power to intervene or change material processes because that’s all they can be in the first place. A hologram cannot deliberately change its “programming” in any rational sense; its programming (what it does) is entirely generated by natural law and probability even if, from the hologram’s perspective, it appears as if he is doing it independently of natural law and/or probabilities, as if he has independent agency.

    Being wholly natural in no way prevents a mind, or a system from being dynamic. A brain’s plasticity allows for marked changes in the way it computes and triggers action depending on input from the body and the external environment. Behaviors and reactions can and do change over time, demonstrably, and there’s nothing in that that conflicts with the brain/mind being wholly natural in the materialist sense. On materialism, any notion or intuition of “doing it independently of of natural law” is confused and mistaken, though, correct.

    It would be no more different than if a rock had consciousness and felt like it was making a decision to move every time it happened to move. The sensation of the teleological “decision” is concurrent with the movement but cannot represent a true top-down command of the movement because materialism doesn’t offer top-down, teleological control even from emergent properties.

    Apparently by “top down” you mean “immaterial” or “supernatural”. If so, then certainly, on materialism, such teleology does not exist. But this does not negate “consciousness”, “decisions” or “sensations” as wholly natural phenomena that operate as part of a consistent, coherent natural framework.

    To sum up: under materialism, mind and morality are delusions of independent prescriptive power that a programmed hologram of “self” experiences while being carried wherever natural law and mechanical probability take it and while being whatever natural law and mechanical probability make it.

    TL;DR: In a materialist world, if you stripped humans of consciousness all you would ultimately lose (wrt the debate here) is the delusion that one has the top-down, prescriptive power to alter the normal course of matter and energy interacting according natural law and mechanical probability.

    Simplified: On materialism, many of my dualist intuitions about the world are WAY wrong!

  96. 96
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF says,

    Compatibilism is the view that non-conscious, non-teleogical materials and forces do interact in such a way as to give genuine free will in any sensible meaning of the word (the bottom-up/top-down business does not apply – there is no up and down).

    I say,

    Mark I think your definition is incorrectly constrained. As a Calvinist I believe that free will is compatible with determinism and therefore I consider myself a Compatibilist.

    However the determinism I hold to is is not a physical determinism. Our choices are constrained by our nature and other forces which can not be reduced to matter.

    Simply put I believe our choices are real and not constrained by “non-conscious, non-teleogical materials and forces”.

    Perhaps you should qualify your view as “Materialistic Compatibilism” to avoid any confusion with the traditional understanding of the term.

    What you describe could be a form of Compatibilism but it is certainly not the only one or even the most common.

    peace

  97. 97

    Can we still be free if we could not have acted otherwise? Baggini is surely right to claim that we can.

    That ranks right up there with Hawking’s universes from nothing.

    In any event, Eagleton is apparently mistaking free choice for free will, and our apparent inability to immediately choose what we feel for what we intend to do about it.

    We can, in fact, decide to change how we feel about things even if we cannot change it immediately; we can change our visceral reactions over time by willfully changing how we look at things – by contextualizing them differently thus altering our perception of things.

    We can also desensitize ourselves over time by submitting to various processes that do this.

  98. 98

    Eigenstate said:

    Again, it’s “illusory” with respect to dualist intuitions about mind.

    No, they are illusory in the sense that a hallucination or a mirage are illusionary. They, too, are real phenomena under materialism but they are illusory in the sense that what they appear to be is not what they are unless the person understands that it is, in fact, an illusion of X, and not an actual X.”

    This is the problem; you are using what you call “higher levels of description” to mask the fundamental difference between an illusion of X and an actual X by claiming that what X means under materialism is “the illusion of X”. Under materialism, the sense of actual top-down prescriptive control of mind-over-matter (body) is an illusion in the same way that a mirage of an oasis is an illusion of an oasis. It’s not actual top-down, ghost-in-the-machine, prescriptive control; it’s an illusion of such generated by bottom-up, non-teleological happenstance interactions of matter.

    Unless top-down, prescriptive mind-over-body control actually exists, the sense of it is an illusion by definition. You don’t get to equivocate between X and the illusion of X by saying that “illusion of X” is what “X” means under materialism.

  99. 99
    Mark Frank says:

    5MM

    You are quite right – compatabilism does not require materialism. I am glad I have an ally here!

  100. 100
    Barry Arrington says:

    Onlookers, notice how eigenstate continues to insist on his patently flawed walking analogy in the teeth of KF’s corrective at 92. Notice how he continues to insist events attributable to nothing more than an amalgamation of atoms are not reducible (for reasons he never explains) to the interactions of the atoms that constitute the amalgamation.

    Such willful self deceit is, in my experience, invincible to attempts to correct it. Nevertheless, we at UD are grateful to eigenstate for continuing to give us examples of the incoherence of the materialist worldview as fodder for our discussions.

  101. 101
    gpuccio says:

    William J Murray:

    Very well said.

    An illusion is essentially a wrong cognitive judgement. I can believe that I am thin when I am fat, and that is an illusion. An illusion is a very real thing, but it is not a correct cognitive judgement.

    The simple point is: we strongly feel that we act with some freedom, and that our acts can change our personal destiny. That can be true or false. If it is true, our feeling is a correct intuition of truth. Otherwise, it is an illusion.

    Now, I am sure that many times we are deluded about our true freedom when we act. I certainly believe that in many cases we believe that we are choosing, and that is not the case. In other cases, we believe that we are forced to do something, and again that is not the case.

    That means that, even if free will is the true thing, our ideas about our specific level of freedom in specific circumstances can well be illusions. Sometimes. But many times they are not. And, in general, the intuition that we are free agents and that we can change our personal destiny remains true.

    On the other hand, if true libertarian free will is not a reliable map of reality (IOWs, if it is a bad philosophy), then those who believe thet in general we have some free will are deluded. If, on the other hand, libertarian free will is a good map of reality, then both determinists and compatibilists are deluded.

    Whatever they can say, these are two incompatible views of reality. If one is true, the other one is false, and vice versa.

  102. 102
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM @ 98: Indeed.

    The difference to which you allude is the difference between epistimology and ontology, between ratio cognoscendi (the reason for the perception that something is the case) and ratio essendi (the reason something actually is the case).

  103. 103
    gpuccio says:

    Mark Frank:

    I don’t know if that can help, but I can agree that materialism and determinism are not necessarily the same thing. We could say that materialism in a sense implies determinism, and that is certainly true of some forms of materialism, but maybe not of all.

    Determinism has a very precise meaning: it implies that all that happens in a system can be explained by laws. As you well know, quantum mechanics is not necessarily deterministic, it depends on how you interpret its probabilistic part.

    However, as I have said many times, libertarian free will has a very precise meaning too: it means a worldview where conscious choices change objective events, and cannot be entirely explained neither as deterministic results of laws nor as random events. IOWs, conscious choices have a subjective menaing, which is not dependent on the objective influences which affect the conscious agent.

    So defined, libertarian free will is completely incompatible with both determinism and compatibilism. You know too well that this has always been my position. It still is.

  104. 104
    eigenstate says:

    @WJM

    No, they are illusory in the sense that a hallucination or a mirage are illusionary. They, too, are real phenomena under materialism but they are illusory in the sense that what they appear to be is not what they are unless the person understands that it is, in fact, an illusion of X, and not an actual X.”

    So, yes, on many forms of materialism, folk psychology, the more broad basket of intuitions you are referring to, is mistaken, incompatible with what is really going on in terms of objective, physical interactions outside of the mind.

    You offer these like it’s a complain, or somehow a deficiency of reality, if it is the case. I understand it’s not something that dovetails with your intuitions, but reality is what it is, yeah? If it’s an “illusion”, but that’s the reality of your folk psychology, then what? It sounds like you’re prepared to shake your fist in anger at reality and insist on keeping your illusions. As the great philosopher W. Axl Rose once advised: ‘Use your illusions’. Is this an exercise in making your illusions work for you, then?

    This is the problem; you are using what you call “higher levels of description” to mask the fundamental difference between an illusion of X and an actual X by claiming that what X means under materialism is “the illusion of X”. Under materialism, the sense of actual top-down prescriptive control of mind-over-matter (body) is an illusion in the same way that a mirage of an oasis is an illusion of an oasis. It’s not actual top-down, ghost-in-the-machine, prescriptive control; it’s an illusion of such generated by bottom-up, non-teleological happenstance interactions of matter.

    On materialism, any sense you have supernatural or immaterial interverntion in natural process is confused or mistaken. You have that right. I guess I’m missing the larger point of that observation, though. If materialist understandings are correct, your intuitions are mistaken. So what?

    Unless top-down, prescriptive mind-over-body control actually exists, the sense of it is an illusion by definition. You don’t get to equivocate between X and the illusion of X by saying that “illusion of X” is what “X” means under materialism.

    So, assume for the sake of argument that your understandings on this are wrong, and your sense of immaterial control over the natural world is wholly illusory; what you thought was true about your mind is not true, and not even close.

    What’s the problem with this, beyond any frustrations you or I may have in accepting that were mistaken??

  105. 105
    Box says:

    Eigenstate: There’s no contradiction between “choice” and “wholly upwardly determined”. On some forms of materialism that is how all choices occur, driven wholly by lower level interactions. So, your “definition” can’t be “the” definition, it’s just a definition you privilege to fit your understanding.

    This is an absurd conversation. How about the tautology “free choice”? Or are you willing to tell me that “there’s also no contradiction between “free choice” and “wholly upwardly determined”? If so, I’m not sure how to proceed.

  106. 106
    Barry Arrington says:

    Onlookers, eigenstate’s next gambit (on display at 104) is as tiresome as it was sadly predictable.

    Eisgenstate knows he cannot answer WJM’s objections. He literally has nothing. So instead of admitting WJM’s criticism he tries to change the subject from the entailments of materialism to “dualism has problems too.”

    Perhaps dualism does have problems. That is not what we are talking about today though. We are talking about materialism and its entailments. I hope WJM does not rise to the bait and allow E to change the subject. It is too much fun watching him squirm as WJM holds his feet to the fire.

    BTW, E’s use of the phrase “folk psychology” is a sure sign that he has drunk deeply from Daniel Dennett’s sophistry.

  107. 107
    gpuccio says:

    eigenstate:

    So, assume for the sake of argument that your understandings on this are wrong, and your sense of immaterial control over the natural world is wholly illusory; what you thought was true about your mind is not true, and not even close.

    What’s the problem with this, beyond any frustrations you or I may have in accepting that were mistaken??

    There is no problem at all.

    I quote here what I have just posted in another thread:

    “It’s simple, after all: both views have their inner consistency, and their necessary implications. We are free to choose. but it seems that those who choose the materialist context are always trying to cheat about the implications, maybe because those implications are really, really bad for everything we consider human.

    But that is not intellectual honesty.”

    I think that we choose our personal worldview. That choice comes ultimately from our free will, but it is certainly influenced by many considerations, including, I suppose, how well our map of reality explains our intuitions about ourselves.

  108. 108

    eigenstate said:

    Apparently by “top down” you mean “immaterial” or “supernatural”.

    Under materialism: Bottom = matter, energy, natural laws and mechanical probability. Top = an aggregate of matter/energy caused to exist by the lawful and probabilistic interactions of matter and energy. Under materialism, if the bottom is dictating everything the aggregate does, then there is no top-down control in any meaningful sense.

    If the bottom-up process generates a sensation that one has top-down, mind-over-body control of what one does or thinks, that sensation is necessarily, definitionally illusory because the materials and forces at the bottom dictate the behavior of thoughts of the aggregate. Just because physical forces produce a hallucination or a delusion does’t make those things not hallucinations, illusions or delusions.

    Even if those bottom-up materials and forces produce an “emergent” phenomena that cannot be reduced to constituent materials and forces, that phenomena was still caused by and is an expression of a that which lies at the bottom. Under materialism, the emergent phenomena is not independent of the bottom; it is indeed caused by the bottom. Everything the emergent phenomena “does” or “is” is caused by the bottom even though it may not be “reducible” to the qualities of individual parts and forces at the bottom. “Not being reducible to” is not the same as “not necessarily and sufficiently caused by”.

    Thus, under materialism, everything, including emergent phenomena, are necessarily and sufficiently caused by that which is at the bottom – matter, energy, natural law and mechanical probability. The sensation of top-down causal control over what are necessarily bottom-up effects can only be categorized as the illusion of top-down control.

    The aggregate’s actions are not, and cannot be, uncaused by bottom-up physics. To say that the aggregate did it is necessarily (under materialism) a shorthand way of saying that matter and energy interacting by law and probability did it.

    Your “higher level descriptions” are nothing but superficial labels that hide the truth of what logically consistent materialism actually means.

  109. 109
    Barry Arrington says:

    Notice also how eigenstate refuses to be pinned down. First he speaks like the amalgamation of atoms is somehow greater than the sum of the atoms (the walking metaphor he keeps insisting on):

    [WJM:] “Matter and energy are neither conscious or intentional agencies…” Again, atoms don’t walk under materialism, yet humans do, and humans are made from atoms! An atom is not “conscious”, and yet humans (in some flavors of materialism) are actually conscious, and humans are made of atoms!

    WJM destroys this argument and E immediately changes his story to “yeah it is an illusion, so what.”

    Sad. Very sad. But all too typical of the materialist mode of argument.

  110. 110
    eigenstate says:

    KF.

    ES, the emergence of walking as a mechanical process can be explained mechanically. The CHOICE as to where to walk or not to walk, is a volitional/intellectual process and is not accounted for on mechanisms. By their (flawed) analogies shall ye know them. KF

    Whether you can explain it mechanically (or non-mechanically) is irrelevant to the problem Barry is having with composition and levels of description. It’s an exercise in the fallacy of division.

    If I say:

    1. Water is wet.
    2. Water is made of H an O atoms
    3. ERGO: H and O atoms are wet

    The error is NOT contingent on my providing any mechanical explanation for “wetness” or not. The error obtains in attributing characteristics to the parts are NOT characteristics of the parts, but are only characters of the whole. I may completely unaware of any mechanism for the phenomenon of “wetness”, that does not make my argument 1-3 sound.

    Your objection doesn’t address the actual problem I’m pointing at.

  111. 111
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Interesting. Even if an emergent property creates a phenomenon as an aggregate, sum-greater-than-parts, it is entirely caused by the bottom-up materials and cannot provide a top-down control of them.

    Morality, rules, standards – are all top-down governance. They require a higher level ordering principle that does not exist in materialism. Morality would merely be an emergent property of the chemical reaction, the way heat is from a fire. The heat doesn’t tell the process of combustion what to do or what it should do.

  112. 112
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM:

    Your [i.e., eigenstate’s] “higher level descriptions” are nothing but superficial labels that hide the truth of what logically consistent materialism actually means.

    Just so. With each post his frenetic efforts to hide the truth becomes more manifest. Here’s the kicker. He is most desperate to hide the truth from himself.

    “I cannot see how to refute the arguments for the subjectivity of ethical values, but I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it.” Russell on Ethics 165/Papers 11: 310–11.

    eigenstate suffers from one of the most acute cases of Russell’s dilemma I have ever seen. Again, I pity him. His head must be ready to explode from dissonance.

  113. 113
    gpuccio says:

    eigenstate:

    Emergent properties emerge because of laws that can be understood, and often are. The wet property of water can be understood in terms of the interaction of atoms, according to known laws.

    Consciousness (the existence of subjective experiences) cannot be explained in terms of any known, or even realistically imaginable law. That’s the essence of the hard problem of consciousness.

    Free will, if it exists, is a function of consciousness. therefore, if it exists, it cannot be explained as an emergent property of atoms or of any other objective component of reality.

    Maybe free will does not exist, and is only an illusion. As I have said, each one of us has to choose his own worldview, be it by an existing free will or as the result of bottom up objective events.

    However, intellectual honesty implies that one accepts fully the implications of his own worldview. Like not being able to explain what consciousness, which is without any doubt a big part of reality, is.

  114. 114
    Mark Frank says:

    Gpuccio

    However, as I have said many times, libertarian free will has a very precise meaning too: it means a worldview where conscious choices change objective events, and cannot be entirely explained neither as deterministic results of laws nor as random events. IOWs, conscious choices have a subjective menaing, which is not dependent on the objective influences which affect the conscious agent.

    You can define libertarian free will that way if you like which of course defines it as incompatible with determinism and random events. This simply changes the question to:

    1) Does Libertarian free will correspond to our day to day experience of free will?

    2) Is Libertarian free will a coherent concept?

    My answer to both is no. But we have been over this many times and I don’t plan to do it again. I was simply aware that there were relatively new members to this forum who may not even have been aware of compatabilism.

  115. 115

    eigenstate said:

    You offer these like it’s a complain, or somehow a deficiency of reality, if it is the case. I understand it’s not something that dovetails with your intuitions, but reality is what it is, yeah?

    I’m not making a case about my “intuitions”; I’m pointing out that, under materialism, mind and morality (in the sense that they are experienced as what seems to be top-down, prescriptive control over thoughts and body), must be illusionary. The fact that all of us act as if we have top-down, prescriptive control over our behavior would appropriately be cosidered a delusion. That is not “assuming a non-materialist framework” or passing judgement from that framework onto yours, but simply by definition of what illusions and delusions are.

    No such top-down control exists even given a purely materialist world; everything is generated and caused bottom-up whether or not the caused properties and behaviors are reducible to the properties and behaviors of the individual things at the bottom. Those emergent properties are expressions of what, at the bottom, is causing them in certain conditions.

    Since no top-down control exists or even can exist, the sensation of top-down control is necessarily an illusion. Acting in accordance with such illusions as if they were not illusions is called a delusion.

    So, assume for the sake of argument that your understandings on this are wrong, and your sense of immaterial [top-down] control over the natural world [my body and thoughts] is wholly illusory; what you thought was true about your mind is not true, and not even close.

    What’s the problem with this, beyond any frustrations you or I may have in accepting that were mistaken??

    Do you really not know what the problem is in insisting in a debate that everyone, yourself included, is delusional?

    If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If logic is not assumed to be a causally independent, authoritative arbiter of true statements, there’s no reason to apply it. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place. If you do not assume mind is primary, there is no “you” to make any argument at all.

    If it is your assumption that we are all delusional and that all of the above things are simply causally-generated, subjective qualia with no actual top-down control over what we say, think and do, why the heck are you bothering contributing here?

    Do you also attempt to argue leaves out of their shape, or do you try to convince water to not run downhill ?

  116. 116
    ebenezer says:

    goodusername @ 69:

    In 64, you reply to Cross thus:

    It all boils down to “might makes right”.

    That would imply an objective morality.

    In 69, you reply to me thus:

    No one might is guaranteed to want what another might does, so we don’t get objectivity from this.

    Well, of course. That’s just one of many problems one will run in to if one seriously argued that “might makes right”.

    Which is it?

    I suppose if you do genuinely try to take both sides it will be a bit more difficult to argue…

    I don’t believe that “might makes right” because while the mighty can enforce what they believe to be right, that doesn’t mean that what they believe to be right is objectively right.
    I’m not going to change my mind on what I believe to be right based on who’s in power.

    I’m going to take the liberty of adding emphasis to that to let you more clearly see what you just said:

    I don’t believe that “might makes right” because while the mighty can enforce what they believe to be right, that doesn’t mean that what they believe to be right is objectively right.
    I’m not going to change my mind on what I believe to be right based on who’s in power.

    Again: Materialism has no objective morality. This refutes that conclusion how?

    Again we are bringing this back to “increases survival value” as “right” and “harms a species” as “wrong”… when will this ever end?

    Umm, no. I said “traits that we prefer”.
    I don’t prefer homicidal thieving rapists. Do you think I’m assuming too much to believe that most of the people here would agree?

    Whether or not anyone prefers that is completely irrelevant. Here’s what you said:

    If you mean traits that we prefer, I think the example we used helps to show that. The violent rapist isn’t going to last very long.

    How do we distinguish “last very long” from… “survival”?

    You’ll need to demonstrate the distinction if you’d like “Umm, no. I said ‘traits that we prefer’” to be a relevant response. And unless someone can demonstrate a distinction, that answer is as relevant and compelling as “Umm, no. I like peanut butter!”

  117. 117
    ppolish says:

    Materialists are stuck in the early days of Genesis. Day One and Day Two. Before life, before consciousness, before soul.

    Materialists are stuck in a pre-Darwinian state.

  118. 118
    Box says:

    Eigenstatte: So, assume for the sake of argument that your understandings on this are wrong, and your sense of immaterial control over the natural world is wholly illusory; what you thought was true about your mind is not true, and not even close.

    Let’s go all the way. Particles in motion are the only carriers of true existence. Everything else is just happenstance amalgamation of those particles in motion. Hence I do not exist. Okay, here goes:

    “I do not exist”

    Wait a minute, the fact that I think that I do not exist presupposes my existence. Okay, let’s start over:

    “I doubt my existence”

    Wait a minute, in order for me to doubt my existence I must exist, otherwise I cannot doubt my existence. Hmm. Okay, next and last try:

    “FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, I’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, I look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, do I not know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in my mind.”*

    Wait a minute in order to be tricked into believing something by evolution, Lügengeist, or whatever, I must exist. THEREFOR I AM.

    This does ring a bell. Oh yes, that’s right, this is just “cogito ergo sum” by Descartes.

    * //see A.Rosenberg

  119. 119
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    You say:

    “You can define libertarian free will that way if you like which of course defines it as incompatible with determinism and random events. This simply changes the question to:

    1) Does Libertarian free will correspond to our day to day experience of free will?

    2) Is Libertarian free will a coherent concept?

    My answer to both is no.”

    I like that. I completely agree with you on that, except obviously that my answer to both is yes.

    I am happy that we have a very good agreement on the matter, at last. Your honesty of thought is really remarkable.

  120. 120

    eigenstate said:

    Whether you can explain it mechanically (or non-mechanically) is irrelevant to the problem Barry is having with composition and levels of description. It’s an exercise in the fallacy of division.

    The error is yours. If what is at stake is the characterisitic of whether or not a thing has top-down, prescriptive control, that characteristic cannot exist under the assumption that all behaviors are causally generated by that which lies at the bottom.

    IOW, if MELP (matter/energy/law/probability) causes all effects and phenomena, then no phenomena can have the characteristic of not being caused by MELP.

    This is the essence of Mr. Arrington’s argument; under materialism, moral preferences and choices and actions cannot be said to be “caused by” any top-down aggregate or emergent property without that term being used as a deceptive place-holder for being caused by MELP.

  121. 121
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    The compatibilist says that “free will” does not mean “the liberty to choose, i.e., the ability to have done otherwise;” instead, says he, it means “the absence of coercion.” In other words, he says that so long as a choice is not coerced it is completely free even if it is utterly determined.

    That’s exactly the answer I usually receive when I ask how we can have free will if there is a God that knows the future. The problem being that if the future is known, then it is determined. Most theists tell me that although God knows the future there is still an “absense of coercion.”
    (Not all theists though; there are many that don’t believe in free will because of this issue.)

    The entire issue in the determinism/free will debate is whether we have liberty to choose defined as “the ability to have done otherwise.”

    Which is precisely my reply. If the future is determined than there is no actual “ability to have done otherwise.”
    There are “compatibilist” methods to get around the problem though.

  122. 122
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    WJM destroys this argument and E immediately changes his story to “yeah it is an illusion, so what.”

    There’s no change in the story. Do you suppose I had previously been thinking that on materialism, WJM’s dualism was just what it seemed to him? Lol.

    How does WJM’s lament about his intuitions being mistaken or illusory obligate reality to be one way or the other? On materialism, he’s badly mistaken, and complaining about being mistaken isn’t going to compel reality to reformulate and reconstitute to “deillusionize” WJM, is it?

    I don’t see the relevance of complaining about “illusions”, here. If it’s illusory, it’s illusory. If it’s not, it’s not. In either case, whining about putative illusions doesn’t change anything one way or another, does it? Maybe I’m missing the substance of the argument and it’s something like this:

    1. On materialism, many of my dualist intuitions are illusory.
    2. My intuition is that my intuitions are not illusions
    3. ERGO, materialism is false.

    Is that what’s being pursued here?

  123. 123
    bFast says:

    Barry Arrington(8), “Nonsense. The American founders recognized that…”

    I think your facts are a bit outdated. You are correct that the American founders were determined to build a system of checks and balances based upon their belief that every man is capable of evil. However, somewhere in the last 150 years their message was lost. If you observe the American determination to spread the American gospel, you will see that the core of that gospel, that which our current society sees as its greatness, is democracy.

    Oh, a side thought:
    > Materialists views the world as “might makes right”.
    > Materialists recognizes that the community is stronger than any individual.
    > For maximum community adhesion, the materialist ends up with a simple “moral” foundation: “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

  124. 124
    gpuccio says:

    eigenstate:

    Why not:

    Materialism cannot explain (among other things) most of my perceptions and intuitions about myself and others, therefore I think that it is a very bad explanation of reality, and I choose other explanations, which behave much better.

  125. 125
    Silver Asiatic says:

    eigenstate

    1. Water is wet.
    2. Water is made of H an O atoms
    3. ERGO: H and O atoms are wet

    Water doesn’t choose to be wet. It just is.
    Wetness does not set a standard for water to achieve. Wetness comes after the molecules bond.

    Another way to look at it:

    The whole is greater than the parts.
    The whole exists because the parts came together.
    The whole does not set the standard, rules, control, command or govern what the parts did to come together.
    Because the whole came after the parts and was caused by the parts.
    The whole did not choose to become the whole – it did not tell the parts to create it.

    Materialism:
    Morality emerges from parts (chemicals)
    Morality exists because the chemicals bonded in a certain way.
    Morality does not govern the chemical reactions.
    Morality does not tell the chemicals what to do.
    The chemicals do not act to conform to morality.

  126. 126
    Barry Arrington says:

    “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953, aphorism 109

    Eigenstate’s comment at 110 shows how deeply bewitched his intellect is:

    At 92 KF writes:

    ES, the emergence of walking as a mechanical process can be explained mechanically. The CHOICE as to where to walk or not to walk, is a volitional/intellectual process and is not accounted for on mechanisms.

    At 110 eigenstate responds:

    If I say:
    1. Water is wet.
    2. Water is made of H an O atoms
    3. ERGO: H and O atoms are wet

    The error is NOT contingent on my providing any mechanical explanation for “wetness” or not. The error obtains in attributing characteristics to the parts are NOT characteristics of the parts, but are only characters of the whole. I may completely unaware of any mechanism for the phenomenon of “wetness”, that does not make my argument 1-3 sound.

    Thus, the analogy is:
    1. The brain makes volitional choices.
    2. The brain is made of atoms.
    3. Ergo, atoms make choices.

    The error, according to E, is that KF has attributed to the parts (i.e., atoms) characteristics that are not characteristics of the parts but are only characteristics of the whole (i.e. the brain).

    Nonsense. As G cogently observer above, “the wet property of water can be understood in terms of the interaction of atoms, according to known laws.”

    Conversely, the issue on the table in KF’s statement is whether an amalgamation of atoms can, in principle, make “choices.”

    As WJM has demonstrated (a demonstration with which eigenstate agrees),

    No such top-down control exists even given a purely materialist world; everything is generated and caused bottom-up whether or not the caused properties and behaviors are reducible to the properties and behaviors of the individual things at the bottom. Those emergent properties are expressions of what, at the bottom, is causing them in certain conditions.

    It follows that

    under materialism, mind and morality (in the sense that they are experienced as what seems to be top-down, prescriptive control over thoughts and body), must be illusionary.

    Under materialism, therefore, the ability to make “choices (the experience of having top-down, prescriptive control over thoughts and body) must be an illusion.

    Therefore, E’s analogy fails because the wet property of water can be understood in terms of the interaction of atoms according to known laws. But the experience of having top-down, prescriptive control over thoughts and body on materialist premises, but be an illusion whether one is talking about the parts OR the sum of the parts.

    Atoms lack the capacity to choose; so do amalgamations of atoms.

    As usual (again) WJM put the whole thing better:

    The error is yours. If what is at stake is the characterisitic of whether or not a thing has top-down, prescriptive control, that characteristic cannot exist under the assumption that all behaviors are causally generated by that which lies at the bottom.

    IOW, if MELP (matter/energy/law/probability) causes all effects and phenomena, then no phenomena can have the characteristic of not being caused by MELP.

    This is the essence of Mr. Arrington’s argument; under materialism, moral preferences and choices and actions cannot be said to be “caused by” any top-down aggregate or emergent property without that term being used as a deceptive place-holder for being caused by MELP.

    And so does KF at 127.

    Prediction: eigenstate’s “error of division” argument has been demolished in four different ways by four different commenters. Nevertheless, he will cling to it with a fierce irrational tenacity.

  127. 127
    kairosfocus says:

    ES:

    >> If I say:

    1. Water is wet.
    2. Water is made of H an O atoms
    3. ERGO: H and O atoms are wet

    The error is NOT contingent on my providing any mechanical explanation for “wetness” or not. The error obtains in attributing characteristics to the parts are NOT characteristics of the parts, but are only characters of the whole.>>

    a –> Yes, when the whole simply supervenes upon and emerges from interaction of the parts, the very definition of a mechanical system.

    b –> In pointing to walking, it is wholly explained on the cumulative levels of cellular dynamics resting on molecules and atoms, then upwards to muscles, bones and nerves etc, i.e. it is a position-arm system applied to a particular use, walking.

    c –> At no level is there something that is not adequately explained by what comes before.

    d –> The problem comes in when you then make the leap across to a decision as to where to walk, which is NOT wholly explained on such, on pain of reducing our cognitive realm to self referential incoherence.

    e –> Let me again cite Reppert, to see the point, in respect of the rational inference involved in a deductive argument resting on on blind symbols but meaningful terms:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    f –> To attempt to reduce the inference and conclusion process to blind mechanism, is to fundamentally undermine its character.

    g –> That is, blindly mechanical computation is not equal to rational contemplation, on pain of self referential incoherence, and that is without addressing the further problem, GIGO and the expectation of writing sophisticated software out of lucky noise, a further absurdity.

    h –> The attempt to reduce rational contemplation to blindly mechanical computation on some substrate — here electrochemical neural networks — is better compared to trying to get North by insistently heading due West.

    >> I may completely unaware of any mechanism for the phenomenon of “wetness”, that does not make my argument 1-3 sound.>>

    i –> The problem here, is that you have failed to distinguish distinct cases that are categorically distinct, and this because you are locked up in a fundamentally mechanistic view of reality that can only see mechanism and so runs in futile circles round and round ever faster West, insisting that hat is the only way to get North.

    j –> But that is exactly what has broken down decisively here. In Haldane’s terms:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    k –> As long as reason is distinct from blind mechanism, it cannot be reducible to computing substrates and whatever software happens to ride on them. Such are inherently blind and non-rational, driven by the iron grip of GIGO.

    l –> To further see the problem of utter distinction between true/false or right/wrong and things like mV action potentials in neurons, consider the implied challenge in Haldane:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of — in their view — an “obviously” imaginary “ghost” in the meat-machine. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. “It works” does not warrant the inference to “it is true.”] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.

    d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [[“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [[“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds — notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! — is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised “mouth-noises” that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.

    (Save, insofar as such “mouth noises” somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [[How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin — i.e by design — tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence . . . .

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the “conclusions” and “choices” (a.k.a. “decisions”) we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to “mere” ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)

    l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity . . .

    >>Your objection doesn’t address the actual problem I’m pointing at.>>

    k –> On the contrary, it is dead on target. You are just trying to brush it aside.

    l –> In fact, just to write your objection, you are forced to appeal to exactly the sort of responsible freedom that you deny, and you are forced to rely on the power of rational contemplation that you cannot account for on your premises.

    KF

  128. 128
    eigenstate says:

    The error is yours. If what is at stake is the characterisitic of whether or not a thing has top-down, prescriptive control, that characteristic cannot exist under the assumption that all behaviors are causally generated by that which lies at the bottom.

    This persists in the level of description error. If we are talking about morality, we cannot say “humans cannot be moral, because humans are made of atoms, and everyone knows that an atom is not a moral agent”. Right?

    It doesn’t help to say: “It’s all STEM” (MELP is a very confused and problematic term, I think STEM is what you really want to point to). That just restates the error: “Humans cannot be moral (on materialism), because humans are just space/time/energy/matter, and everyone knows none of those things are more. Behaviors being caused does NOT negate their efficacy or their effects by being “naturally caused” vs. “supernaturally caused”.

    IOW, if MELP (matter/energy/law/probability) causes all effects and phenomena, then no phenomena can have the characteristic of not being caused by MELP.

    Tautologically true. If all phenomena are products of STEM, then all phenomena are products of STEM, agreed.

    This is the essence of Mr. Arrington’s argument; under materialism, moral preferences and choices and actions cannot be said to be “caused by” any top-down aggregate or emergent property without that term being used as a deceptive place-holder for being caused by MELP.

    There’s nothing deceptive or unclear about the materialist framework. It just entails that you and Barry are confused about causation, mind, agency, morality, ethics and a number of other concepts if it’s true. On a scientifically-informed materialism, human morality obtains objective — the subjective elements of human judgements on morality are grounded in objective facts about human nature. It’s no more deceptive than theistic misconceptions about (dualist) mind. On materialism, it is a misconception, and dualist understandings of mind cannot be mapped to anything real, so their definitions are “illicit” in terms of corresponding to reality, but words mean what we agree they mean, and “morality”, as thoroughly confused as theistic definitions of that term may be, is not “owned” by materialists.

    Theists can define morality in any crazy way they like, so long as we can agree and understand what they mean. 😉

    These definitions *must* be different to be internal consistent with the different frameworks in which they are used (e.g. materialism, theism).

  129. 129
    Barry Arrington says:

    Prediction @ comment 126 confirmed almost immediately @ comment 128. 🙂

  130. 130

    eigenstate said:

    How does WJM’s lament about his intuitions being mistaken or illusory obligate reality to be one way or the other? On materialism, he’s badly mistaken, and complaining about being mistaken isn’t going to compel reality to reformulate and reconstitute to “deillusionize” WJM, is it?

    I have never made an argument about what reality is. My arguments are about the logic (consistency and consequences), and about the practicality of moral views, not whether or not any particular moral view factually represented reality.

    I don’t see the relevance of complaining about “illusions”, here. If it’s illusory, it’s illusory. If it’s not, it’s not. In either case, whining about putative illusions doesn’t change anything one way or another, does it? Maybe I’m missing the substance of the argument and it’s something like this:

    I’m not complaining that it is an illusion; I’m pointing it out for those in the audience that want their cake and think they can eat the illusion. They cannot. If they are fine with admitting they are behaving delusionally, I’m fine with leaving the argument there.

    I’m fine with any argument where my opponent wishes to end it by saying “Yes, I’m delusional. So what? You are, too! So is everyone else!”

  131. 131
    Box says:

    The only way out for a materialist—who is not satisfied with the notion that ‘consciousness is just an illusion’— is emergentism. It’s an attempt to at least partly explain downward causation—consciousness, free will, morality and so forth.
    How does one get from atoms to consciousness?
    Emergentist: it’s a higher level property like the property “walking” which emerges from a certain configuration of atoms.

    One crucial problem with this comparison:
    The property “walking” has no independence from the parts that produce it. It has no power to distance itself from the parts and do anything other than what the parts orders it to do. It’s fully produced by the parts and the interactions between the parts. There is zero wiggle room for the property, it depends on the parts for 100%.

    What the materialist desperately needs in order to describe mental reality is true downward causation: a free person who can make decisions based on reason—and not chemistry—perhaps for the sole reason that only such an agent has the ability to do science. 🙂

  132. 132

    Materialism means never having to say you’re wrong.

  133. 133
    Alicia Renard says:

    gpuccio writes:

    Materialism cannot explain (among other things) most of my perceptions and intuitions about myself and others,…

    Then reject “materialism” (whatever that means).

    …therefore I think that it is a very bad explanation of reality, and I choose other explanations, which behave much better.

    And…

    They would be?

  134. 134
    gpuccio says:

    Alicia Renard:

    You say:

    “Then reject “materialism” (whatever that means).”

    I do. However, I agree that “materialism” is a confusing term. “Matter” is a vague idea, ambiguous at best. What I do reject is the theory that consciousness (subjective experiences) can be explained in terms of configurations of objective events.

    You say:

    “And…

    They would be?”

    I accept consciousness as an empirical fact, and in no way I believe it can be explained in objective terms. Consciousness and its functions and processes can be observed and described, and its interactions with objects can be analyzed empirically.

    ID theory is all about this: the study of those configurations of objective events and objects which can originate only in conscious processes and representations.

  135. 135
    eigenstate says:

    @WJM

    I’m not complaining that it is an illusion; I’m pointing it out for those in the audience that want their cake and think they can eat the illusion. They cannot. If they are fine with admitting they are behaving delusionally, I’m fine with leaving the argument there.

    I’m fine with any argument where my opponent wishes to end it by saying “Yes, I’m delusional. So what? You are, too! So is everyone else!”

    Above you said in your view a delusion was an illusion that one knows is an illusion, but proceeds as if its not. What’s an example of this illusion that you or I or someone else here is understanding to be an illusion, but proceeding as if it’s not?

    My example from the other thread was the “dualist intuition”. I can understand the intuition, but insofar as it is an actual intuition, I understand it to illusory, and cannot be reconciled with the world around us. So I understand that to be illusory, but I then also treat it that way, as an intuition I reject.

  136. 136
    tjguy says:

    Nightlight @ 10

    Just as conventional computer programs and algorithms can be ranked by functionality, speed, memory consumption,… etc, so can be the programs and algorithms, including those implementing ‘moral judgment’ functionality, running in the neural networks formed by human neurons.

    Hence, it all comes down to the definition of the attribute “objectively superior” i.e. the utility function one chooses for the ranking. But once you decide on what utility function to use, [and then determine the standards by which you will make that judgment], there is no problem finding some of ethical programs and algorithms “objectively superior” to others.

    So who gets to choose the objective standard by which we measure the functionality of moral judgments? Majority rule? Government? Might makes right? Each to his own?

    Why is functionality THE standard by which we should evaluate all moral judgments?

    In the end, don’t you still have the same problem?

  137. 137
    Timaeus says:

    SEVERSKY:

    You wrote:

    “there is still a very difficult question for Christians, which is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of our future itself undermines the possibility of free will.”

    No, it does not. But I am not going to waste my time explaining in detail why, given the contemptuous way you have ignored my last few responses to you. Why should I put in time to explain something that I don’t know for sure you will even read, let alone respond to?

  138. 138
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    1) Does Libertarian free will correspond to our day to day experience of free will?

    2) Is Libertarian free will a coherent concept?

    My answer to both is no.

    Well, Mark, the criminal justice system, which includes judges, prosecutors, and juries made up of ordinary people, disagrees with you. It operates on the assumption that the murderer and the thief could have chosen not to murder or steal. Indeed, I suspect that the CJ system may have some kind of preliminary test to weed out compatibilists. If they don’t, they should.

  139. 139
    Jim Smith says:

    I don’t think you need free will to rationalize a criminal justice system. If people are held responsible for their actions even if they are not “responsible” for them you might get the same result: deterrence, protect society from offenders, rehabilitation. It might not be “fair” in some sense if you punish people who are not responsible for their actions, but it might be effective and that would be the reason to have such a system.

  140. 140
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    StephenB

    It operates on the assumption that the murderer and the thief could have chosen not to murder or steal. I suspect that the CJ system may have some kind of preliminary test to weed out compatibilists.

    I say,

    I don’t want to wade in here except perhaps to clear up some confusion.

    Not only have materialists hijacked terms like good and evil but apparently here they are also equivocating on the definition of Compatabilism.

    We need to be perfectly clear about what it means to be “free to choose”.

    According to traditional compatibilists a person is free if he is under no “outside” compulsion .

    A thief might very well be compelled to steal but the compulsion comes from his own nature not from anything outside himself.

    A key verse in this regard is Jeremiah 13:23

    quote:

    Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
    (Jer 13:23)

    end quote:

    The person who is “accustomed” to do evil can not do good but that does not mean he is innocent. On the contrary that is how we know he is guilty.

    The traditional compatibilist believes that only if a person acts according to his nature are his acts free. In fact that is the definition of freedom.

    In this traditional understanding a person’s nature is tied up with who he is so punishment for crime committed according to nature is not unjust.

    It seems as if the system of belief that MF is advocating holds that an person’s nature can be reduced to matter in motion. I have no idea how matter in motion can be held responsible for anything.

    It’s not libertarian freedom that is the issue but how the materialist accounts for the self.

    peace

  141. 141
    Mark Frank says:

    #138 SB

    Well, Mark, the criminal justice system, which includes judges, prosecutors, and juries made up of ordinary people, disagrees with you. It operates on the assumption that the murderer and the thief could have chosen not to murder or steal.

    You are assuming that determinism means he could not have chosen differently. “Can” is a modal verb. It means it is possible that X could have done differently. Any modal verb is relative to some constraint (which may be explicit, but is more often implicit) – the constraint can vary from the laws of logic (logically possible), through laws of nature (possible according to Newton’s laws of motion) through to specific antecedent events (possible given the position of the gun). Determinism is quite compatible with many different possibilities depending on the constraint.

    Added to which compatibilism includes compatibility with truly random events which allow for something being possible under all circumstances.

  142. 142
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    You are assuming that determinism means he could not have chosen differently.

    Of course that is what determinism means. If he could have chosen differently, then his choice was not determined.

    Can” is a modal verb. It means it is possible that X could have done differently. Any modal verb is relative to some constraint (which may be explicit, but is more often implicit) – the constraint can vary from the laws of logic (logically possible), through laws of nature (possible according to Newton’s laws of motion) through to specific antecedent events (possible given the position of the gun). Determinism is quite compatible with many different possibilities depending on the constraint

    Added to which compatibilism includes compatibility with truly random events which allow for something being possible under all circumstances.

    All that is irrelevant to the question of free will, by which the moral agent can resist the temptation to murder and choose the path of self control. Compatibilism claims that we have no such volitional power, ruling out the possibility of moral growth, personal responsibility, and legal accountability. As such, it is the worst kind of intellectual fraud.

  143. 143
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    StephenB says,

    All that is irrelevant to the question of free will, by which the moral agent can resist the temptation to murder and choose the path of self control.

    I say,

    Again I won’t speak to what MF believes but according to traditional Compatibilism there is nothing preventing the murderer from resisting temptation except his own nature.

    But he will not resist because to do so would be against his nature.

    When he murders he is being true to who he really is

    I hope that makes sense

    peace

  144. 144
    StephenB says:

    fifthmonarchymanAp

    Again I won’t speak to what MF believes but according to traditional Compatibilism there is nothing preventing the murderer from resisting temptation except his own nature.

    Yes, of course, and as you seem to perceive, this is dreadfully wrong. It is the same as saying that it is man’s nature not to have a free will. There are two kinds of freedom, and reciprocally, two kinds of slavery. First, there is a freedom from, which is the absence of external oppression, and there is a freedom to, which is the ability to become something or accomplish something, which involves the absence of internal moral barriers. I am free to play the piano, for example, only if no one stops me from the outside (some sort of restraint) and if I don’t stop myself from the inside (a vice such as laziness).

    Accordingly, one can be a slave in two ways–a political slave, or a moral slave. An alcoholic (internal slavery) is just as much of a slave as a prisoner on a chain gang (external slavery).

    But he will not resist because to do so would be against his nature.

    So says the compatibilist. But, as you must know, this is nonsense. As a rational being with an intellect (to know right from wrong) and free will (to choose right from wrong), it is his nature to make good moral choices and abstain from bad moral choices. If he doesn’t have that power, then his nature is more animal than human.

    When he murders he is being true to who he really is

    Again, this is what the compatibilist is saying. However, as you seem to understand, the compatibilist is dead wrong. The purpose of the intellect is to know truth and distinguish it from error; the purpose of the will is to love the right things and choose the good. When a man murders, he is militating against his true nature, which is to use his intelligence (it provides the moral target) and his will (it shoots the arrow). If he cannot shoot the arrow, that is, if his will cannot follow the counsel of the intellect, then his will is not free and his intellect serves no moral purpose–he is a slave.

  145. 145
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    This is the immaterialist dodge in action.

    Of course that is what determinism means. If he could have chosen differently, then his choice was not determined.

    (my arguments)

    All that is irrelevant to the question of free will, by which the moral agent can resist the temptation to murder and choose the path of self control.

    IOW. I am obviously right therefore there is no point in discussing the arguments.

    Compatibilism claims that we have no such volitional power, ruling out the possibility of moral growth, personal responsibility, and legal accountability. As such, it is the worst kind of intellectual fraud.

    IOW So let’s talk about how gobsmackingly stupid and dishonest materialists are.

  146. 146

    Mark Frank:

    I doubt anyone here is an immaterialist, which denies the existence of a material world.

    Most here are more likely dualists, believing that a non-material spiritual world exists in addition to the material world.

  147. 147
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    StephenB says,

    When a man murders, he is militating against his true nature

    I say,

    You have a much higher view of natural “postlapsarian” human nature than I do.

    quote:

    as it is written:

    “None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside;
    together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
    “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
    “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
    “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
    (Rom 3:10-18)

    end quote:

    you say,

    An alcoholic (internal slavery) is just as much of a slave as a prisoner on a chain gang (external slavery).

    I say,

    I completely agree that the will of the natural man is in internal bondage to sin.

    That is the big problem that Jesus came to fix.

    quote:

    Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin………..So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
    (Joh 8:34-36)

    and

    We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
    (Rom 6:6)

    and

    They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
    (2Pe 2:19)

    end quote:

    I hope that is sufficient to explain the “natural” state of humanity sans Christ.

    The Christian is no longer a slave to sin but he is still not able to due something that is contrary to his new nature anymore than a sheep is free to live his life as a carnivore.

    quote:

    Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
    (1Jn 3:8-9)

    end quote:

    end of sermon 😉

    peace

  148. 148
    Mark Frank says:

    #146 WJM

    fair enough – dualist (or maybe non-materialist so allow for those who think that are more than two?) would be much better

  149. 149
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF

    I think in this discussion it would be good to separate the world into two camps materialists and everyone else.

    The materialist believes that only matter truly exists and everyone else disagrees.

    The non-materialist doesn’t agree on much except that materialism is nuts.

    peace

  150. 150
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    StephenB say,

    An alcoholic (internal slavery) is just as much of a slave as a prisoner on a chain gang (external slavery).

    I say,

    yes but we hold an alcoholic responsible when he kills someone else while driving drunk or neglects his children because of his inebriation.

    His internal slavery is compatible with him being responsible for his own actions. That is what traditional compatiblism means.

    peace

  151. 151

    Mark Frank,

    The problem here is with the labels you wish to apply and what you are applying them to.

    When you say a person “can choose” differently, you cannot, under logically-consistant materialism, mean that in a top-down prescriptive sense. What you must mean is that the ongoing lawful, probabilistic and non-teleological interactions of matter and energy (bottom-up) could have resulted in that person thinking and doing something other than what actually occurred. In a non-deterministic materialist universe, you are correct – something else could have happened.

    The question, though, is if it makes any sense, and if it is reasonable, to label what happened a free will choice.

    Do you really think that most jurors that judge the responsibility of a defendant are thinking in materialist terms? Of course not. Do you really think that most people who refer to a free will choice in common conversation use the term like a materialist means it? Certainly not. Do you think that the framers of law who use the terms “personal reasponsiblity” and “free will” intended those terms to be undertood in their materialist sense? Considering that most law is founded on foundations originally set up by theists, no, I don’t think so.

    So what does it mean for you to argue that, from a courtroom-legal perspective, “free will choice” means something that is compatible with determinism? Are you unwilling to acknowledge that the materialist and/or determinist view is most certainly not what most people mean, nor what the justice system means, when they refer to “free will” and “choice”?

    Are you not willing to acknowledge that if a long-lasting culture of logically-consistent materialists invented a judicial system, the whole concept of “justice” and “responsibility” and how to deal with offenders would be entirely different both conceptually and in practice?

    What you are arguing here seems to be that you can take what is the very root concept (personal free-will responsibility) of our entire system of justice and commonly-understood morality, swap it out with something that means exactly the opposite of what it means to virtually everyone who established and operates that legal system, and that it is entirely acceptable for you to do so and then insist that yes, personal free-will responsibility exists under materialism, too.

    No, Mark, there is no such thing as personal free-will responsibility under materialism; you and other campatibilists are simply slapping the term on something entirely different and then saying that it also exists under materialism. It would be like taking the term “football player”, applying it to a guy who stands on a big ball and plays the violin, then saying “this guy is a better football player than Peyton Manning”.

    This goes back to what I said in another thread. Under materialism, humans are dice are exactly the same in terms of what causes their behavior; happenstance interactions of matter and energy (acting according to natural law and mechanical probability).

    The outcome of what the human thought and did, and the outcome of a roll of dice, could have been different. You seem to think that just because those selfsame happenstance physical forces happened to also generate corresponding thoughts and sensations that the human was making a top down, prescriptive free-will choice, it is the same as the human actually having a free will, prescriptive, top down choice, because you think it is fair to call the illusory sensation of a thing the thing itself.

    Under materialism, “actually having” means “the illusory sensation of actually having”. That’s not what it means to most people and is certainly not the concept our system of justice is built on.

    Sure, you can talk to the rolling dice if you want. Tell them they should land on a 7. But, if you know they will land on whatever they land on due to how matter and energy interact according to natural law and mechanical probability anyway, then talking to them as if they can understand you and make themselves land on 7 because you’ve convinced them they ought to, is insane.

    And, that’s what you’re doing here, and what all materialists who deny top-down, prescriptive control are necessarily doing. They’re telling dice (humans) what number they should land on and you are expecting them to somehow make themselves do so, even while you agree that have no capacity to do so, that if they happen to land on that 7 it is purely becuase of law and probability, even if the dice feels like it was their top-down, prescriptive free-will choice.

    When you roll dice, do you hold the dice responsible for the outcomes? If the happenstance interactions of matter and energy happened to make the dice capable of experiencing a sensation that they were capable of top-down, prescriptive choice about what number was going to show when they finished rolling, and if you knew that sensation was illusory and that the dice would land however law and probability dictated, would you then hold the dice responsible for the outcome?

    Certainly not! You’d hold non-teleological physics and blind, mechanical probability responsible, regardless of the protestations and sensations of the dice, because you know the dice are operating out of the mistaken belief that their illusory sensations refer to something that doesn’t exist.

    And yet here you are … attempting to talk to dice, as we roll, into landing on certain numbers, as if we have some capacity to override law and probability and make ourselves land how we think we ought.

    You and eigenstate are here insisting that the illusion of X is the only form of X that actually exists, but both the case you are making and your expectation of our capacity to understand, agree and implement oughts derived from your case entirely depends on X actually existing.

    If you actually believed and acted as if there was only the illusion of top-down, prescriptive free-will control, and actually understood that we are all only deluded dice rolling and landing however physics and probability decreed, you certainly wouldn’t bother yourselves trying to talk dice into landing on the particular numbers you prefer. Unless, of course, you’re insane.

  152. 152
    StephenB says:

    SB: An alcoholic (internal slavery) is just as much of a slave as a prisoner on a chain gang (external slavery).

    fifthmonarchman

    I say,

    yes but we hold an alcoholic responsible when he kills someone else while driving drunk or neglects his children because of his inebriation.

    We hold him accountable because he misused his free will to practice the kind of vice that would eventually compromise his free will. That is the point. He is responsible for what he has become.

    By contrast, compatibilism holds that he could not have chosen to curb the habit before it made a slave of him. Under those circumstances, he would not be accountable. Compatibilism is totally alien to personal responsibility.

    Still, his slavery is not absolute or irreversible. Happily, he can, with help and discipline, choose to liberate himself, or unhappily, he can choose to remain in bondage. According to compatibilism, he does not have the power to make these kinds of choices. That is why it is so dreadfully wrong.

  153. 153
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    StephenB says,

    We hold him accountable because he misused his free will to practice the kind of vice that would eventually compromise his free will. That is the point.

    I say,

    That is what I believe happened in the fall. Mankind misused our freedom to the point that we gave it up. Now we must live with the consequences.

    you say,

    Happily, he can, with help and discipline, choose to liberate himself, or unhappily, he can choose to remain in bondage.

    I say,

    We can only liberate ourselves with discipline if it is in our nature to do so. Our nature is the very thing that guides our choices.

    If we have help with our liberation then by definition we do not liberate ourselves

    you say,

    compatibilism holds that he could not have chosen to curb the habit before it made a slave of him.

    I say,

    compatibilism holds that He could have chosen to curb the habit at any time the problem is he does not want to.

    Total Freedom means always being able to do what you most want to do.

    peace

  154. 154
    StephenB says:

    Of course, that is what determinism means. If he could have chosen differently, then his choice was not determined.

    Mark Frank

    Immaterialist dodge

    That is a silly comment. You may not like it, but words mean things. Determinism means determinism, which rules out the prospect of a self-directed life style.

    It’s interesting that you militate against the common meaning of well-established terms while, at the same time, inject undefined words into the discussion.

    What on earth is an “immaterialist?” Do you mean “Idealist?” I am certainly not a metaphysical idealist. What on earth are you talking about?

    SB: Compatibilism claims that we have no such volitional power, ruling out the possibility of moral growth, personal responsibility, and legal accountability. As such, it is the worst kind of intellectual fraud.

    IOW So let’s talk about how gobsmackingly stupid and dishonest materialists are.

    My philosophy has always been this: People are precious and they deserve to be treated with respect and mercy. On the other hand, bad ideas deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy. If you cannot make the distinction, it is your loss.

  155. 155
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB @ 154: To Mark’s slippery use of language, you might be interesting to know I have added this to our list of dodges:

    Materialist Dodge 6: The Humpty Dumpty gambit

    The dualistic sense of the words you use is so passe. Never mind that that is what those words actually mean when English speakers use them. We materialists get to use words any way that suits us; we’ve been freed from adherence to the linguistic conventions of English speakers. It is not our fault if that obscures our meaning and results in confusion; it is you ignorant fundies’ fault for failing to keep up. Oh, we can also slip back and forth between conventional and esoteric word meaning without telling you. So, when I say “beliefs” are real. That is not inconsistent with saying “beliefs” are an illusion. And when you catch my equivocating between the conventional and esoteric use of words, like that I’ll just accuse you of not being able to accept the findings of science.

  156. 156
    StephenB says:

    fifthmonarchman

    That is what I believe happened in the fall. Mankind misused our freedom to the point that we gave it up. Now we must live with the consequences.

    I think I understand more fully now why we differ on this subject. You seem to believe that the fall caused man’s free will to be totally extinguished, while I hold that it caused man’s will to be wounded and weakened (not extinguished). That would seem to explain why you remain a compatibilist.

  157. 157
    Mark Frank says:

    SB

    There are two fairly common meanings for determinism. One is something on the lines of every event, including mental events, has a cause. The other is that everything is in principle predictable. Compatibilism is the insight that both are compatible with free will, making choices. You may disagree but it is not a consequence of the meaning of determinism.

  158. 158
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Hey StephenB.

    You are correct, that is the difference between us. I hold that when the bible speaks of us being dead in our sins it is not using hyperbole. We truly died spiritually the day Adam ate the fruit.

    I think the fall had catastrophic effects on us as well as on the rest of creation.

    Christ’s rescue mission is a mission of liberation on much more than the material universe.

    quote:

    For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
    (Rom 8:14-15)

    and

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
    (Rom 8:20-21)

    end quote:

    long live true FREEDOM !!!!!

    I don’t expect you to see things my way. I just hope you can see the huge difference between what folks like me believe and the “materialist compatablism” MF is advocating.

    carry on

    peace

  159. 159
    StephenB says:

    fifthmonarchman

    I don’t expect you to see things my way. I just hope you can see the huge difference between what folks like me believe and the “materialist compatablism” MF is advocating.

    Yes, it is good that we could get all that on the table, I think that our (free) will was wounded by the fall while you think it was extinguished. That explains a great deal.

    Yes, now that you have fine-tuned your point, I think I understand how and why you differ from Mark. Thank you for making the clarification.

    Onward

    Peace!

  160. 160
    Mark Frank says:

    SB various places

    By contrast, compatibilism holds that he could not have chosen to curb the habit before it made a slave of him. Under those circumstances, he would not be accountable. Compatibilism is totally alien to personal responsibility.
     
    Determinism means determinism, which rules out the prospect of a self-directed life style.
     
    Compatibilism claims that we have no such volitional power, ruling out the possibility of moral growth, personal responsibility, and legal accountability.

    You may not agree with compatibilism but please do not describe it as something other than what it is.  Compabitilism is the claim that determinism is compatible with  our everyday experience of making voluntary decisions for which we incur personal responsibility.  If by “volitional power”, “self-directed” and “free will” you mean something different to our everyday experience of making voluntary decisions please do explain.
     
    WJM 151

    The question, though, is if it makes any sense, and if it is reasonable, to label what happened a free will choice.

    Sure. And compatibilism challenges you to ask – why not?

    Do you really think that most jurors that judge the responsibility of a defendant are thinking in materialist terms?

    I think they think in terms of free will. This does not address whether this is compatible with materialism.

  161. 161
    Mark Frank says:

    5MM

    Your position on free will fascinates me. I think you are saying that we no longer have free will having lost it during the fall. So do we now have the illusion of free will or is it something that we just don’t know about?

  162. 162
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Hey MF

    I’m saying that because of our original libertarian freewill human responsibility is “compatible” with our diminished freedom now.

    We have freedom now in the sense that we can do what we want. Our bondage is internal not external to us. We are constrained by our own “fallen” nature

    Actually I’m saying much more than that. Here are the bullet points

    1)we had libertarian freewill to sin or not before the fall
    2)the unregenerate is unable not to sin.
    3)The regenerate is again able to sin or not.
    4)The glorified saint will be unable to sin.

    If you want details probably the best thing to do is check out the Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O.....f_the_Will

    Or Human Nature in Its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston.

    http://www.biblesnet.com/Thoma.....0State.pdf

    They lay out the traditional understanding quite well.

    Learning a little history would do us all good. 😉

    peace

  163. 163
    Mark Frank says:

    5MM

    Interesting stuff but I am still not clear. Would you say we have free will now or the illusion of free will?

  164. 164
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I find this interesting also … from the Wikipage:

    Luther in response maintained that sin incapacitates human beings from working out their own salvation, and that they are completely incapable of bringing themselves to God. As such, there is no free will for humanity because any will they might have is overwhelmed by the influence of sin. … people do not choose between good or evil, because they are naturally dominated by evil, and salvation is simply the product of God unilaterally changing a person’s heart and turning them to good ends. [emphasis mine]

    There is no free will in that view. The believe that we do have free will is considered an error – so it’s an illusion.

  165. 165
    Mark Frank says:

    SA

    If this is true then presumably 5MM believes he has no free will. I am interested to know what he thinks he is missing out on.

    Mark

  166. 166
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    I’m going to guess there is some kind of middle ground or nuanced answer to the problem. But I will look forward to 5MM’s reply. I’m a Christian but I’m not well-informed about that particular point of view.

  167. 167
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF asks

    Interesting stuff but I am still not clear. Would you say we have free will now or the illusion of free will?

    I say,

    I would say the natural man’s will is free in the sense that his will is not constrained by forces outside himself.
    He is not free however to choose to do something that is contrary to his nature.

    The sad fact is that after the fall human nature is always inclined to selfishness and rebellion and the natural man simply chooses actions that correspond to that nature.

    There is no illusion here but there is no freedom either.

    MF says,

    If this is true then presumably 5MM believes he has no free will.

    I say,

    On the contrary when a person is regenerated his will is released from the bondage of sin. That is a big part of what Christ came to accomplish.

    quote:

    Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
    (Joh 8:34-36)

    end quote:

    peace

  168. 168
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Silver Asiatic says,

    I’m going to guess there is some kind of middle ground or nuanced answer to the problem.

    I say,

    Christians from Paul onward have wrestled with reconciling God’s sovereignty with human responsibility and freedom.

    On the fringes you have hyper-calvinists who sound a lot like MF when they talk about these things and Open-theists who hold that even God’s plans must accede to the absolute freedom of his creatures.

    Most Christians fall somewhere in the middle. I’m a Calvinist. That would be the orthodox but right wing of the issue on the left wing you have Arminianism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

    Christians who give this topic any systematic thought generally choose one of those two options.

    peace

  169. 169
    vividbleau says:

    MF RE 161

    Since FMM’s position is the same as mine I would like to take a stab at this if you dont mind. If you do just let me know and I will go back to lurker status 🙂

    The term free will in many ways is a classic oxymoron ,at best the will is almost free ‘sort of like the Monty Python scene where the person was almost dead. What most people mean I think when they talk about free will is really the assertion that we have free choice, two very disticnt things IMO. I do not think there is such a thing as free will but there is such a thing as free choice.

    I am free to choose whatever it is that I most want to choose given the options available to me at the time the choice is made. But if there is an “I” then it is I that is determining my choice. My choices are determined by me and therefore my will is not free from me.

    From a Christian stand point neither is my will free from God nor from my fallen nature. To quote Augustine “non posse non peccare” Fallen man is “not able not to sin” So much for free will from the Christian theological perspective.

    Vivid

  170. 170
    vividbleau says:

    FMM RE 162

    Excellent reading list. Have both in my library. Luther can be tough to get through but easier than John Owen :). Always surprised to learn how many Christians dont know of Luthers Bondage of The Will. As he wrote to Erasmus it is the “hinge upon which all else turns”

    I would add to your list Edwards “Freedom of the Will”

    Vivid

  171. 171
    Mark Frank says:

    5MM

    Forgive me being a bit literal about this but it is all rather confusing.

    On the contrary when a person is regenerated his will is released from the bondage of sin. That is a big part of what Christ came to accomplish.

    Do I understand you have free will because you are regenerated but those of us who have not been regenerated have the illusion of free will?

    Was there a time when were not regenerated and therefore did not have free will? If so, did you notice a difference in the way you made choices after you became regenerated?

  172. 172
    Mark Frank says:

    VB #169

    Delighted you are adding to my education but I must admit I am struggling a bit with your comment. You write:

    The term free will in many ways is a classic oxymoron ,at best the will is almost free ‘sort of like the Monty Python scene where the person was almost dead. What most people mean I think when they talk about free will is really the assertion that we have free choice, two very disticnt things IMO. I do not think there is such a thing as free will but there is such a thing as free choice.

    What is this Free Will that we don’t have? What would it be like to have it?

  173. 173
    vividbleau says:

    MF RE 172

    FYI I dont like the term free will for two reasons. 1) I dont think we have free will and 2) it causes confusion because I think people mean by that term is more accurately stated by using the term free choice. That which is determined is not free. My will is determined. “I” am the determiner. To say it another way my choices are self determined. Would you agree that if the will is determined it is not free from that which determines it?

    As to your question in 171 to FMM. It is not that the regenerate now has free will when before they did not have it. In neither case does that change. What changes is that with a new nature my most wants change because my nature has changed.

    This is a really crude analogy but picture a hungry vulture with a head of lettuce to its right and a piece of meat to its left. What will the vulture choose? Is it free to choose the lettuce if that is what it most desires, that is is there anything external to its nature that prevents it from eating the lettuce? No its free to choose the lettuce if that is what it most desires but it will never desire the lettuce and always choose the meat because that is its nature.

    But what if you could somehow put a new nature into the vulture, the nature of a rabbit. Now the vulture will choose the lettuce. Because of the new nature there are different desires and “most wants” Now instead of freely choosing the meat the vulture freely chooses the lettuce. Hope that helps some.

    To be regenerate is to have a new nature. This new nature has different most wants than the unregenerate nature. When your most wants change so do your choices.

    Vivid

  174. 174
    vividbleau says:

    MF RE 172

    What is this free will we dont have? I dont know since I think it is impossible to have a non determined will.

    What would it be like if we had it? Choices would be non determined.

    Vivid

  175. 175
    Mark Frank says:

    This is a really crude analogy but picture a hungry vulture with a head of lettuce to its right and a piece of meat to its left. What will the vulture choose? Is it free to choose the lettuce if that is what it most desires, that is is there anything external to its nature that prevents it from eating the lettuce? No its free to choose the lettuce if that is what it most desires but it will never desire the lettuce and always choose the meat because that is its nature.

    This is quite a nice description of compatabilism. The major difference is that as a materialist I think our “nature” is material and the result of evolution. But the relationship between what we desire and what we choose is exactly that of compatibilism.

  176. 176
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF said.

    The major difference is that as a materialist I think our “nature” is material and the result of evolution.

    I say,

    Now you are getting it. The materialist believes that our choices are determined by something outside of us “evolution” in this case. We on the other hand believe that our will is determined by the core of who we are.

    Now the only way that our views would be similar is if you hold that our individual consciousnesses is an illusion and we are in fact nothing more than mater in motion.

    So as I said a while ago this is really all about the nature of the self not freewill.

    peace

  177. 177
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Hey vividbleau,

    Edwards is the man!!! I find it amazing how current his thinking is. He anticipated so much of modern philosophy it is not even funny. I am right now reading “The Theological Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards” by Sang Hyun Lee. It is mind blowing.

    MF asks,

    Was there a time when were not regenerated and therefore did not have free will? If so, did you notice a difference in the way you made choices after you became regenerated?

    I say,

    Yes there was a time before when I was in bondage to selfishness and I notice a huge difference now. Back then all my choices were made with an eye toward my individual happiness and I liked it that way.

    Now I find that I naturally want to do what Christ wants me to do.

    It’s not as if I do moral things with an eye to what’s in it for me. I really genuinely want what he want’s It is as if a new center of consciousness has taken over my body.

    Stuff I used to find desirable now are repugnant and things that I used to find lame are intriguing and I can’t get enough of them.

    This transformation began quite suddenly a long time ago but it is ongoing. Often even now little areas of my old selfish nature that are not quite dead are miraculously brought to mind and extinguished by no power of my own.

    It’s like a virus of virtue has taken over my body and is in the process of killing the old despicable me. He is still around lurking in the dark corners but now I find him to be an unwelcome intruder and I want him totally gone.

    My choices are still constrained by my nature but now I have a new nature that is free from the bounds that once held me.

    This personal ongoing spiritual transformation is one of the reasons I could never be a materialist.

    Hope that helps

    peace

  178. 178
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5MM

    I had the same kind of questions as MF did in 171.

    It seems like you’re saying that those who are not regenerated do not have free will. Only people who are regenerated have free will – right?

    MF asked:

    Was there a time when were not regenerated and therefore did not have free will? If so, did you notice a difference in the way you made choices after you became regenerated?

    I think people will say that they have a new freedom to choose when they are regenerated. But I’d be confused about the idea that non-regenerated people do not have free will.

    I think what it might be is that all the actions are freely chosen – what to eat, when to take a walk, what to watch on tv … but the ultimate purpose and value of the acts is locked in. So, no matter what you do, it’s always a sin. So, you have no free will because you’re always choosing the very same thing.

    Again, I very much disagree with that (with a different religious perspective), but that would be easier for me to understand.

    When you’re unregenerated, you don’t have any free will. Every act is a sin.
    When you’re generated, you now can do something good. So, you have freedom to choose between two options. Good or sin.

    I have never thought about that before and I just made it up right now.

  179. 179
    Mark Frank says:

    Obviously I am most interested from a compatibilism point of view. It seems (although I am still not sure) that both of you accept the idea that our choices are proper choices in the normal sense of the word even though they are predictable from our nature (the vulture analogy). This is the essence of compatibilism. Choosing is something we do which is the result of our natures plus the environment we are in. Whether our natures are material or otherwise is a separate issue.

  180. 180
    Silver Asiatic says:

    No, I don’t believe our choices are predictable. Choices come with motives and reasons. I think we face choices in life and we are free to select from options. The choice is not determined by nature or physical process or environment.

    I also differ from 5MM’s view on whether unregenerate people have free will. I believe every person does have free will.

    Materialism cannot generate that kind of freedom since all actions are determined by natural causes. In my view of free will, the agent can act against what natural processes alone would determine (or be possible of achieving).

  181. 181
    Mark Frank says:

    SA #180

    Sorry. I just realised it isn’t you. It is vividbleau and 5MM who, I think, maintain our choices are proper choices in the normal sense of the word even though they are predictable from our nature.

  182. 182
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF – I should have read the other comments on the thread and I would have known that.
    As I see it, your view and that of VB and 5MM are basically the same.
    Materialism can explain why the vulture chooses meat (if one accepts the evolutionary explanation) and the rabbit chooses lettuce. There’s no free will involved.
    To me, this would mean there’s no real moral choice in any case. Organisms just do things according to their nature.

  183. 183
    vividbleau says:

    SA RE 182

    SA it is not materialism nor evolution that explains the vultures behavior rather it is its nature to most want the meat. How it got to be a vulture or its nature is another conversation that from my perch ( pardon the pun) is not the point of the analogy.

    As far as pedictability goesI think there are many choices that for me and I would venture to say for you as well that are predictable, even certain. If an infant is drowning in a swimming pool I most certainly know I am jumping in how about you?

    Vivid

  184. 184
    vividbleau says:

    MF RE 179

    I think as a materialist “predictable” may mean something different in your world view than what it means to me.

    As a materialist it would seem that not only are your choices “predictable” but they could not be otherwise because they are matter determined.

    I think my choices are not matter determined rather self determined. I could choose otherwise if I “most wanted” to do so. It is not matter that produces “predictability” it is my nature that produces “consistincy”.

    Vivid

  185. 185
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vivid

    SA it is not materialism nor evolution that explains the vultures behavior rather it is its nature to most want the meat. How it got to be a vulture or its nature is another conversation that from my perch ( pardon the pun) is not the point of the analogy.

    I think what MF is saying is that your view is basically the same as the materialist view. The vulture chooses meat – there is no free will. How you explain why the vulture wants meat may be different or not, but the end result is the same.

    As far as pedictability goesI think there are many choices that for me and I would venture to say for you as well that are predictable, even certain. If an infant is drowning in a swimming pool I most certainly know I am jumping in how about you?

    To say that our choices are predictable is not to say that we can predict some events. It means that we don’t have a choice – like the vulture with meat, or the rabbit with lettuce. To say we can predict some acts is one thing, but as I said, could I predict my motive or attitude in any situation?

    Beyond that, each day we face moral challenges – smaller or greater. I will suggest that none of us acts in a perfectly moral manner every day, even if we want to. Why? In my view, we make free choices. Sometimes we choose good and other times not as good.

    This is far from predictable. Keep in mind, it’s not just jumping in the water to save an infant (an extreme case that 99% of us never face). But it’s the motive and attitude. Am I doing a heroic act because:
    1. I will look like a hero on TV?
    2. My girlfriend will think I’m great?
    3. I’m afraid of looking like a coward?
    4. I’m afraid of going to hell if I don’t?
    5. I love the baby?
    6. I want to obey God, even though I don’t want to jump?
    7. I am an expert life-saver and this is easy?
    8. I might be able to kidnap the baby?

    There are dozens more motives that change the moral quality of the very same act.

    It’s not me predicting what you will do — it’s you predicting what your moral attitude will be in any given situation (or me predicting mine).

    We have the freedom to choose our behavior and our motive. That’s how we improve our moral character. By making better, free choices. We measure our acts against a moral standard.

    If there was no free will, there’s no learning. We just do what we do.

    That’s the same as materialism. An organism just does what it is in its nature to do.

    If there was no free will, there would be no reason to praise a heroic act either. But we do praise such acts because we know they were made freely – often, going against what nature would determine.

  186. 186
    vividbleau says:

    SA,

    Was there a yes or no to my question regarding you jumping in the pool?

    What do you find objectionable to my position that my choices are self determined? That I choose what I MOST want given the options available to me at the time the choice is made?

    If I am not choosing what I most want is this not the antithesis of free will? If my choices are not self determined then is this not the case as well?

    Vivid

  187. 187
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vivid,

    Was there a yes or no to my question regarding you jumping in the pool?

    No, I didn’t treat that as a yes or no question, given the context. As I explained, the predictability of the moral act has to take into consideration the motives.

    What do you find objectionable to my position that my choices are self determined? That I choose what I MOST want given the options available to me at the time the choice is made?

    I think you’re applying an after-the-fact explanation to any decision. Whatever it is you did, you can claim later “that’s what I most wanted”. But that’s not a basis for decision-making. Otherwise, you would say “I will always choose what I most want”. In every situation, you would ask yourself “what do I most want?” and then choose that. But I think we find very often we choose what we don’t want.

    We face a cross-road and can go one way or another. To say, “I always want to choose the good” is ok. However, we recognize that we don’t always choose good – we have immoral motives at times.

    I’ll just conclude that by saying “we don’t have free will” there are lots of problems when it comes to decision-making.

    If I am not choosing what I most want is this not the antithesis of free will?

    No, it’s what free will permits. We can choose what we most want, what we want less, or what we don’t want. We’re free. To necessarily choose always what we most want means every choice is based on that criteria. That would mean no free will – no freedom.

    If my choices are not self determined then is this not the case as well?

    Could you explain what you mean by “self determined”? How does that relate to free will? I’m not challenging, I just don’t understand the distinction.

    The way I see it, the word “determined” means “known in advance, planned, or necessarily consequential”. Water flows downhill. That is “determined” by gravity and the landscape, etc. There’s no free will for water to go uphill.

    “Self determined” would mean that myself has no choice whenever I face a choice and I “determine” things necessarily?

    If you’re saying “whatever I chose is what I did”, therefore there is no free will – that is after the fact explanation. That’s just trickery. “I can predict every decision I make. I will choose something every time I make a decision”. Again, that’s just rhetorical trickery.

    We’re looking at the point of decision. Is that a free choice or not? If it is “determined” by something (materialism would say ‘determined by physical processes, laws’) then there’s no free will. The self is the agent either making the choice, or being moved by a determining force. It’s not the thing that determines anything in this matter.

    If the “self” can freely choose between options, and then does freely choose – that’s free will.

  188. 188
    vividbleau says:

    SA

    You say the predictabilty of the moral act has to take into consideration the motives. Of course! And you would most certainly jump in the pool because of these very same motives.

    I must say I find this really absurd “But I think we find very often we choose what we don’t want” If so thats is a real problem because if I am choosing that which I dont most want to choose then I am under some sort of compulsion which destroys any notion of free choice.

    I think you are confusing competing wants with that which we most want. Of course there are competing wants. Often there is a struggle to do one thing or another. When these competing wants are equal we are undecided but once we make a choice that is a result of one want being stronger than another. To say that I often choose that which I dont want to choose is crazy for one who advocates free will. Whats free about that?

    No to say we choose what we most want given the options available at the time the choice is made would mean no freedom is also absurd. It is the essence of freedom.

    What do I mean by self determined is this. That there is such a thing as an “I” that is immaterial. That I have competing wants and desires. That in order to make a choice “I” must most want to make that choice given the options available to me at the time the choice is made. It is I who determines that choice.

    I am curious are you taking the position that nothing determines your choices? Think about it.

    Edit: The kind of nothing I am speaking of is the something that comes from nothing kind of nothing.:)

    Vivid

  189. 189
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vivid

    I must say I find this really absurd “But I think we find very often we choose what we don’t want” If so thats is a real problem because if I am choosing that which I dont most want to choose then I am under some sort of compulsion which destroys any notion of free choice.

    No, it's not compulsion. There are many reasons to choose one thing or another. You seem to have reduced all these reasons to "what I want". The term 'want' is not very specific, but usually it means "what I like". But there are many contradictory meanings of the word "want".

    I want …

    I need.
    I like.
    I wished for.
    I think I have to have.
    I know is best.
    I feel like having.
    I am convinced to have.
    I have a craving for.
    I desire

    These are all different things.

    To say "I choose what I don't want" doesn't mean I have a compulsion.

    "I choose what I don't want":

    I choose what I don't like.
    I choose what I don't need.
    I choose what I don't feel like having.
    I choose what I don't desire.
    I choose what I'm not totally convinced of.
    I choose not because I want, but because someone else does.
    I choose what I don't have a craving for.
    I take a risk.
    I choose only what I afford, not what I want.

    I think you are confusing competing wants with that which we most want. Of course there are competing wants. Often there is a struggle to do one thing or another. When these competing wants are equal we are undecided but once we make a choice that is a result of one want being stronger than another.

    You’re assuming that the choice is only with regard to “what I want”. But as I point out, what we want is not the only basis for choosing something. We might not want either. We might have a self-destructive attitude. We might have a sinful attitude.

    To say that I often choose that which I dont want to choose is crazy for one who advocates free will. Whats free about that?

    If I had to always choose what I want, then there would be no free will. The fact that I can choose what I don’t want, means that I have freedom of choice.

    That in order to make a choice “I” must most want to make that choice given the options available to me at the time the choice is made. It is I who determines that choice.

    Ok, as I said, this is a rhetorical trick. You’re applying an explanation after the fact. You’re equating “to choose” with “I want”.

    Whatever I choose, is what I wanted.
    I chose something, therefore I wanted it.

    So, there’s no choice, there’s only “I wanted”.

    But that’s not how it worked. We don’t evaluate every choice by thinking only about “what I want”. There are many other reasons to choose one thing or another.

    If not, then all we would be interested in is “what I want” and that’s the definition of selfishness.

    I am curious are you taking the position that nothing determines your choices? Think about it.

    Edit: The kind of nothing I am speaking of is the something that comes from nothing kind of nothing.:)

    It’s not that “nothing determines my choices”, but that “my choices are not determined”. They’re not forced on me by something else. They’re not determined by gravity or environment or genetics. When I face a choice, at that moment, I can freely choose for any number of reasons – including, “that’s the thing I don’t want”.

    By choosing something, it doesn’t mean it was “determined”.

    A choice that is “determined” is what was “necessary to occur”. But I am not controlled by a force that makes it necessary for me to choose a certain outcome every time.

    I understand some people’s religious views are that God basically makes them do everything they do. They have no free will. They don’t really choose anything. They just do what they do – God made all the choices. So, all their choices were “determined” by God.

    My religious view conflicts with that. If I do something bad, it’s not God who determined that I did that. I chose freely to commit a sin. In the same way, if I do something good, God didn’t force me. I chose freely to do something good.

  190. 190
    vividbleau says:

    SA

    “I choose what I don’t want”:

    I choose what I don’t like.
    I choose what I don’t need.
    I choose what I don’t feel like having.
    I choose what I don’t desire.
    I choose what I’m not totally convinced of.
    I choose not because I want, but because someone else does.
    I choose what I don’t have a craving for.
    I take a risk.
    I choose only what I afford, not what I want.

    Pick one and give me a real life example.

    Ok, as I said, this is a rhetorical trick. You’re applying an explanation after the fact. You’re equating “to choose” with “I want”.

    No, to most want is not the choice it is the reason, the cause for the choice. Evry effect has a cause or do you disagree with that position as well?

    It’s not that “nothing determines my choices”, but that “my choices are not determined”.

    So something determines your choices but then again it doesnt. Got it.

    They’re not forced on me by something else. They’re not determined by gravity or environment or genetics. When I face a choice, at that moment, I can freely choose for any number of reasons – including, “that’s the thing I don’t want”.

    I am not arguing that they are forced in fact they are not forced. Nor do I think they are determined by gravity etc. I agree I can freely choose for any number of reasons. But I cannot choose that which I do not most want to choose otherwise I am choosing something against my will. That you cant see this baffles me. Oh well I am sure you are thinking the same about me.

    A choice that is “determined” is what was “necessary to occur”. But I am not controlled by a force that makes it necessary for me to choose a certain outcome every time.

    Hey you are arguing for the position that you make choices against your will not me.

    I understand some people’s religious views are that God basically makes them do everything they do. They have no free will. They don’t really choose anything. They just do what they do – God made all the choices. So, all their choices were “determined” by God.

    My argument has no need to invoke God.

    Vivid

  191. 191
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    All

    What I find amazing is Vivd and I see a huge difference between our position and that of Mark Frank but both MF and SA see our views as equivalent. I find that odd and I’m not sure why it is.

    I would like to explore the difference between self-determined choices and determination from outside us. I think that is a key difference between Mark and I.

    I would argue that our choices are free if they are determined by our nature and they are not free if something apart from us does the choosing.

    It seems pretty straightforward to me. I wonder what SA and MF think?

    Apparently Edwards felt that our nature is so tightly bound up with who we are that effectively our nature is us. I wonder if MF would agree?

    peace

  192. 192
    Box says:

    IMHO freedom is about self-causation (self-determination)—opposed to being externally determined—not about being predictable or not. However if self-causation is predictable or not I’m not sure.

  193. 193
    vividbleau says:

    FMM RE 191

    What I find amazing is Vivd and I see a huge difference between our position and that of Mark Frank but both MF and SA see our views as equivalent. I find that odd and I’m not sure why it is.

    Me neither. I too would be interested to hear Marks comments.

    Box agreed.

    Vivid

  194. 194
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vivid,

    I think part of our disagreement is in how we’re using the terminology.

    Pick one and give me a real life example.

    I want means I like.

    I do what I don’t want. I don’t want to go to the Dentist, but I choose to go there. What I most wanted to do was sleep in, but I woke up. I chose what I don’t want.

    No, to most want is not the choice it is the reason, the cause for the choice. Evry effect has a cause or do you disagree with that position as well?

    When the cause always produces the effect, there’s no reason to separate them. In your view, what I want is always what the choice is. To understand the choice, you understand the want. The choice is nothing but the want.

    It’s not that “nothing determines my choices”, but that “my choices are not determined”.

    So something determines your choices but then again it doesnt. Got it.

    You’re using the term “determine” in two different ways.
    To determine something is to pre-plan, direct or force it. A “determined” thing follows necessarily.

    Another meaning for ‘determine’ is ‘to select’. A selection is not something that followed necessarily.

    When you say “choices are determined” you’re mixing up two meanings. If a choice is pre-planned, then it’s not a choice. That’s what “determinism” means. The water flows downhill. Gravity determines that. Gravity doesn’t choose to do something.
    To say “I determined” to choose a lemon jelly bean is a misuse of the term. I freely selected lemon. The choice was not “determined”. It wasn’t pre-planned. It wasn’t a necessary action.

    I am not arguing that they are forced in fact they are not forced. Nor do I think they are determined by gravity etc. I agree I can freely choose for any number of reasons. But I cannot choose that which I do not most want to choose otherwise I am choosing something against my will. That you cant see this baffles me. Oh well I am sure you are thinking the same about me.

    Well, this is confusing since you say that you can “choose for any number of reasons, but the only reason you make a choice is because that’s what you most want”. You can’t do both, as I see it.

    You’ve added ‘going against your will”. In this case, it seems you’re equating “what I will” with “what I want”.

    Again, this is a rhetorical problem.

    The term “to choose” means “to will”. They are equivalent.
    To then say, “I choose whatever I will”, means “I choose whatever I choose”.

    That’s not giving a reason why you choose something. It’s not saying whether your choice is free or not.

    “I buy whatever I pay the cashier for”. Well, to pay the cashier is the same as “to buy”. If I want to know why you bought something, you would’t say “because I paid the cashier”.

    Hey you are arguing for the position that you make choices against your will not me.

    Again, “to choose” means “to will”. To say “I always choose what I will” means, “I don’t have free will because I always choose what I choose”.

  195. 195
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5MM

    What I find amazing is Vivd and I see a huge difference between our position and that of Mark Frank but both MF and SA see our views as equivalent. I find that odd and I’m not sure why it is.

    I can’t speak for MF but you referred us to a link that said, explicitly, “there is no free will for humanity”. I just started there. That’s exactly the same as the materialist idea. The difference is in one case, God determines what the person does. In the other case, material processes determine what the person does. In both cases, there is no free choice.

    MF wondered if your view meant that when it seems like we’re choosing something, that’s just an illusion. I think that’s the materialist view.

    So, as I see it – both positions are virtually the same.

    I would like to explore the difference between self-determined choices and determination from outside us. I think that is a key difference between Mark and I.

    As I mentioned to Vivid, the term “determined” carries a specific meaning in this context.
    If choices are ‘determined’ then they’re not freely selected.
    “Determined” means “pre-planned”. “Determined events” follow necessarily from causes. Gravity determines that water flows down hill.

    That is different from a word like “selected”. A thing that was selected is different than a thing that was determined.

    So, that’s why I struggled with the term “self-determined”. When the self faces a choice, it’s not a question of “what has been determined” in the situation. It’s “what will be selected”. That’s free choice.

    If the self can “determine” things, how does that happen? It would mean, the self just does things and whatever happened “had been determined” (pre-planned). But that’s not free choice.

    If you have a regress, you would then say, “I freely chose to determine something”. But that’s just redundant. The word “determine” is confusing and misleading here, as I see it (I’m not saying not deliberably).

    An event is either “determined” or it is “freely chosen”.
    I hit my finger with the hammer. Pain is a “determined” result. Pain follows necessarily from the event. It’s not a free choice to feel the pain. To say I hit my finger means “I felt pain”. The two are the same.

    I would argue that our choices are free if they are determined by our nature and they are not free if something apart from us does the choosing.

    Again, I’m stumbling on the terminology. If a choice is “determined”, then it’s not free. It’s a necessary consequence. If our nature determines certain results – that’s not choice. Our nature determines that we walk upright, eat, sleep, think. Those are not choices. Our nature determines that we do those things.

    Someone else explained this in arguing against materialism (I believe arguing against MF) and the compatibilism viewpoint.

    Either we have free will to choose or not. The compatibilist view says there’s a third option. We have free will but we really don’t, but it seems like we do, so that’s the same as having free will … something like that.

    So, that’s why MF asked you if you thought free will is an illusion.

    Again, in my view, if something is “determined” by whatever cause, then it’s not freely selected. That’s determinism. There are no free choices, only the necessary reactions or outcomes that follow from something.

    To say that “all our choices are determined because we determined them” doesn’t make sense to me. “To choose” in this case is made to mean “to determine”. But that’s not what “to determine” means in this context.

    “All my choices are chosen because I choose them.” That says nothing about free will or not.
    “All my choices are determined because I determine them”.
    That’s the same thing – it’s very confusing.

  196. 196
    Mark Frank says:

    Well this is a tangle!

    What I find amazing is Vivd and I see a huge difference between our position and that of Mark Frank but both MF and SA see our views as equivalent. I find that odd and I’m not sure why it is.

    I agree with SA that we have a lot in common. There is a huge difference between us on how we acquired our nature and what kind of thing our nature is (material or dualist) but we appear to agree that some aspect of our nature determines what decisions we will make. I maintain that this kind of decision making – doing as our nature prompts us – is what we mean be free will in the ordinary English sense of the word. I am not clear whether 5MM and Vivid agree with this because at various times they have talked of us not having free will,  of only regenerated people having free will and of simply not liking the term.

    This is interesting to me because I find that most people simply cannot get their head round the idea that a decision which is the inevitable result of the our nature is nevertheless free in the common sense of the word.  Our nature in this case being the complicated balance of all our motives, desires, beliefs etc at that time. It seems the 5MM and Vivid are almost there.  SA clearly is not because he writes:

    If a choice is “determined”, then it’s not free.

    This is a false dichotomy. Our choice is the result (and therefore determined by) our motives, desires, and beliefs  – but that is what “free” means – doing something according to our motives, desires and beliefs.  Dennett tried to get this across by starting with simpler things and gradually approaching the human condition. A dog is off the lead and freely chooses to chase a rabbit according to our usual meaning of the word “free” – but its decision is a result of various instincts and motives plus seeing the rabbit.  Our decision making process is more complicated but there doesn’t seem to be any sense in which it is more free and I don’t understand what it would mean to be more free. (Notice I have said nothing about whether dog is a materialist dog or a dualist dog!)

  197. 197
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    SA: If a choice is “determined”, then it’s not free.

    It’s in the nature of the terms. Gravity determines that water runs downhill. The water is “free” to take any path it wants, but the term “free” is misused here. Gravity and the shape of the terrain make the path of the water a necessary outcome.

    That’s what determinism is. This is different from “free choice”.

    The idea that there is no dichotomy between determinism and free will is the concern. One or the other is true. Not both. What is meant by both terms is a distinction.

  198. 198
    Mark Frank says:

    SA

    You are right to pursue what is meant by both terms. This is where it all gets quite lengthy and pedantic so please bear with me.

    I take “determined” to mean more or less “necessary”. So the shape of the hill and gravity means that the water necessarily flows in a certain path. Now terms like “necessary”, “possible” and “impossible” are what philosophers call modals. The thing with modals is that they are always relative to some set of constraints, which may be explicit or implicit. So if you say it is necessary the water will flow this way it is not logically necessary – it would not break the laws of logic if the water flowed another way. Nor is it necessary according the laws of physics by themselves. It is only necessary if you inculde the shape of the hill. In general something may not be necessary given a broad constraint such as the law of gravity but necessary if you add more specific constraints such as the shape of the hill.

    So what are the implied constraints for determinism and free will? Full blown determinism means something like this had to happen given the entire state of universe at state X and the laws of nature.i.e. about as detailed as you can get. However, free will usually means did not have to happen given external constraints such as being in prison – a much less restrictive set of constraints. Once that is made clear then it is obvious that something can be necessary in the sense of determinism but not determined in the sense of a person being free to act.

  199. 199
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    I’m not opposing your point at the moment, but just not sure what the following sentence means …

    However, free will usually means did not have to happen given external constraints such as being in prison – a much less restrictive set of constraints.

    Determinism means necessarily happened. Things determined that the water flowed that way.
    Free will usually means “did not have to happen”. There was a moment when a decision could be made for various reasons. The decision was not determined – planned, forced, required, necessarily following.

    So, this phrase I don’t understand: “did not have to happen given external constraints such as being in prison – a much less constrictive set of constraints”.

    Free will means did not have to happen … in other words, a number of options could have been selected for a number of reasons. Instead of the action having been determined to follow necessarily from the cause.

    The question of constraints can limit freedom, of course. But this doesn’t change the dichotomy.

    The water does not face constraints that limit its freedom. The water does not have freedom to act in any other way than what physics determine it to do.

    That’s how material processes work. It’s not a question of choosing from options for a variety of reasons.

    If you’re saying that: humans have free will but since everything is “constrained” by what material processes do so there really is no free will — that’s just saying that there is no free will. Materialism is a constraint on freedom since all is matter and matter functions according to physical processes. Matter can’t select from a number of choices as abstract (immaterial) concepts.

    I’m pretty sure you’re not saying that: humans don’t have free will because they want to walk through concrete walls but don’t have the freedom to do that. Free will or choice obviously has constraints given the capability of the being.

    So, I’m not understanding. I don’t see how to reconcile “there is no free will” and yet, “we make free choices”. Or “all choices are determined by physical/material processes” and yet, “we are free to choose”.

  200. 200
    vividbleau says:

    SA RE 194

    Ok , I would like to limit the scope for a moment. You say you did not want to go to the dentist but chose to go anyway. Why did you choose to go anyway?

    Vivid

  201. 201
    vividbleau says:

    MF RE 196

    Mark a little pressed for time so must be breif at the moment. I am pretty much in agreement with your second paragraph.

    Vivid

  202. 202
    vividbleau says:

    SA RE 194

    “I want means I like”

    Ahhh!! Passed by this on my first read. This is helpful thanks.

    Were in agreement that we often do many things we do not like. But that is not what I mean by want. I want means to desire.

    Using the dentist example. I dont dont like to go to the dentist and all things being equal I dont want to go. However I do want healthy teeth so I go. My desire for healthy teeth is greater than my desire to avoid the dentist.

    Vivid

  203. 203
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Vivid,

    Here’s a real-life example from just last week.
    I went to a Chinese restaurant. I chose the Two-Flavored Shrimp.
    I think you would say: That was the meal you most desired to eat.
    But I would disagree. I didn’t desire to eat that (although I did eat it).

  204. 204
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF says,

    There is a huge difference between us on how we acquired our nature and what kind of thing our nature is (material or dualist) but we appear to agree that some aspect of our nature determines what decisions we will make.

    I say,

    I would hope that we could all agree that something determines our choices that much is not at issue

    I think on the other hand what our “nature” is at the core of the difference between our various positions

    1) SA thinks that our nature is something outside of us.

    2) MF thinks our nature (and us) can be reduced to matter in motion.

    3) I think our nature is essentially us and it is not reducible to anything materiel.

    let me know if anyone disagrees with this summary of our various views

    When you get down to brass tacks this discussion is really about how to hold someone responsible for their actions.

    If MF’s position is correct then punishment is unjust as far as I can tell. We don’t blame the rocks if someone dies in an avalanche.

    By the same token if SA’s idea is correct them punishment is unjust. If my nature is not me then I can’t be blamed for what it makes me do.

    As far as I can tell it’s only in the traditional reformed framework that punishment can be justified.

    peace

  205. 205
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    SA says.

    The difference is in one case, God determines what the person does. In the other case, material processes determine what the person does. In both cases, there is no free choice.

    I say,

    It’s not God who determines what the unregenerate does. It’s their own nature. The problem is that the natural man’s nature is bound up by his love of sin.

    I would think that you would agree that at it’s possible that a person’s nature could be bound so strongly that their will is no longer free.

    The alcoholic is the classic example. The addiction becomes so powerful that it constrains their choices. They can’t help themselves.

    Do you have a problem with this characterization?

    If not we can talk about just what role God’s Sovereignty plays in our choices.

    Peace

  206. 206
    vividbleau says:

    SA RE 203

    I would say that when you looked on the menu you probably saw several dishes that you liked and probably some that you did not like. Of the ones that sounded tasty to you you chose the shrimp. There were others you could have ordered but at the time the choice was made, given the options available,you most wanted (liked) the shrimp

    Vivid

  207. 207
    vividbleau says:

    FMM RE 204

    That’s a good summary though frankly I don’t know what to make of SA’s position.

    Vivid

  208. 208
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Vivid says,

    I would say that when you looked on the menu you probably saw several dishes that you liked and probably some that you did not like.

    I say,

    There were probably other factors involved besides taste.

    for example

    Which dish is the best for you?
    Which dish is the best for the environment?
    Which dish is the best for your bank account?

    You weigh all these factors and many others and determine which choice is the best. How you weigh all the options depends on your nature.

    You might feel environmental factors are more important than your health. It’s you (your nature) that makes this determination.

    peace

  209. 209
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5MM

    1) SA thinks that our nature is something outside of us.

    I wrote a lot on this topic already and said absolutely nothing like what you just claimed. Where did you see me saying that I think our nature is outside of us? I’d like to know why you misunderstood what I’ve said.

    3) I think our nature is essentially us and it is not reducible to anything materiel.

    This is actually closer to materialism than the idea that God determines the person’s action. In one view, the person’s immaterial nature determines the action. In the other view, the person’s material nature determines the action. I see very little difference in the view. One could say that matter is irreducible, to a certain extent. Sub-atomic particles to atoms to chemistry — those are what determine human actions.

    let me know if anyone disagrees with this summary of our various views

    Yes, I certainly do disagree that I think our nature is external to us. I find that idea absurd.

    By the same token if SA’s idea is correct them punishment is unjust. If my nature is not me then I can’t be blamed for what it makes me do.

    Let’s put it this way, if you were correct about what my idea is, then you could draw that conclusion. But again, I said nothing about nature.

    As far as I can tell it’s only in the traditional reformed framework that punishment can be justified.

    If our nature is us, then what purpose does the term ‘nature’ serve? What is the difference between nature and the person?

  210. 210
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5MM

    I would think that you would agree that at it’s possible that a person’s nature could be bound so strongly that their will is no longer free.

    No, I don’t think it’s possible except in very rare cases (and maybe not even those) where a person is so mentally disabled (or in a coma) they cannot make a free choice. But we’re talking about the norm, not rare exceptions.

    The reason for this is that rational thought is a defining quality of human life. Every human being has, and uses this capability. Whether unregenerated or not. Whether sinful or addicted. The power to draw a rational conclusion requires free choice. One has to weigh the evidence and decide freely. That kind of thought cannot be determined – it’s a free choice by the person.

    The alcoholic is the classic example. The addiction becomes so powerful that it constrains their choices. They can’t help themselves.

    There are hundreds of examples where a person’s freedom to choose is constrained. But even in conditions of slavery or oppression, a person’s conscience remains free. And even an alcoholic has the ability to freely choose among options, and many do choose to quit drinking. That’s a free decision on their part, not something determined by physics or even their own inclination (the choice goes against their inclination to drink).

  211. 211
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    SA says,

    If our nature is us, then what purpose does the term ‘nature’ serve? What is the difference between nature and the person?

    I Say,

    To put it in Biblical parlance It is simply the difference between soul and spirit.

    quote:

    For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow,—– and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    (Heb 4:12)

    end quote,

    Our soul is who we are our spirit is what makes us who we are. Separating the two requires a pretty sharp instrument.

    SA says,

    That’s a free decision on their part, not something determined by physics or even their own inclination (the choice goes against their inclination to drink).

    I say,

    So they have no desire to quit drinking but quit anyway for no reason. How is that different than randomness?

    you say,

    Yes, I certainly do disagree that I think our nature is external to us.

    I say.

    What????

    So our nature is internal to us yet not part of us? I really need you to explain what you mean here.

    What is our nature and how does it relate to our person?

    peace

  212. 212
    Mark Frank says:

    There are so many things to respond to and I don’t have time to address them all.  Let’s try this.

    SA #199

    Determinism means necessarily happened. Things determined that the water flowed that way.

    Free will usually means “did not have to happen”. There was a moment when a decision could be made for various reasons. The decision was not determined – planned, forced, required, necessarily following.

     
    I want to stress what I was saying in #198.  Modal words such as “necessarily” are relative to some set of conditions.  Given a set of conditions then these three terms are logically related: necessary, possible and impossible. Necessary means always happens, possible means sometimes happens, impossible means never happens under a specific set of conditions.
    So lets consider a decision – e.g. to get off the bus at this stop.
    Determinism means it will always happen given a complete description of the universe

    Free will means it sometimes happens given partial knowledge about the universe (external conditions e.g the bus’s behaviour, my physical ability to get off, being in a position on the bus where I can get to the door, being awake etc.)

    These two statements are logically quite compatible.

    The interesting thing is the essential additional information that takes us from partial knowledge under which it sometimes happens to sufficient knowledge to know it always happens.  It is knowledge about what is going on inside me: the process of balancing beliefs, desires (short and long-term).  Call this my inner nature.  I think those processes are material. 5MM and Vivid think they are conducted in an immaterial realm.  But the crucial thing is that there is no reason why those processes should not also be a chain of cause and effect conforming to laws and in principle predictable by an outsider.  This does not prevent them being decisions.  That is just how decision making works.  My inner nature does not control my decisions. Decision making is part of my inner nature.

  213. 213
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Mark Frank says,

    But the crucial thing is that there is no reason why those processes should not also be a chain of cause and effect conforming to laws and in principle predictable by an outsider.

    I say,

    There is a universe of difference between conforming to laws and being reducible to laws.

    Everyone even SA agrees that we must conform to certain laws. No one can choose to fly unassisted for example.

    And Everyone even SA agrees that our choices are in principle predictable. I can accurately predict that you will continue to find arguments for ID to be unconvincing for example.

    What is really in question is whether there really is a you at the center of your choices or not.

    Your position if I understand it correctly is that when we look closely enough Mark Frank will evaporate into a complex amorphous mixture of particles simply reacting with the environment like the rusting of a steel garbage can.

    That position has next to nothing in common with mine superficial similarities aside.

    peace

  214. 214
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    MF says,

    Determinism means it will always happen given a complete description of the universe

    Free will means it sometimes happens given partial knowledge about the universe

    I say,

    I must disagree.

    Freedom does not go away with increasing knowledge it is enhanced.

    God is omniscient and yet at the same time he is the only Being with absolute free will. Unlike us He can do exactly as he chooses.

    I would phrase the dichotomy like this.

    Freewill means my choices are not externally determined

    Determinism means that God is sovereign and there is no such thing as true randomness.

    These two statements are logically quite compatible as well. The difference is my description leaves room for consciousness that is not an illusion.

    peace

  215. 215
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5MM

    So our nature is internal to us yet not part of us?
    I really need you to explain what you mean here.

    Again, I didn’t say anything like that so I don’t know where you came up with that.

    What is our nature and how does it relate to our person?

    Our nature, in the classical sense of the term, is the essence of what a human being is. We have a ‘human nature’. Our nature is shared with all humanity. We all have a human nature. Our person is the individual expression of the general nature. A person is a unique expression, created by God, possessing a human nature. A dog has an animal nature. A tree has the nature of a plant.

    Only humans can be persons. Human nature is marked by ‘rationality’. So, humans have a “rational nature” we might say also.

    So, in my view, I couldn’t hold that my nature determines all of my actions – since I share the same nature with every human, therefore all actions would be the same.

    Instead, the soul of a human person is immaterial, created by God and possesses the rational aspect, memory, will and imagination. That is where the freedom of a human being comes from.

    We can freely choose between options for a number of reasons and motives. These choices almost always not predictable even by the person making them.

    We might say, it’s easy to predict that Mark Frank will continue to oppose ID, but every decision is made with a motive, purpose, intention and attitude. I have no idea about what those are for Mark Frank and how they change daily. But as we learn things, our decisions change. These are all different decisions, and that’s why they’re unpredictable:

    “He will oppose ID tomomorow.” — that’s what we predict externally. But his choice to oppose ID is different in all these cases:

    1. I oppose ID because I hate everyone who supports it
    2. I oppose ID because it is stupid
    3. I oppose ID because I haven’t been convinced by it yet
    4. I oppose ID because I think it is political
    5. I oppose ID because it troubles me
    6. I oppose ID because I don’t want to learn about it
    7. I oppose ID because creationists should all be killed
    8. I oppose ID because I’m still learning about it
    9. I oppose ID because someone told me to

    There are hundreds more we could add to the list. Morally, each is a different decision – with different moral weight.

    We can’t predict our own motive and attitude – even in writing these posts today. We make micro-decisions, freely.

    A proof of this is our conscience – when it tells us “we should have chosen differently”. It points to the freedom we had at the moment of decision.

  216. 216
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    The interesting thing is the essential additional information that takes us from partial knowledge under which it sometimes happens to sufficient knowledge to know it always happens. It is knowledge about what is going on inside me: the process of balancing beliefs, desires (short and long-term).

    As I see this, it’s the theistic argument restated.

    – If I had a complete knowledge of the universe, I would see that all my choices were predictable.
    – A complete knowledge of the universe would require experiential, empirical knowledge of the origin of all things – to understand full cause and effect.
    – Today, I don’t have that knowledge so my choices appear to be free.
    – But if I was present at the origin of the universe and could observe the chain of events over the past 13.8 billion years, I would see that everything was determined.

    Ok, the reason that’s the same as the theistic argument is because the theist must say:

    From my perspective, I have the freedom of volition – to choose between options.

    From God’s perspective, he sees and has seen what I will do.

  217. 217
    Mark Frank says:

    #216 SA

    You are still assuming “free” means “not determined under any conditions whatsoever”. In normal English usage that is not true. It means not determined by some set of conditions (implicit or explicit).

  218. 218
    Silver Asiatic says:

    MF

    You are still assuming “free” means “not determined under any conditions whatsoever”. In normal English usage that is not true. It means not determined by some set of conditions (implicit or explicit).

    You seem to be saying that “free” means “determined by some conditions”. But this eliminates the need for the word free.

    I think also you’re using the term “determined” to mean “constrained”. You used both terms interchangably before I think. Of course, there are limits on freedom but those limits do not determine the actions (and thus eliminate freedom). A football player can choose to run one way or another, but his freedom is limited to the playing field. The limits of the playing field doesn’t eliminate the freedom to choose – it doesn’t determine the choice of whether to run, stand, play, not-play. It just creates boundaries.

    Freedom means “not determined”. It doesn’t mean “not constrained”.

    The point of free will is that it is not determined by prior conditions – internal or external.

    Otherwise, we would merely say that all choices are determined and there is no free will.

  219. 219
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    SA says,

    Freedom means “not determined”.

    I say,

    How is that not the same as random?

    SA Says,

    So, in my view, I couldn’t hold that my nature determines all of my actions – since I share the same nature with every human, therefore all actions would be the same.

    I say,

    Dose a man have exactly the same nature as a woman? Or are innate differences between the sexes?

    Surely you would agree that there are innate differences between a shy person and a bold extrovert.

    Jesus had a human nature but you believe that he was not a child of wrath like the rest of us don’t you?

    quote:

    among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
    (Eph 2:3)

    end quote:

    Bear with me I’m really struggling to understand your position.

    peace

  220. 220
    Silver Asiatic says:

    5mm

    How is that not the same as random?

    Law = determined
    Chance = random

    So, the possibilities causing the decision are:

    Law, chance or … ?

    Dose a man have exactly the same nature as a woman? Or are innate differences between the sexes?

    The human nature of a man is exactly the same as the human nature of a woman. That nature is based on reason or rationality. Both have an immortal soul with the freedom to choose good or evil. That’s how Christianity pointed out the “sacredness of human life” – it’s based on human nature which came from God and is shared with all humans (made in the image and likeness of God). So, actions are not caused by nature (in this view).

    What you seem to be saying is that actions are caused by choice. All choices are the most desired of options. So, all actions are caused by the greatest desire of options.

    But what I’m saying is that “the most desired” is an outcome. It’s not the basis of the choice.

    The choice occurs before we arrive at “the most desired thing”. We choose to desire one thing or another. That’s where freedom comes in. I can choose to “want” (Vivid’s term) one thing or another. The reason we “want” or “desire” the thing, is not because “we want or desire it”. It’s the reasons that we weigh and judge. We use reason and compare and contrast – we eventually arrive at a choice. At that point, we can say, “that’s what I most desire”. But that desire is the result of a free decision, weighing the options.

    To say “our choices are determined by what we most want” — without pointing out that we choose what to desire, would mean that we are unthinking. We just “want things” – and we’d be controlled by impulses.

    However, we’re rational beings and we think about our choices. We decide to want one thing or another. That decision is not determined by our nature. It’s determined by our reason and the choice is made by our immaterial self, with the power of the immaterial soul. The soul is free to make that decision — it’s free to choose what it “most desires”.

    So, saying “choice equals what I most want” is only talking about the mechanism (if you will) of the choice, not the decision-making process. We don’t start with what we most desire. We start with reasoning. “What do I most desire? Do I want the pleasure of this sin? Or do I want the goodness that this more painful act will create?” That’s the free moral choice. It’s not determined. We decide what we want – we don’t just have urges and follow them.

    “Determined” would mean we have no choice. There would be nothing to think about. We would just have urges or impulses and then follow them. That’s what animals do with instinct. That’s the example MF used with a dog running. It’s just following instinct. It’s not choosing what it most wants. It’s just following what it most wants.

    If humans did that, there would be no freedom. Whatever desires the human had as part of his or her nature would be what the human necessarily did.

    We ask ourselves, however, why we desire certain things, or why we should desire them. We can train ourselves to desire good things more than evil. That training and learning is free choice at work. We decided we want to follow God (with the help of God’s grace) – so now we pray and try to follow the Word, and be a good disciple.

    “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”. We make the free choice and then have to continue to choose the right path.

    Surely you would agree that there are innate differences between a shy person and a bold extrovert.

    Yes, but these differences are considered (in the classical sense) “accidental”. They don’t change the human nature of the person. It’s like the color of the skin doesn’t make a person less or more human. Plus, those ‘accidental’ attributes of the person can change. A shy person can learn to be more confident. An extrovert can learn to restrain his personaity. But human nature cannot be changed.

    If, for example, the person’s decisions were caused by being shy, then there wouldn’t seem to be any way to overcome shyness. The shy attribute would just cause shyness — what would cause the person to learn to be less shy?

    In my view, it’s the soul which is free to choose and free to learn which enables the person to overcome (or improve) these variable qualities of his personality.

    Jesus had a human nature but you believe that he was not a child of wrath like the rest of us don’t you?

    Here’s where I think I can understand your view a little better. Yes, Jesus had a human nature and a divine nature, joined (hypostatic union). Ok, I think I get what you’re driving at.
    Since human nature has felt the effect of Adam’s sin due to the Fall and that original sin, all humanity suffers being a child of wrath.
    In my view, Jesus (as God) couldn’t commit sin and did not inherit original sin (as an exception, Catholics also believe Mary was excepted but that’s a different topic).
    However, Jesus did suffer some of the effects of sin — “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” So, he was tempted but freely chose not to sin.
    In any case, the difference in our views is (I think) that your view is that unredeemed human nature is incapable of doing anything good. All it can do is sin. Redeemed nature, however has the potential to do good – since original sin is forgiven and the person can live in Christ and do good (but also freely choose sin).

    Our differences are theological on this point. In my view, the unredeemed person can still do some quality of ‘good’. The rewards and benefits of that good are different, but the unredeemed person still has the freedom to choose and it not determined to only do evil.

    One example: “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Matt 8:10

    Jesus said that to the pagan. The pagan had more faith than any of the Jews that Jesus encountered. Now, we might say that nobody was redeemed yet, but to me it means that there was a freedom for moral choice even in the pagan religions. I think it’s true even for the most unredeemed person on earth. God gave each the capability to choose good. In my view, original sin did not make every action an evil.

    Actually, I think the life on earth before the Redemption shows that. There was a lot of good, even though nobody had been redeemed yet.

    In any case, I appreciate your point of view and it I think I understand it now.

    We really differ on theological grounds – and that’s a lot more difficult to sort through and reconcile. But I appreciate this chance to understand your viewpoints better.

  221. 221
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Law = determined
    Chance = random

    So, the possibilities causing the decision are:

    Law, chance or … ?

    An interplay between law and chance.

  222. 222
    Silver Asiatic says:

    z

    An interplay between law and chance.

    Which is law/determinism.

  223. 223
    vividbleau says:

    SA

    Theologicaly do you agree with the following from 169

    To quote Augustine “non posse non peccare” Fallen man is “not able not to sin”

    Vivid

  224. 224
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    SA,

    In any case, I appreciate your point of view and it I think I understand it now.

    I say,

    When we reach the Celestial City I will look you up and we can set down together and hash this out more fully.

    Somehow I think it won’t be near as important to us then. 😉

    peace

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