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WJM on Talking to Rocks

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UDEditors:  WJM’s devastating rebuttal to Aleta’s materialism deserves its own post.  Everything that follows is WJM’s:

Aleta said:

William, I know that your view is that unless morality is somehow grounded (purportedly) in some objective reality to which we have access, then it is merely subjective, and that then people have no reason not to to do anything they want: it’s not just a slippery slope, but rather a black-and-white precipice to nihilism.So actually discussing this with you, which we did at length one other time, is not worth my time.

It’s odd that you say that it is not worth your time apparently because you already know my position. If the only thing that makes a discussion “worth your time” is finding out the other person’s position on a matter, then surely most of what you write here is “not worth your time” because you already know the views of most of the participants here you engage with. Correct?

Is it “not worth your time” to engage in a discussion in order to demonstrate to onlookers (and this site has quite a few thousand onlookers) the rational soundness of your views?

1. I believe human beings have evolved to have moral nature, and that this has been part of our evolution as a social animal.

But I believe we are materially-based biological organisms, and that there is no non-material dualistic aspect to our existence.

There are questions here, right off the bat, to consider about your worldview. First is the question of if whether or not a being produced entirely from unliving, material forces and necessarily, entirely obeying the naturalistic forces of chemistry and physics can even meaningfully be said to have a “moral” nature at all. This depends on what one is using the term “moral” to mean.

If one uses the classic definition, then morality is about how one ought behave; but under the naturalist view of human behavior, humans always act how they must act – according to what physics and chemistry demands. Indeed, under the naturalist view, there is no other available cause for any thought or behavior.

The idea that an entirely physics and chemistry-driven being ought do something other than what physics and chemistry actually drive that entity to do cannot, to my knowledge, be rationally supported. Care to give it a try?

Also, you appear to definitionally link morality to the social aspect of human interaction, when the classic definition of morality draws no such parameter around what “morality” entails. You’re free to believe that, of course, but the rest of us have no reason to consider that limitation valid.

2. I believe that our moral belief system, and our desire to behave morally (which varies among individuals), develops just as many other aspects of us do: through a combination of developmental biology (nature) and learning from our surroundings (nurture.)

So morality is a combination of innate tendencies to judge right from wrong with a great deal of cultural influences about the particular details of right and wrong.

Here you have terminologically strayed from your original premise of humans being the result of the evolutionary processes of material forces acting in biology. IMO, re-labeling “physics and chemistry” as “innate tendencies”, “nurture” and “cultural influences” serves to obfuscate what is actually going on in your worldview: physics and chemistry generating effects via the interaction of various physical commodities.

So, when you say: “judge right from wrong”, it invokes a classical perspective that is unavailable to you. Perhaps you mean it in a different way, but the problem is what the terms appear to mean. Under your worldview, it is perhaps more accurate to say that a physical entity is driven by physics and chemistry to feel it ought do one thing, and ought not do another, and that you are calling this aspect of physics & chemistry driven activity “morality”.

However, also people mature, and just as children go from concrete to abstract thinking, morality goes from being primarily influenced by feeling pressure from the judgments of adults and the desire to avoid punishment (external sources) to an internalized sense of willful choice informed at least in part by reason and education.

Under your naturalism, all of the above is nothing more than terminological re-characterizations of the same fundamental, exclusive driving force of human behavior (energies and particles interacting according to physics and chemistry) in order to gain conceptual distance from the naturalist facts of your view of morality.

In other words, calling some group of those forces interacting “nurture” and “judgement” and “morality” and an “internalized sense of willful choice” doesn’t change the fact that what is going on is nothing more than the brute, ongoing effects of the processes of physics and chemistry.

For example, because I might terminologically refer to what computer-generated characters do in a video game as their “judgement” and “internalized sense of choice” and “nurture” doesn’t change the fact that everything in the video game is just acting as the code dictates. I can say the code is “making a choice” or “making a judgement”, but under the classic understanding of those terms, it is no more making a “choice” or a “judgement” than river water makes a choice or a judgement about which way to go; the outcome is dictated by physics (and/or chemistry).

You go on through your statements furthering your re-characterization of “physics and chemistry” in broader terms to make it seem like something else is going on, but the problem is that everything you say later is rationally laid to ruin by the nature of your premise: naturalism ultimately insists that all human behavior is generated by physics and chemistry and not by a locus of consciousness that has any top-down free will power. The terms you use throughout your statements to re-characterize your naturalist premise are terms that deeply implicate, classically and traditionally speaking, metaphysics your naturalism doesn’t have access to.

So, what you must mean by them boils down to “the cause and effect of physics and chemistry”, which ruins renders the moral judgement of humans equitable to the moral judgement of rocks rolling down hills or the choice of river water about where to flow. That physics and chemistry happen to also make humans feel as if they have some sort of top-down choice and feel as if they are responsible and feel as if they have a conscience and moral obligations is irrelevant because all of those sensations are also physics and chemistry driven instances of physical cause and effect, just like the actions of rocks rolling down hills and river water taking any particular curve.

You say in your statement that you think I and others are “wrong” about where we think morality comes from and what it is. Why should I care what a physics and chemistry-driven biological automaton utters? Like anyone else under your paradigm, you would think and say whatever physics and chemistry commands; you would feel and believe whatever physics and chemistry dictate. If chemistry and physics dictate that you bark like dog and believe you have said something profoundly wise, that is what you will do. If physics and chemistry dictate that you rape little boys and mutilate little girls an believe that to be a good, moral thing, that is what you will do. Period.

If those things are what physics and chemistry commanded, that is what you would be doing and arguing for today, and there would be absolutely no external standard by which you, let alone anyone else, could judge your behavior and beliefs wrong, nor would you have any objective, top-down access or capacity for making such a judgment even if such a standard existed, let alone change your behavior.

That is the sad dilemma you find yourself in, Aleta, whether you know it or not. Under your paradigm, you and KF and Stephen and Gandhi and Obama and George Wallace and everyone else are just streams of water going wherever physics and chemistry dictates – yet here you are, arguing as if any of us could do anything other than what physics and chemistry commands.

Do you also try to argue rivers out of their course, or try to convince the weather to change?

Comments
Origenes: The same can be said of a clock. In order to seriously consider self-determination for such artifacts we have to forget about the designers of course. Second we have to muster the naïve belief that clocks and robots are persons …. Clocks and robots are not persons. Are you saying only persons can have self-determination?Zachriel
May 7, 2016
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Origenes: Anyway, it is you who claims that my definition excludes naturalism That's right. You define freedom as something non-naturalistic, then argue that freedom is non-naturalistic. That's called circular reasoning. Origenes: I have explicitly stated my willingness to accept, arguendo, the existence of “uncaused” emergent properties The fact that you have to accept arguendo, implies that you reject the existence of emergence, when it clearly applies in at least some cases. In addition, you explicitly rejected non-deterministic naturalism, saying "If naturalism is true, then determinism is true." Origenes: Moreover, my acceptance of undetermined emergent properties is incorporated in the definition. Undetermined emergent properties are not determined but instead “fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law”, as I have argued in post # 69, #71 and #94. Except that determinism may not properly apply at the *bottom* of the chain of causation (and perhaps elsewhere in the chain of causation due to chaos). The "items" you refer to may not be fully determined. Again, naturalism can be deterministic or non-deterministic, and determinism can be naturalistic or supernaturalistic. Origenes: What you do is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word. Pointing out the circularity in your argument doesn't mean we accept your strawman.Zachriel
May 7, 2016
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Zachriel:
Origenes: ”It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law is defining freedom as non-naturalistic.”
Let’s simplify that: Definition: freedom is not fully constrained by natural law (whether fully determined by natural law or by items that are fully constrained by natural law). Therefore, freedom includes something not fully constrained by natural law.
Your “simplification” makes ‘fully determined’ a subset of ‘fully constrained’, which is incorrect as I will explain later. So I’m sticking to my definition. Anyway, it is you who claims that my definition excludes naturalism — in post #127 — when you said: "You are defining freedom as non-naturalistic."
Zachriel: So, it’s possible you are referring either to a non-deterministic naturalism, or to supernaturalism. You have explictly rejected the former, so that leaves the latter.
There are two problems with this: (1). I have explicitly stated my willingness to accept, arguendo, the existence of “uncaused” emergent properties — post #132, #118, #69 —, so I’m open to discussing non-deterministic naturalism.
Origenes: However, in my kindness, I’m willing to assume, arguendo, that undetermined/unexplained/unpredictable emergent properties exist.
Moreover, my acceptance of undetermined emergent properties is incorporated in the definition. Undetermined emergent properties are not determined but instead “fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law”, as I have argued in post # 69, #71 and #94. (2). Even if I were to reject non-deterministic naturalism, then you are not forced to do it also. But that is exactly what you did when you said:
Zachriel: You are defining freedom as non-naturalistic, (…)
So, it is you who holds that “freedom”, in a naturalistic context, must either be something that is fully determined [by natural law] or fully constrained [by items that are fully determined by natural law]. In my book that is called conceding the argument. What you do is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word.
Zachriel:
Origenes: 1. If naturalism is true, then determinism is true.
That is incorrect. There are indeterministic naturalists, (…)
This is addressed in the same post #156 — see Van Inwagen. Why do I have to point this out?
Zachriel:
Origenes: Freedom is about self-determination.
Yet a robot can be said to have self-determination, (…)
The same can be said of a clock. In order to seriously consider self-determination for such artifacts we have to forget about the designers of course. Second we have to muster the naïve belief that clocks and robots are persons …. Do we have to discuss this?Origenes
May 7, 2016
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Origenes: ”It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law is defining freedom as non-naturalistic.” Let's simplify that: Definition: freedom is not fully constrained by natural law (whether fully determined by natural law or by items that are fully constrained by natural law). Therefore, freedom includes something not fully constrained by natural law. So, it's possible you are referring either to a non-deterministic naturalism, or to supernaturalism. You have explictly rejected the former, so that leaves the latter. Your reasoning is circular (or a false dichotomy). A more common definition of freedom is someone who is not under direct compulsion. So, people are free to eat Brussels sprouts, even though their biochemistry says they won't choose to eat them unless some sort of compulsion is involved. Origenes: 1. If naturalism is true, then determinism is true. That is incorrect. There are indeterministic naturalists, such as those that point to the lack of determinism in quantum phenomena. In most forms of naturalism, whether the universe is deterministic is a scientific question. Origenes: 2. If determinism is true, then all our actions are consequences of events and laws of nature in the remote past before we were born. Of course chaos precludes any direct causal relationship for many past events, though certainly humans are still the result of their history. Origenes: Freedom is about self-determination. Yet a robot can be said to have self-determination, even though it is a deterministic machine. That's because the most common use of the term freedom refers to lack of direct compulsion. America fought for its freedom from Britain. Lincoln freed the slaves. You are free to eat Brussels sprouts, or to wear your trousers rolled.Zachriel
May 7, 2016
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Seversky: Freedom is not quite so simple a concept as it seems to be at first glance. (…)
One key aspect of freedom is “control”. If we are not in control of our choices, but something external to us is, then we don’t make choices and thus we are not free. If lines of determination pass right through us into our actions, then we are not free. Naturalism cannot ground control: 1. If naturalism is true, then determinism is true. 2. If determinism is true, then all our actions are consequences of events and laws of nature in the remote past before we were born. 3. We have no control over circumstances that existed in the remote past before we were born, nor do we have any control over the laws of nature. 4. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B. Therefore 5. If determinism is true, then we have no control over our own actions. Therefore, assuming that freedom requires control, 6. If determinism is true, we are not free. - - - - One may object and point to the existence of undetermined events, which may provide naturalism an opportunity to ground control. IMO Van Nimwegen has conclusively refuted the idea that this is possible:
Let us suppose that there is a certain current-pulse that is proceeding along one of the neural pathways in Jane’s brain and that it is about to come to a fork. And let us suppose that if it goes to the left, she will make her confession and that if it goes to the right, she will remain silent. And let us suppose that it is undetermined which way the pulse goes when it comes to the fork: even an omniscient being with a complete knowledge of the state of Jane’s brain and a complete knowledge of the laws of physics and unlimited powers of calculation could say no more than: ‘The laws and present state of her brain would allow the pulse to go either way; consequently, no prediction of what the pulse will do when it comes to the fork is possible; it might go to the left, and it might go to the right, and that’s all there is to be said.’ Now let us ask: does Jane have any choice about whether the pulse goes to the left or to the right? If we think about this question for a moment, we shall see that it is very hard to see how she could have any choice about that. There is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other. Or, at least, there is no way for her to make it go one way rather than the other and leave the ‘choice’ it makes an undetermined event.” [Van Inwagen]
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Seversky: And if free will just refers to the freedom to make choices without any constraint, how can that be, short of turning them over to a coin toss or RNG?
Freedom is about self-determination. In #136 are quotes by Aquinas and Chisholm. Although we have experiences of self-determination every waking moment it remains a mysterious phenomenon. Aquinas has shown that logic compels us to accept the existence of the prime mover unmoved.Origenes
May 7, 2016
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Origenes @ 141
“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. Regardless of our knowledge of the structure of the brain, no one has any idea how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience.” [Rutgers University philosopher Jerry Fodor]
I would agree. What we do know, however, is that there is not one single, verifiable instance of consciousness existing apart from the brain. Destroy the brain and you destroy consciousness As far as we know that has been true throughout human history. I'd say that's a good reason to think the two are connected.
2. Millions of NDE experiences.
An interesting phenomenon but we still have no instance of a consciousness observed after actual death rather than just having a near-miss.
3. Naturalism is unable to ground rationality and morality.
It would help to know what you mean by naturalism. Since the evidence suggests that a physical brain is required for consciousness and rationality is a function of human consciousness then rationality has a material basis to that extent. Since I assume we agree that "ought" cannot be derived from "is" then morality cannot be grounded in the nature of material reality
4. The existence and fine-tuning of the universe indicates that consciousness precedes matter.
The fine-tuning argument does not necessarily imply a consciousness preceded it. What would the consciousness be conscious of if there was literally nothing of which it could be aware prior to the existence of physical reality?
5. Only correlation between mental and brain processes have been found and correlation does not imply causation
I would agree, correlation does not necessarily imply causation but it can be evidence for it.
6. There is no credible naturalistic explanation for the brain.
For why the brain exists? For how it evolved? For how consciousness arises from it? Are there any credible supernatural explanations?Seversky
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel: The claim was that there is no such thing as emergence.
Nonsense. Why debate at all if you are not defending the truth, or interested in truth? Why bother?
Zachriel: (...) you didn’t clarify, but obfuscated.
Look who is talking! - - - - - - Phinehas #152, I could not agree more.Origenes
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel:
Origenes: Which has the same meaning.
No. “Fully determined” and “fully determined by natural law” are not the same thing. Something can be fully determined by supernatural causes, and natural law may allow for indeterminism.
Irrelevant to your claim. And I already provided the full version of your claim. Allow me to spell it out again: ”It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law is defining freedom as non-naturalistic.” So, it is you who holds that “freedom”, in a naturalistic context, must either be something that is fully determined [by natural law] or fully constrained [by items that are fully determined by natural law]. In my book that is called conceding the argument. What you do is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word.Origenes
May 6, 2016
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Z: The claim is that there is no such thing as emergence that grants freedom from physics and chemistry such that a person described in purely naturalistic terms could ever make free choices. Naturalism precludes free choice, and emergence (of the non-magical type) doesn't help.Phinehas
May 6, 2016
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Phinehas: Jump, therefore the moon. Salt, therefore free choice. The claim was that there is no such thing as emergence. We provided examples and an explanation. That doesn't prove that consciousness is due to emergence from natural mechanisms, or that you can jump to the moon (which wouldn't be emergence, in any case). It answers the specific question about whether there is such a thing as emergence. Origenes: Which has the same meaning. No. "Fully determined" and "fully determined by natural law" are not the same thing. Something can be fully determined by supernatural causes, and natural law may allow for indeterminism. The fact is that you changed your nomenclature when it was pointed out that you had included your conclusion in your definition. We have no problem with you clarifying your views; however, you didn't clarify, but obfuscated.Zachriel
May 6, 2016
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Barry Arrington @ #14,
Here is the wonder of it all. What WJM says is not only true; it is glaringly, obviously, undeniably true. The conclusions follow inexorably from the premises. Yet Aleta insists on denying them. Once again, the interesting question is not whether WJM is correct. Of course he is. The interesting question is why some people feel compelled to deny the undeniable.
I think it’s more psychological than rational. My experience after 10 years of participating in on line discussions is that the typical naturalist/ materialist interlocutor is a male (it’s typically a male) with a very big ego and very low esteem. For the most part, except for some very glib occasional responses, I have stopped interacting these types of interlocutors. Nevertheless, I have to say that some of them are very talented, not as honest thinkers, but as masters of obfuscation. I must confess, I don’t understand the obsession. Sadly many people who are driven by obsessions do not respond to reason. I for one do not want to enable the obsession by taking their unfounded arguments seriously.john_a_designer
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel:
Origenes: It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined nor fully constrained is defining freedom as non-naturalistic.
That’s not what you said, though. (…) What you said was “Freedom is neither being fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law”.
Which has the same meaning. But at your request here follows the full version: ”It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law is defining freedom as non-naturalistic.” So, it is you who holds that “freedom”, in a naturalistic context, must either be something that is fully determined or fully constrained … In my book that is called conceding the argument. What you do is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word.Origenes
May 6, 2016
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Z:
Phinehas: When you say “emergent” and wave your hands …
Z: Actually, we provided an example, and an explanation. There are properties of composites that are not found in the properties of the components.
Right. And I can jump to the moon. For example, I can jump a couple inches off the ground. For another example, I can breathe. Jump, therefore the moon. Salt, therefore free choice. Got it.Phinehas
May 6, 2016
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Origenes: No, but pointing out that my definition defines freedom as non-naturalistic does. Heh. That's funny. Argumentum ad definition. Origenes: It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined nor fully constrained is defining freedom as non-naturalistic. That's not what you said, though. It's amazing how short memories are on this blog. What you said was "Freedom is neither being fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law". Origenes: So, it is you who holds that “freedom”, in a naturalistic context, must either be something that is fully determined or fully constrained We have repeatedly noted that naturalism does not necessarily entail determinism. mohammadnursyamsu: Naturalism excludes freedom in the common discourse sense of the word, In fact, the common sense of the word is consistent with naturalism. America fought for its freedom from Britain. Lincoln freed the slaves. You are free to eat Brussels sprouts, or to wear your trousers rolled. mohammadnursyamsu: naturalism also excludes subjectivity, saying what is beautiful and such. In fact, subjectivity is a facet of most forms of naturalism. ETA, Douglas Adams is a well-known naturalist who said, "The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be."Zachriel
May 6, 2016
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@seversky The difficulties in understanding freedom are primarily emotional. People want to conceive of choosing in terms of sorting out the best result, using the facts about good and evil as sorting criteria. People want to be smug to know they did the best. But freedom is simple. You have alternative futures available, and making one of those alternatives the present, is what constitutes choosing. There is no further mechanism to choosing other than to make an alternative future the present. Choosing is essentially spontaneous. Yet again and again, people want to squirm in evaluating options into the fundamental definition of choosing, which makes the concept dysfunction.mohammadnursyamsu
May 6, 2016
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@zachriel Naturalism excludes freedom in the common discourse sense of the word, naturalism also excludes subjectivity, saying what is beautiful and such. Freedom, choosing, subjectivity, emotions, spirit, soul, are all creationist concepts. As explained here: http:/creationistischreveil.nl/creationismmohammadnursyamsu
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel: Pointing out that your definition leads to circular reasoning is hardly conceding the argument.
No, but pointing out that my definition defines freedom as non-naturalistic does.
Origenes: it may be hard to reach agreement on a definition of freedom. However I think we can agree upon what it is not. Freedom is neither being fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law. Do we agree?
Zachriel: Not particularly. You are defining freedom as non-naturalistic, (…)
It is you who claims that defining freedom as something that is neither fully determined nor fully constrained is defining freedom as non-naturalistic. So, it is you who holds that "freedom", in a naturalistic context, must either be something that is fully determined or fully constrained … In my book that is called conceding the argument. What you do is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word.Origenes
May 6, 2016
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Origenes: He says, in effect: freedom, in a naturalistic context, can only be either fully determined by natural law or being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law. How many times do we have to remind you that naturalism doesn't necessarily entail determinism?! Pointing out that your definition leads to circular reasoning is hardly conceding the argument.Zachriel
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel,
Origenes: it may be hard to reach agreement on a definition of freedom. However I think we can agree upon what it is not. Freedom is neither being fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law. Do we agree?
Zachriel: Not particularly. You are defining freedom as non-naturalistic, (…)
What is Zachriel saying here? He says, in effect: freedom, in a naturalistic context, can only be either fully determined by natural law or being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law. A naturalistic "freedom" can only be something that is fully determined or fully constrained … In my book that is called conceding the argument. What Zachriel does is admitting to the fact that naturalism cannot ground freedom in any meaningful sense of the word.Origenes
May 6, 2016
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Zachriel: (...) everything points to consciousness as a function of the brain.
Sure, except for the facts that ... 1.
“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. Regardless of our knowledge of the structure of the brain, no one has any idea how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience.” [Rutgers University philosopher Jerry Fodor] Roger Sperry: “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.” ) Eugene Wigner: “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.” Nick Herbert: “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”
2. Millions of NDE experiences. 3. Naturalism is unable to ground rationality and morality. 4. The existence and fine-tuning of the universe indicates that consciousness precedes matter. 5. Only correlation between mental and brain processes have been found and correlation does not imply causation. 6. There is no credible naturalistic explanation for the brain.Origenes
May 5, 2016
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To further elaborate. My position is that we always choose ( absent any external coercion ) that which we "most want" to choose given the options available to us at the time the choice is made. Vividvividbleau
May 5, 2016
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Seversky RE 138 Good points. I am of the opinion that the term free will should be banned from our lexicon. Free choice and free will are two separate and distinct things IMHO. Our wills are never free from physical consraints or our "most want" at the time our choice is made. To be fair I think many, but not all, when advocating free will actually mean we are free to choose that which we "most want" to choose at the time we make the choice. That our choices are self determined. Vividvividbleau
May 5, 2016
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Origenes @ 119
Are you saying that anything that exists has an external cause for its existence?
I would say we observe ourselves to be living in a contingent universe although we are far from identifying and describing the causes of many things. While we observe much that is contingent we have yet to observe anything that is indisputably necessary.
If everything has an external cause, then freedom does not exist. Sure. The question is if “everything has an external cause ” is a coherent state of affairs. Hint: Aquinas does not think it is
Freedom is not quite so simple a concept as it seems to be at first glance. For example, I would like to leap over tall buildings in a single bound like the original Superman. But I can't. I don't have the physical ability or power to do it. Thus, I am not free to do it even though I want to. The question is, does that mean I am not free to that extent even though I have the free will to conceive the wish? Does freedom or free will refer only to the capacity to form a wish, desire or purpose or does it also involve the ability to enact whatever is wished for or desired or purported? And if free will just refers to the freedom to make choices without any constraint, how can that be, short of turning them over to a coin toss or RNG? If you don't eat Brussels sprouts because you don't like the taste, is that an exercise of free will given that you are constrained by your dislike of the flavor? Some people might force themselves to eat one to prove they have the free will to do so but they cannot throw a switch and turn off their dislike. Their actions are still constrained by something over which they have no control. Any choice that is made for a reason is constrained by that reason. I don't jump off a cliff because I don't want to die any sooner than have to. Do I have the free will to jump in that case? Is free will, like freedom, a black-and-white, all-or-nothing deal or is it like truth a question of degree?Seversky
May 5, 2016
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Phinehas: Please continue telling me about the non-magical physics and chemistry that give you freedom to choose to eat Brussels sprouts or sand or not. The point was that there is a genetic reason why some people won't choose to Brussels sprouts. Phinehas: When you say “emergent” and wave your hands ... Actually, we provided an example, and an explanation. There are properties of composites that are not found in the properties of the components. Phinehas: I merely pointed out that I could just as easily put my finger on the scale and get the opposite result. That doesn't mean the result isn't deterministic. No one can knows for sure, because there is no general theory of consciousness; however, everything points to consciousness as a function of the brain.Zachriel
May 5, 2016
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Thomas Aquinas: liber est causa sui — translation: "The free is the cause of itself."
If we are responsible, and if what I have been trying to say is true, then we have prerogative which some would attribute only to God: each of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. [Roderick Chisholm, 'Human Freedom and the Self']
Origenes
May 5, 2016
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Z:
Phinehas: A million dollars is not a compulsion anymore than a particular gene is.
Z: And choosing between Brussels sprouts and sand isn’t compulsion either. Gee whiz. It’s a simple test that you obviously have to manipulate to get the result you want.
What are you going on about? I'm not manipulating anything, only exploring the reality of how people make choices. You proposed a test that was already "manipulated to get the result you want" by choosing an example where physics and chemistry could influence choice in predictable ways. No one ever claimed this wasn't possible. In fact, I expressly said it was. I merely pointed out that I could just as easily put my finger on the scale and get the opposite result. In other words, physics and chemistry as it relates to the gene in question are not determining the choice. So, yes, things external to the will can influence choices, but they don't determine them. This lines up exactly with my internal experience. Does it not for yours? Is this even the slightest controversial?Phinehas
May 5, 2016
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Phinehas: Using the word “emergent” as a cover for “magical things can happen” has nothing to do with science.
Z: Who said “magical things can happen”? Oh, yes, that was you.
My bad. Please continue telling me about the non-magical physics and chemistry that give you freedom to choose to eat Brussels sprouts or sand or not. When you say "emergent" and wave your hands, it is small consolation that you didn't also say "Abracadabra."Phinehas
May 5, 2016
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Phinehas: A million dollars is not a compulsion anymore than a particular gene is. And choosing between Brussels sprouts and sand isn't compulsion either. Gee whiz. It's a simple test that you obviously have to manipulate to get the result you want. Phinehas: Using the word “emergent” as a cover for “magical things can happen” has nothing to do with science. Who said "magical things can happen"? Oh, yes, that was you. The fact is that there are properties of composites that are not properties of the components. Zachriel: You keep thinking that naturalism necessarily implies determinism. Origenes: Not so. Origenes: From physical causal closure, as an element of naturalism, it follows that everything is determined and hence there can be no freedom. So, yes, you do claim that physicalism implies determinism. But many physicalists point to quantum indeterminacy to suggest that the universe may not be deterministic. Origenes: Here you implicitly concede the argument. How is pointing out that your definition leads to circular reasoning "conceding the argument"? If you mean we concede tautologies are true, then sure.Zachriel
May 5, 2016
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Zachriel:
Origenes: Emergent properties are either caused by or fully constrained by the lower level from which they arise. Unfortunately for naturalism there is no third option.
You keep thinking that naturalism necessarily implies determinism.
Not so. Well, I do hold that, officially, naturalism/physicalism is logically committed to the premise of physical causal closure; see #109. However, in my kindness, I'm willing to assume, arguendo, that undetermined/unexplained/unpredictable emergent properties exist. But I cannot allow those properties to be unconstrained. Sorry about that, but there are boundaries and then there are boundaries.
Zachriel:
Origenes: Freedom is neither being fully determined by natural law nor being fully constrained by items that are fully determined by natural law. Do we agree?
Not particularly. You are defining freedom as non-naturalistic, (....)
Here you implicitly concede the argument.Origenes
May 5, 2016
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Origenes: Thanks! Even more ironic is that they actually need the freedom naturalism denies (and must expect that freedom in others) in order to argue in the first place! Z:
Phinehas: Unless someone offers you a million bucks, and then we’ll suddenly see whether you have a will over and above the PAV version of the TAS2R38 gene.
Z: If you remember, there is no compulsion, but a simple food choice.
A million dollars is not a compulsion anymore than a particular gene is. Both are merely influencers, as the fact that they can be overcome by the will clearly demonstrates.
Phinehas: How does one go about determining which fantastical things make it onto the list above and which do not?
Z: It’s called science.
Sure. The study of the physics and chemistry is scientific in nature. The study of the relationship between molecules and what that means is also scientific in nature. Using the word "emergent" as a cover for "magical things can happen" has nothing to do with science. And that's exactly what you are doing here. Why? I suspect you are doing it so that you can keep on pretending that a certain perspective on life with which you feel comfortable isn't upheld by nothing more than wishes and fairy dust.Phinehas
May 5, 2016
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