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Post 20

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 12:14pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Boydstun, you are onto something.

To me, the correct view must involve the following:

A) Indeed, the mind must somehow "wing free" from the physical component --the brain, and its electrochemistry. Without this winging free, all would be 100% mechanistic, and choose could not exist.

B) Higher animals do have a mind; an amoral mind, though.  (Why amoral? because they are unaware of meaning and values, the basis of morality.) E. g., a female lion may choose between chasing a weak gnu or chasing a strong gnu; all that, without moral rumination, of course.

C) The human being has this same "animal mind", plus an additional moral component of the mind. This explains why humans eventually doubt between courses of action involving different "levels" of moral correctness.

The chemical correlates of moral conflict have been experimentally found, and their functionally relevant effects attested.

But individual moral decisions, for the fact of being free, can't have a physical cause

Science has already proved that morality is not a "natural kind" in the brain. The mind-brain distinction remains. The human mind, with its two components --the amoral, and the moral-- makes ethical conflict and personal growth possible.

That's my view.

Joel Català

(Edited by Joel Català on 6/20, 3:02am)




Post 21

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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There is one thing, only one thing, that seems awry to me in the preceding conception of Rand’s, and that is in the first of these two quotes. Perhaps it is only an indelicacy of expression, but it is this: Rand writes that an animal “has no control over the function of his brain and no power to question its content.” The odd thing is the word brain where one would expect the word mind. It gives the impression that Rand had such a deterministic view of physical (viz. neurophysiological) processes that she was inclined to have the human mind (supported by, yet) winging free of its physical processing. There is a similar oddity in Galt’s Speech when Rand expresses the necessity of veridicality in sensory perception by saying that the perceptual process is physically determined. Doesn’t it seem that the oddity of the statement of Rand’s that Jetton spotlighted at the beginning of his article "Scope of Volition" is a result of the same tendency to see higher human consciousness as winging free from its physical substrate?
I think the reason Rand writes that an animal "has no control over the function of his brain . . ." rather than "mind," is that she sees the term "mind" as referring to the conceptual faculty. Since animals don't have a conceptual faculty, they cannot be said to have a mind. I don't think this necessarily reflects any tendency of hers to see man's conceptual faculty as "winging free from its physical substrate" - especially given her recognition that consciousness is an attribute of a physical organism and cannot exist without physical means of perception and cognition.

When she says that the perceptual process is physically determined, I think she means in contrast to mentally or conceptually determined. In other words, the perceptual process is an automatic result of certain physical processes rather than something that one has direct conscious control over. This is not incompatible with the idea that the mind or conceptual faculty is part of the brain and therefore that the exercise of the mind is the exercise of that part of the brain (i.e., the neocortex).

- Bill



Post 22

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 2:35pmSanction this postReply
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Bill, to play an advocate of the devil ...

=================
Here you are. You have no interest in something; you do not value it in any way, shape or form. For example, you have no interest in supporting green politics; you do not value it at all. Yet you can simply choose to value it? I don't think so! Choice presupposes value; value does not presuppose choice.
=================

... what about when I chose not to value socialism anymore (when I "really" learned about capitalism), and then I "started" valuing capitalism? Did I not choose to value capitalism?
 
Ed




Post 23

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 3:28pmSanction this postReply
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Ed wrote,
Bill, to play an advocate of the devil ...
Uh, Ed, is it that you're simply "playing an advocate" of the devil, or is it that you really are the devil?! ;-)

=================
Here you are. You have no interest in something; you do not value it in any way, shape or form. For example, you have no interest in supporting green politics; you do not value it at all. Yet you can simply choose to value it? I don't think so! Choice presupposes value; value does not presuppose choice.
=================

to which the devilish Ed replied
... what about when I chose not to value socialism anymore (when I "really" learned about capitalism), and then I "started" valuing capitalism? Did I not choose to value capitalism?
What?? You mean you were once a (shudder!) SOCIALIST, and you now have the temerity to admit that?! Ed, I have renewed respect for you! That takes GUTS! [gag] But seriously, you didn't choose not to value socialism; you simply stopped valuing it when you learned that capitalism was superior. Nor did you choose to value capitalism; you came to value it only because you discovered that it was a better system.

- Bill



Post 24

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 4:04pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Stephen,

Thanks for the comments and references to the articles in Objectivity. I confined my article to Rand's writing on volition (and not all of it) to limit the length.

I have a couple of comments about the quote from Ron Merrill.

First, I don't believe that a decision has to be made self-consciously. A plausible human example is while driving a car. We are capable of driving for miles, our minds so absorbed in thought of something else that we are not aware of having driven from point A to point B. Between these points a choice could be made, e.g., to slow down and remain behind a slower vehicle or to pass it. One might counter that such choices are by "force of habit", but I don't believe that disqualifies them as decisions. They are simply decisions that don't require enough thought to reach conscious awareness. Another example is while reading we encounter a word with two meanings, e.g. bank, one of which fits the context and the other doesn't. We decide the one that fits w/o really being aware of it. Lastly, if one holds that a choice must be self-conscious, that precludes all animals other than some chimps from making any choices. (As I recall from reading Premack, some adult chimps fail a self-awareness test but others pass.)

Second, Merrill said a leopard's choice of prey is not volition. It's not clear whether he meant a gnu rather than an elephant, or one gnu rather than another. In any case, in my view a non-volitional choice is a contradiction in terms. If he did mean the latter, then explaining how the leopard picks one gnu and not others seems problematic.





Post 25

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 4:10pmSanction this postReply
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Bill Dwyer wrote:
To be sure, choice implies an alternative, but it does not imply freedom of choice, in the sense of libertarian free will.
I don't advocate a libertarian "anything goes" free will.

For example, if I am taking a multiple-choice test, I will necessarily choose what I believe to be the right answer; I cannot choose an answer that I believe is wrong, because I have no interest in doing so. Yet, I do make what can properly be called a "choice." Granted, I do have a conditional freedom of choice: I can choose an alternative answer, if I happen to believe that it is the right one.
What if you believe two of the choices are the best candidates (but only one of them is best according to who wrote the test)?

I wrote: "Not necessarily. Some values are chosen." Bill Dwyer replied:
How so? A choice is made for the sake of a value; when you choose something, you are seeking to gain and/or keep it, which means that you must already value it. Otherwise, you would not have chosen it. Unless one is speaking loosely and metaphorically, to say that values are "chosen" is to say that one can choose to appreciate something - choose to want or desire it. I would like to know how that is possible. Here you are. You have no interest in something; you do not value it in any way, shape or form. For example, you have no interest in supporting green politics; you do not value it at all. Yet you can simply choose to value it? I don't think so! Choice presupposes value; value does not presuppose choice.
I do not mean loosely or metaphorically but literally that people have some capacity to choose their values. Of course, they typically don't do it arbitrarily. There is a decision-making process which takes time and thought as I described here.
http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDiscussions/1302_2.shtml#58

If you claim that no values are open to choice, then you have a big hurdle to explain how a person's values can change, as Ed T. alludes to in post 22.

Bill replied to Ed:
But seriously, you didn't choose not to value socialism; you simply stopped valuing it when you learned that capitalism was superior. Nor did you choose to value capitalism; you came to value it only because you discovered that it was a better system.
Seriously, he did choose to abandon socialism in favor of capitalism. He thoughtfully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each and decided -- based on what he discovered -- that capitalism was a better value.




Post 26

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 8:17pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,
 
===================
What?? You mean you were once a (shudder!) SOCIALIST, and you now have the temerity to admit that?! Ed, I have renewed respect for you! That takes GUTS! [gag]
===================

Yup, and thanks (I think).  ;-)
 
 
===================
But seriously, you didn't choose not to value socialism; you simply stopped valuing it when you learned that capitalism was superior. Nor did you choose to value capitalism; you came to value it only because you discovered that it was a better system.
===================

So ... ah ... let me get this straight. Are you saying that, when I stopped valuing socialism (and started valuing capitalism) -- that, in doing so, I didn't change my mind?
 
Now, surely you would agree that my mind changed -- but the locus of control (for the change) seems to be up for dispute here. On the one hand, it could be "I" who had changed my mind (by choice) and, on the other hand, it could be my "changing values" that changed my mind. Please pardon the pun, but this disjunctive seems to be a 'no-brainer' for me.
 
But have I fairly re-stated your position (the latter one -- ie. the one on the "other" hand)?
 
Ed
[still being an "advocate"]




Post 27

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 10:01pmSanction this postReply
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What if you believe two of the choices are the best candidates (but only one of them is best according to who wrote the test)?
Then you'll pick either one, based on whatever arbitrary decision-making process you consider most timely or appropriate (e.g., by choosing the first one that comes to mind, flipping a coin, or whatever). Is this the kind of free will you had in mind?
I wrote: "Not necessarily. Some values are chosen." Bill Dwyer replied:
How so? A choice is made for the sake of a value; when you choose something, you are seeking to gain and/or keep it, which means that you must already value it. Otherwise, you would not have chosen it. Unless one is speaking loosely and metaphorically, to say that values are "chosen" is to say that one can choose to appreciate something - choose to want or desire it. I would like to know how that is possible. Here you are. You have no interest in something; you do not value it in any way, shape or form. For example, you have no interest in supporting green politics; you do not value it at all. Yet you can simply choose to value it? I don't think so! Choice presupposes value; value does not presuppose choice.
I do not mean loosely or metaphorically but literally that people have some capacity to choose their values. Of course, they typically don't do it arbitrarily. There is a decision-making process which takes time and thought as I described here.
http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDiscussions/1302_2.shtml#58
But then you value choosing to engage in the decision-making process more than you value choosing an alternative. Moreover, the values that eventuate from that process are not chosen; they are discovered or realized.
If you claim that no values are open to choice, then you have a big hurdle to explain how a person's values can change, as Ed T. alludes to in post 22.
They change on the basis of his gaining new knowledge, experience and/or understanding.
Bill replied to Ed:
But seriously, you didn't choose not to value socialism; you simply stopped valuing it when you learned that capitalism was superior. Nor did you choose to value capitalism; you came to value it only because you discovered that it was a better system.
Seriously, he did choose to abandon socialism in favor of capitalism. He thoughtfully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each and decided -- based on what he discovered -- that capitalism was a better value.
He abandoned socialism in favor of capitalism, but didn't "choose" to abandon it, unless you mean that he chose certain actions based on his newly discovered knowledge and values, like choosing to vote capitalist rather than socialist, but that's not the same as choosing the values themselves. The decision he came to after weighing the advantages of each system is not, strictly speaking, a choice but a recognition or understanding, which then forms the basis for his subsequent choices. It is not his valuation of capitalism that is chosen, but his evaluation of it. He doesn't choose his values; he values what he chooses.

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 6/19, 10:04pm)

(Edited by William Dwyer
on 6/19, 10:50pm)




Post 28

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 10:40pmSanction this postReply
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===================
But seriously, you didn't choose not to value socialism; you simply stopped valuing it when you learned that capitalism was superior. Nor did you choose to value capitalism; you came to value it only because you discovered that it was a better system.
===================
So ... ah ... let me get this straight. Are you saying that, when I stopped valuing socialism (and started valuing capitalism) -- that, in doing so, I didn't change my mind?
No, you changed your mind, but you didn't choose to change your mind. Your change of mind was based on the thinking that gave rise to it.
Now, surely you would agree that my mind changed -- but the locus of control (for the change) seems to be up for dispute here. On the one hand, it could be "I" who had changed my mind (by choice) and, on the other hand, it could be my "changing values" that changed my mind. Please pardon the pun, but this disjunctive seems to be a 'no-brainer' for me.
It's not your "changing values" that changed your mind; your changing values are your change of mind. No, it was you that changed your mind (who else could it be?), but you didn't do it by choice; you did it by realization or discovery. If you add a column of figures and get the wrong answer, did you arrive at the wrong answer by choice? No, of course not; you didn't choose to get the wrong answer. You arrived at the wrong answer by a faulty process of addition. And if you subsequently discover your mistake and get the right answer, did you arrive at the right answer by choice? No, again. You arrived at it by a more accurate process of addition.

- Bill




Post 29

Monday, June 19, 2006 - 11:46pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

==================
Moreover, the values that eventuate from that process are not chosen; they are discovered or realized.
==================

Bill, what you are saying here is that things that you 'act to gain or keep' (ie. values) are not chosen, but discovered or realized. Therefore, discovered values (newly realized things to gain or keep) are not ever chosen -- but, instead, are automatic. I find this hard to believe.
 
 
==================
It's not your "changing values" that changed your mind; your changing values are your change of mind.
==================

If my changing values are that which changed my mind, then how, pray-tell, did my values change (what intermediate process afforded such a radical shift in fundamentals)?


==================
No, it was you that changed your mind (who else could it be?), but you didn't do it by choice; you did it by realization or discovery.
==================

To me, this means that realization cannot lead to choice -- which I find to be an insufficient understanding of human will.


==================
If you add a column of figures and get the wrong answer, did you arrive at the wrong answer by choice? No, of course not; you didn't choose to get the wrong answer. You arrived at the wrong answer by a faulty process of addition.
==================

This seems to me to be a straw-man. Incorporating error into the equation of human will is not a refutation of human will. It is merely a description of the reality that one needs to check one's premises -- not that one is pre-determined (by inevitable chance of error) to a fault-filled "choice" of wrongness.

Perhaps I fail to get your point,

Ed




Post 30

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 9:03amSanction this postReply
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==================
Moreover, the values that eventuate from that process are not chosen; they are discovered or realized.
==================
Bill, what you are saying here is that things that you 'act to gain or keep' (ie. values) are not chosen, but discovered or realized. Therefore, discovered values (newly realized things to gain or keep) are not ever chosen -- but, instead, are automatic. I find this hard to believe.
The things that you value are chosen; your valuation of them is not. In other words, you choose to gain or keep what you value; you do not choose to value what you act to gain or keep. Your valuation is a product of your identification, recognition or understanding.

==================
It's not your "changing values" that changed your mind; your changing values are your change of mind.
==================
If my changing values are [not] that which changed my mind, then how, pray-tell, did my values change (what intermediate process afforded such a radical shift in fundamentals)?
Ed, something must be getting lost in translation here. Correct me if I'm wrong, but once your values have changed, you've changed your mind, right? Isn't that what you mean when you say that you've "changed your mind"? -- i.e., that you've changed your values?? If not, then I have no idea what you're talking about.

==================
No, it was you that changed your mind (who else could it be?), but you didn't do it by choice; you did it by realization or discovery.
==================
To me, this means that realization cannot lead to choice -- which I find to be an insufficient understanding of human will.
Of course, the realization leads to choice; the point is that the realization itself isn't chosen. You don't choose to realize that capitalism is a better system than socialism. You discover that it is.

==================
If you add a column of figures and get the wrong answer, did you arrive at the wrong answer by choice? No, of course not; you didn't choose to get the wrong answer. You arrived at the wrong answer by a faulty process of addition.
==================
This seems to me to be a straw-man. Incorporating error into the equation of human will is not a refutation of human will. It is merely a description of the reality that one needs to check one's premises -- not that one is pre-determined (by inevitable chance of error) to a fault-filled "choice" of wrongness.
Look, the point of this example was simply to illustrate that you don't choose your conclusions - that they are a product of your thinking, reasoning and understanding. I hope that by now that point is clear. :-)

- Bill




Post 31

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 10:00amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

 

At the opening of your “Scope of Volition,” you quote Rand’s 1957 statement that free will “is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character.”

 

You say that this assertion of Rand’s is “too narrow, contradictory, and the choice to think does not control or determine what or how one subsequently thinks.” Why do you say the assertion is contradictory? I have an idea of what you are seeing as contradictory. Please correct me if I have your target wrong.

 

Rand says that the choice to think is one’s only free choice, then she says that there are other choices one makes that are being controlled by that only free choice, the choice to think or not. This might seem contradictory in the way that the Genesis story seems contradictory in saying Adam and Eve were the first human parents, and yet some of their children went off and married people living elsewhere. But it would seem most straightforward to interpret Rand’s statement as saying that there are choices we make that are not free and that these are controlled by the one kind of choice that is free.

 

That is my idea of how to read Rand’s statement as not contradictory. Beyond the issue of consistency, you say that Rand’s statement is “too narrow, . . . and the choice to think does not control or determine what or how one subsequently thinks.” On the issue of whether Rand’s scope of the variety of free choices is too narrow, I understand that you and Rand 1957 have a square disagreement. And given the charitable, self-consistent interpretation of Rand’s statement that I have put forth in the preceding paragraph, I think you must be right in contending that by 1969 (when she penned “What Is Romanticism?”) Rand had changed her mind. For she there stresses (i) a freedom of choice one has among alternative values and the composition of one’s character and (ii) a freedom of choice one has among purposeful actions to achieve one’s values. These two sorts of choices, Rand now holds up as free ones. They are intimately connected to that other free choice—the choice to think or not—but by 1969, Rand no longer takes the choice to think as the only free one.

 

Perhaps Rand did not really change her mind on this after writing Atlas. Perhaps the 1957 statement was defective in expressing all and only what she intended. Be that as it may, Merlin, you make a further criticism of Rand’s 1957 assertion, a criticism that I think starts with a mistaken paraphrase of her statement. Against Rand’s assertion, you say “the choice to think does not control or determine what or how one subsequently thinks.” But Rand’s statement had not contended that. Rand distributed the objects between the two verbs controls and determines.

 

She asserts that the choice to think “controls all the choices you make.” That seems sensible to me in two ways. For any choices that are not instant ones—what Friedenberg called Rapid Intelligent Reactions—I can choose how much thought, if any, I will devote to the choice. Choosing to add more thought adds more control.

 

The second way it seems sensible to say that the choice to think controls all the choices one makes is if one attaches to the choice to think the choice to continue to be able to think. That pregnant choice would control all other choices one makes in the mild sense that one’s choice to continue to protect one’s king would control all one’s choices in a game of chess.

 

On the other branch of Rand’s distribution of objects between controls and determines in her statement, she asserts that the choice to think “determines your life and character.” This seems true in two senses at once, both artfully meant to be apprehended in this single expression. First is the ex ante determination, then the ex post determination. The ex ante determination is a soft determinism: the choice to think shapes you life and character. The ex post determination is simply the hard “determinism” of all things past: the choice to think has shaped one’s life and character in the ways it has. As past occasions, they were the single set of contours of life and character one had; they were as they were. They are now the uniquely determinate occasions that were yours and you.

 

Stephen




Post 32

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 11:18amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

I said that Rand's 1957 statement in Galt's speech was contradictory because she said the choice to think or not is one's only choice and then she immediately adds there are other choices. If she had said the choice to think or not was most important or primary rather than only, then I would not have called it contradictory.

Your more charitable interpretation calls for making a distinction between choices that are free and others that are not free, with only the choice to think or not being the former. I don't see the justification for this. All choices are limited and conditioned to some extent, by our nature, our ideas, and the situation. Some are more limited and conditioned than others, but to say some are free and others are not is too dichotomous for me.

I didn't catch what you believe is contradictory about Adam and Eve.

You wrote:
Against Rand’s assertion, you say “the choice to think does not control or determine what or how one subsequently thinks.” But Rand’s statement had not contended that. Rand distributed the objects between the two verbs controls and determines.
As she advised us about reading other philosophers, I took her literally -- "the choice [to
think or not] controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character.” As
above, if she had worded it differently  -- like using influences or shapes instead of
controls and determines -- it would have been fine with me.

 




Post 33

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 10:19pmSanction this postReply
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I said that Rand's 1957 statement in Galt's speech was contradictory because she said the choice to think or not is one's only choice and then she immediately adds there are other choices. If she had said the choice to think or not was most important or primary rather than only, then I would not have called it contradictory.
I find that when reading Rand in the context of a dramatic speech by one of her characters, you have to grant her some literary license. The statement you quoted says,
that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character.
I think that by "will" here she means free will, especially since she follows it with, "your only freedom." She could have said, "the only free will you have," but it would have been repetitious and not quite as eloquent. She is counting on the reader to take her meaning in context and not construe it too literally. This is a novel, after all; not an exacting philosophical treatise.

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 6/20, 10:31pm)




Post 34

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - 11:21amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Català,

 

Thank you for sharing with us the vista of your post #20. There is much there that I hope we can discuss further. The element I would like to zoom in on at present is what you express in the following statements:

The mind must somehow “wing free” from the physical component—the brain, and its electrochemistry. Without this winging free, all would be 100% mechanistic, and choice could not exist.

. . . .

Individual moral decisions, for the fact of being free, can’t have a physical cause.

 

I think you are selling purely physical contingency short. There is both contingency and necessity in the world prior to the appearance of life or mentality. Life at all levels of organism is only possible because there is both contingency and necessity in the world. Intelligent life also relies on both the contingency and the necessity in the world.

 

Indeed, intelligent life depends twice-over on the mind-independent contingency and necessity in the world. The body and brain depend on them as all life depends on them. The mind depends on them not only because it requires a brain, but because it must be able to adjust constraints and initial conditions of the lawful unfoldings of parts of the natural world.

 

With some contingency already in the world and in the brain, the way is open for intelligence and free will in and on a physical world.

 

Before speaking further to the place of free will in nature, I want to leave an interval for you to respond, if you like, to my view in the preceding. I will add an Appendix below to present and elucidate the definitions of contingency and necessity that I mean. I should mention that the view I present here is contrary to the view of Rand and Descartes. For them intelligent will (human or divine) is the source of any contingency in the world; all else is necessity (simply by nature or by ordinance of divine mind).

 

APPENDIX [Excerpted from “Volitional Synapses” Part 3 (1996), Objectivity V2N5]

 

Necessity is: if A, then B, even if C.

Contingency is: if A, then B, unless C.

 

Necessity and contingency are complementary concepts. Each is relative to certain C. Relative necessity becomes absolute necessity when C is anything whatever, as when we say “Existence exists, whatever else may be the case” or “Angular momentum is conserved, whatever else.” We can exhibit the complementarity of necessity and contingency by the moon’s orbit about the earth. The moon will continue to orbit the earth (if last-year orbiting moon, then next-year orbiting moon), even if the magnetic poles of the earth reverse, even if humans tread on the moon, or even if young men in Verona swear their love by the moon. Relative to those conditions, the continued orbit of the moon is a necessity. On the contingency side, the moon will continue to orbit the earth, unless shattered by a behemoth meteor, unless the sun-earth-moon system enters a chaotic regime, and so forth. Relative to these conditions, the continued orbit of the moon is contingent.

 

The moon will continue to orbit or not. Suppose it does. Then its continuation was necessary and not contingent? No, necessity and contingency are characters in respect of conditions. Necessity and contingency do pertain to the natures of things. They are matters of fact, albeit conditional facts. Necessity and contingency are not fundamentally epistemological concepts.

 

By necessity in our present, physical sense, I do not mean necessity in the traditional, “purely” logical or “purely” conceptual senses. Necessity in our current sense does not mean, as it did mean for Leibniz and Hume, something X that obtains and whose denial would be a contradiction of X’s (specific) identity. Denial of a true necessity or a true contingency, in our current sense, would mean contradiction of specific identity. The contradictions could be manifest or obscure, but in any case, they could not serve to distinguish the necessary from the contingent in our present sense. Note for completeness, that, under our new formulation of the necessity-contingency distinction [taken from Ted Honderich 1988], Leibniz’s hypothetical necessities stand as necessities with respect to some conditions and stand as contingencies with respect to other conditions.

 

Stephen




Post 35

Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 12:25pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Boydstun, you wrote:

 

Mr. Català,

 

Thank you for sharing with us the vista of your post #20.

You’re welcome.


 

The element I would like to zoom in on at present is what you express in the following statements:

 

The mind must somehow “wing free” from the physical component—the brain, and its electrochemistry. Without this winging free, all would be 100% mechanistic, and choice could not exist.

. . . .

Individual moral decisions, for the fact of being free, can’t have a physical cause.

 

I think you are selling purely physical contingency short.

Well, you may bet I don’t think so. But let’s follow your words. 

 

Life at all levels of organism is only possible because there is both contingency and necessity in the world. Intelligent life also relies on both the contingency and the necessity in the world.

Unless you are limiting your scope to metaphysical materialism, there is no logical necessity of using the words “in the world.”  Consider that there may be metaphysical necessity, namely, necessity “extra” the world of materiality. (Perhaps we agree on that, but nonetheless I think its proper to point this out.)

 

In order to not to repeat this ontological point, in the following I will consider that by “in the world” you mean “in reality.”


 

Indeed, intelligent life depends twice-over on the mind-independent contingency and necessity in the world.

 Agreed.


 

The body and brain depend on them as all life depends on them. The mind depends on them not only because it requires a brain, but because it must be able to adjust constraints and initial conditions of the lawful unfoldings of parts of the natural world.


Agreed. Your wording involves the reality that no human being can get all what he wishes, but only what adjusts to the physical constraints of the natural world. (There are more constraints:  for instance, you could have added the boundary conditions posed by the consequences of the history of mankind.) 


 

Before speaking further to the place of free will in nature, I want to leave an interval for you to respond, if you like, to my view in the preceding. I will add an Appendix below to present and elucidate the definitions of contingency and necessity that I mean. I should mention that the view I present here is contrary to the view of Rand and Descartes. For them intelligent will (human or divine) is the source of any contingency in the world; all else is necessity (simply by nature or by ordinance of divine mind).


(To point out that Rand did not suggest any divine will. That is important in relation to central aspests as the Objectivist flawed solution of the Problem of Universals and Objectivist ethics. But I digress.)

 

In the point of free will, I think that it is limited to the area of morality. For the record, my current view is closely related to the one of Maimonides and the Jewish tradition. (Relatedly, you may be interested in listening this MP3 audio lecture by Dr. Akiva Tatz. [You can download it by right-clicking on the link)

 

Related to your appended definitions of necessity and contingency, I will point out something which you are probably familiar with: your definition of necessity is different from the “classical” one. (In example, see Aquinas.) The classical one defines necessity as absolute (in your formulation it would be “if A, then B [for all C].) The classical “contingency” includes your conditional necessity.

 

Before entering the free will conundrum –and, perhaps, related to that same conundrum--, could you please elaborate what novel aspects are you aimed to introduce with your variant formulation?

 

Regards

 

Joel Català

(Edited by Joel Català on 6/22, 12:32pm)




Post 36

Friday, June 23, 2006 - 12:08amSanction this postReply
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Stephen, a nit-pick ...

==============

Necessity is: if A, then B, even if C.

Contingency is: if A, then B, unless C.

 

Necessity and contingency are complementary concepts. Each is relative to certain C.

==============

 

But necessity is not "relative" to C -- it is independent of C.

 

Is this a mistake in your reasoning?

 

Ed




Post 37

Friday, June 23, 2006 - 9:59amSanction this postReply
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Ed, I like that site you linked to on diet and evolution.  I have read much of that page but plan to read the rest later.



Post 38

Friday, June 23, 2006 - 10:39amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

 

I find three definitions for the noun volition in my American Heritage Dictionary:

            1. An act of willing, choosing, or deciding.

            2. A conscious choice; decision.

            3. The power or capability of choosing; the will.

 

In the opening sentence of “Scope of Volition,” you say that “Rand described free will or volition in Galt’s speech.” I gather by this sentence that you mean to use volition and free will interchangeably. I know that the decisive way to punctuate that meaning of interchangeability would be “. . . free will, or volition, in Galt’s speech.” Nevertheless, I believe you mean to use volition interchangeably with free will in this article. Do I interpret you correctly in that?

 

It seems that Rand 1957 also uses volition in this way, which is more restricted than the dictionary definitions. I think that Rand was using volition interchangeably with free will. Rand’s statement “. . . that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not . . .” is preceded with five pages in which she has been cashing out her claim that “man is a being of volitional consciousness” (AS 1012–17). In those pages, she writes that man is “free to think or to evade the effort” and that man must “choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform.” She writes also that man’s rationality “is a matter of choice,” that “he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice.”

 

In these pages, Rand seems to be using choice to mean free choice (which here means the same as free will, or volition). She here paints human beings as having a continual, if not continuous, option of refraining from thinking. She paints the choice to think or not as a continual companion of human waking life. And we know she regards that choice as a free choice.

 

On closer rereading of this 1957 text, I think you are correct to say Rand contradicts herself when she writes “that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make” (1017). It is possible, of course, that in speaking of “all the choices you make” she does not mean “all the free choices you make.” But that would be a sudden, unannounced widening of her use of the word choice in this text; she had been using that word to mean free choice.

 

Up to this problematic point of the text, Rand surely seemed to be using choice to mean free choice. The choice to hold one’s life as a value has just been portrayed (on 1013) as a free choice, and it was not portrayed as being made free merely by the freedom of one’s continual choice to refrain from thinking about whether to hold one’s life as a value. Likewise, for the other “—by choice” actions in that eloquent paragraph.

 

If the interpretation of Rand 1957 I have just given is correct, then I was incorrect to conclude (in post #31) that Rand had changed her mind before penning her 1969 essay, which Merlin quotes in the third paragraph of “Scope of Volition.” For under the present interpretation, Rand had already been allowing, and indeed asserting, that we have freely chosen actions and values—in addition to the choice to think—in the essay of her philosophy in Atlas.

 

Merlin, do your differences with Rand over what is the scope of volition have implications for Rand’s theory of morality?





Post 39

Friday, June 23, 2006 - 10:42amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Català,

 

You say in your post #35 that you restrict free choices to moral choices. Is the domain of moral choice the same in your view as in Rand’s view? She takes moral choices to be those choices of an individual “that determine the purpose and the course of his life”(first page of OE). Humans have other free choices, in Rand’s view, but it is only (and all of) the preceding proper subset of them that she regards as the domain of moral choices.

 

Other thinkers delimit the domain of moral choice differently. Nozick restricts moral choices to choices in one’s responsiveness to persons as persons. He does not disconnect persons from their lives—he sees persons as situated at the center of lives—but the distinctly moral domain is limited to the treatment of persons, in Nozick’s view.

 

What is the domain of choices you mean when you speak of moral choices?

 

In your earlier post #20, you indicated that animal choices, such as choices within their hunting behaviors, are not moral choices. Rather, these are amoral choices. Rand agrees with you on that, as we see in the quotation in post #18 from her 1961 essay “The Objectivist Ethics.”

 

You go on to say that humans have that same amoral animal mind, “plus an additional moral component of the mind. This explains why humans eventually doubt between courses of action involving different ‘levels’ of moral correctness. . . . The human mind, with its two components—the amoral and the moral—makes ethical conflict and personal growth possible.”

 

I think William Dwyer is correct in saying, as he does in post #21, that Rand would object to our speaking of animal mind because she would reserve mind for the conceptual level of cognition. I am fine with the contemporary talk of animal minds, but there is another difference you have with Rand concerning what you are calling the animal, amoral part of the human mind. I’ll come to that in a moment.

 

I first want to ask if you think that the “additional moral component” of the human mind is due to humans having a conceptual faculty. Also, do you think, as Merlin Jetton expressed in post #16, that a major part of the step up from animal to human mind is that humans can represent the past and future and “represent the self—past and future self as well”? If your answers to these two questions are Yes, then, this far, you and Rand are in accord. She remarked informally, around 1970, in an epistemology seminar:

 

The whole difference between a human type of consciousness and an animal is exactly this. The ability to be self-conscious and to identify the fact of one’s own consciousness, one’s I. (IOE 255–56)

 

Animals, who do perceive reality or existence, have absolutely no concept of their own consciousness. The enormous distinction between man and animals here is self consciousness. An animal does not have the capacity to isolate critically the fact that there is something and he is conscious of it. (IOE 246)

 

The fairly definite difference I read between you and Rand concerning what you call the animal, amoral part of the human mind is as follows. Behaviors that are instinctive in one species may not be instinctive in another. Some bird species have to learn (operant conditioning or trial-and-error) what materials are suitable for building a nest; others seem to have an inborn tendency to select the right materials. Rand made the grand contention—as had Schopenhauer—that in humans instinct has been altogether supplanted by intelligence. So in Rand’s view, the “animal mind” in man is not the same as in animals, because they have (not only conditioning-learning, but) instinct to assist them. And we have, as they do not have, conceptual intelligence. (On this last distinction, I can recommend Terrence Deacon’s book The Symbolic Species.)

 

When you write that “the human being has this same ‘animal mind’,” you are referring to the ability of a lion to select which gnu is better to chase. But when you then go on to speak of the animal, amoral part of the human mind, do you mean to include there our feelings and desires? Do you mean to add feelings and desires to the powers of conditioning-learning (and instincts?) that we share with other animals?

 

Lastly, for you post #20, what do you mean by levels when you say that “humans eventually doubt between courses of action involving different ‘levels’ of moral correctness”? Are all of these levels within the domain of moral choices?

 

More on contingency anon.





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