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Post 0

Monday, January 8, 2007 - 8:16pmSanction this postReply
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The determinism issue is indeed a hard one for a materialist (in a philosophical not an economic sense) world view. If humans are made up of just matter - and if all matter is subject to the laws of physics - then where is the place for human decisions?

Although we are arranged in more complex and more interesting ways - what is fundamentally the difference between a human being and a boulder rolling down a hill. Sure the boulder may jump this way and that - and may seem to 'choose' to jump over that bush or dodge that earth bank - but watching it we know this is just an illusion.

It is hard for a materialist to argue that a human is in a different position from the boulder - but I would be fascinated to see someone try.

Post 1

Monday, January 8, 2007 - 9:14pmSanction this postReply
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It is hard for a materialist to argue that a human is in a different position from the boulder - but I would be fascinated to see someone try.
I'm a materialist. I'm also a determinist. Yet I think free will is compatible with determinism. My job is to create a thinking machine (General Artificial Intelligence)! : )

Your argument:
1. Material is all that exists
2. Rocks are only capable of breaking, falling, bouncing, and rolling.
3. If rocks can only do #2, then all material can only do #2.
Conclusion: But humans can do more then #2, so #1 must be false.

I don't accept #3. There are plenty of counter examples: water, air, electromagnetic waves, polymers, lipids, DNA, organelles, cells, organs, bodies.

A human is constructed at the atomic, molecular, cellular, organ, and body level completely differently than a rock. At each level a human's body also functions very differently than a rock. For example, take neurons, or a neural net. Learn about neurons, how they fire, why, when, etc, how they work together in nets.

When you 'choose' to jump over that bush or dodge that earth bank... your neurons (you, your brain, your neural system) are comparing millions of different ways you could act next, and then by various algorithms of induction, deduction, and simulation decide and act upon one of the results.

Dean Michael Gores
Organic Rapidly Self Improving Rational Living Machine

Post 2

Monday, January 8, 2007 - 9:20pmSanction this postReply
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Yes - humans are a more complex situation - but there are still laws which govern the micro-level you are talking about. Or do you think this is not the case?

By the way - I was not saying that #1 is false. Perhaps #2 is false? ;)

Post 3

Monday, January 8, 2007 - 9:22pmSanction this postReply
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The rock was an analogy... a simple example. But as things get more complex the physics gets more complex. But the situation is the same.

Post 4

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - 12:53pmSanction this postReply
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Tibor,

I've always maintained that to argue against any degree of choice was a fallacy all by itself. If there is no choice then there can be capacity to pursue truth - all actions being determined by agents outside of the self. Hence, if there is any truth it would be unknowable by humans. So if someone says there is no degree of choice then some alien that is capable of choice would necessarilly understand them to be saying, implicitly, "I am making sounds that carry no meaning about reality, and I have no choice but to make these sounds and no others, and you who hear the sounds will not be able to respond in anyway that involves choice."

Therefore I'm arguing for something that science doesn't appear to have a handle on, yet. I'm comfortable with the idea that we haven't reached an ultimate pinnacle of scientific knowledge. It makes more sense to say we have evidence of something. But, whatever it is, we can not locate it materially at this time. And, maybe there is a non-supernatural, spiritual entity that we need to understand, and to relate to our understanding of physics and chemistry in a non-contradictory way.

We have some kind of casual agent at work. I have no problem with seeing it as a product of a kind of complexity (in the sense that life, a process, is a product of a kind of complexity). And, it makes more sense to think of our 'experience' of our self as the byproduct of the rippling effects of this chooser. It has to be the primary 'knower' in the mental system. It knows about defensiveness, fear, anger, and about 'truth' such that it weighs attempts to influence its choosing in conflicted moments.

Since I believe there is some kind of choice, my focus has been on what is this thing we have that we call choice. I like the term "volition" better and locate our volition in a 'willing' of a shift in the kind of conscious focus we are engaged in or in the intensity of that focus. (Most of my theory is from Branden, but I no longer am sure which bits are mine and which are his - but this issue of 'focus' is his).

I see it as being sent signals by a fulltime set of subconscious monitors (subroutines if you will) that look for events inside or outside indicating that it might be time to focus differently - when anything triggers a monitor it raises a state in consciousness that is equivalent to "Maybe I should focus more intently on what was just said" as an example. That state would trigger 'votes' from other aspects of our self, our beliefs, our purpose, etc. And then, the agent (the heart of our self in this moment) would 'choose' to look more closely or not. This model is one where we are 'programming' ourselves as we go - as an automatic by-product of making choices (mostly tiny and very frequent choices).

With this model, we can have a genetic predisposition, say to addictive behaviors, we could have a developmental background or an abusive childhood (and all of its negative, false beliefs), we could have low self-esteem from the practice of poor psychological habits. All of that would mean that there would be strong signals from many internal sources attempting to move the person away from focusing more intensely thought of getting clean. But they still have the 'choice' to work, step by step, in the right direction. All of the other factors just make it harder.

My approach is born of my experiences as a psychologist but also as a software designer, Id be interested in hearing what the philosophically sophisticated say about it.


Post 5

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 7:13pmSanction this postReply
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This: "If there is no choice then there can be capacity to pursue truth..." is probably meant to be this: "If there is no choice then there can be no capacity to pursue truth...."  

Post 6

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 7:29pmSanction this postReply
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Tibor,

Yes, that is correct. It should have been:

"If there is no choice then there can be NO capacity to pursue truth"

I didn't do the proof reading I should of. Thanks.

(I tried to edit it just now, but is locked.)

Post 7

Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 2:18amSanction this postReply
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Not to worry. Proofing one's own work is very difficult since when one tries, one routinely gets caught up in the meaning and overlooks the small stuff.

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