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Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:14amSanction this postReply
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I am a novice philosopher so please excise my ignorance about Objectivism, but there is not a lot of information (I could find) about some of its aspects. I have some questions about the philosophy that perhaps someone here could help answer for me.

 

  1. Dose Objectivism hold the human mind as something outside the realm of nature, a sort of unique dualism?  I would consider myself a materialist so I can relate to many of it’s rational views, but to me the mind and the physical brain are the same thing. Conscious is just a manifestation of the organs processes. (an admittedly rudimentary explanation).  How dose Objectivism differ?   
  2. To me to be to be socially conscious and companionate to all humans, not just within my ‘social family’, is what makes me happy.  Does that fit within the canons of the philosophy?  I am not judging or saying that others do not, I just sincerely do not know.
  3. Is determinism or compatiblism a logical extension of its rational/objective thought process?

 
I am reading as much as I can on the topic, but any help would be appreciated.



Post 1

Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:33pmSanction this postReply
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Glad to have you here.  I hope you'll find Rand's ideas as interesting as most of us have.  Here's how I'd answer your questions.

1. Objectivism holds that consciousness is a natural activity of some organisms.  A point to note here is that consciousness isn't an entity as the organism itself is.  The physical equipment is a necessary but not sufficient condition of carrying the activity out.  The standard objection to saying that they are identical is that much of what you can say about one, you can't say about the other.  Bodies have weight but memories don't.  Thoughts can be sad but chemical reactions can't.

2. This needs more detail.  If you enjoy being generous as an expression of good will, at no sacrifice to yourself, Objectivism would have no objection.  If you get off on other people's dependence on you, in consequence of a lack of a sense of self, Objectivism would say you're on the wrong track.

3. Determinism, no; I'm not sure what compatibilism is.  Thinking necessarily requires consideration of alternatives, pursuit of solutions and various other actitivies that entail choice.  What's special to Objectivism on this question is that it locates the choice primarily in the decision to set a level of awareness or mental focus rather than in deciding what to believe or say or do, which are consequences of this first-level decision.  This is a matter of perennial wrangling in forums like this one.  If your post touches off such a wrangle, I'll be tuning it out.


Peter

(Edited by Peter Reidy on 7/10, 12:53pm)




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Monday, July 10, 2006 - 3:28pmSanction this postReply
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1. Dose Objectivism hold the human mind as something outside the realm of nature, a sort of unique dualism? I would consider myself a materialist so I can relate to many of it’s rational views, but to me the mind and the physical brain are the same thing. Conscious is just a manifestation of the organs processes. (an admittedly rudimentary explanation). How dose Objectivism differ?
2. To me to be to be socially conscious and companionate to all humans, not just within my ‘social family’, is what makes me happy. Does that fit within the canons of the philosophy? I am not judging or saying that others do not, I just sincerely do not know.
3. Is determinism or compatiblism a logical extension of its rational/objective thought process?


Well, I don't call myself Objectivist (keep that in mind), but I'll toss in my $.02:

1. No, you're describing mind-as-God, or mind-as-unnatural (outside the realm of nature = unnatural, supernatural). That's a fragile position to be in, as it would either consist of never knowing nature or knowing everything about nature. Mind is part of reality. And the mind is not equivalent to the physical brain.

I don't know what materialism is, but from your description it seems to lack depth and understanding of abstract concepts drawn from material reality, and the result seems to render things as too simple, too robotic (what comes to mind is a materialistic person who puts all conceivable worth upon things like cars, clothes, etc.). While material reality is important, it's a starting point and not the end-all-be-all, otherwise you'd "just" be "a bunch of atoms".

2. Being socially conscious and companionate are beneficial to self-interest to a certain degree. I think Oism's word for it is benevolence; also, human consciousness does need interaction with the world to function sanely, and other humans are part of that world. But it's up to your own judgement as to how and why you form your own interactions. However, I don't think of Oism as "canon".

3. Determinism and reductionism seem to me part of the same coin. What logical extension are you asking about?

I don't know what compatiblism is.



Post 3

Monday, July 10, 2006 - 4:47pmSanction this postReply
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Charles,

1. Something like... the mind is part of reality, but it not necessarily be materialistic like the material we are familiar with. I think Rand knew little about how the brain works.
2. "Socially conscious and companionate to all humans"... so long as it promote's your own life. "All humans" includes Bin Ladin?
3. Rand, and most who call themselves Objectivists detest the idea of determinism, and simply say declare it must be false. Some who call themselves Objectivists are compatibilists (think free will is compatible with determinism).

As for me:
0. I don't call myself an Objectivist, but I agree with many of Rand's ideas. I think many of her ideas were revolutionary, very important, and consistent with Reality.
1. When people say "brain" I consider them as referring to a general physical state of an organic neural net. When people say "mind" I consider them referring to the information processing process that a brain performs.
2. I'm not big on welfare, but my heart cries out for justice.
3. I'm a compatibilist. I think both that one compares various choices and decides to act upon one of them (free will), and for the next state of reality to be completely determined by the previous state (determinism).

Cheers,
Dean
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores
on 7/10, 4:49pm)




Post 4

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 12:34amSanction this postReply
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I must first say that I am thrilled to find others that share an interest in (for lack of a better word) philosophy.  There are so few in my family and social circle who can tolerate my incessant questioning, so this forum is very cathartic for me.

           

You have all been very helpful in your responses, and I love hearing your own personal takes on my questions.  I will try to elaborate on my questions some more to make myself clearer.

 

  1. My major is Cognitive Sciences with a specialization in neurology, although I have a long way to go I have a descent understanding of psychology and the brain.  I only say this to give you all an idea where I might be coming from.  I would make the argument that cognition is the action of the brain entity, because any entity cannot be any other way than it is, that includes its action. The brain is then broken down further into its individual parts, cells then atoms (admittedly simplified).  Which in turn are their own entity, and cannot be or do other than they are. Characteristics of an entity are what the entity is.  Perhaps we agree and it is just a matter of semantics that we might seem not to.  

 Jenna are you saying that the mind is not an action of, or controlled by, the brain?  If not where would you say the relation would lie between the two?  As for materialist I mean someone who believes that reality is of one kind, physical or natural, and that there is no supernatural.   

 

  1. Thanks that answers my question. 

    Peter do you think that the individual would be the determinate of the benefit (good feeling) vs. cost of altruism?  Or is it a survival thing? 

 

Jenna what is Oism a    name or a term?

 

Dean I might include Bin Ladin. I have a hard time judging people when I do not have enough information.  If I were in his position might I feel justified if thought that the U.S. was the cause of many of the hardships of my people and family?  I am not saying that is why he did it, I am just making the point I am not sure.

 

  1. Peter I see your point.  I view compatabilism the same way Dean does.  Free will within a deterministic world.

 Jenna I believe that causality based on Rand’s axioms would logically extrapolate to determinism.  This is of course based on a limited understanding of Objectivism.

 

I know this is a long-winded post, but these are some very complex topics.  Next time I post I think I will limit it to one topic.  If you all are any indication of the level of intelligence of the people who post, there are a lot of very bright people here.  I know that sounds phony but I am being sincere.

 

Thanks

Charles

 

 

   

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 




Post 5

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 6:47amSanction this postReply
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Charles wrote:

There are so few in my family and social circle who can tolerate my incessant questioning, so this forum is very cathartic for me.
Question some of the highly questionable components of Objectivism then see how cathartic it is....

Bob





Post 6

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 9:35amSanction this postReply
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Charles-- my major is in cognitive and psych. neuroscience. I also touch on linguistics, (paleo)anthro, chaos & complexity, systems, art (I have a B.A. in art), philosophy, and media/information. I'm looking at PhD programs right now to apply to that are wide enough for these interests. I take the best of Oism (the parts that I know add to my life) and disregard the rest. In that way, I am highly unorthodox; I have no qualms about rocking the boat because I know how to swim. :)

what is Oism a name or a term?


Objectivism is the proper name identity of a particular philosophy-- the name differentiates it from other philosophies. That's fair and good (or else how will we know the difference?) but a proper name identity is NOT equivalent to personal identity. To me, Oism is one of many rulers with which to gain knowledge of reality. Ultimately, reality is king, and evidence is my queen.

So Oism to me isn't my identity. I've written a post or two on that. Others have too-- so my advice: read! See the interactions online and in person if you can. Read books, articles, etc. Observe the results in you, and others. Then use your own thoughts, ideas, and judgement to make your own conclusions (of course), after you've set yourself as the standard in your life.

I believe that causality based on Rand’s axioms would logically extrapolate to determinism.


Only if you think linearly instead of using systematics and complexity. Think of tree diagrams while at the same time think of particulars, their nature, their possible interactions, probability, and choices. Most people tend to want to think down one or two roads-- I try to think down 10 roads, even if I have to wipe clean the chalkboard and start backwards. Two roads seem more deterministic than 10, right? It depends on the viewpoint.

are you saying that the mind is not an action of, or controlled by, the brain?


No, I'm not saying that. Mind, as far as my education is concerned, is the immaterial conception of all of the brain's processes. Have you read John Searle? He's very realistic and neurobiologically friendly.



Post 7

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 12:33pmSanction this postReply
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Jenna, I believe that neuroscience, as to the mind/brain, is probably the most important field that a person can study.  Everything else is trivial compared to the entity that comprehends it. 

 

Understanding the world, or having the belief of understanding (being a skeptic I put myself in this category), dose give one a great sense of confidence and self worth.  I wonder if that is the same feeling that religious people feel in their faith.

 

As for causality I believe it is only linear in the sense of sequence in time.  I would not claim to be able to follow the paths because there are nearly an infinite number of them all interacting with each other simultaneously, but they all do follow a sequence.  An example might be a comet moving through space, different bodies and their fields of gravity influence the comet during its travels and at any point in time it will end up where it does because of those interactions.  Besides quantum physics (because at this point I do not know enough about it to discuss is great depth) is there anything that does not follow a causal path.  This does lead to an infinite regress and a first cause, but that is a different topic.

 

I have not read John Searle, but I will put it next on my list. I just finished Breaking the Spell: Religion as A Natural Phenomenon by Dennett and I have just started Consciousness Explained also by Dennett.  I freaking love to read I am such a geek in that regard, at any point I am reading 3 to 7 books simultaneously including audiobooks on my I-pod.  I wonder if I type this to shape my impression to sound intelligent or to feel good about myself.  What is even more interesting is after I acknowledged that I reflected on what I typed it is still here.   I think it is because I believe in self-examination and complete honesty.  I know I ramble but when I type things out it tends to help me organize my thoughts and reflect on them.  Or maybe it is ADD. 

 

Charles




Post 8

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 1:38pmSanction this postReply
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Read The Creating Brain - neuroscience of genius, by Nancy Andreasen ?



Post 9

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 2:02pmSanction this postReply
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Quantum physics and particle physics probably do follow a causal path. We might just not be able to see the entire picture, but I'll leave that to the physicists to get into the details or tell me I'm wrong.

You're like me-- I'm reading 10+ concurrently. I haven't read much of Dennett, but I do have two of his books. I try to read one book that hits every one of my interests.

And I think studying the brain-mind is fantastic; it's thrilling to be able to know that your work goes towards understanding anything with brains at varying levels-- understanding ourselves. I can't think of a field that doesn't touch on neuroscience in some way, as all our human fields do come from our minds. Personally and professionally, knowing more cognitive/psych. neuroscience has helped me know myself, and help to understand others, so much more than anything else.

I have ADD too; I think it helps me juggle lots of things in my head at the same time. My main problems with it are focusing and memory, but that's what d-methylphenidate is for.

As for linear sequence, I compound that in layers such that multiple things are happening at the same time, and linear sequences can branch and interact with other sequences. I.e. I put linear sequences in 3-D.



Post 10

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 2:46pmSanction this postReply
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Re #4:

(D)o you think that the individual would be the determinate of the benefit (good feeling) vs. cost of altruism?  Or is it a survival thing?
Not sure what you mean.  If this is the old survival-flourishing debate, I'm not up on it.  The fact that something feels good is, in a broad range of cases, not a good reason to do it and doesn't make it right.  See Rand on this.  Survival is (fortunately) not a conscious concern for most of us most of the time.  My answer would be: one or the other, in some cases.

I view compatabilism the same way Dean does.  Free will within a deterministic world.

So that's what compatibilism is.  It looks to me like a tautology, either necessarily, whatever has happened has happened or necessarily, events (including deliberate human actions) are the result of all their causes.  Nobody, Objectivist or otherwise, would dispute either.

Peter




Post 11

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 2:52pmSanction this postReply
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(Jenna) I have ADD too; I think it helps me juggle lots of things in my head at the same time. My main problems with it are focusing and memory, but that's what d-methylphenidate is for.

(Me) Hey, I'll swap you my zoned out hyperfocus and great memory for some multitaskin' ADD there. ^_^

-- Bridget thinks too much everywhere, almost got in a car wreck from it. @_@



Post 12

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 4:10pmSanction this postReply
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Bridget says:

Hey, I'll swap you my zoned out hyperfocus and great memory for some multitaskin' ADD there. ^_^


Well, if it's possible to grow neurons so that they have a connection to a computer, then one day it might be possible to have connections between brains via some sort of bridge... so that one brain can teach the other? [this is wild speculation, though-- ions, neural plasticity, and neurotransmitters must be involved at least, and the effect must be lasting!]



Post 13

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 4:58pmSanction this postReply
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Possible - but the speed of neuro acting is far less than any computer does - there'd be needing some downstepping transformer to work it - no ability to do 'real time' within the computer....



Post 14

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 5:29pmSanction this postReply
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Charles,

=============
I just finished Breaking the Spell: Religion as A Natural Phenomenon by Dennett and I have just started Consciousness Explained also by Dennett.
=============

Charles, you're in luck (if you like debate). I have "issues" with Dennett (perhaps we might have a mostly-gentlemanly debate some time?).

I won't hijack this thread with (preposterous) Dennett quotes, but feel free (perhaps when you finish CE) to start a thread on the man's thoughts.

Welcome!

Ed




Post 15

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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Possible - but the speed of neuro acting is far less than any computer does - there'd be needing some downstepping transformer to work it - no ability to do 'real time' within the computer....


Our brains are far more intricate than computers. Computers are fast but it's clocked as Hz-- which is brute force of how many times per unit time. Brains can do massive parallel processing in terms of systems, subsystems, systems of subsystems, etc.... at microscopic levels. Neurons (and other cells), however, do work via movement of ions-- this is studied by neuroscientists interested in electrophysiology-- which is electricity (movement of charge) in the body. I think Gtech is not growing one neuron, but many (as hinted by the neural plasticity), so those neuron systems at least interacts with a computer.



Post 16

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 8:27pmSanction this postReply
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Actually, I believe they clocked neurons going around in the high GHZ in reaction time. So, we're not that slow, we're lossy since most neural reactions stop before a synapse [three or more related neural firings] is formed. :(

-- Bridget



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Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - 1:21amSanction this postReply
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Jenna- it looks to me as if we probably agree on most issues, it is just a matter of the language we use to describe them.  It is amazing how often language is taken for granted.  I can not tell you how many times I have had arguments come out of discussions because of the subtle differences in the meaning of a single key word. 

 

As for the ADD I am an Adderall XR man myself.  I am not happy having to take a drug in order to focus, but I would never trade for a non-ADD brain.  I think it has made me the unique thinker I am.  Although I wish I would have known about it when I was in high school.  I would have already had my PhD. and doing some meaningful research instead of just working towards my BS.

 

“Brains can do massive parallel processing in terms of systems, subsystems, systems of subsystems, etc.... at microscopic levels.”

 

Even if you had fast computers running in parallel the brain would still be faster, because of the manner in which the brain stores and retrieves the information (memories).  It is the interconnectedness of the neurons that is able to run down the data more efficiently.  Computers even running in parallel still have to run whole processes before the next one is started, and each computer is only working a single part of the problem.  I am not a big computer person so I probably did not state that part of it in a very clear manner, but I am sure you get the idea. 

 

Ed- I would love to debate Dennett sometime, although I have never debated in a format like this before.  I will have you know though when I debate I willingly concede to a position if I feel it’s reasoning is better than mine.  All I care about is learning, so I do not know how fun it will be.  I do not debate in the manner of a contest or game, but I believe my opinions are well thought out.

 

Bridget perhaps in the axons themselves but in an overall system computer circuitry is much faster.  Unless you have some information that I do not have (which is very possible) I would love to see the source.

 

Peter- “If you enjoy being generous as an expression of good will, at no sacrifice to yourself, Objectivism would have no objection.”

 

Perhaps I need to understand something about your statement first.  What do you mean by no sacrifice to yourself?  Something always sacrificed, it is just a matter of the value placed on one vs. the other.  Like do I use my time to study (better grades) or do I volunteer my time being a big brother and helping a kid (makes me feel good). 




Post 18

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - 7:08amSanction this postReply
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Here is an overview of an article "Neuromorphic Microchips"
(Sci Amer May 2005).

Today's computers can perform billions of operations per second, but they are still no match for even a young child when it comes to skills such as pattern recognition or visual processing. The human brain is also millions of times more energy-efficient and far more compact than a typical personal computer.

Neuromorphic microchips, which take cues from neural structure, have already demonstrated impressive power reductions. Their efficiency may make it possible to develop fully implantable artificial retinas for people afflicted by certain types of blindness as well as better electronic sensors.

Someday neuromorphic chips could even replicate the self-growing connections the brain uses to achieve its amazing functional capabilities.


(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 7/12, 7:17am)




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