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Old 06-06-2017   #11
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

One could be an autonomous agent in a microcosm and a non-autonomous agent in the macrocosm; in other words, free will is dependent on the measure of influence inversely proportional to an epicenter. For example, university researchers might be free to power their campus entirely on solar, but the state legislature might obstruct researchers' recommendations for powering the entire state on solar panels for financial or ideological reasons.

I hope I am making sense...

This is my life. This is my damnation. This is my only regret--that I ever was born.

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Old 06-06-2017   #12
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

Quote Originally Posted by Nirvana In Karma View Post
One could be an autonomous agent in a microcosm and a non-autonomous agent in the macrocosm; in other words, free will is dependent on the measure of influence inversely proportional to an epicenter. For example, university researchers might be free to power their campus entirely on solar, but the state legislature might obstruct researchers' recommendations for powering the entire state on solar panels for financial or ideological reasons.

I hope I am making sense...
Yes. Obviously it's a tricky area, but I believe the above makes sense. But what is it parallel to in a human brain?

It seems to me that the very least lack of free will would mean is that there is no longer such a thing (available to us) as reason.

For instance, say all thought is dependent entirely on physical processes, which are themselves predetermined by regular physical laws (i.e., there is no free will). This has the peculiar effect that whatever a person decides was inevitable.

So, if a person decides that there is no God but Allah, this was merely inevitable (and we don't know if it is true), and if Sam Harris persuades them to think otherwise, this was merely inevitable (and we don't know if it's true).

Let's imagine that we're in a universe where there is free will and we can spy on one where there is none. In that other universe, someone is taking a multiple choice exam.

There is a question, for instance, what is five plus seven, and the answers:

a. 3
b. a giraffe
c. 89
d. 12
e. 0.23

The person taking the exam actually cannot choose between them, but only has the illusion of choice. So, let's say he 'chooses' a giraffe. He could just as easily have 'chosen' any of the others (he literally has no choice in the matter). Now, the teacher who comes to mark this might mark 'a giraffe' as correct or not, but he can't choose to mark it either way. Whatever way he marks is merely inevitable. And, again, when his marking is 'peer reviewed', whoever is checking it might approve it or might not, but will be unable to choose. Therefore, there will certainly be disagreements and agreements, but there will nowhere be any reason, therefore it will never actually be found out that there is no reason or no free will, since everything proceeds inevitably.

Is that, in fact, our universe? Faith in reason seems to me to imply it can't be.

Do you employ reason and expect others to be convinced by it?

Now, here's what might be some kind of subtle insight or might be nothing: The realisation that lack of free will is inconsistent with reason might be the discovery of reason - and therefore of free will - itself.

...

To put it yet another way, if someone with whom I'm debating something insists there's no free will, they immediately give me license not to take the debate seriously, since I can always say, "Well, I can't help thinking what I do." I can simply choose not to believe them and be satisfied that this was inevitable.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 06-06-2017   #13
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Nirvana In Karma View Post
One could be an autonomous agent in a microcosm and a non-autonomous agent in the macrocosm; in other words, free will is dependent on the measure of influence inversely proportional to an epicenter. For example, university researchers might be free to power their campus entirely on solar, but the state legislature might obstruct researchers' recommendations for powering the entire state on solar panels for financial or ideological reasons.

I hope I am making sense...
Yes. Obviously it's a tricky area, but I believe the above makes sense. But what is it parallel to in a human brain?

It seems to me that the very least lack of free will would mean is that there is no longer such a thing (available to us) as reason.

For instance, say all thought is dependent entirely on physical processes, which are themselves predetermined by regular physical laws (i.e., there is no free will). This has the peculiar effect that whatever a person decides was inevitable.

So, if a person decides that there is no God but Allah, this was merely inevitable (and we don't know if it is true), and if Sam Harris persuades them to think otherwise, this was merely inevitable (and we don't know if it's true).

Let's imagine that we're in a universe where there is free will and we can spy on one where there is none. In that other universe, someone is taking a multiple choice exam.

There is a question, for instance, what is five plus seven, and the answers:

a. 3
b. a giraffe
c. 89
d. 12
e. 0.23

The person taking the exam actually cannot choose between them, but only has the illusion of choice. So, let's say he 'chooses' a giraffe. He could just as easily have 'chosen' any of the others (he literally has no choice in the matter). Now, the teacher who comes to mark this might mark 'a giraffe' as correct or not, but he can't choose to mark it either way. Whatever way he marks is merely inevitable. And, again, when his marking is 'peer reviewed', whoever is checking it might approve it or might not, but will be unable to choose. Therefore, there will certainly be disagreements and agreements, but there will nowhere be any reason, therefore it will never actually be found out that there is no reason or no free will, since everything proceeds inevitably.

Is that, in fact, our universe? Faith in reason seems to me to imply it can't be.

Do you employ reason and expect others to be convinced by it?

Now, here's what might be some kind of subtle insight or might be nothing: The realisation that lack of free will is inconsistent with reason might be the discovery of reason - and therefore of free will - itself.

...

To put it yet another way, if someone with whom I'm debating something insists there's no free will, they immediately give me license not to take the debate seriously, since I can always say, "Well, I can't help thinking what I do." I can simply choose not to believe them and be satisfied that this was inevitable.

Quentin is scary smart. The correct answer is b. a giraffe. Choose life.
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Old 06-06-2017   #14
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

I find, in regards to the original post, that putting that on here almost immediately after a request for moderation in discussing the political & religious, is somewhat provocative. That i am yet here, replying, may therefore mark me as gullible, & guilty, too.

Nevertheless...

The mention of 'Carthaginian peace,' with all its imperialist connotations, is perhaps somewhat contentiously chosen? It implies, by analogy to Carthage & Rome, that there exists, or should exist, a relation like that of central power vs. dissenting province between the middle east & the USA...

As to the second fragment; downplaying the importance of Aristotle, who may not have discovered much, but who contributed a lot to the shape of scientific thinking, seems frankly disengenuous.
& while, indeed, it is not 'bigoted' to call certain cultural practices ( no well-educated person would call circumcision, male or female, a religiously proscribed act ) backward, it is bigoted to mention only such backwards practices & identify the whole of a religion with a culture, & failing to mention anything good it offers. That is, in fact, the very definition of bigotry.

Finally, the reasoning escapes me where mr. Harris contrasts the achievements not made by muslims in history, with the things that could have been achieved by jews had they lived. My lollipop that i do not have tastes better than your lollipop that you would have had.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
-Shaykh Ibn Al 'Arabi
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Old 06-06-2017   #15
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

I don't think the idea that we lack free will necessarily means our actions are inevitable and unreasoned.

Rather, it suggests to me that we do not consciously control them as much as we like to think. That's obviously true in certain situations, e.g. involuntary responses to extreme pain, or laughter, or sudden shocks, etc. Perhaps it is also true in less obvious cases.

Who provideth for the raven his food?
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Old 1 Week Ago   #16
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior


A fascinating conversation with a family member and apostate of the Westboro Baptist Church.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #17
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

I must say, it's dubious that a species evolved to the point of administering multiple choice tests would lack the ability to perform basic arithmetic. In general, natural selection explains certain modes of thinking as much as it does certain body shapes and behaviors. Arithmetic gives a certain edge in survival, as does most of the behavior we classify as rational.

There's also problems with defining free will as "the possibility of doing otherwise" - imagine someone like Milton's Lucifer who's act of free will is defiantly *not* doing otherwise. Biological determinism obviously presents a case where a person's genetics and environment renders their behavior inevitable, but libertarianism offers a parallel case where a person's willful stubbornness renders their behavior equally inevitable.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #18
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

Quote Originally Posted by Speaking Mute View Post
I must say, it's dubious that a species evolved to the point of administering multiple choice tests would lack the ability to perform basic arithmetic. In general, natural selection explains certain modes of thinking as much as it does certain body shapes and behaviors. Arithmetic gives a certain edge in survival, as does most of the behavior we classify as rational.

There's also problems with defining free will as "the possibility of doing otherwise" - imagine someone like Milton's Lucifer who's act of free will is defiantly *not* doing otherwise. Biological determinism obviously presents a case where a person's genetics and environment renders their behavior inevitable, but libertarianism offers a parallel case where a person's willful stubbornness renders their behavior equally inevitable.
I don't see that evolution is much to the point in this case.

So, let's start with a basic question: Where is (the) truth? If it's not spatially located, then it can't be material.

So, let's assume we know that 2+2 = 4 is true. You write that as your answer on a piece of paper. You could now say that the paper holds the truth. But if you destroy the paper, you don't stop 2+2=4 being true. So, there is a material representation of the truth, but the truth is immaterial. Or some might say it's merely distributed, which seems an evasion to me, as then it becomes an air bubble in the wallpaper.

But, anyway, there's another approach to this question of where the truth is. We can ask what truth is.

I know of at least two ways of thinking of it (and I'm not sure I know of others at the moment):

1. The truth is whatever exists.
2. The truth is a match between a concept in the mind and some external existence.

On that multiple choice exam we have a number of answers side by side to the question 'What is 2 + 2?", they include, for instance: 2 + 2 = 7. As I said, I'm assuming we know this is wrong (because that seems to be the general agreement, and I can at least back this up to some extent). However, the answer 2 + 2 = 7 exists (for instance, on this piece of paper) just as much as 2 + 2 = 5. So, if we believe that it's existence that is truth, we are left with the difficulty that these two contradictory things are true. They both, materially, exist.

But, of course, materially, they don't contradict each other. It's only conceptually, logically, that they contradict each other. This is the realm of truth - an immaterial realm.

The realm of evolution doesn't seem to me to involve more than what simply exists. If there is no immaterial realm of logic and truth, there's no reason why evolution can't produce the simple 'truth' of mere existence in any non-logical form that happens to occur.

Free will, therefore, is involved in the matching between concept and existence, at least if we believe that this matching can ever be a valid truth.

For myself, I still find this matching mysterious. I would guess that this is also related to Einstein's comment that "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible."

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 1 Week Ago   #19
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

I'd agree that evolution isn't a solution to questions about truth with a T - but evolution doesn't need to answer such questions to circumscribe rational behavior. We take 2+2 = 4 most of the time because it follows a well established set of rules that allow us to arrive at the same results when performing measurements, taking inventories, keeping time etc. which in turn are all behaviors that benefit us materially. There's no sin in saying 2 + 2 = 22 - we sometimes do for a joke - but the rule used to reach 22 isn't as helpful as the rule used to reach 4, so we mostly prefer 4 as the answer. If 22 was useful in more cases, we might construct an alternate arithmetic using the rule; we'd then apply the 2+2 = 22 or 2 + 2 =4 arithmetic depending on which one we found most helpful for the case at hand. It's well known that we already do this for geometry - but less well known that the same diversity and pragmatism holds for algebra, calculus, and even logic itself. We still take arithmetic as special only because we've yet to find a useful alternative with major differences (there are actually alternative ways for handling division by zero) that we still feel comfortable calling arithmetic - but this doesn't mean that one isn't possible. None of this, of course, precludes 2 + 2 = 4 corresponding to something immaterial - but we don't need immaterial truthiness to explain or justify why 2 + 2 = 4 is both useful and more useful than 2 + 2 = 5, 2 + 2 = 22, etc.

This is a bit of digression from the topic of free will and rationality, but on the subject of mathematics one of my favorite philosophy books is a dialogue by Imre Lakatos that, among other things, advocates mathematical conventionalism - which is basically the position that mathematics is socially constructed rather than representing Platonic truths. Lakatos's characters act out the history of the development of a formula that relates the vertices, edges, and faces of polyhedra, and what he shows is that mathematics involves a lot more bootstrapping and aesthetic choices than people think:



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Old 6 Days Ago   #20
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Re: Beliefs and Behavior

Speaking Mute, thanks for the tip on that Lakatos book. I've become increasingly interested in this topic lately, but have only dipped a toe in due to lack of time (frustrating). I'm planning to read Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics, by Mark Balaguer, which apparently argues that both philosophies can be justified but neither can be conclusively established. I incline toward anti-Platonism myself (or at least I'm more interested in learning more about it at this time), but don't yet have a strong opinion one way or the other. I am aware that some major, recent mathematicians and logicians (e.g., Grothendieck, Gdel) were firmly in the Platonist camp. And I'm not sure whether the various schools of thought about math can be neatly divided into Platonist/anti-Platonist.
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