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Very nice George.

And Tony, clearly they are as dumb as they look, they are French!

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Hey, that's from my hometown Marlins. It's unbelievable how many of the people who pack the stands for every game come dressed up as empty seats. The whole upper deck, in this clip.

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As you ordered... http://youtu.be/NSN66uOAHk8

Geez Adam: the best I can say is, it beats those damn vuvuselas (you recall?).

The "bees" from the Olympics you mean?

http://youtu.be/94frhollceo

Aggh!!

Edited by Selene
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Any cadre that makes that much serious methane gets their bar props. What do they like? Whatever the eff they say.

I've heard some of them are into Tom Petty. Others, Pierre Moerlen's Gong.

It depends.

rde

Where's the beef?

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Cows like swing and "traditional" jazz (New Orleans style), but they shy away from the complexities of bebop and modern jazz, due to "the cow epistemology." Heh. REB

Rumor has it that a few cows have committed suicide after being forced to listen to the "free" jazz of of Ornette Coleman. I know how they felt.

Ghs

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  • 8 years later...

Are mind and free will an illusion? An old letter and some quotes. I think I threw in a thought way back when in the OPAR section.  Remember the debate about Objectivists being soft determinists? Peter  

OPAR, pages 191 –193. “. . . life *is* motion, a definite course of motion; if the motion is defaulted on or fails, what ensues is the antithesis of life: stillness, which is the essence of death. Death is the irreversible cessation of vital processes. Leaving aside the disintegration that follows it, death is a state that does not involve or require action. To achieve it, you need simply refrain from doing anything: lie down, do not move, do not eat, call a halt to the vital activities within your control (and, if you are in a hurry, to the pumping of your lungs and the beating of your heart); nothing else is required.

The fact of life – of conditional, goal-directed entities – has profound philosophic significance. It is a key to the nature of man and, as we will see in the next chapter, a necessary and sufficient condition of the existence of values. I must, therefore, stress the reality of the fact. For Objectivism, the distinction between the animate and the inanimate *is* fundamental.

Materialists today, dedicated to monism (a view that reality is a unitary, organic whole with no independent parts. i.e., determinists - Me :O) insist that every science be ‘reducible’ to physics in a sense that denies both consciousness and life. In this view, living organisms are mere “appearance”: they are really nothing but a type of inanimate mechanism, like a highly complex robot or super-computer. This notion denies an entire field of observed data.

Whatever the ultimate explanation of biological phenomena – whether life derives from some as yet unknown (but nonmystical) element combining with matter as we now understand it, or from some special combination of known material ingredients – in either case, it will not alter the existence *or the identity* of a living organism; just as an explanation of consciousness, should such be forthcoming, would not alter *its* existence or identity. An explanation does not erase the reality it explains. No discovery in physics or biology can erase the difference between the living and the inanimate; no future knowledge can invalidate *this* knowledge.

A child unable to grasp so major a distinction as that between the living and the inanimate would be unable to progress very far in concept-formation; it would never reach the stage of science or philosophy. The notion of a sophisticated science retroactively undermining an observed distinction is absurd on its face. Since observations are the base of science, any such notion denies the hierarchical structure of cognition. It represents the fallacy of the stolen concept (or the stolen science.)

Materialists are concept-stealers in another way, too. Robots and the like, to which these theorists seek to reduce life are human inventions modeled on living organisms and designed to achieve human purposes. By their nature, therefore, such inventions presuppose the knowledge of life and the reality of purpose.

No matter what the study of optics discovers, it will never affect the distinction between red and green. The same applies to all observed facts, including the fact of life. No one will ever show that a man being shot and the bullet piercing his body are metaphysically interchangeable entities, since both are “merely collections of atoms in motion.”  One “collection” can *die;* the other cannot. In this profound sense, Ayn Rand is unanswerably right when she says that a living organism, but not matter as such, is indestructible. The one can *become* inanimate; the other already is.

It is with this difference –I am tempted to say this “life and death” difference – that the study of human nature begins.

From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Buridan's ass (was "Are mind and will an illusion?") Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 16:33:05 -0600

Bill Dwyer quoted Murray Rothbard as follows: "If a man were really indifferent between two alternatives, he could not make any choice between them, and therefore the choice could not be revealed in action....  Any action demonstrates choice based on preference:  preference for one alternative over others." [_Man, Economy, and State_, HB, p. 65]"

Bill then concluded: "In fact, what free will would require is precisely the kind of indifference that Rothbard rejects.  For if we are not indifferent to which alternative we choose, then only one choice is possible, namely, the one that we prefer.  To be sure, there are times that we can and do act against our emotional inclinations, but only because we have a reason to -- only because we perceive a greater, long-range value in choosing the alternative."

Rothbard's discussion of revealed preference is irrelevant to the issue under consideration, for the praxeological meaning of "preference" differs from its psychological meaning. Praxeology, unlike psychology, does not take into account *why* a man chooses such and such; rather, it deals "with any given ends and with the formal implications of the fact that men have ends and employ means to attain them."  This is why "all explanations of the law of marginal utility on psychological or physiological grounds [e.g., the law of satiation of wants] are erroneous." (Murray Rothbard, *Man, Economy, and State,* p. 63.)

It should also be remembered that Rothbard was himself a vigorous defender of free will. As he wrote in "The Mantle of Science": "At the very best, the application of determinism to man is just an agenda for the future. After several centuries of arrogant proclamations, no determinist has come up with anything like a theory determining all of men's actions. Surely the burden of proof must rest on the one advancing a theory, particularly when the theory contradicts man's primary impressions. Surely we can, at the very least, tell the determinists to keep quiet until they can offer their determinations -- including, of course, their advance determinations of each of our reactions to their determining theory. But there is far more that can be said. For determinism, as applied to man, is a self-contradictory thesis, since the man who employs it relies implicitly on the existence of free will. If we are determined in the ideas we accept, then X, the determinist, is determined to believe in determinism, while Y, the believer in free will, is also determined to believe in his own doctrine. Since man's mind is, according to determinism, not free to think and come to conclusions about reality, it is absurd for X to try to convince Y or anyone else of the truth of determinism. In short, the determinist must rely, for the spread of his ideas, on the nondetermined, free-will choices of others, on their free will to adopt or reject his ideas." (*Scientism and Values," ed. Schoeck and Wiggins, p. 161.)

Bill wrote: "But, in order for that choice to be truly free, we must be indifferent to which alternative we choose, in which case, our choice is arbitrary -- not just seemingly arbitrary but ~really~ arbitrary, i.e., no more valuable to us than the alternative.  But in that case, why did we choose it instead of the alternative?  What motivated our choice? ~Nothing did~, according to the doctrine of free will."

Why must we be "indifferent" to an alternative in order for our choice to be "truly free"? This position doesn't become more cogent merely because Bill has stated it repeatedly. I have never said that free choices are unmotivated. Nor have I said they are "arbitrary" in Bill's sense of the word. What I have said is that motives and reasons do not function like mechanistic causes, that a rational mind must evaluate and assess various reasons and causes, and that in this process of decision-making there are a number of choices it can make.

Bill argues, in effect, that our preferences -- a vague catch-all word which he has never clearly defined -- somehow "determine" our choices. But he has not given any argument against the volitionist position that our choices can play a pivotal role in deciding what those preferences are. We can choose among various preferences; and if Bill wants to say that a choice, once it manifests itself in action, exhibits (or "demonstrates") a preference for the object of our action, then this is true (in a praxeological sense) by definition. For praxeologists, such as Rothbard and Mises, *define* human action as goal-directed behavior, as the attempt to replace a less satisfactory state of affairs with one that is more satisfactory, so the goal of a given action is necessarily that for which we have a preference. Bill does not seem to understand the purely formalistic nature of the Misesian praxeology which Rothbard employed.

I wrote: "When a normal person wishes to express the notion that he could not have acted differently than he did, he will usually say something like, 'I had no choice in the matter.'  But not so the soft determinist. When he wants to say that he could not have acted differently, he will say something like, 'I had a choice in the matter, but I was determined to choose as I did'."

And Bill replied: "We have to be careful here to specify exactly what is meant by someone's saying, "I had no choice in the matter."  If a man wants to marry his fiancée more than anything in the world (and sees no reason not to), he will not say that he has "no choice in the matter", but there is a sense in which he doesn't.  Given his values, he has no reason to choose otherwise.  In that case, the alternative of not marrying her is not ~psychologically~ open to him."

I would never use this kind of language -- i.e., I would never say that I have "no choice" but to marry someone (unless perhaps it is literally a shotgun wedding) -- and I don't recall ever meeting someone who thinks like this.  Moreover, to say that a person has "no reason to choose otherwise" in no way implies that his choice is causally determined -- unless, of course, we fail to understand the nature of "reasons" and insist on treating them like mechanistic causes.

 

 

Bill wrote: "However, one can still say that he has "a choice in the matter", if only in the sense that no one is forcing him to marry her -- that he could choose not to marry her if he ~preferred~ not to.  This is the soft determinist's sense of "having a choice in the matter".

This is an old dodge, one that goes back at least to Thomas Hobbes. And it is a perfect example of what I mean when I accuse soft determinists of engaging in word play. When the ordinary person says he chose (say) to go to a movie, he is manifestly *not* saying that his choice was not made under the threat of coercion. Rather, he means that he made a choice between that alternative and others.

The soft determinist want to substitute the *interpersonal* concept of a *voluntary,* non-coerced choice with the *intrapersonal* concept of a *free* choice. This merely bypasses the problem by cashing in on various meanings of "free." If you make a choice without a gun at your head (or some equivalent), then the determinist will say you had a "choice." Fine, but this is not the meaning of "choice" that is involved in the debate over free-will. Lord Acton once estimated that the word "freedom" has been defined in 200 different ways. Although this rich vein of definitions may provide a good deal of wiggle room for the determinist, the practice of hopping from one definition to another doesn't solve any philosophical problems.

I wrote: "The soft determinist may have great faith in the power of this verbal legerdemain to solve complex philosophical problems. But I don't share this interest in word magic, so I will let the matter rest here and move on to more serious issues."

And Bill replied: "This sarcastic remark is completely unwarranted.  There is no verbal legerdemain here, no word magic, only a careful analysis of the issue in terms of customary parlance and the observed facts of human psychology."

 

I

stand by my original statement. What Bill regards as "careful analysis," I see as definition-hopping. In the final analysis, to say that a person acts on the basis of his preferences doesn't tell us anything at all about the free-will problem -- for it doesn't say *how* those preferences are formed; and it doesn't explain how, from a welter of conflicting preferences, one is eventually chosen over others. A theory should have at least some explanatory value, but soft determinism explains nothing at all. It is an article of faith based on the erroneous assumption that "reasons"  in the inner world of consciousness function exactly like "causes" in the external world of physical objects.

As I said before, I prefer to confront the phenomena of consciousness on their own terms, rather than resort to a pseudo-explanation that, in the final analysis, explains nothing at all. When the soft determinist is able to postulate a causal law of consciousness that will enable us to predict our future thoughts and actions, then I will be impressed. Until then, I will continue to regard soft determinism as a circular method of "explanation" that derives from a inappropriate analogy with physical causation.

As it stands now, the only prediction the soft determinist can make is that a person will ultimately act on the basis of his "strongest" preference. Never mind that he cannot specify what this preference is until *after* the choice is made. Never mind that this "prediction" is foolproof, because it can only be made *after* the fact. Never mind all this -- for the soft determinist has convinced himself that he is uttering a profound truth, even though it is little more than a tautology and one which most volitionists (including myself) would not dispute. Ghs

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  • 3 months later...

Is the spread of the coronavirus inevitable? Is it “determined? America is going to unload Americans from a quarantined cruise ship soon. I remember Dennis May saying “humanity” would be much better off in the long run if the population dispersed. Get out of the cities. Spread out. I personally would rather wait for the vaccine rather than let America deal with an outbreak. So I looked up Dennis and found this old thread and I hope Michael won’t mind if I share it. I closed it up and deleted old web addresses. Ellen Stuttle was in fine form. Peter

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Dennis, I Hope You're Really Determined to Write That Book Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 11:24:45 -0600 Keyser Soze wrote: ...but of the philosophical relevance of an ethical system in what appears to me to be an absence of true choice in Determinism as I understand it. If ever there were a potential convert to Determinism in Atlantis, it most definitely would be me. But I haven't yet heard an argument that gets me off the fence. My sticking point is that Determinism gives the impression that we are fated, malleable automatons.

My views are from the Hard Determinist camp and do not necessarily agree with those who are Soft Determinists, Compatibilists, or other non-Hard Determinists who none the less profess some agreement with Determinism. I have never read any Hard Determinist literature [just overviews] other than physics. I am unaware of any 20th or 21st century writings supporting hard determinism as related to philosophy. I sure they exist in some form but I have never seen them.

The attempt to escape fatalism in its many variations is part of most philosophies and religions.  There is psychological fatalism [which exists on all fronts] and worldview fatalism.  I assume your concerns are about the latter.  I would not ignore worldview fatalism in places other than Hard Determinism. I am not convinced that any philosophy or religion has presented anything which consistently and logically addresses fatalism with any success.  What happens instead is faith, unclear reasoning, appeals to authority, or putting the question off as an unknown [never to be known].

Rather than delay or avoid the issue a Hard Determinist would make the most minimal assumptions based on the evidence and go from there.  I would place the philosophical or religious attempt to define first causes into this same discussion. Materialist Fatalism [Hard Determinism] as it is called seems like a dead end philosophy because:

Q.  It is a hard sell.

A.  Since when does selling well make things right?

Q.  Reason cannot exist.

A.  If you don't assume volition at the outset but physics based feedback forces, reason does in fact exist as a subjective process.

Q.  Ethics cannot exist.

A.  How ethics are used is in no way changed. Individual perception of ethics in relation to fatalism occurs in and between all philosophies and religions.  I don't see how blessings by some unknown god gives any more meaning to life than consistent application of causality.  Hard Determinism concerns the root of all things.  This root is important for consistent and logical development.  Ethics exists at the further integration level.  I have found that my day to day existence is very little affected by knowing that at the quantum level my pinky finger is supraluminally connected to the inside of George H. Smith's nose whether or not another finger is already there.

Take some consolation in the fact that w e are and will always be in a learning process.  I find nothing remarkable in the idea that subjectively we reason all the time but at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride.  The subjective mind is objectively real but does not have the freedom subjectivity would lead us to believe it has. Attempting to escaping this reality may be appealing but it is without substance.

If Hard Determinism is ultimately shown to be flawed it might very well have driven the discoveries other philosophies are willing to ignore or put off indefinitely.  There is no shame in making an error when it is based on the most correct understanding of the known context.  Making an honest dealer of another philosopher or creating a new philosophy is worthwhile in itself.  I don't believe there is any error in assuming Hard Determinism given the present context.  If others wish to prove me wrong, concrete evidence or consistent application of logic from what is known is the way to go. Dennis May

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Dennis, I Hope You're Really Determined to Write That Book Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 14:46:54 -0500. Dennis, you wrote: "I find nothing remarkable in the idea that subjectively we reason all the time but at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride."

I'm grateful to you, Dennis, for writing this sentence, since it confirms unmistakably that indeed you are an epiphenomenalist -- a person who holds that mental activities are irrelevant to anything that happens, that everything in the universe would happen the same if there were no mental activities.  On occasion I've had people tell me that you aren't really an epiphenomenalist, but the statement "at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride" is the quintessential epiphenomenalist claim.

Please notice what this claim means:  It means that nothing one thinks has any reference to reality or makes any difference to anything one does (including to what one concludes is true). Although I know that you don't get this point, Dennis, I hope that others here understand it:  the epiphenomenalist claim invalidates science. Ellen S.

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Dennis, I Hope You're Really Determined to Write That Book Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 14:21:36 -0600 I wrote: I find nothing remarkable in the idea that subjectively we reason all the time but at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride.

Ellen Stuttle wrote: Although I know that you don't get this point, Dennis, I hope that others here understand it:  the epiphenomenalist claim invalidates science.

My dictionary has no word "epiphenomenalist". Could you print out a complete definition for me?

In any case I reject the claim that volition is a requirement for knowledge.  Feedback from the environment provides the validation of knowledge.  Since all knowledge is fed through a subjective process in any case, determinism remains irrelevant to the validity of the outcome.  My subjective mind is part of the process of feedback.  Objectively that process is not under subjective control.  The Objectivist claim that subjective mental states create objective changes in objective reality violates Objectivist theory concerning the existence of objective reality independent of the mind, identity, and causality.  Without identity and causality there is no science.

I understand why Ellen claims hard determinism prevents knowledge and therefore science.  I have yet to hear a valid counter claim of how other proposed solutions could be non-contradictory.  Hard Determinism with the mind as observer or volition where the mind creates parts of reality continually but remains as subjective as the Hard Determinist model. Hard Determinism relies on one level of feedback, Objectivist volition creates another unnecessary and contradictory level of complexity on top of the same feedback Hard Determinists already have.

Nothing is gained by the additional complexity except the forfeit of science and objective reality.  If volition is proven, magic lives and science is but a convenience for those who have not yet mastered magic.  With my new found volition powers to create reality I would focus all my powers on energy creation and additional volitional power enhancement.  Soon my mind would be able to create reality out of nothing at all. Dennis May

From: Michael Hardy To: atlantis Subject: ATL: epiphenomenalism Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 15:35:13 -0500 (EST) >My dictionary has no word "epiphenomenalist". Could you print out a complete definition for me?

An epiphenomenalist is one who holds that the subjective mind is just along for the ride; it has no causal efficacy; it cannot have any effect on anything.  Something without causal efficacy is called an epiphenomenon.  Epiphenomenalism is the philosophical position that the subjective mind is an epiphenomenon. Mike Hardy

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Dennis, I Hope You're Really Determined to Write That Book Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 17:05:15 -0500. Dennis wrote: "I find nothing remarkable in the idea that subjectively we reason all the time but at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride."

I wrote: "...the statement 'at the fundamental objective level the subjective mind is along for the ride' is the quintessential epiphenomenalist claim. Please notice what this claim means:  It means that nothing one thinks has any reference to reality or makes any difference to anything one does (including to what one concludes is true).  Although I know that you don't get this point, Dennis, I hope that others here understand it: the  epiphenomenalist claim invalidates science."

Dennis says: My dictionary has no word "epiphenomenalist". Could you print out a complete definition for me?

Actually, no, since I don't have an on-line dictionary, but I'll type a brief definition from The American College Dictionary, 1957. It's one of those definitions which refers one elsewhere.

"epiphenomenalism" is defined as "*Philos*. automatism (def 2)."

Looking under "automatism (def 2)," we find: "2. *Philos*. the doctrine that all activities of animals, including men [humans], are controlled only by physiological causes, consciousness being considered a noncausal byproduct; epiphenomenalism."

(An "epiphenomenalist" is a person who espouses "epiphenomenalism.")

You then say: >In any case I reject the claim that volition is a requirement for knowledge....

Dennis, this has happened every single time I've tried to communicate with you on these issues, and it's highly frustrating to me.  You have immediately taken a leap to your views about volition, and your interpretation of the Objectivist theory thereof, but I didn't even say anything about volition in my above comments.  I'm trying to get you to address the issues on a more basic level, at the level of any possible knowledge whatsoever, including sensory awareness.

Maybe I misled you by using the words "thinks" and "concludes is true." If so, I'm sorry.  But, please, could you try to address basics.

Your claim that "the subjective mind is along for the ride" is the claim that NO mental experience tells you anything about the external world.  This includes seeing, hearing, touching, etc., all the sensory processes.  On the other hand, to say, as you then go on to say in your current post that "[your] subjective mind is part of the process of feedback" contradicts your statement that "the subjective mind is along for the ride," since the latter statement says that "the subjective mind" *isn't* "part of the process of feedback."  You can't have it both ways, although you keep talking both ways.  The instant you say that (what you call) the subjective mind is active in guiding an organism's behavior, you've already acknowledged a causal role for mental activities, however uncomfortable the acknowledgment makes you.

Incidentally, I don't mean to deny that some of the questions you raise are difficult questions.  I'm trying to get you to see that you have contradictory statements at the base of your approach, and that we won't get anywhere communicating unless we start at basics. Ellen S.

From: Michael Hardy To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Dennis' determinism Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 17:15:39 -0500 (EST) Dennis May wrote: >Objectively that process is not under subjective control. The Objectivist claim that subjective mental states create objective changes in objective reality violates Objectivist theory concerning the existence of objective reality independent of the mind, identity, and causality.

Dennis, you are incredibly confused. Ellen Stuttle and I and others have been telling you for a *long* time that causal efficacy of subjective states of mind is NOT the same thing as volition; that that's a much more basic thing than volition. Cats appear to have no free will, but subjective states of cats' minds nonetheless have effects.

You've been saying for years that people who believe in volition keep telling you that their belief in volition is why they reject reductionism.  But those who believe in volition, and some who do *not* believe in volition, have in fact kept telling you for years that belief in volition is *not* why they reject reductionism.  This is a very simple point: The reason for rejecting the reducibility of consciousness applies as much to cats' minds, which lack volition, as to human minds, which have volition.  This is the zillionth time I've told you this.  Maybe all one zillion of them have greatly affected your mind but have had no effect on what you say or do. (People who don't appreciate irony are to skip the previous sentence.)

Y

ou seem to be missing Rand's distinction between "objective" and "intrinsic" as well, when you write about the "claim that subjective mental states create objective changes in objective reality." Mike Hardy

From: "Jeff Olson" To: "atlantis" Subject: ATL: Are We the Sole Architects of Our Lives? (was: Can a determinist believe in ethics) Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 11:46:13 -0800 My thanks to Keyser Soze for some excellent questions about the rationale for attributing ultimate moral responsibility under determinism.  Before I address the issue of responsibility under determinism, however, I want to discuss the basic question: To what extent are we the architect of our own values?  Or, perhaps more fundamentally, how complete is our control over the factors that shape us?

A common non-determinist assumption seems to be that unless we are the sole architect of ourselves and of our values, then these values -- and their attendant actions -- are obviously suspect, bereft of any significance beyond those of a machine or random events.

Yet how many non-determinists would claim that we completely control all the factors that cause our behavior?  With the possible exception of Ellen Moore, I have difficulty believing that anyone here would seriously assert this.  The number of factors over which we have little or no control is clearly legion.  The circumstances surrounding our birth and upbringing, our genetic inheritance -- our very nature -- are both beyond our control and beyond tabulation.

For those who seriously examine this issue, the question isn't whether or not we have control over *all* the formative circumstances in our lives, but rather if our control is *sufficient* to be the decisive factor in our actions.  My sense is that most reflective non-determinists of Objectivist persuasion would acknowledge formative events beyond our control, but would say that regardless of what has gone before, all human beings possess a "volitional consciousness" which gives them a crucial final say -- a "trump card," as it were -- with respect to their present behaviors.

The premise, then, is that regardless of what we've experienced, what we make of these experiences is solely a matter of choice.

This is an interesting claim, which I find both very understandable and highly problematic.  Understandable, because our intelligence clearly functions as a filter for our experiences, interpreting and measuring the significance of events -- and as such certainly introduces an element of choice to our reactions to these events.

Problematic, because how can the choices we make now be divorced from all our past experiences and choices?  It's as though advocates of free will are arguing that we can constantly separate ourselves -- through some miraculous form of Olympian detachment -- from all the events that compose our lives.

Once again, I find it hard to imagine a reflective non-determinist claiming that we can achieve a state of mind wherein events of our lives do not influence our decisions.  Yet once such influences have been admitted, it seems ineluctable that our decisions flow from these influences  (which is to place such influences in a causal category) -- for different influences create, at the very least, a different context for decision-making.  Such different contexts, again, ineluctably, alter the decision-making base.  One risks antinomy, I believe, in denying that any given decision-context will not tend to favor certain results over others.

If one grants any import at all to past experiences and choices, it seems inescapable that we cannot make decisions irrespective of the influences of these past experiences and choices.  In other words, **we would not make the choices we make now if it not for what has gone before**.

Given the influence of past events, it follows that our present actions are, at least to some considerable extent, a product of past events; and as the product of past events, we cannot "freely" choose our present actions -- if by "free" we mean "sans all the factors past and present that compose us."  In this sense, I think, it is accurate to say that our choices are "determined," *because we would not be making the same choices now if these factors were different*.

A possible objection that are truly free because we can "volitionally" override, in effect, "all that composes us" strikes me as both unpalatable and absurd.  What would we gain by being able to divorce ourselves from ourselves, even if we could?  If we could suddenly will ourselves to act in ways apart from our character – our core selves -- then precisely who would be the one doing the willing? And what would be the reward?

But even a being capable of such an act would never be metaphysically free, for its decisions would still be a product of everything that has gone before in its life.  Perhaps such a being could make better decisions than we do, perhaps not; but I doubt its choices would be "freer" by any rational account. I will discuss the significance of these observations in an upcoming post. Best, Jeff

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Are We the Sole Architects of Our Lives? (was: Can a determinist believe in ethics) Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 19:27:03 -0500 Jeff-O, you write: >My sense is that most reflective non-determinists of Objectivist persuasion would acknowledge formative events beyond our control, but would say that regardless of what has gone before, all human beings possess a "volitional consciousness" which gives them a crucial final say -- a "trump card," as it were -- with respect to their present behaviors.

You continued:>The premise, then, is that regardless of what we've experienced, what we make of these experiences is solely a matter of choice.

I think you've made an unwarranted leap between having "a crucial final say" and "what we make of...experiences is solely a matter of choice." How did the "solely" get in there? You proceed to argue for the view that **we would not make the choices we make now if it [were] not for what has gone before**.  I, for one, agree with the statement as expressed, but how does it contradict having "a crucial final say"?  Isn't the crucial final say the choice itself?

You also write: >Given the influence of past events, it follows that our present actions are, at least to some considerable extent, a product of past events; and as the product of past events, we cannot "freely" choose our present actions -- if by "free" we mean "sans all the factors past and present that compose us."

I wonder how many people on the list who consider themselves advocates of "free will" *do* mean by "free" "sans all the factors past and present that compose us."   (As you know, I don't myself use the term "free will," but I'm not sure that any of those here who argue for "free will" are claiming that we have so radical a "freedom" as you describe.) Ellen S.

From: "Dennis May" <determinism To: atlantisSubject: ATL: Re: Dennis, I Hope You're Really Determined to Write That Book Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 20:39:09 -0600 Clarification: The objective sub-atomic particles making up your body including your brain act deterministically.  The subjective experience of mental activity is an objectively real process occurring among these deterministic sub-atomic particles.  Your subjective experiences are objectively created by feedback processes in a deterministic environment. Your subjective mind is a part of this objective feedback process.  If your subjective mind were disconnected from this feedback process it would appear ineffectual even in the subjective frame.

For those who are not familiar with where this is coming from, think of what you would have to do to have a machine intelligence learn from the environment.

Michael Hardy wrote: >Ellen Stuttle and I and others have been telling you for a *long*  time that causal efficacy of subjective states of mind is NOT the same thing as volition; that that's a much more basic thing than volition. Cats appear to have no free will, but subjective states of cats' minds nonetheless have effects.

But without causal efficacy the claim of volition is pointless.

>The reason for rejecting the reducibility of consciousness applies as much to cats' minds, which lack volition, as to human minds, which have volition.

Yet I have still never heard a good argument for rejecting reducibility in any case regardless of the purpose for proposing irreducibility.  The best and brightest arguments proposed by those with long lists of credentials still came down to poor math skills and hand waiving.  Those at the end of their prominent careers often seek to solve ultimate truths.

>You seem to be missing Rand's distinction between "objective" and "intrinsic" as well, when you write about the "claim that subjective mental states create objective changes in objective reality."

In a previous post replying to Ellen Moore I explained why Rand's use of the term "objective" was inappropriate.  The sentence I wrote above is my interpretation of what results from the correct usage of the term "objective".  Physics has been very concerned for a very long time about frames of reference and correct interpretations of the subjective and objective.  A mind capable of causal efficacy or the more complex topic volition is changing objective reality using subjective mental states. A very interesting proposition indeed. Mike, implement this causal efficacy in silicon form and make yourself rich creating something out of nothing. Dennis May

From: RogerEBissell To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: epiphenomenalism Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2001 01:19:42 EST Mike Hardy wrote: >An epiphenomenalist is one who holds that the subjective mind is just along for the ride; it has no causal efficacy; it cannot have any effect on anything.  Something without causal efficacy is called an  epiphenomenon.  Epiphenomenalism is the philosophical position that the subjective mind is an epiphenomenon.

Efficacy is power. Causal efficacy is the power to make something happen (i.e., to act). Entities have the power to act. Entities have causal efficacy -- and ~only~ entities have causal efficacy. Causality is the relationship between an entity which has the power to engage in some action or other, and the action which it engages in.

It is a category mistake to refer to something other than an entity as having causal efficacy. However, although mind doesn't ~have~ causal efficacy, it ~is~ the causal efficacy of human beings to engage in certain kinds of action. Mind is a ~capacity~, a ~power~. But it ~is~ a power, it does not ~have~ a power. The human being is what ~has~ the power, and the particular power it has that we are talking about here is the mind.

So, technically speaking, epiphenomenalism in regard to the mind is correct. However, the typical objection is misguided. That objection goes: if the mind doesn't have causal efficacy, then human history would have been the same without mind, which is absurd, so epiphenomenalism must be incorrect. The reply to this objection is: if humans didn't have minds, they wouldn't have the causal efficacy to engage in human action, for while mind doesn't ~have~ causal efficacy, mind ~is~ the causal efficacy of humans to take certain actions.

Now, if someone wants to say that mind is the ~system~ of body parts~ that engage in conscious, human awareness, then I would agree that mind has causal efficacy, just as digestion considered as the system of body parts that engage in processing of food has causal efficacy. Most Objectivists, however, are loathe to identify mind with the body or any one or more of its parts -- a reluctance which I think is a remnant of a "yesterday philosophy" known as the mind-body dichotomy. 🙂 Best to all, Roger Bissell

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: A question for Dennis Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 09:05:10 -0600 Jeff Olson wrote: >Is a hammer less objectively real than the particles which compose it? Wich is its more fundamental identity -- "particle-hood" or "hammer-hood"?

Organization exists on many levels of objective reality.  Sub-atomic particles, metallic crystals, wood or fiberglass fibers, the hammer's geometric construct, etc..  All are objective descriptions.

In relation to a brain you have larger and smaller structures and the overall objective structure as well.  I do not accept the mental apart from the objective physical structure defining it.  Take away the physical structure and nothing remains. Dennis May

From: "Ming Shan" To: jlolson Subject: Re: ATL: An Identity Question for Dennis Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 19:42:15 +0000 >From: "Jeff Olson" To: "atlantis" Subject: ATL: An Identity Question for Dennis Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2001 11:42:04 -0800 >Dennis, Is a hammer less objectively real than the particles which compose it? Which is its more fundamental identity -- "particle-hood" or "hammer-hood"? Jeff

No level or scale of reality is more ontologically privileged than any other;  the problem, therefore, does not lie in the "problem," it lies in the question, or, more accurately, in the supposition behind the question. Therefore, there is no such thing as a thing's "more fundamental identity. The description that an observer uses is a joint product of the characteristic scale he inhabits and the object's characteristic scale. Russell brought up this problem in Problems of Philosophy, when he tried to think about a table in the same way. See ya, Mingshan

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: An Identity Question for Dennis Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 14:39:18 -0600 Mingshan's answer sounds good to me.  The better question is why do you ask the question?  Is there something to be gained by divorcing an article from its constituents? Dennis May

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