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KorbenDallas

Free will discussion with Onkar Ghate and Yaron Brook

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Onkar Ghate and Yaron Brook provided a discussion a few days ago that I liked with the topics free will, Sam Harris, determinism, and materialism.  I'm posting two videos, one is the entire discussion which is just under and hour and the other a shorter clip where Sam Harris is discussed.

Here is the 6 minute Sam Harris clip:


Here is the complete discussion, having more topics:

 

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Sam Harris, like all determinists, states that free-will is an illusion. This implies a separation between self and experience. Sam's thoughts on meditation reinforce this implication.

He is a dualist, though not self-professed. He claims to be agnostic on the metaphysics of it all, but the whole subject is purely metaphysical...

Somehow he seems comfortable sitting in his cognitive dissonance, or the illusion of such.

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The nature of the dualism implied by modern determinism is that there is an observer that can look, but not touch. That although it seems like there is a circuit between the physical self and observer (that they could actually be one), it is in fact a unidirectional connection. The brain does what it does as if there were no experience element to consciousness, while the observer experiences sensations, but also experiences deliberation, action, and effort. This would mean that the observer is completely redundant, which in itself is not a self-defeating argument...

However, if that is the case, there is one MASSIVE flaw in this argument: the brain is aware of the observer.

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Good one, Dg. Mind-body dualism. Mind-brain dualism.

"You are not controlling the storm...you are the storm".

"Your brain has already determined what you will do". Sam Harris.

A scientist has 'proven' the absence of free will with the old fMRI and button-pressing routine...  The last video was invaluable, in order to realise what our society is becoming: those numbers of people who believe it is not ~they~ who choose -- it's their brain. The last presenter asks, rhetorically: Therefore, does anyone deserve gratitude; does anyone deserve blame? He bemoans: nobody recognizes the gravity of these 'discoveries' since men ignore the "inconvenient truth". But we ~do~ recognize how serious this is, just not the way he sees it.. And determinism is on the rise, by those who 'conveniently' believe their brains were "predetermined" that they do such n such -- "so, don't blame me!"

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Dg, I had second thoughts. These determinists aren't dualist of mind-body, they re reductive-materialists. For them, there is only "matter" i.e. the brain.

There's why they won't subscribe to a metaphysics. "New Atheists" like Harris dislike anything which smacks to them of religious sounding mumbo-jumbo.

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I'm curious if you are familiar with Sam Harris' thoughts on spirituality? He is very interested and educated on aspects of Buddhism and has even developed a phone app for meditating. He has also has a book called "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I am sure he is a dualist. I wouldn't call it a mind/body split, as he sees experience completely determined by the brain, but observed by something else.

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As for your observation of the YouTuber "debunking" free-will, I think you are right. Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek had a discussion in which Zizek said something very interesting about the concept of no-self: he brought up a Maoist soldier or police officer who used the Buddhist concept of no-self to rationalize his murdering of innocent people. This soldier's thought process was that if he had no self, then nobody was truly responsible for the murders...

This is such an important aspect of the general philosophy permeating Western culture, it might be the most fundamental belief that allows for someone's behavior to be controlled.

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Stanford Encyclopedia:

"Eliminative Materialism". 

In principle, anyone denying the existence of some type of thing is an eliminativist with regard to that type of thing. Thus, there have been a number of eliminativists about different aspects of human nature in the history of philosophy. For example, hard determinists like Holbach (1770) are eliminativists with regard to free will because they claim there is no dimension of human psychology that corresponds to our commonsense notion of freedom. Similarly, by denying that there is an ego or persisting subject of experience,Hume (1739) was arguably an eliminativist about the self. Reductive materialists can be viewed as eliminativists with respect to an immaterial soul. [...]

 

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The denial of "persisting subject of experience" is pretty drastic. Sam Harris is definitely not on that level.

I don't know how someone can believe that... You wouldn't be able to function at all...

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43 minutes ago, Dglgmut said:

The denial of "persisting subject of experience" is pretty drastic. Sam Harris is definitely not on that level.

I don't know how someone can believe that... You wouldn't be able to function at all...

Eliminativism of self. Yes, you couldn't function, "proper to man". Isn't this relevant to your theme in the other topic, violent people? Mr Hume is No.1 on my personal list. Given there are several influences on modern intellectuals, and my limited reading of them, I think much of what ails mankind's minds today can be traced back to Hume's doorstep.

Also, he was voted No.1 in a survey among philosophy undergrads eight years ago, for: "the most influential dead philosopher". Aristotle, second, Kant, third.

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DG wrote, “I don't know how someone can believe that... You wouldn't be able to function at all...

You would be existing on a stimulus response level.

Ba'al Chatzaf wrote years ago: I have no doubts at all about the existence of volition. I volit at least six times an hour. I just wonder what physical process makes it happen. Everything that exists is physical. end quote

I am sympathetic to the argument that once begun, a chain of logic leads to a particular answer. Yet, hard scientists accept Chaos and The Uncertainty Principles too. So, is Volition in the same category as, “controlled chaos”? Peter

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I may have posted this recently, but it is just very thought provoking. So, the following excerpt made me post it again like an electrical stimulus. Peter

From:  *rationality in Action*, John R. Searle, 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology pp. 64-67. The simplest proof of what I am describing as the special causal and volitional elements of the gap is in the following thought experiment, based on the research of Wilder Penfield. (2)  He found that by stimulating the motor cortex of his patients with a microelectrode he could cause bodily movements.  When asked, the patients invariably said, "I did not do that, you did it" (p. 76).  So the patient's experience, for example, of having his arm raised by Penfield's stimulation of the brain is quite different from his experience of voluntarily raising his arm.  What is the difference? Well, to answer that, let us imagine the Penfield cases on a grand scale. Imagine that all of my bodily movements over a certain period of time are caused by a brain scientist sending electromagnetic rays into my motor cortex. Now clearly the experience would be totally different from normal conscious voluntary action.  In this case, as in perception, I *observe* what is happening to me.  In the normal case, I *make it happen*.  There are two features of the normal case.  First, I cause the bodily movement by trying to raise my arm.  The trying is sufficient to cause the arm to move; but second, the reasons for the action are not sufficient causes to force the trying.

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There was an interesting show on the other night and it described a real condition where people constantly experience deja vu. So nothing ever seems fresh or new. In the show a gifted musician could gain no pleasure from his excellent compositions.  To experience something new he tried doing dangerous things. 

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2 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

I'm curious if you are familiar with Sam Harris' thoughts on spirituality? He is very interested and educated on aspects of Buddhism and has even developed a phone app for meditating. He has also has a book called "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I am sure he is a dualist. I wouldn't call it a mind/body split, as he sees experience completely determined by the brain, but observed by something else.

An atheist-spiritualist? I noticed that a really high intelligence can make anything 'work' (rationalistically). But how he handles his self-contradictions beats me. Then it looks like Harris the spiritualist is a dualist, of the original "Soul/body dichotomy".

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32 minutes ago, Peter said:

I may have posted this recently, but it is just very thought provoking. So, the following excerpt made me post it again like an electrical stimulus. Peter

 

From:  *rationality in Action*, John R. Searle, 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology pp. 64-67. The simplest proof of what I am describing as the special causal and volitional elements of the gap is in the following thought experiment, based on the research of Wilder Penfield. (2)  He found that by stimulating the motor cortex of his patients with a microelectrode he could cause bodily movements.  When asked, the patients invariably said, "I did not do that, you did it" (p. 76).  So the patient's experience, for example, of having his arm raised by Penfield's stimulation of the brain is quite different from his experience of voluntarily raising his arm.  What is the difference? Well, to answer that, let us imagine the Penfield cases on a grand scale. Imagine that all of my bodily movements over a certain period of time are caused by a brain scientist sending electromagnetic rays into my motor cortex. Now clearly the experience would be totally different from normal conscious voluntary action.  In this case, as in perception, I *observe* what is happening to me.  In the normal case, I *make it happen*.  There are two features of the normal case.  First, I cause the bodily movement by trying to raise my arm.  The trying is sufficient to cause the arm to move; but second, the reasons for the action are not sufficient causes to force the trying.

I think a determinist would simply say that the process of raising your arm is not simply the brain signalling for the arm to move, but also the brain activity that would be required for the decision making process.

The example you quoted is a simpler, and contradictory, one to the two experiments brought up in the "Free Will Debunked" video (Benjamin Libet and Chong Siong Soon).

I think this is a metaphysical question. I doubt we will find any physical evidence for free will.

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I watched an episode of Star Trek TNG last night and Wesley Crusher takes a liking to a girl his age. He takes her to the holodeck to experience the wonders of space. Very nice episode. I feel a sense of spirituality when I look at "the heavens." 

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8 minutes ago, anthony said:

An atheist-spiritualist? I noticed that a really high intelligence can make anything 'work' (rationalistically). But how he handles his self-contradictions beats me. Then it looks like Harris the spiritualist is a dualist, of the original "Soul/body dichotomy". 

I'm atheist and spiritual. I just think our spirit is part of the physical world, and that free-will is self-evident.

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1 hour ago, Peter said:

. I feel a sense of spirituality when I look at "the heavens." 

You are not alone in that. "Two things awe me most, the starry skies above me and the moral law within me".

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13 hours ago, anthony said:

You are not alone in that. "Two things awe me most, the starry skies above me and the moral law within me".

And sharks.

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5 hours ago, Jonathan said:

And sharks.

I enjoyed a trip to The National Aquarium up near Baltimore? Beautiful. And I remember watching a pod of whales from a high point of land north of Honolulu. I watched until they were out of sight.  

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On 7/9/2019 at 10:14 PM, Dglgmut said:

I think a determinist would simply say that the process of raising your arm is not simply the brain signalling for the arm to move, but also the brain activity that would be required for the decision making process.

The example you quoted is a simpler, and contradictory, one to the two experiments brought up in the "Free Will Debunked" video (Benjamin Libet and Chong Siong Soon).

I think this is a metaphysical question. I doubt we will find any physical evidence for free will.

To me the efficacy of free will was physically demonstrated (if not 'proven'), by the findings of neuroscience about neural mapping, that one's latest activities of thinking (and physical action) continuously produce fresh neural pathways.So thought, a mental act, makes for physical growth. Therefore, brain and consciousness are inextricably interlinked.

Going back to eliminativism of the "persisting subject of experience", if free will is the "self"-initiation (or "self"-starting) of conscious cognition and actions (objectively, the volitional consciousness), eliminating the "self" is logically also eliminating free will. Fascinating. Does excluding volition cause the exclusion of ego? Or in reverse, does the eliimination of ego produce determinism? Perhaps the two work in tandem. As do and must, ego and volition.

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On 7/10/2019 at 1:22 PM, Jonathan said:

And sharks.

I thought you, or someone, would recognize the Kant quote. It is very expressive, I like it, if it were not for what I know about Kant's "moral law within me"...

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On 7/11/2019 at 11:01 AM, anthony said:

To me the efficacy of free will was physically demonstrated (if not 'proven'), by the findings of neuroscience about neural mapping, that one's latest activities of thinking (and physical action) continuously produce fresh neural pathways.So thought, a mental act, makes for physical growth. Therefore, brain and consciousness are inextricably interlinked. 

Going back to eliminativism of the "persisting subject of experience", if free will is the "self"-initiation (or "self"-starting) of conscious cognition and actions (objectively, the volitional consciousness), eliminating the "self" is logically also eliminating free will. Fascinating. Does excluding volition cause the exclusion of ego? Or in reverse, does the eliimination of ego produce determinism? Perhaps the two work in tandem. As do and must, ego and volition. 

I think Sam Harris would argue that thought is the result of physical processes, and thus it is not the thought per se, but the physical aspect of that thought which creates the change in neural pathways. So again, it is really impossible to prove, within the realm of physics, that free will exists.

As for eliminating the self, I assume you mean the concept of self. In that case I think you're right that eliminating the concept of self, or the ego, makes for much more predictable behavior.

This video was removed from YouTube, but I think it's got some very interesting points that relate to this subject, especially coming from a 14 year old girl. She even mentions hearing from a friend in high school that he was being taught that there is no self.

https://www.bitchute.com/video/OdaUDeAGIck/

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On 7/11/2019 at 11:01 AM, anthony said:

Does excluding volition cause the exclusion of ego?

Yes, over time. Just as exposure therapy gradually reduces the specific form of aversion, voluntarily avoiding something slowly creates the sense in the person that they cannot confront that thing. So the less you use volition the less you believe you are capable of it.

Also, having little willpower left at the end of the day is called ego-depletion.

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