Thank Your Lucky Cells!


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Bob,

These "higher level laws" are more or less where I am leading to (I think). At least this is in the ballpark.

One cannot say that this is nonsense, then offer lack of knowledge and inconsistent logic as the only alternative, simple observing that logic "breaks down" at a certain level.

If you cannot be 100% positive about something, then you cannot be 100% negative either.

Michael

One hundred percent negative is certain. Just in the other direction. Certainties are binary. Certainly true or certainly false.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Micro-RNAs modulate production of proteins at synapses of neurons,

which is crucial for learning and memory.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id...e/Micromanagers

http://www.izn.uni-heidelberg.de/e/profiles/schratt.html

The Science News article below is good background for the one above. It summarizes the newly discovered functions of RNA, and it gives an overview of the changing biochemical specifics of the concept gene.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id...itle/Genome_2.0

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The 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for their discoveries concerning the structure and functions of the ribosome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of Related Interest:

This year organic ribosomes were created artificially at Harvard.

In my essay Volitional Synapses (Part 3, 1996), I used the regulation of ribosome population within the cell as an example of biological feedback, for setting feedback regulation in its proper relation to the concept of free will (V2N4 192–93).

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Self-explanatorily, I hope, copied from the thread "Rand's notions of Kant and Hume":

Merlin and Stephen,

Apologies for not replying sooner. It's been a hassled week here.

Merlin,

I belatedly realized that I'd stepped into the midst of an ongoing dispute between you and Xray, the history of which I haven't followed and still haven't had time to trace back. I was just startled and puzzled upon seeing you say that plants "make efforts" --

Stones don't make efforts; plants do.

At first I thought that maybe you were thinking of "effort" with the meaning "effective force," but actually that wouldn't make sense at all in trying to distinguish the motions of plants from those of stones (or anything else), since "effective force" is a fictitious force invoked in accelerated frames to get Newton's second law of motion (F=ma) to hold.

Plus you wrote "*make* [my emphasis] efforts," which to me suggests the presence of intention. (I'm thinking of "intention" in the sense of a striving for, a trying for a goal, an actively attempting to achieve a result.)

It's just that sense of "effort" as something *made* which I've come to think of as the "essence" of volition, and as a type of force which only enters the world with the evolvement of motility (hence doesn't apply to plants). My working definition of "volition" for the last couple years or so has been "the effortful molding of activity." I've debated as to whether I think that the force involved really is a new kind of force which breaks with classical mechanics in not obeying Newton's third law (action/reaction) but instead is literally, in part, *produced* by the organism disproportionally to the action/reaction chain. At this stage, I'm seeing no alternative except to bite the bullet and say, yes, I do mean that a break with classical mechanics is required in order to have volitional activity be a real phenomenon.

The issues I raised with my questioning you are well off the track of this thread, so if there's interest in pursuing a discussion, I think we should relocate.

Stephen referenced his article "Volitional Synapses" in post #375. I've been reading -- or re-reading? -- that. I'm sure I've read part of it before, but I'm not having any recall for the material in section I of the first installment ("Conscious Controls"), so maybe I never previously read the whole article. There's a lot I'm finding in the first installment which is relevant to my puzzlings.

Stephen already started a thread on May 1, 2007, "Thank Your Lucky Cells" -- link -- the first post of which quotes from section II ("Psychoneural Relation") of "Volitional Synapses," so I'll copy this post to the end of that thread.

I'll continue there when I have a chance (which might not be until later this week).

Ellen

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Stephen,

Apologies for a semi-"placeholder" post. I haven't forgotten about this thread and my intention to comment here.

I've been "re-reading" your "Volitional Synapses" -- enchanted. I think that I never did read all of the article before, though I'm recognizing parts of it. One way or another, I wasn't following the intricate logic, by which I'm delighted, before.

A problem though: I can't find our hardcopy of the volume with the 3rd installment. Nor can I succeed at getting the on-line copy to print. I keep getting a "no longer available" when I try either to download or to print. Do you have any idea what the computer glitch might be?

Ellen

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Ellen,

I do not know anything about computer websites, except as a user. The Objectivity Archive site is of some form such that printing from it is not possible.

I am sending you the hardcopy issue (V2N4) today. I have been sending subscribers replacement copies for free these many years. Happy to do so.

—Stephen

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Ellen,

I do not know anything about computer websites, except as a user. The Objectivity Archive site is of some form such that printing from it is not possible.

Well, that explains why the document won't print.

I am sending you the hardcopy issue (V2N4) today. I have been sending subscribers replacement copies for free these many years. Happy to do so.

Thanks!

I know I had the complete set as of about a year ago when I was doing some rearranging of bookshelves and I collected various Objectivism-related material so as to have it all in the same place. Either Larry or I must have walked off with that volume subsequently and forgotten to put it back. It's slim enough it could be hiding in any of hundreds of stacks of stuff, and who knows when it might turn up.

Ellen

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Ellen,

I do not know anything about computer websites, except as a user. The Objectivity Archive site is of some form such that printing from it is not possible.

I am sending you the hardcopy issue (V2N4) today. I have been sending subscribers replacement copies for free these many years. Happy to do so.

—Stephen

What you had was probably a digital photograph of the page suitable for JPG files.

See:

http://www.scantips.com/basics09.html

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"Volitional Consciousness," preface

--

"[...] man is a being of volitional consciousness," Rand announces a few pages into Galt's Speech.

The full sentence containing this assertion states:

"The key to what you so recklessly call 'human nature,' the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness."

---

This post is a personal preface concerning my difficulties coming to feel that I understood what Rand meant by "volitional consciousness." For some time, I found the usage bizarre.

In the next post, I'll quote the passage from "The Objectivist Ethics" wherein Rand comes the nearest I think she ever came in writing to explaining her meaning. Then I'll quote a passage from Stephen Boydstun's "Volitional Synapses" which fleshes out the idea in a way which I believe well intuits what she meant.

---

I first read Atlas Shrugged 49 years ago, in June 1961. I had never heard of Ayn Rand before a day near the end of my freshman year at college when a college-dorm friend stomped into my room holding a large book at arm's length, as if to put distance between the book and her torso, and in uncharacteristically peremptory tones (she was usually very polite), said, "Would you *read* this and tell me what it means!" (no "please" and no question-mark sound in the vocal inflections).

I'd previously invited that friend and two others to accompany me to my home in Peoria after finals for a week of horsebackriding. Since my finals all happened to be scheduled early in exams week, I had a couple extra days waiting for my friends to finish their exams. I thought, "Well, I'll start that book ___ is upset about." Within a few pages I wished that I had not invited friends home for horsebackriding. (It's indicative of how mesmerized I was by Atlas Shrugged that I wished I could read instead of ride. Horsebackriding was a huge passion of mine in those years.)

During the week of the riding party, I read as long as I could stay awake after the others had gone to sleep. I was feeling seriously sleep-deprived by the time they left, but I'd gotten by then to John Galt's announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, [...] Mr. Thompson will not speak to you tonight [...]," and I was eager to continue. So, siting cross-legged on my bed facing the headboard, with the book propped open on a pile of pillows, I began to read the speech.

A few pages later, coming to the "volitional consciousness" declaration, I felt jolted upright, my eyes staring, as if I'd been hit in the forehead by the seismic shock of a thunderclap reverberating in the room. "WHAT," I wondered, "does that *mean*??!!" "Volitional consciousness"??? "An 'open secret'"? I'd never heard of this secret, and couldn't imagine "dread[ing] to name" it if I had heard of it. I could make no sense of the words.

I sat for awhile fixatedly staring at the headboard of the bed, especially at a horizontal crack extending across its breadth. (I still have the bed. The headboard still has the crack, which I later dubbed "the volition crack.")

Then I went racing ahead through the speech, skimming as fast as I could, looking for expository clues. Her statements about a choice to think or not to think only deepened my feeling of bewilderment. I charged off to consult our Webster's Unabridged for meanings of "volitional," trying to figure out why she'd use the adjective "volitional" for *consciousness*. At length, exhausted, I gave up and went to sleep.

Then, for days thereafter, I went around trying hard to blank out my thoughts, to not think. How could one *not* think? Impossible, I concluded.

Deciding that I couldn't unravel the mystery, and wanting to see how the story ended, I finished the novel from the speech onward, setting the speech aside for careful reading later that summer. (By then, time was growing short before my mother and brothers and sisters and I were planning to depart for a month in Colorado, so I was too busy getting ready to leave to become immersed then in detailed study of the speech.)

I studied the speech separately at the end of the summer, and re-read the whole book analyzing its structure the following summer -- and remained mostly unenlightened as to what she meant by "volitional consciousness," although I thought I was starting to glimmer a plausible interpretation.

I was still unaware of activities connected with Ayn Rand as philosopher. It was only in spring 1963 that I learned of the existence of NBI and of The Objectivist Newsletter.

In late 1964, The Virtue of Selfishness was published -- the book that includes her talk on "The Objectivist Ethics."

Therein she comes the closest I think she ever came to explaining her usage "volitional consciousness" in writing.

(See the next post.)

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"Volitional Consciousness," Con.

--

Here's Rand from "The Objectivist Ethics":

"The Objectivist Ethics,"

VOS, 13, pb 21

[The page numbers are from the editions referenced in the Lexicon.]

[underscoring added]

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. It is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one's consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality--or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.

When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions. But in the sense of the word applicable to man--in the sense of a consciousness which is aware of reality and able to deal with it, a consciousness able to direct the actions and provide for the survival of a human being--an unfocused mind is not conscious.

Psychologically, the choice "to think or not" is the choice "to focus or not." Existentially, the choice "to focus or not" is the choice "to be conscious or not." Metaphysically, the choice "to be conscious or not" is the choice of life or death.

[....]

Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction.

--

Here's Stephen Boydstun, admirably IMO explicating:

"Volitional Synapses," part 1

Objectivity, V2N1

pp. 118-119

[underscoring added]

Rand characterized man as "a being of volitional consciousness (1957, 1012). By this she meant not only that man is able to direct his consciousness in a multitude of ways, but that he is able to modulate the extent to which he is conscious at all. The concept of consciousness here is a somewhat special, technical one. It seems to me an indispensable concept and one worthy of distinction: If the contents of your consciousness, in the most ordinary sense of consciousness, do not exist (in the way one is supposing them to exist), "then what you possess is not consciousness" (ibid., 1015). One holding the concept oxygen is, in this special sense, more conscious than one holding the concept phlogiston. Similarly, Ivanitsky draws attention to the "mirror symptom" occurring in Alzheimer's disease. "The patient, having seen his reflection in the mirror, thinks that it is another person and begins a prolonged 'conversation' with his imaginary partner. In this case, the patient could not be considered as being in full consciousness, though his speech is formally not disturbed" (Ivanitsky 1993, 181) [1]. Precisely so. Though the patient's speech and thought bears a certain form distinctive to higher-order consciousness, the patient does not attain that consciousness fully for he has not goten the real object (and he has failed at self-recognition, "one of the most intimate and accurate signs of consciousness" (ibid.))

The technical, Randian sense of consciousness--reality consciousness--is the fundamental sense, I expect. Its relation to the more ordinary sense, I suggest, is as follows: All consciousness is distinctive against other sorts of living process on account of its intentionality. As observed by Brentano, Husserl, Sartre, and others, consciousness always refers or is directed beyond. It comes no other way; it always has a content and an attending subject. Across conscious experiences, the content is variable, the subject steadfast (as Leibniz emphasized). It seems that content as such and subject as such exist interdependently, and they are peculiar to the process we call consciousness (Honderich 1988, 78-83) [2]. Now when the content is identically something in reality (just now, this printed sentence), then the conscious episode is of the special Randian genre. It is then reality consciousness. The content-subject relation may in that sort of episode most deservedly be called the object-subject relation (see also Kelley 1986, 83-95, 224-42, and Foss 1988, 529-35) [3&4]

--

Notes:

1. Ivanitsky, A.M. 1993. Consciousness: Criteria and Possible Mechanisms. Int. J. Psychophysiology 14:179-97.

2. Honderich, T. 1988. Mind and Brain. Volume 1 of A Theory of Determinism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

3. Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

4. Foss, J. 1988 The Percept and Vector Function Theories of the Brain. Philosophy of Science 55:511-37.

--

PS: Stephen, I received the issue of Objectivity you sent. Thanks again! I look forward to reading the third installment. There's loads of stuff I want to talk about from the article as time permits.

Meanwhile, a question: It says "to be continued" at the end of the third installment. Is that a mistake, or had you intended to write a further installment?

Ellen

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Yes, Ellen, I had intended to write a final, fourth installment to “Volitional Synapses” (1994, 1995, 1996). That final installment would dig into neurophysiology for determinism and freedoms of CNS molar responses and initiatives. Of particular interest for Rand’s (and James’?) theory that the root of free action lies in free self-controls of thought would be the neurophysiological correlates of self-controls of thought. Then one could ask in what senses they are free, in what senses determined. I may eventually get around to doing that research and analysis and publishing it some place on the web, such as at OL.

I had also intended to write a final, fifth installment to “Space, Rotation, Relativity” to take the account from special relativity to general. Eventually I may yet fulfill that promise as well.

Right now I am finishing the truly final installment of “Nietzsche v. Rand” for my Corner. Finally, one of those topics will be complete.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the years since VS, I noticed that Rand’s fundamental sense of consciousness, reality consciousness—the kind we possess in veridical perception—is called “success consciousness” by contemporary philosophers of perception and mind (such as Michael Tye).

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Biologists at University of Minnesota have produced multicellular organisms from single-cell ones in the lab. UM News

Thanks for this news goes to Greg (Dream Weaver) at Objectivism Online. The link he provides goes to the Science Daily site. They have a nice list of recent advances in evolutionary research listed and linked in the right margin of today’s story.

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Biologists at University of Minnesota have produced multicellular organisms from single-cell ones in the lab. UM News

Thanks for this news goes to Greg (Dream Weaver) at Objectivism Online. The link he provides goes to the Science Daily site. They have a nice list of recent advances in evolutionary research listed and linked in the right margin of today’s story.

A good topic - I had read about it this morning.

Dennis

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Central pattern generator for walking has been implemented in a robot.

Already done 25 years ago (

). :smile: However, ED 209 did poorly on stairs (
). I wonder if this new robot can navigate stairs.

Anyway, very interesting.

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The Language of the Brain

Terry Sejnowski* and Tobi Delbruck

Scientific American (Oct. 2012)

Included at the end of the article in More to Explore is:

Computing with Neurons

Terry Sejnowski

(The introduction in German, lasting maybe five minutes, is about Pauli because Sejnowski is delivering the Pauli Lectures for 2008. From this lecture, OL brains can learn a lot. It begins with honeybee v. supercomputer and gets more and more exciting as we see more and more about what has been discovered about the nervous processing in that honeybee and our own, from a computational perspective.)

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.

Francis Crick Letter Sells for 5.3 Million Dollars

“My dear Michael, Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery.”

What he omitted to write was " and let's make sure Ros* gets no credit"

*Roslyn Franklin who was the brains behind Watson and Crick.

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