Determinism

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Re: Determinism

Postby phyllo » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:14 pm

1] Around and around we go. I suggest that, until either one of us comes upon something new in the other's argument, we just move on. Bottom line: If I appear to you as obtuse as you appear to me, we are entirely wasting each other's time.

Practically everyone has stopped talking to you and now you are relegated to posting quotes from books and articles and reacting to them.

If that's what you want, then add me to the list.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:31 pm

phyllo wrote:
1] Around and around we go. I suggest that, until either one of us comes upon something new in the other's argument, we just move on. Bottom line: If I appear to you as obtuse as you appear to me, we are entirely wasting each other's time.

Practically everyone has stopped talking to you and now you are relegated to posting quotes from books and articles and reacting to them.

If that's what you want, then add me to the list.


Nope, nothing new here.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby phyllo » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:40 pm

I'm glad that's over. :banana-dance:
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Re: Determinism

Postby Exuberant Teleportation » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:45 pm

The idea that life's determined is, at least at the highest levels of mind power, a choice of God. If God needs to create a certain, envisioned future, he can pour out all of his power to make the future that way. But, if all of his goals are achieved, then God may go for unnatural, warped futures, ones that bend the laws, or make miracles in random forms possible. And then, with many folks of a lesser soul radiance, the devil may completely take over, and make most events in the world bad.

There are philosophical systems aimed however at the liberation of the will that, if followed to their ultimate destiny, can shatter the crystal glass, and give us free will potions and elixirs at every corner.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:11 pm

phyllo wrote:I'm glad that's over. :banana-dance:


Well, it could be if you'd let it. Over and again you reach that point with me when you swear off ever responding again. I'm just not worth it. But now, on another thread, you back off again. As long as I commit to bullshit in my posts, you are going to call me on it.

Of course what makes it bullshit is that doesn't overlap precisely with your own.

I lose more and more respect for your intelligence with each passing post. And I can only now assume that you are but one more objectivist I have managed to reduce down to the level of the retort. To huffing and puffing about me.

Look, I'm sorry, but I grow weary of shooting fish in a barrel. And since the days of yahoo groups and ephilosopher and ponderer's guild are long gone on the internet, I can only move on to those I at least feel challenged by.

And, of late, you ain't one of them. :cry:

Not that this isn't but one more existential contraption in turn.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:24 pm

Exuberant Teleportation wrote:The idea that life's determined is, at least at the highest levels of mind power, a choice of God.


And how do we know this? Because you believe it. And how do you go about demonstrating to us that this God does in fact exists? Well, you don't.

Let alone offer us a substantive argument regarding how God and determinism function for all practical purposes in the lives that we live.

You take your spiritual leap of faith to a frame of mind that comforts and consoles you. This thread merely speculates on whether or not nature compelled you to do so. Thus bringing into focus the relationship between God, determinism, nature, the human brain, the human mind and "I".

Still, there's what you believe about this relationship "in your head". And, if we do have some measure of autonomy, the sophistication of your argument in regard to that which is of most interest to me: human interactions given the existential interaction of identity, value judgments and political power.

Care to go there? If so, and we do have some measure of free will, you choose the context.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:38 am

Free Will Is An Illusion, But Freedom Isn’t
Ching-Hung Woo says freedom is compatible with choices being determined.

The nature of the self is obviously complex. Some people have a narrow sense, and some an expansive sense, of the responsible self, and even the same person’s self-perception may change over time. Or for example, a drug addict caught in a crime may claim “My habit made me do it!” In so saying he’s treating his habit as if it’s not a part of him. However, in pondering his responsibility, the jury ought to take into consideration whether his habit was formed with his knowledge or without it (it might sometimes be a result of taking medicine his doctor prescribed). In other words, the jury should assign responsibility for the crime not just on the basis of whether the recent criminal act was itself a completely uncoerced choice, but also on whether some past free acts of the accused contributed to him being in a state where he committed the present crime.


Right, another so-called example of arguing that a drug addict has no free will, but is still the embodiment of freedom. Even though in viewing his addiction as a part of himself, this reflects the fact that in a wholly determined universe he lacked the free will not to.

Then we're back to the aliens in that part of the universe where free will prevails, observing a drug addict compelled by nature to tell the court his addiction is not a part of the "real me" and the jury in turn being compelled by the laws of matter to either believe that this is true or not. Finally, the judge being compelled by her brain matter to pronounce the only sentence she is able to if the man is found as he was ever able to be found. In this case guilty.

And if his addiction was caused by a prescribed medication from his doctor, what here is not destined to unfold given the assumptions that the hard-determinist are themselves compelled to believe?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby Exuberant Teleportation » Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:01 pm

iambiguous wrote:
Exuberant Teleportation wrote:The idea that life's determined is, at least at the highest levels of mind power, a choice of God.


And how do we know this? Because you believe it. And how do you go about demonstrating to us that this God does in fact exists? Well, you don't.

Let alone offer us a substantive argument regarding how God and determinism function for all practical purposes in the lives that we live.

You take your spiritual leap of faith to a frame of mind that comforts and consoles you. This thread merely speculates on whether or not nature compelled you to do so. Thus bringing into focus the relationship between God, determinism, nature, the human brain, the human mind and "I".

Still, there's what you believe about this relationship "in your head". And, if we do have some measure of autonomy, the sophistication of your argument in regard to that which is of most interest to me: human interactions given the existential interaction of identity, value judgments and political power.

Care to go there? If so, and we do have some measure of free will, you choose the context.


We have to envision a system where choices can be selected that were invisible to us immediately but, with penetration, can explode into view. If we go by the physical and experimental, the testable, then we are in bondage to laws, like gravity, or brains over souls, and so forth. True liberation can only be found in the elusive, in the unknown regions. We can't be afraid of the darkness, even if that's where our leap of faith leads. Because 1 thing is clear if we don;t conquer the darkness - we will fail.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Dec 26, 2019 8:06 pm

Free Will Is An Illusion, But Freedom Isn’t
Ching-Hung Woo says freedom is compatible with choices being determined.

Jean-Paul Sartre claimed that Frenchmen were never freer than when France was under the Nazi occupation. How so? Well, the occupation created opportunities for defiance, and whether to risk defiance or not is a significant choice; hence Frenchmen were freer in the sense of possessing a richer menu of significant choices. The wiggle room allowed under coercion, however, is not always large enough for a choice to be meaningfully called ‘free’. Sophie’s choice, in William Styron’s novel of that title, was to sacrifice one of her children or the other to the gas chamber. Reasonable people would regard the alternatives offered to her by the Nazi doctor as not much of a choice at all, and absolve Sophie of any responsibility for the death of the non-chosen child.


Wiggle room? What possible wiggle room could there be in a world where these very real Frenchmen and Styron creating the fictional character Sophie were never able to not choose what nature compelled them to choose.

What does it mean to absolve anyone of anything if everything that anyone ever does is "set in stone" by the immutable laws of matter?

Ever and always: What are the compatibilists saying here about "freedom" in a determined universe that I keep missing? What am I but compelled to presume that I am compelled to keep missing.

How were Nazis and the French Resistance, Nazis and the very real Sophies at the camps not interchangeable in a universe where the Big Bang is said to have set into motion these laws of matter? Again, unless in a way not fully understood, the matter we call the human brain is somehow the exception. Re God or re the very nature of matter itself in a No God world.

Adopting the absence of coercion instead of the absence of determinism as the essence of freedom gets us out of a conflict with the prevalent scientific worldview. Nonetheless, this notion still captures the importance of freedom – as a condition that enables a person to be true to himself, and also as a criterion for judging whether it is fair to hold a person responsible for their actions.


Right, like we are any more free to adopt the absence of coercion than the absence of determinism. We may think "in our head" that we have gotten out of the conflict, but that is only another manifestation of the psychological illusion of freedom. At least insofar as I have come [compelled or otherwise] to construe hard determinism.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Tue Dec 31, 2019 8:03 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

One of the main trends of recent academic culture has been to take freedom and autonomy away from human beings. I don’t mean that professors armed with guns have been locking up their intellectual opponents; I mean that from sociology to philosophy, from psychology to neuroscience, a common theme has been to try to show that our ‘free will’ is either severely limited or non-existent, and that we have much less control over our own lives than we’d like to believe.


No, it's not a main trend, some insist, but the only possible trend. In fact "trend" itself is a misnomer. It implies one path chosen over another in a world where all paths are derived from and lead to the same explanation.

You know, if that is the only explanation.

On the other hand, given some degree of human autonomy, the path I am on will almost certainly never trend. After all, it's the path suggesting that what many deem to be their own "free choice" in regard to moral and political value judgments, is really more a profoundly situated existential "self" rooted in dasein.

Which is more perturbing, right?

It was one of the central beliefs of behaviourist psychology. You might feel as if you are free, making your own decisions and choices, but in reality everything you do, or think, or feel, is the result of environmental influences. Your behaviour is just the ‘output’ or response to the ‘input’ or stimuli which your brain has absorbed and processed. Freudian psychology also emphasized the lack of free will. It suggested that your conscious self is just one small facet of your whole psyche – the tip of the iceberg – and that its activity is determined by your unconscious mind, which includes instinctive and other automatic biological drives beyond your conscious control.


On the other hand...sigh...wouldn't the "central beliefs of behaviourist pschology" not in turn be but a necessary component of the laws of matter? Or was B.F. Skinner the lone exception?

You think that you are free. You feel that you are free. Your gut instinct tells you that you are free. But any and all of these identity fonts are just manifestations of the forces that set into motion existence [and then self-conscious existence] itself.

And here everything comes down to whether or not we have the capacity to grasp that of our own free will. As a species on this planet. With or without an existing God.

And then the part where the conscious mind gives way to the subconscious mind gives way to the unconscious mind gives way to most primitive of all brain functions.

I know: let's not go there. Really, to go there introduces all the myriad factors that makes it harder and harder to be, among other things, an objectivist regarding the behaviors that you have convinced yourself that all other rational and virtuous human beings are, like you, obligated to embrace.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:34 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

....existentialist philosophy and humanistic psychology emphasised human autonomy, asserting that choice is one of the defining characteristics of human life, even if it isn’t necessarily a positive faculty. According to Søren Kierkegaard, the sheer extent of our freedom may induce a state of disorientation and dread, and we make our choices “in fear and trembling.” Similarly, Jean-Paul Sartre believed that the freedom to choose courses of action without fully controlling or even knowing their consequences contributed to human anxiety. In his famous phrase, we are “condemned to be free.” And in reaction to behaviourism and Freudian psychology, humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers asserted that human behaviour is not necessarily determined by our past and present experiences, since we always have the capacity to make choices based on our assessments of current situations.


Of course Kierkegaard, Sartre, Maslow and Rogers were in the same boat back then that we are in now. Having to assume that what they thought or felt about human autonomy -- along with everything else -- involved some measure of free wiil. They chose of their own volition to think what they did rather than opting for something else. On the other hand, it is also true that, to the extent we are free, this freedom in and of itself can become something that, in any particular context, we'd like to, as Erich Fromm once suggested, "escape". And, indeed, who knows how many embrace determinism today as a way to absolve thermselves of all responsibility.

Period.

But: how do we go about determining here if nature itself is not determining everything?

However, in sociology, there was a movement towards the denial of autonomy. Theorists argued that your sense of self is a ‘social construction’ and that people are necessarily formed and exist inside a nexus of social influences which determine their lives. Linguistic theorists also argued that our view of reality is created through and limited by our language. We cannot see beyond the assumptions in the framework of the semantic and grammatical structures we have absorbed from our parents and our cultures.


My point however is that even to the extent this is not true, there are so many thousands upon thousands of variables that go into the making of "I" from the cradle to the grave, there is no realistic possibility that any one individual can pin them all down and configure them into a rational explanation as to why they believe this and not that.

I merely note how much more problematic this is in regard to "I" acquiring moral and political value judgments in the is/ought world. Here, even to the extent determinism is able to be demonstrated as not a factor socially, politically and economically, "I" is no less an existential contraption.

As for language, same thing, Given a world where human autonomy does exist, there is only so far that ones family and ones community and ones historical times can go in sustaining self-serving semantic structures relative to the either/or world.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby Meno_ » Sun Jan 05, 2020 6:03 am

Iambiguous said,


"My point however is that even to the extent this is not true, there are so many thousands upon thousands of variables that go into the making of "I" from the cradle to the grave, there is no realistic possibility that any one individual can pin them all down and configure them into a rational explanation as to why they believe this and not that."


Yes, but from a cradle to a grave, more and more reification enter, and the deterministic sphere overcomes gradually with the players of appearent freedoms driven by free will.

That makes sense, because, finally the two spheres almost completely encompass each other.

My point is that determinism is no longer an either or situation, since WW2, when ( and this is the philosophic dynamic behind it, 3 political situations struggled to achieve a solution: social communism, national socialism, and capitalism.

The reduction into logical exclusion, is pairing the communist and socialist framework to defeat the synthetic-national socialism.

That exclusion, absolutely trying to exclude one from the other- reduced socialism and capitalism from an absolute interior national from international perimeters.

The ideal of inferiority of nationalism presented the pure dialectic toward materially relevant conflict between capital and the modes of producing the social antithesis of it.

The search for meaning then, took center stage, utilizing the ideas which would dominate modern philosophy, replacing dialectical European significance, and transferred it to the Victor-the Anglo Saxon apology, which has very little elements of doubt.

It was a transcription of political philosophy toward the question of which process is most significant.

The signifiers became the two surviving competitors, the communist international, and the so called western democratic nations.

Utility and pragmatic function against social dialectical materialism remains arch rivals.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:24 am

Einstein’s Morality
Ching-Hung Woo looks at the many facets of Albert Einstein’s approach to ethics.

People who meet this logic for the first time tend to become alarmed – what happens to our vaunted freedom if we have no free will? There is actually no need to be alarmed if we distinguish between two kinds of freedoms: a freedom from prior causes, and a freedom from coercion.


Here we go again, he thought. He being me of course. Is this what folks like peacegirl are aiming to communicate to me? My point then being that we distinguish them only as we were ever able to distinguish them. Given that the human brain is just another necessary component of the laws of nature.

The idea of ‘absolute free will’ supposes that our choices are not determined by prior causes; but few of us actually think of freedom in that way. Rather, we feel a loss of freedom when we are coerced, that is, when we are forced to do something or be in a certain state against our values.


Is anyone at all actually foolish enough to believe in "absolute free will"? This would seem to entail one comprising the only entity in the universe. You and nothing else that could possibly impact on what you think, feel, say and do. On the other hand, in a wholly determined universe as some [compelled or not] posit it, feeling a loss of freedom is just another inherent manifestation of the psychological illusion of freedom.

There are certain likes and dislikes that a person regards as characterizing him. This set of values may change with time, but they are stable in the immediate term. Hence it makes sense to redefine ‘free choice’ as a choice compatible with a person’s self-affirmed set of values.


As though "I" over time and the immediate "I" are somehow two different entities in a universe where "I" is of, by and for nature inside and out. From the cradle to the grave. And then all the way back to star stuff.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby Exuberant Teleportation » Mon Jan 06, 2020 6:28 am

iambiguous wrote:As though "I" over time and the immediate "I" are somehow two different entities in a universe where "I" is of, by and for nature inside and out. From the cradle to the grave. And then all the way back to star stuff.


And this deepest, most profound, and sacred of cosmic connections, tying us all the way back to elements spanning eons of years of evolution should make us feel gratitude and awe towards the supreme creative powers of the universe.

The constants of life are positioned in exactly such a way that we can be forged. Alter this absolute stunning elegance in physical laws only slightly, and the blueprint for life gets sucked into the black hole of oblivion.

And you would have to think that, 1 day, before the big chill, that we will go back to brane stuff, wouldn't you say?
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:15 pm

Einstein’s Morality
Ching-Hung Woo looks at the many facets of Albert Einstein’s approach to ethics.

Einstein showed by his words and actions that he accepted this qualified usage of the language of free will: the individual freedom that he championed throughout his life against authoritarianism fits the description of ‘freedom from coercion’.


Providing of course that nature itself is not seen to be "coercing" everything that has ever been described by anyone at all. And what is most intriguing here is the word "coerce" itself. How can one think of it without imagining some entity able to actually do the coercing? And that would seem to entail a reason to. And that would seem to suggest some purpose behind the reason.

Matter ontologically is one thing. Matter teleologically...is that something else altogether?

The conundrum then comes to revolve for some of us around how and why and when matter was able to reconfigure itself into being conscious of all this in and of itself. It's like trying to imagine the machines creating the terminators with an intelligence different from the intelligence behind the human minds creating the films.

It is interesting that Einstein’s colleague and biographer Abraham Pais wrote in Subtle Is the Lord: the Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982) that if he were to give a one-line description of the man, he would say that Einstein was the freest person he had ever met. Pais went on to explain that he meant Einstein appeared closest to being the master of his own destiny. Clearly this notion of freedom refers to being free from coercion rather than being free from prior causes. In short, Einstein valued individual freedom, but did not lose sight of the transient and limited nature of the self.


Back again to this mysterious distinction between nature either coercing or not coercing me to type these words and nature, embodied in my brain, either compelling or not compelling me to type them based on the necessary components embedded in prior causes inherently embedded in the laws of matter.

Where is this distinction pinned dlown definitively?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby Aegean » Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:25 pm

Determinism = code for god's will.
Many minds have updated the Abrahamic lingo, making them feel enlightened and progressive...as if they've grown out of the childish superstitions of the past.

Nature can also be understood as a one-god, i.e., omnipotent, omnipresent, absolutely ordered, absolutely determining.
It's Abraham's god without the anthropomorphism.
No need for the primordial sin narrative, to produce discipline via shame.
Markets take over this role.
A more sophisticated method of control.
Shame before the State, your peers. How to live up to the Jonses; how to be appealing to the majority, selling self as another product.
Poverty is the new shame.

This clarifies the relationship between positive nihilists - with their offering of alternative occult realities - and pure nihilists who apply the formidable power of nil to annihilate all that is displeasing.
One fabricates worlds out of nothing - suing semiotics - and the other exposes the word-game, returning to his indifferent cynicism.
Both ignore the world around them, because most of them are enshrined within cosmopolitan, man-made environments, surrounded by man-made fabrications.
Reality is on the periphery - ignored, forgotten...and still unyielding to human mind games.
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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:40 pm

Aegean wrote:Determinism = code for god's will.
Many minds have updated the Abrahamic lingo, making them feel enlightened and progressive...as if they've grown out of the childish superstitions of the past.

Nature can also be understood as a one-god, i.e., omnipotent, omnipresent, absolutely ordered, absolutely determining.
It's Abraham's god without the anthropomorphism.
No need for the primordial sin narrative, to produce discipline via shame.
Markets take over this role.
A more sophisticated method of control.
Shame before the State, your peers. How to live up to the Jonses; how to be appealing to the majority, selling self as another product.
Poverty is the new shame.

This clarifies the relationship between positive nihilists - with their offering of alternative occult realities - and pure nihilists who apply the formidable power of nil to annihilate all that is displeasing.
One fabricates worlds out of nothing - suing semiotics - and the other exposes the word-game, returning to his indifferent cynicism.
Both ignore the world around them, because most of them are enshrined within cosmopolitan, man-made environments, surrounded by man-made fabrications.
Reality is on the periphery - ignored, forgotten...and still unyielding to human mind games.


Here's my usual predicament...

I can criticize him yet again for taking the discussion back up into the clouds of abstraction. And yet here and now I'm of the opinion [compelled or not] that he was never able not to.

Ever and always I am back to the gap between what any of us think about this and all that would need to be known in order to be absolutely certain. And, even then, only by assuming that human autonomy does exist in some measure.

Isn't it basically just another intellectual equivalent of Beckett's, "I can't go on. I'll go on."

Until a definitive resolution is finally arrived at by scientists and/or philosophers and/or theologians, all we have are speculations of this sort. Some of us [compelled or not] more drawn to or repelled by them than others.

This is it though, isn't it? As far as we can go.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:21 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Gene Theory & Neuroscience

Modern genetics and neuroscience often deny our autonomy in a much more direct way. According to geneticists such as Richard Dawkins, we – our bodies and minds – exist as ‘carriers’ for our genes, to enable them to survive and replicate. Everything we do is determined by and is on behalf of our genes. Our behaviour is either the result of our own instinctive – and therefore unchosen – desire to increase our reproductive success, or else is the instinctive result of traits selected and developed in our ancestors because they provided some survival advantage.


Here what interest me is the gap [if there is one] between Dawkins making his argument and being compelled to acknowledge to himself that he was never able to not make it other than as nature compels it to be made. Or if, instead, there is some component of reality inside his brain/mind that allows him to imagine that this is not the case. After all, what is the point of bringing up our ancestors here when they just like we are all necessarily inherent components of the laws of matter.

So the reason why some of us feel driven to gain success in fields like politics and creativity, is because success makes us more attractive to the opposite sex, and so increases our reproductive possibilities; or, for example, according to Steven Pinker, the reason we find lush countryside landscapes beautiful is because for our ancestors such vistas represented a plentiful supply of resources to foster their survival, so nature selected those who were drawn to such landscapes.


Stuck again. To me, this is expressed as though [somehow] we do have some degree of autonomy in making attempts to be attractive to the opposite sex. Otherwise even the argument articulated by Steven Taylor above in regard to this is just one more intrinsic element encompassed in matter doing its thing as the laws of matter compel it to. How in fact can anything we think, feel, say and do escape/transcend its innate, organic destiny? And our ancestors found vistas as they did because their ancestors did going back to the earliest humanoids going back to the first instance of life on earth going back to the manner in which lifeless matter became living matter going back to when and where and how and why matter came into existence itself.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:22 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

In much neuroscience, brain activity – that is, the behaviour of neuronal networks and brain chemicals – play a similar causal role to genes. Your moods, your desires, and your behaviour, are determined by the levels of various brain chemicals such as serotonin or dopamine, or by the automatic activation of neuronal networks which predispose you to certain traits or impulses. If you feel depressed, it’s because of a low level of serotonin. If you are psychopathic, it’s because areas of your ventromedial prefrontal cortex are less active than normal. If you are a Born Again Christian, it’s because you have a smaller than normal hippocampus. (The latter two are actual neuroscientific hypotheses.)


On the other hand, the part where we are stuck still revolves around the extent to which these natural interactions explain everything that we think, feel, say and do. Ah, but at least we live in an age where we have accumulated an enormous amount of actual knowledge about these brain functions. And yet the more we know, the more frustrating it is in having to acknowledge all that we don't know yet. For many, this then thumps into the psychological components of "I" that refuse to accept anything less than that which allows them to insist that what they think they know is what all the rest of us should think we know too.

These versions of both contemporary gene theory and neuroscience are what might be called ‘can’t help’ approaches: we ‘can’t help’ being depressive, psychopathic, religious, racist, polygamous (if you are a male), and so forth, because our genes have programmed us to be so, or because we have been biologically burdened with the brain chemistry or neural networks associated with that behaviour.


Yep, that's the way some see it. But then for folks like me, they were never able to not see it that way. Only folks like me are the first to admit that how we think we see it may or may not be how it actually is. And then the depressing acknowledgment that, in turn, we will tumble over into the abyss that is oblivion. None the wiser.

And, really, how to wrap your head around that?!
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:40 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Harnessing Free Will

What is the root of these assaults on our autonomy? Why do intellectuals and scientists feel such a strong impulse to show us that we are powerless, controlled by forces beyond our own control?


Some intellectuals, some scientists. Just as some intellectuals, some scientists insist on supporting the opposite conclusion. The impulse however is either more or less under our control. Or is only the illusion of control.

Perhaps it’s an unconscious desire to abdicate responsibility. Perhaps the modern world has become so complex and stressful that scientists and philosophers feel an impulse to retreat from responsibility, to pretend that we have no control over the chaos.


There's no getting around this for some. We just don't know if there was literally no getting around it for them. But who hasn't wished for something like this to explain away a set of circumstances that are pulling them down...that they can then just explain aways as "beyond my control"?

I wouldn’t go so far myself, but a conspiracy theorist might argue (and some already have) that this autonomy-denial is a form of oppression – an attempt by the intellectual elite to keep us down, convincing us that we are powerless so that we won’t challenge their authority.


How about the political and economic elite? It is always in their interest to sustain any and all habits that inhibit citizens from actually exercising their political and economic will. And, in the end, don't we have to roll the dice [compelled or not] and act as though we do have some measure of autonomy. It's maddening [for some[ not to know for certain, but there it is: the human condition.

More rationally, the rash of free will denial may be related to the desire to prove that there is no ‘self’. Free will is, of course, one of the strongest features of the self. If you believe that inside our mental space there is ‘no one there’ – that our sense of self is ‘just an illusion’, which itself is a mere side-effect of neurological processes – then you have to believe that the self’s free will is an illusion, too.


All I can come back to here is that only utter fools [in an autonomous world] would/could manage to actually think themselves into believing that the either/or world self is just an illusion.

Of course there is a self here. It eats and drinks and has sex and plays sports and goes to school or work and interacts with others in countless ways that clearly revolve around a substantive and substantial Me.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:38 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Yet no matter what the motivation, one is tempted to reply to these assaults on free will in the same way that the eighteenth century author Doctor Johnson responded to George Berkeley’s arguments that matter was a mental phenomenon: he shouted “I refute it thus!” as he kicked a stone.


Like that definitively refutes Berkeley's assumptions. Or, "I think therefore I am". Like that necessarily excludes someone in a Sim world being programed to think that. Nothing is really either established as true or refuted as false until everything and anything is agglomerated into an explanation for existence itself. Yet even here someone convinced that they are cognizant of this may well be compelled to by someone or something beyond his or her grasp.

Johnson could have used the same method to illustrate the denial of determinism and his capacity for free will. It’s difficult for anyone to persuasively argue that we don’t have free will when our everyday experience is that there are always a variety of choices of thoughts and actions in front of us, like a pack of cards spread for us to pick from, and we feel we have the freedom to choose any of them, and to change our minds at any point. After all, whenever you read a book or listen to a lecture claiming that there is no such thing as free will, you’re free to close the book, or to throw a rotten tomato at the lecturer.


This merely takes me back to dreaming. I don't know about your dreams but in mine "I" am utterly convinced I am confronted with a "variety of choices of thoughts and actions in front of me".

Last night I dreamed myself back into to a set of circumstances involving an old childhood friend, Roger Rasnake. We were involved in some construction project that we were working on for free. I then insisted that we ought to be paid for what we did. Back and forth we went while continuing to work. Everything was vividly real including my confrontation with others in my family.

Yet the whole "experience" was created entirely in my brain, by my brain...for my brain?

Though, sure, there must be an important distinction between my "I" in that dream and my "I" here and now choosing to types these words rather than others.

But who out there in science, in philosophy, in theology has actually been able to demonstrate it such that there is no other possible explanation but free will in the human species.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sun Feb 02, 2020 7:52 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

One of the problems is that scientists, and philosophers, often tend towards absolutism. Geneticists may argue that behaviour is completely determined by our genes; neuroscientists that behaviour is completely determined by brain activity; social constructionists and behaviourists may argue that social and environmental forces completely determine our behaviour, and so forth. But in my view, it’s more sensible to be democratic than absolutist: it’s likely that all of these factors have some influence on our behaviour. They all affect us to some degree. But none of them individually, nor all of them together, are completely dominant.


Of course one might note that arguing "all of these factors have some influence on our behaviour" is in itself just another attempt at an all-encompassing explanation. But the fact that so many of us do seem compelled [naturally or not] to fit everything into one overarching account speaks volumes regarding how the brain seems to function. And that makes sense. We go about the business of doing so many different things it's got to provoke us from time to time into thinking about the existence of something that fits everything together into what in some mental capacity is thought to be an ontological and teleological TOE.

It could be God, it could be nature, it could be something that no one has [so far] even thought of as existing at all.

I believe the same is true of free will. The conscious self is not an authoritarian dictator; but it isn’t a slave either. Rather, our free will is another factor or force amongst this chaotic coalition of influences.


Then back to this: He [like you and I] have no way in which to determine beyond all doubt that the "conscious self" either embodies or does not embody merely the illusion of free-will. Does nature dictate everything we think, feel, say and do? Or did nature's matter actually succeed in evolving into an autonomous capacity to question its own existence?

This part:

The upshot of that is that no matter what social and environmental forces influence me, no matter what genes or brain structure I’ve inherited from my parents, I’m in here too, and I can decide whether to kick the stone or not, and, generally speaking, how I react to the world.


Sure, maybe. But what is this but one more presumptuous assertion that it is so. How does this particular author go about producing the hard evidence necessary to convince the world that there could be no other explanation?

Or, that, even should someone seem to accomplish this, that this too is not only as it ever could have been?

How would we ever be able to detach ourselves from something we a clearly a part of in order to gain that distance said to be crucial in establishing that much sought after objectivity.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Sat Feb 08, 2020 7:47 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Freedom Strikes Back

Interestingly, some popular neuroscientific ideas about the limitations of free will are being contradicted by neuroscience itself. For instance, recent research has shown that rather than being fixed, our brain structure is very flexible, and continually changing: the brain is not hard-wired but soft-wired. The relatively new field of neuroplasticity shows that practicing habits or behaviours brings real physical changes to the parts of the brain associated with those activities. For example, if you begin to learn to play the piano, you will develop more neural connections, and perhaps, through the process of neurogenesis, even more brain cells themselves, in the parts of the brain associated with motor activity – the motor cortex and cerebellum – and musical perception – in the temporal lobes. Or if you meditate regularly for years, you will develop more ‘gray matter’ in the areas associated with attention, concentration and compassion – in the frontal lobes. So in this sense, rather than being completely controlled by our brains, we have control over them.


Once again, though, for some, they might point to this in exchanges here to bolster their contention that human brains are capable, on some level, of freely choosing this rather than that. But all they can do is to fall back on their own "experts", knowing that in all likelihood there are "experts" on the other side claiming just the opposite.

Every morning you would get up, Google "neuroplasticity" -- https://www.google.com/search?source=hp ... JD_3GHfFUA -- and note the latest.

On the other hand, if these folks ever do come to a definitive conclusion that, beyond all doubt, human beings are able of their own volition to embody options, wouldn't it be talked about everywhere on every scientific and news media outlet?

So: Do we really have control over our brains here or is that too merely the brain "tricking" us into believing that this is the case. Why? Because that is still the only option available to the brain itself as matter inherently in sync with its own laws.

That complex relationship between the brain precipitating experiences and than the experiences themselves precipitating changes in the brain:

The field of epigenetics shows that the genetic structures we inherit from our parents don’t remain fixed throughout our lives either, but are altered by our life experiences, so that the biology we pass on to our children will be different from that we inherited. For example, experiments training mice to develop an aversion to a particular smell have shown that this aversion was genetically passed down to their offspring, who became two hundred times more sensitive to the smell than other mice. This new behaviour is reflected in changes to both the genes and brain structure of the mice. Similarly, in human beings, studies show that twins exposed to very different environments and experiences show striking differences in their DNA in later life. Or, in a Swedish study of the descendants of a population which endured famine in the Nineteenth Century, it was found that the men had inherited a much stronger than normal resistance to cardiovascular disease, whilst those women descended from women who had been exposed to the famine while in the womb had a shorter than average life span.


Sure, you can start with nurture and work back to the nature, or start with nature and work back to nurture. But how is it determined "once and for" what 1] first set it all in motion at birth and 2] what then sustains it all the way to the grave.

There may well be a team of scientists out there that have in fact been able to fuse the two approaches into an utterly irrefutable answer.

If so, link me to them.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:38 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Increasing Free Will

I would argue that one of the most important tasks of our lives is to develop more free will and autonomy. In fact, a primary way to develop positively and begin to live more meaningfully is to transcend the influences of our environment to become more oriented towards who we authentically are.


See how this works? The author merely assumes that his own premises here are by default the starting block. We actually are free to develop more autonomy! You merely cherry pick the science and -- presto! -- you too can be more authentic.

As for the influences of our environment, don't they go all the way back to the day we are born? Don't they cover years and years of hard-core indoctrination in the family, the community, the state, the culture, the historical parameters of "I"?

And who then gets to decide which set of behaviors best exemplify a positive development toward a more meaningful life?

With or without autonomy, "I" is a profoundly problematic vantage point

As humanistic psychology suggests, we have innate potentials and characteristics that are independent of external factors, even if this aspect of us may be so obscured from us that we can barely see it. To humanistic psychology, our task is to allow that part of us to express itself more fully – which often means overriding adverse cultural and social influences.


Or, perhaps: As humanistic psychology is compelled to suggest, we have innate potentials and characteristics that are independent of external factors, even if this aspect of us may be so obscured from us that we can barely see it.

And this cries out for a context in which explore all the factors this might include, Again, even assuming some measure of autonomy. After all, what can possibly be more complex than human psychology at work in interactions revolving around identity, value judgments and political power? And, at this intersection, "adverse cultural and social influences" are all over the map. God or No God. Liberal or conservative. Nature or nurture.

The same thinking applies to genes and brain chemistry too. They may predispose us to certain types of behaviour, but we can resist those influences, to control and even re-mould our behaviour. It’s by no means easy, but we can overcome our programming.


And how does he actually demonstrate this? Well, he doesn't of course. He doesn't cite an experience that he had in a particular set of circumstances. He doesn't note a clear-cut distinction between memetic and genetic influences. He doesn't expound on how exactly he managed to resist these influences in order to remold his own behavior so as to override the adverse cultural and social influences that curtailed him before.

Let alone examine this pertaining to actual behaviors that clash in regard to conflicting goods. It's all just contained in a world of words.

Like this one:

We don’t have to blindly follow the environmental, genetic and neurological instructions we were born with. We can with resolve increase the quotient of autonomy with which we were born, to the extent that it becomes more powerful than our genetics, neurology, or the environment.


A classic approach of the "serious philosopher".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: Determinism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Feb 19, 2020 7:31 pm

Reclaiming Freedom
Steve Taylor says of determinism: “I refute it thus!”

Paths To Autonomy

Perhaps many people do seem to be largely the products of their environments and biological inheritance. But I would argue that whatever the term ‘greatness’ means, it is usually manifested by those who have exercised their autonomy to a considerable degree, to significantly free themselves from external influences. These are usually people who have used their strong will-power to harness their autonomy and self-discipline to expand themselves and develop a high level of skill and expertise, to actualise their innate potential, and so become more than the sum of their influences.


And then around and around and around we go. If you take your intellectual leap to free will then you are convinced that you have of your own volition "exercised your autonomy". If you take your intellectual leap to determinism then nature has compelled you to believe psychologically that you have of your own volition "exercised your autonomy".

Then what? Then the link to one or another scientist that is either compelled by nature or not to confirm what you are either compelled by nature or not to believe is true.

Either the determinists are compelled or not to refute the arguments of the free will advocates, or the free will arguments are compelled or not to refute the arguments of the determinists.

As though someone out there has finally pinned this down once and for all. And, as though, in turn, that isn't embedded in whether or not, if someone has, we are even aware of it.

And that's before we get to all intelligent life on other planets that sans worm holes we will never, ever hear the arguments of.

Now, how is that not the boat [existential or otherwise] that we are all in?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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