A Critique of Pure Taj, or how I arrived at free will.

Queenmab321

Patron Meritorious
Hume was and I am a compatibilist.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

I don't believe this alone makes me an Existentialist. I'm not saying I'm not an Existentialist. It's possible. It may even be likely. I don't know. I don't think much in terms of movements or schools.

I want to say, TAJ, I really do appreciate your earnestness. I sometimes think Plato's whole project was simply to build a sturdy redoubt against the nihilism of the Sophists. Your in good company. :)

The theologian Paul Tillich (yes, another fucking Exisrentialist) defined faith as an individual's "ultimate concern," i.e., that thing they hold as most cherished or sacred. I want to know what the fuck is going on! I want to draw the most honest conclusions of which I am capable. My ultimate concern is love, of my wife, of my children, of my relatives and friends, coworkers, anyone I happen to meet. But, my second most ultimate concern is to approach the truth.
 
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Are you talking about Wisner?

The Anabaptist Jacques

actually this time around "mikey" is a fictional or perhaps more accurately apochraphyl character

i am fairly reliable in my handling of truth but my poetic liscence is board certified and up to date

i think i came up with a pithy and cogent riposte to hume who like kant and schopenaur and and and... i have not read. shame on me on the one hand OTOH i am not a philosophizing intellectualizer manipulating logical constructs

i'm someone who has had some personal familiarty with some very tall little guys
 

Gadfly

Crusader
Hume was and I am a compatibilist.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

I don't believe this alone makes me an Existentialist. I'm not saying I'm not an Existentialist. It's possible. It may even be likely. I don't know. I don't think much in terms of movements or schools.

I want to say, TAJ, I really do appreciate your earnestness. I sometimes think Plato's whole project was simply to build a sturdy redoubt against the nihilism of the Sophists. Your in good company. :)

The theologian Paul Tillich (yes, another fucking Exisrentialist) defined faith as an individual's "ultimate concern," i.e., that thing they hold as most cherished or sacred. I want to know what the fuck is going on! I want to draw the most honest conclusions of which I am capable. My ultimate concern is love, of my wife, of my children, of my relatives and friends, coworkers, anyone I happen to meet. But, my second most ultimate concern is to approach the truth.

I probably agree with TAJ on this, who would probably agree with this criticism of Compatibilism:

Kant's argument turns on the view that, while all empirical phenomena must result from determining causes, human thought introduces something seemingly not found elsewhere in nature - the ability to conceive of the world in terms of how it ought to be, or how it might otherwise be. For Kant, subjective reasoning is necessarily distinct to how the world is empirically. Because of its capacity to distinguish is from ought, reasoning can 'spontaneously' originate new events without being itself determined by what already exists. It is on this basis that Kant argues against a version of compatibilism whereby, e.g., the actions of the criminal should be comprehended as a blend of determining forces and choice thereby misusing the word 'free'. To take the compatibilist view, Kant proposes, is to deny the distinctly subjective capacity to re-think an intended course of action in terms of what ought to happen.[9]Ted Honderich explains his view that the mistake of Compatibilism is to assert that nothing changes as a consequence of determinism, when clearly we have lost the life-hope of origination.

As I see it, while much of what any person thinks and decides is related to past "causes", there can be decisions and choices that stem from "ideas" and "thought processes" - decisions and choices that are not molded or directly determined by some series of past events.

To me that is the wonder of human consciousness and thought. It can jump entirely free of any past causal chain, and act entirely independently. It is "creative". It can create newly, while disregarding all things of the past.

The aspect of "thinking" that exists in Man does separate us from the rest of nature. This realm involves MANY factors and aspects:

conceptual thinking (language)
imagination
focusing attention (by choice and at will)
concentration
visualization

And, all of these exist to different degrees in different people, and each can actually be practiced and improved upon. These abilities or functions are not necessarily static. And, they are EVOLVING.

What makes humans unique is that we can look around, think about, consider, imagine and choose a course of action that would not necessarily follow usual physical demands of cause and effect.

This ability varies greatly from person to person.

For example, the ability to imagine is rarely practiced and developed in any person. It is done so only in esoteric practices such as the occult, magick, New Age visualization, etc. It seems that a disciplined and well-practiced imagination can influence how reality unfolds. The imagination is just ONE of many functions of a mind that can be developed, and that separates us from the rest of nature. The "human mind" adds a "whole new" aspect to previous notions of cause and effect.

Just as modern researches into quantum physics and sub-atomic particle physics are changing how we think about cause and effect, when finally fully extrapolated to the realm of human thought, the same thing will happen. Views on cause and effect will (probably) eventually have to change.

While how we think about the world and things will probably never be fully accurate as to their true nature, it is true that how we think about the world and things IS always changing. THAT fact has placed me in a situation where I maintain a constant awareness that what I currently think is probably NOT accurate, because I will think something different about it tomorrow. It is an easily observable fact that how humans think about the world is growing and evolving. This may never stop. THAT should get one to question the validity of anything he or she currently believes to be true or not true about the world and the universe.
 
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Gadfly

Crusader
Let me add something else about free will and cause-effect.

Let's say I decide to go on a diet. My stomach and past habits of poor eating work against me.

As Kant might say, the moral choice here is to decide what I OUGHT to do, as opposed to what I am forced, pressured, coerced or "caused" to do.

Of course, what I think I ought to do is tied up with all of my information and ideas about good health, disease, bad health and various theories on nutrition. Some of this information I have is factual, some is opinion, and some is probably entirely fictional. After arriving at a certain state of knowledge about diet and health, I choose how to act.

Now, I guess some people might like to try to say that I was "caused" by my beliefs, study, experiences and knowledge to enter upon a diet. But really, while I am surely influenced in some way by all of those factors, I am not caused to do so, not like a cannon causes the cannonball to follow a trajectory.

For a human being there are so MANY more variables at work than anything that has ever been studied in a laboratory of science. Even if it were all cause and effect, trying to follow all these causal connections and relationships would be impossible.
 

Queenmab321

Patron Meritorious
I probably agree with TAJ on this, who would probably agree with this criticism of Compatibilism:

Kant's argument turns on the view that, while all empirical phenomena must result from determining causes, human thought introduces something seemingly not found elsewhere in nature - the ability to conceive of the world in terms of how it ought to be, or how it might otherwise be. For Kant, subjective reasoning is necessarily distinct to how the world is empirically. Because of its capacity to distinguish is from ought, reasoning can 'spontaneously' originate new events without being itself determined by what already exists. It is on this basis that Kant argues against a version of compatibilism whereby, e.g., the actions of the criminal should be comprehended as a blend of determining forces and choice thereby misusing the word 'free'. To take the compatibilist view, Kant proposes, is to deny the distinctly subjective capacity to re-think an intended course of action in terms of what ought to happen.[9]Ted Honderich explains his view that the mistake of Compatibilism is to assert that nothing changes as a consequence of determinism, when clearly we have lost the life-hope of origination.

As I see it, while much of what any person thinks and decides is related to past "causes", there can be decisions and choices that stem from "ideas" and "thought processes" - decisions and choices that are not molded or directly determined by some series of past events.

To me that is the wonder of human consciousness and thought. It can jump entirely free of any past causal chain, and act entirely independently. It is "creative". It can create newly, while disregarding all things of the past.

The aspect of "thinking" that exists in Man does separate us from the rest of nature. This realm involves MANY factors and aspects:

conceptual thinking (language)
imagination
focusing attention (by choice and at will)
concentration
visualization

And, all of these exist to different degrees in different people, and each can actually be practiced and improved upon. These abilities or functions are not necessarily static. And, they are EVOLVING.

What makes humans unique is that we can look around, think about, consider, imagine and choose a course of action that would not necessarily follow usual physical demands of cause and effect.

This ability varies greatly from person to person.

For example, the ability to imagine is rarely practiced and developed in any person. It is done so only in esoteric practices such as the occult, magick, New Age visualization, etc. It seems that a disciplined and well-practiced imagination can influence how reality unfolds. The imagination is just ONE of many functions of a mind that can be developed, and that separates us from the rest of nature. The "human mind" adds a "whole new" aspect to previous notions of cause and effect.

Just as modern researches into quantum physics and sub-atomic particle physics are changing how we think about cause and effect, when finally fully extrapolated to the realm of human thought, the same thing will happen. Views on cause and effect will (probably) eventually have to change.

While how we think about the world and things will probably never be fully accurate as to their true nature, it is true that how we think about the world and things IS always changing. THAT fact has placed me in a situation where I maintain a constant awareness that what I currently think is probably NOT accurate, because I will think something different about it tomorrow. It is an easily observable fact that how humans think about the world is growing and evolving. This may never stop. THAT should get one to question the validity of anything he or she currently believes to be true or not true about the world and the universe.

What a wonderfully thoughtful post.

There are at least three ways of looking at human consciousness that appear to render your conception of free will less probable (I wish I had the time to discuss all of them). One involves your assertion that humanity, by virtue of its exceptional intelligence, is separate from nature. It appears to me that the discoveries of modern science indicate otherwise. We are evolved from "lower" species of animals. We are animals. Furthermore, evolution is a slow, very gradual process. There is an historical procession of creatures who, initially indistinguishable from modern primates, evolved over the course of millions of years to become human. The question arises, what was the last creature along that line to exist without the unique qualities you attribute to the human species and which was the first to possess them. Humanity is the product of nature. It's possible our immense intelligence is no more than an unprecedented eccentricity, like the peacock's elaborate tail.
 

Gadfly

Crusader
What a wonderfully thoughtful post.

There are at least three ways of looking at human consciousness that appear to render your conception of free will less probable (I wish I had the time to discuss all of them). One involves your assertion that humanity, by virtue of its exceptional intelligence, is separate from nature. It appears to me that the discoveries of modern science indicate otherwise. We are evolved from "lower" species of animals. We are animals. Furthermore, evolution is a slow, very gradual process. There is an historical procession of creatures who, initially indistinguishable from modern primates, evolved over the course of millions of years to become human. The question arises, what was the last creature along that line to exist without the unique qualities you attribute to the human species and which was the first to possess them. Humanity is the product of nature. It's possible our immense intelligence is no more than an unprecedented eccentricity, like the peacock's elaborate tail.

Nice ideas and questions! :thumbsup:

There is no way to prove (or disprove) anything you say. All any of us can do is make a determination based on the "preponderance of the evidence" (which in itself has its own unique problems and difficulties). I do agree that as human beings, we are most certainly in some way a "part of Nature".

Human Being - "human" is the part that aligns with nature, the animal body, the needs, etc. The "being" part refers to the invisible inner aspect that cannot be objectively observed (which can only be observed and experienced by ones own self). These two distinct aspects are built right into the phrase (term, idea) "human being".

We are not "separate from nature", but we are surely markedly different than any other animal or plant, in a very significant and important way - the ability to think (which involves quite a few different qualities, functions and characteristics).

It doesn't matter if the chicken came first or the egg came first, not when it comes to human consciousness and thought. It still does what it does, as it does it. What it does and how it does it functionally, is far more important than what might underlie the functions structurally. People can argue all day long about whether 1) thought and consciousness somehow precede and exist independently of the physical universe, and might even create the physical universe, or 2) thought and consciousness are by-products and accidental side-effects of a randomly evolving universe, rooted only in chemical reactions and electrical activity in a brain. But either way the "inner" attributes such as the imagination, the ability to deduce, the ability to infer, the ability to conceptualize, and so much more bring about changes "out there" in very significant ways. It is these inner and mental functions (or abilities) that I find so interesting.

The theory of evolution is JUST a theory. Many people believe in it, just like some people believe in Scientology, but there is no convincing argument that doesn't assume certain things (that cannot be proven). I have talked to believers in Darwinian evolution who were more fanatical than many Scientologists I knew. I can easily envision scenarios where a human being is not some product of what is normally called evolution. For example, let's talk about what we have experienced, and honestly base possibilities on THAT.

Currently, advances in genetics and other bio-studies imply that scientists will soon be able to "alter species" in a laboratory. The creation of "new species" will probably be achieved in the not-too-distant future. Coupling that with the fact that there is NO evidence of some slow gradual process of evolution that results in new species, the most likely scenario, based on the EVIDENCE, is that life forms were/are engineered by more intelligent life forms. If there were some slow gradual process of evolution, where nature produces huge numbers of accidental mutations along the way, and where only some small few of these mutations manage to succeed in the fight for continuance (survival of the fittest), there would be at least some evidence of all these failed mutations. The total lack of the existence of these "missing links" throws the entire theory into question. New species JUMP onto the scene, seemingly out of nowhere (as if they were dropped by a spaceship).

Of course if you assume that Man as exists on Earth is the latest and greatest of such "evolution", then you won't like this possibility.

I am not saying that God did it. This is NOT an argument for creationism, as usually conceived, but it IS an argument against the theory of evolution. I am saying that the most likely scenario falls along the lines of what happened in the book and movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey. Our "devlopment" was "hot-wired" . . so to speak.

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Yes, most surely, it is possible our immense intelligence is no more than an unprecedented eccentricity, like the peacock's elaborate tail. I just don't see it as probable. But, I won't lose any sleep about it - about not having any real certainty or firm knowledge about this. I am content to know all that, for the most part, I really just don't know. :confused2:

Also, just as a note, even if thought and self-consciousness are accidents, and don't exist separate in any way from the biology within which they finds themselves, these functions of thought are also advancing. Who knows where they may end up? Quantum Physics shows us that basis of physical reality is nothing like how we experience it at this zoomed out level of resolution. The interaction of thought, with matter and energy, in some slow and long evolutionary process, involving quantum effects we know nothing of now - might lead to situations where thought can and does separate itself from and exist from that which originally brought it about.

I like to be familiar with and entertain a great many ideas and theories, but I do not easily slot myself into any "ology" or "ism".

I am currently digging deeply into the subject of philosophy and I had some amazing "cognitions" yesterday about how any mind thinks, reasons and infers from specifics. I saw it happen right in front of my eyes. Again, I am not so concerned with determining the structure that might underlie thought, but I am very interested in the nature, behavior and functions of this realm that finds itself so unique among the rest of Nature. :happydance:
 
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