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December 10, 2011


"Determinism should not be confused with self-determination of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction be practically possible - only prediction in theory." Wikipedia

cc, where do "reasons, motives, and desires" come from? Aren't they determined by brain states? How could they be self-determined, if the feeling of "self" is a product of brain states determined by all sorts of stuff: genetics, evolution, experiences, and such?

Einstein famously said, "I will to light my pipe, but I cannot will what I will." (that's close to the exact quote, at least) Just because we feel we're doing something self-determined, doesn't mean it is. Read "Thinking Fast and Slow," a great book, to learn how much we are affected by non-conscious influences.

If I haven't earned the right to be myself because I deserve no such right to begin with, the person I imagine myself to be is a fiction I must either acknowledge, deny the fictitiousness of, or justify by working for progressive causes; for equality.

When I have nothing to lose by realizing I'm nothing but human, it doesn't matter what I do because I have no illusions. But when I have wealth, status, and I belong to a network of similarly privileged people, I have to justify myself by advocating and supporting efforts to bring about fairness and equality. It's the only way an honest person can have it both ways.

"where do "reasons, motives, and desires" come from? Aren't they determined by brain states? How could they be self-determined, if the feeling of "self" is a product of brain states determined by all sorts of stuff: genetics, evolution, experiences, and such?"

Since the feeling of self is persistent rather than occasional, and all we have to go by is the evidence that it's an illusion, until one sees/feels the actuality of its illusory nature, we're carrying on like a jury weighing the evidence presented to us by scientists. Does this mean that one can't realize the full extent of one's illusions; that one must be convicted by a jury rather than seeing for oneself?

Blogger wrote: "This means that rich people -- the 1%, in today's parlance -- don't have a moral justification for refusing to share their wealth with the other 99%. They didn't earn or deserve their riches, because nothing in life ever is earned or deserved."

--First of all, who says that the wealthy don't share their wealth? That statement is absurd. Not even worth further comment.

Since nothing is deserved or earned, why is it even necessary to discuss the matter? Since the rich don't deserve or earn anything, then neither do the poor. So what does it matter who has what if nobody deserves or earns anything?

cc, it isn't possible for anyone to discern the unconscious workings of the brain because it takes consciousness to do so, and much of what transpires in the brain occurs outside of conscious awareness. So no matter how much someone introspects, meditates, or whatever, he or she never will know how the brain produces various conscious illusions. Only scientific research can unravel these mysteries.

tucson, along with determinism, the other aspect of science that Rosenberg cites is an apparent core morality than transcends particular cultures. This is the preference for fairness, equity, and cooperation that I mentioned in the post. So this is why a fair division of society wealth matters to people: evolution, via natural selection, has made it matter. If humans hadn't cooperated and shared resources equitably, we wouldn't have survived as a species.

Blogger B. states:

"So this is why a fair division of society wealth matters to people: evolution, via natural selection, has made it matter."

--But if nothing is deserved or earned then nothing matters because if that is true, then by extrapolation, nothing matters. Why bother to make effort? That is why socialism/communism eventually fail because nothing matters since you get the same benefits no matter what you do or don't do.

If John gets an 'A' for X amount of effort and acomplishment and Julie gets an 'A' for less efort and accomplishment, then John is going to think, "Humm, if Julie gets an 'A' for less effort, why should I put out more effort if my reward is going to be the same?" At this point the system slips into mediocrity and stagnation ultimately resulting in its demise.

While humans survive by cooperation, they are motivated within a cooperative system by competition and the desire to excel. That's what keeps the senses sharp for survival and stimulates the creativity for solving problems and improving living standards. Without the chance to succeed and excel and the corresponding fear of failure, people slump into lassitude and indifference and the system that was set up by the original creative/competitive driving force of human nature and idealism collapses due to the lack of that which motivated its formation in the first place.

So, ambition, succeeding beyond the norm, and rising to the top, really is good for society in general.It is good for there to be those who have more to inspire others to be successful as well.

Of course this means some people are going to have more stuff and perks than others, but isn't that better than a homogenous race of clones, one no different than the other?

If it dosn't happen in nature, why should it happen in civilization? Does every squirrel that gathers nuts have the same number and quality of nuts for winter? What if all squirrels were the same size, neither bigger, smaller, stronger or weaker? All the same sitting on equal piles of nuts with bushy tails the same size and color getting fatter and lazier by the minute.

Should the squirrel that gathers more nuts give his surplus to less competent squirrels? Then natural selection won't work and weak squirrels will continue to thrive keeping their less efficient genes in the gene pool thus seakening the squirrel population in general.

This is why the free market capitalist system is the best and most natural of human systems devised because it most closely resembles the laws of nature and allows the natural (if not manipulated) ebb and flow of market forces and varying conditions that occur in nature like climate, supply and demeand of nuts and weak and strong squirrels to go after them.

As I have no free will, I am compelled by the forces of the cosmos to agree with tucson’s excellent rebuttal that argues – I do have free will.

And at risk of being censored by Brian for submitting expert rebuttal (as he did when I submitted rebuttal commentary by 1,000+ skeptical climate and earth scientists which was never posted to the “Sadly, Jon Huntsman…” piece), here is a rebuttal by Philosopher Peter van Inwagen.

Like Rosenberg, van Inwagen believes that free will and determinism are incompatible. In stark contrast, however, van Iwagen believes free will is required for moral judgment. In his 2009 book ‘The Powers of Rational Beings: Freedom of the Will’ he illustrates this as follows:

1. The moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X implies that you should have done something else instead
2. That you should have done something else instead implies that there was something else for you to do
3. That there was something else for you to do implies that you could have done something else
4. That you could have done something else implies that you have free will
5. If you don’t have free will to have done other than X we cannot make the moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X

DJ, the purely philosophical 1-5 argument shows why science is to be preferred to abstract ideas. Moral judgments are a fantasy, like our assumption that we possess free will. Just because someone can imagine something to be true, doesn't mean it is.

What if the "ebb and flow of market forces and varying conditions that occur in nature" are "manipulated"?

What if some "are motivated within a cooperative system by competition and the desire to" cheat?

Is this part of the "original creative/competitive driving force of human nature"? Or is that another "idealism" which (properly) should "collapse"?

Robert Paul Howard

Definitions and interpretations of FREE WILL are needed here. We are talking of two different FREE WILLS. So, let's get this issue fixed, then continue the discussion.

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