4 of 6
4
Is there true charity in the world?
Posted: 10 November 2013 11:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6103
Joined  2009-02-26

Lois,

W4U,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_egoism
I believe this argues for my citing the “mirror neural network” as an important factor in our motivation to help.

That may be true, but it is also another factor the source of which we don’t know.  We may feel the impulse,fears and vulnerability without knowing where they come from, what is creating them and also be unable to control them. Yet they drive our decisions.
Lois

IMO, the response system of sentient living things are two fold;

a) a real physical response from chemical reactions to stimuli of “hardwired neurons”. i.e. actual physical (chemical) response to environment.

b) an empathic physical response from chemical reactions of “educated neurons”, i.e. a mirror response (mental simulation) to observing a physical response to environment by another living thing.

a) is genetic,

b) is learned from experience. Once you have burned yourself on a hot stove (a deterministic event), your body will produce a mirror response (chemical reaction) of pain just by observing someone else burn themselves, which to you is not a physical deterministic event.

In addition, Iacoboni has argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.[7]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron

Surely, our emotional decision making must be related to both.

And in that context, Darron, one might argue that, having been burned once created the “potential” for one to experience empathic emotional responses.  This latent ability seems to be absent in people with autism, which apparently is a disorder of the mirror neural system.
2004.gif        mocantina.gif

[ Edited: 11 November 2013 03:43 AM by Write4U ]
 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 November 2013 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4540
Joined  2007-08-31
Occam. - 10 November 2013 06:25 PM

At the moment I can’t remember the name of the excellent physicist who said, “If anyone says they understand quantum mechanics, they don’t.” 

Take your pick:

  * Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it. Niels Bohr.
  * If you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it. John Wheeler.
  * Quantum mechanics makes absolutely no sense. Roger Penrose.
  * It is safe to say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. Richard Feynman.

From here.

See also here.

Interesting to see that you got at the problem of free will here…

Rupert, there are a few Megathreads about determinism, free will and responsibility in the philosophy section. If you are interested…

 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 November 2013 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

Thanks, Darron and GdB.  And Darron was right, I was thinking of Richard Feynman.

Occam

[ Edited: 11 November 2013 12:34 PM by Occam. ]
 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29
Lois - 10 November 2013 09:55 PM

I’ve heard similar arguments before, but if there is randomness in the universe, it does not support the idea of free will. Randomness would just be one more factor we have no control over.

Previously we were arguing about whether I was right in thinking that I correctly understood my motivation for one specific action I performed. I think that questions about free will are a bit of a different issue.

I don’t believe in free will in the libertarian sense but I think that the notion of a voluntary choice has some application in the real world.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1400
Joined  2009-10-21

Sorry I missed out on this thread so far, I’ve been too busy chasing down conspiracy theorists.

I have a hard time reconciling determinism with a lot of the language that has developed in a world that is built around free will. A question like “do I understand my own motives” might not be well formed in a world where determinism is completely understood. Thing is, it’s not completely understood. So Lois’ statements about altruism not existing might be correct, but only if some of the neuroscience we are just now developing bears out.

Meanwhile, I think such statements fall into the “it’s just” fallacy. There’s a more technical name for it, something about component parts. An example would be, “Yeah, he’s a womanizer, it’s just his genes.” Maybe his father was a womanizer too, and maybe there is a genetic component, but claiming that one factor is THE factor, to the exclusion of all others, is a fallacy.

I think we have a language problem that will only be corrected with time. Science will have to supply us with explanations of just what is going on in our heads and those explanations may take a while to sink in. We still say “think with your heart” knowing the meaning is symbolic. Saying, “I felt is was the right thing to do”, may some day be just as anachronistic.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29
Lausten - 12 November 2013 01:38 PM

Sorry I missed out on this thread so far, I’ve been too busy chasing down conspiracy theorists.

I have a hard time reconciling determinism with a lot of the language that has developed in a world that is built around free will. A question like “do I understand my own motives” might not be well formed in a world where determinism is completely understood. Thing is, it’s not completely understood. So Lois’ statements about altruism not existing might be correct, but only if some of the neuroscience we are just now developing bears out.

Meanwhile, I think such statements fall into the “it’s just” fallacy. There’s a more technical name for it, something about component parts. An example would be, “Yeah, he’s a womanizer, it’s just his genes.” Maybe his father was a womanizer too, and maybe there is a genetic component, but claiming that one factor is THE factor, to the exclusion of all others, is a fallacy.

I think we have a language problem that will only be corrected with time. Science will have to supply us with explanations of just what is going on in our heads and those explanations may take a while to sink in. We still say “think with your heart” knowing the meaning is symbolic. Saying, “I felt is was the right thing to do”, may some day be just as anachronistic.

Seems to me that the question of whether determinism is the truth, and the question of whether people have good insight into what their real motivations are, are two separate questions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1400
Joined  2009-10-21
Rupert - 12 November 2013 02:01 PM

Seems to me that the question of whether determinism is the truth, and the question of whether people have good insight into what their real motivations are, are two separate questions.

Can you expand on that? What I’m saying is, when we ask “what’s my motivation” or “is my motivation truly what I believe it is”, then you must first ask “how do you know”? If we rely solely on our internal dialog, no matter how introspective and honest we are with ourselves, we are still working within the framework of what we are able to know about our own thoughts. I’m saying that’s a limited framework. Even including what others know about us is still limited.

It’s not so limited that we can’t function. Obviously we’ve adapted pretty well with as much self-awareness as we have. But if we take determinism seriously, it has profound impacts on how we relate to one another.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29
Lausten - 12 November 2013 02:47 PM

Can you expand on that? What I’m saying is, when we ask “what’s my motivation” or “is my motivation truly what I believe it is”, then you must first ask “how do you know”? If we rely solely on our internal dialog, no matter how introspective and honest we are with ourselves, we are still working within the framework of what we are able to know about our own thoughts. I’m saying that’s a limited framework. Even including what others know about us is still limited.

It’s not so limited that we can’t function. Obviously we’ve adapted pretty well with as much self-awareness as we have. But if we take determinism seriously, it has profound impacts on how we relate to one another.

I take determinism to be the doctrine that everything that happens is the inevitable outcome of previously existing conditions. It is possible that that could be the case while at the same time people generally have pretty good insight into what their true motivations are. The question of how good people’s insight into that actually is is a different issue from the determinism question.

Are you positing that the idea of a person’s “true motivation” doesn’t even make sense, or are you positing that there is some unconscious motivation whose content is very difficult to determine empirically?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 November 2013 07:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1400
Joined  2009-10-21
Rupert - 12 November 2013 02:54 PM
Lausten - 12 November 2013 02:47 PM

Can you expand on that? What I’m saying is, when we ask “what’s my motivation” or “is my motivation truly what I believe it is”, then you must first ask “how do you know”? If we rely solely on our internal dialog, no matter how introspective and honest we are with ourselves, we are still working within the framework of what we are able to know about our own thoughts. I’m saying that’s a limited framework. Even including what others know about us is still limited.

It’s not so limited that we can’t function. Obviously we’ve adapted pretty well with as much self-awareness as we have. But if we take determinism seriously, it has profound impacts on how we relate to one another.

I take determinism to be the doctrine that everything that happens is the inevitable outcome of previously existing conditions. It is possible that that could be the case while at the same time people generally have pretty good insight into what their true motivations are. The question of how good people’s insight into that actually is is a different issue from the determinism question.

Are you positing that the idea of a person’s “true motivation” doesn’t even make sense, or are you positing that there is some unconscious motivation whose content is very difficult to determine empirically?

Hmm. I think your definition is fine, and I don’t claim to have a full grasp on what’s known, or the distinctions of libertarian free will etc. I going with your 2nd choice, that it’s difficult to determine empirically. You could take to an absurd end and say that you would need to know the position and location of every particle in the universe and what affected every particle at a particular instant to be able to say anything true about that particular moment. Even narrowing that down to just the particles in your brain would be daunting. How far back do you go? At what point do chemical reactions near you or around you become irrelevant? Seems overwhelming to me. So I have trouble separating the two issues.

On the other hand, I’m okay putting all that aside, somewhat. I assume that as an evolved creature, I evolved to perceive reality in a way that matches reality to a high degree. So my feelings might have a lot of story and worthless additional data attached to them, nonetheless, they are guiding me to some kind of harmony or at least away from chaotic destruction. I’m not sure if that is a definition of “true” or not.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 02:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29

Seems to me that we are sort of looking at two different issues here, on the one hand can a person ever take moral credit for performing an action that some people might think is morally good, or on the other hand can you ever be in a position to say that your motivation was genuinely altruistic. Seems to me those are two different questions.

Like, suppose I donate money to a charitable organization, and the conscious thought processes that accompany this action are “Well, if I do this then maybe the consumer demand for animal products will go down, and fewer broiler chickens will come into existence, and I think that the lives of broiler chickens on modern farms contain sufficient amounts of suffering that they are on balance not worith living, so I think that is worth doing”. That’s the conscious thought process. And then someone says “Well, maybe your true motivation was a more self-interested one”. So the question is, what would that mean. I mean, just imagine that I was an omniscient scientist who had full access to all the information about all my brain states and the history of my brain states at the time I performed that action, what kind of considerations would be a sufficient basis for saying that my true motivation was self-interested? I mean, I’m sure that when I perform the action there is some release of dopamine and that probably positively reinforces the behaviour. But if I was given a choice between taking an action which I believed would be successful at relieving suffering, and taking a pill which would merely cause the false belief that I have relieved suffering and stimulate the same release of dopamine, I’d choose the action which I thought would actually be successful at relieving the suffering, or at least so I believe.

I guess I’m a bit unclear about exactly what this talk about your “true motivation” is supposed to mean.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2602
Joined  2012-10-27
Rupert - 12 November 2013 08:23 AM
Lois - 10 November 2013 09:55 PM

I’ve heard similar arguments before, but if there is randomness in the universe, it does not support the idea of free will. Randomness would just be one more factor we have no control over.

Previously we were arguing about whether I was right in thinking that I correctly understood my motivation for one specific action I performed. I think that questions about free will are a bit of a different issue.

I don’t believe in free will in the libertarian sense but I think that the notion of a voluntary choice has some application in the real world.

Only in the sense that we THINK we are acting out of free will. Even hard determinists are determined to think that way. We all act and speak of our decisions as if we are making them freely, even those of us who know better.

Lois

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29
Lois - 14 November 2013 06:02 AM

Only in the sense that we THINK we are acting out of free will. Even hard determinists are determined to think that way. We all act and speak of our decisions as if we are making them freely, even those of us who know better.

If I make the assertion “I made a voluntary choice” then do you think that’s mistaken?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2602
Joined  2012-10-27
Rupert - 14 November 2013 02:31 AM

Seems to me that we are sort of looking at two different issues here, on the one hand can a person ever take moral credit for performing an action that some people might think is morally good, or on the other hand can you ever be in a position to say that your motivation was genuinely altruistic. Seems to me those are two different questions.

Like, suppose I donate money to a charitable organization, and the conscious thought processes that accompany this action are “Well, if I do this then maybe the consumer demand for animal products will go down, and fewer broiler chickens will come into existence, and I think that the lives of broiler chickens on modern farms contain sufficient amounts of suffering that they are on balance not worith living, so I think that is worth doing”. That’s the conscious thought process. And then someone says “Well, maybe your true motivation was a more self-interested one”. So the question is, what would that mean. I mean, just imagine that I was an omniscient scientist who had full access to all the information about all my brain states and the history of my brain states at the time I performed that action, what kind of considerations would be a sufficient basis for saying that my true motivation was self-interested? I mean, I’m sure that when I perform the action there is some release of dopamine and that probably positively reinforces the behaviour. But if I was given a choice between taking an action which I believed would be successful at relieving suffering, and taking a pill which would merely cause the false belief that I have relieved suffering and stimulate the same release of dopamine, I’d choose the action which I thought would actually be successful at relieving the suffering, or at least so I believe.

I guess I’m a bit unclear about exactly what this talk about your “true motivation” is supposed to mean.

It only means that we are motivated by factors we are unaware of. Our conscious brain transforms those factors into what we would call free will. We like to think we are making decisions consciously and independently when we are actually only responding to factors we have no control over.It works something like instinct, though it’s a litte more complicated.  We don’t assume a dog barks because he first thinks it over. He barks because he is driven to bark by instinct (a determining factor). I think human decision making operates on a similar principle but we have a conscious thought process that makes us believe we are thinking outside our natural instincts and determining factors. As far as we can tell other animals don’t have that.

Lois

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  45
Joined  2013-10-29
Lois - 14 November 2013 06:19 AM

It only means that we are motivated by factors we are unaware of.

I’m sure my behaviour was influenced by factors that I’m unaware of, but is that really the same thing as an unconscious motivation? I think if you say there’s an unconscious motivation you’re saying something a bit more specific. Like for example you could be saying “you were motivated by the desire to feel good about yourself, but you weren’t consciously aware of it”. If you’re just saying that there would have been factors that influenced my decision that I wasn’t aware of then I can’t really argue with that.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 November 2013 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1400
Joined  2009-10-21
Lois - 14 November 2013 06:19 AM

We don’t assume a dog barks because he first thinks it over. He barks because he is driven to bark by instinct (a determining factor). I think human decision making operates on a similar principle but we have a conscious thought process that makes us believe we are thinking outside our natural instincts and determining factors. As far as we can tell other animals don’t have that.

Lois

I think you need to look deeper into how the human brain has evolved. The one word “instinct” is not broad enough to cover the complexity. We have parts of our brain that function similar to lizards and others more like higher intelligent creatures, then we have our highest functions, like language, that other animals barely have at all. My guess is, what you are describing is those higher functions being aware of the lower functions. This isn’t a belief in something that isn’t there, it’s an experience of different thought processes going on in one brain.

This doesn’t solve the determinism problem, because we still can’t say that even our level of thinking is not driven by instinct. It’s just different than an instinct to say, choke the sh** out of someone who is being a jerk.

Profile
 
 
   
4 of 6
4