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Jeff Schweitzer - Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World
Posted: 08 June 2009 01:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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sate - 08 June 2009 01:07 PM

Someone more pedantic and philosophically bent than I might reply a golf ball in fact can’t fly in various directions. It can only fly in the direction it does fly, when hit.

What this shows is that you believe that we have an ability to do otherwise that a golf ball doesn’t.

As you believe this and are surrounded by people who believe it and you assume it’s true, you are unaware of the harm it does.

It’s a bit like living in a world in which everyone has cancer but you know nothing else, so can’t see how harmful it is.

It’s not irrelevant or boring it’s a disaster.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 June 2009 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 June 2009 01:14 PM
sate - 08 June 2009 01:07 PM

Someone more pedantic and philosophically bent than I might reply a golf ball in fact can’t fly in various directions. It can only fly in the direction it does fly, when hit.

What this shows is that you believe that we have an ability to do otherwise that a golf ball doesn’t.

As you believe this and are surrounded by people who believe it and you assume it’s true, you are unaware of the harm it does.

It’s a bit like living in a world in which everyone has cancer but you know nothing else, so can’t see how harmful it is.

It’s not irrelevant or boring it’s a disaster.

I have not said I believe it. I suggested a reply someone might make to your position for the purposes of exploring the issue. Such a person would affirm that in fact we have no “ability” the ball does not but that the input forces are different or more complicated (the firing of chemical bags called neurons instead of mere physical impact). I might not affirm it, at least not before pizza.

The harm element makes me curious: what the hell are you talking about?

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Posted: 08 June 2009 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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sate - 08 June 2009 01:23 PM

The harm element makes me curious: what the hell are you talking about?

The fact you don’t know what I’m talking about shows you are immersed in the myth and so can’t see the harm the myth does.

The myth intensifies anger, lengthens and strengthens the desire for revenge, reduces our ability to forgive, reduces our ability to empathise, reduces our ability to be understanding. Adds an extra wholly harmful dimension to blame, guilt, shame etc.

The myth causes us to be less inclined to do anything about the causes of what we consider to be undesirable behaviour,as we think the agents have some magical ability to do otherwise and so addressing the causes is pointless.

The myth leads to the tolerance of suffering and even the desire of suffering and the will to inflict suffering on those who “deserve” it. 

In short, a disaster.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 June 2009 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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The more I listen to Jeff, the more muddled he seems, starting with his talk of life as a “gift.” Who gave me this gift? If you say it was my parents, they had no idea who I might become—in fact they have some serious issues with the outcome of their sexual activity. They might have been making a baby, but they certainly weren’t giving life to a particular human being with all its idiosyncratic complexities, to “me.”

Which leads to “making the most of” this “gift,” “maximizing that opportunity.” One person may devote their life to sexual conquest, another to watching TV, and another to curing cancer. Who decides whether they’re making the most of life? Given that there’s no ultimate meaning of life, and that each of us “creates” our own, who’s giving out grades for life maximization?

Jeff seems to think that ability confers obligation: “...with the ability to be moral comes the obligation to make that choice.” Does this “obligation” apply to all abilities? I have the ability to be a top-notch handyman; does that mean I’m obligated to? (Don’t tell my wife.) A person with many abilities would have more obligations than she could ever fulfill. Is the ability to be moral different in some way from other abilities?

I think all the difficulties of Jeff’s thinking grow out of one root difficulty; the issue of self:

“Because my brain is me and my mind is me and that’s internal to me, I believe I’m a free agent…”

Suppose Jeff were to suffer brain damage that erased all his long-term memories but left his brain and body otherwise intact. Would he have the same self? His friends would probably not think so, since he wouldn’t remember them. His brain could still make decisions, and his body could carry them out, but the “me” that used to live there would have departed. His brain would acquire new experiences, new criteria for making decisions, and would construct a new self from those experiences.

Choice is not “a consequence of self,” it’s a consequence of being alive. Amoebas “choose” to move toward food and away from danger, not to do so brings death.

Morality and responsibility are consequences of social living, and in some societies even killing babies is OK if they are defective, the wrong sex, or from a competing social group.

The self is a consequence of the social requirement for the brain to explain the behavior of its organism, and it changes with new information.

It’s difficult to accept that our feeling of control is an artifact of social living, and that even the brain is under the control of its wiring and experience, but its wonderfully freeing once you get over the initial shock. Humility and a sense of humor help.

Here I am, striving mightily to be coherent, but what else can I do, given my abilities and history? Maybe I should create a new self… wink

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Posted: 08 June 2009 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 June 2009 01:45 PM

The fact you don’t know what I’m talking about shows you are immersed in the myth and so can’t see the harm the myth does.

The myth intensifies anger, lengthens and strengthens the desire for revenge, ...

The myth leads to the tolerance of suffering and even the desire of suffering and the will to inflict suffering on those who “deserve” it. 

In short, a disaster.

Well how fortuitous for us both! I’m not in favor of disaster so you can dispel my myth and together we can begin saving the rest of the world. Now what exactly is the myth and how precisely does it directly intensify anger and so forth? I’m terribly excited, I’m loath to be saddled with myth!

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Posted: 08 June 2009 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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sate - 08 June 2009 02:01 PM

Well how fortuitous for us both! I’m not in favor of disaster so you can dispel my myth and together we can begin saving the rest of the world.

Sorry, we can’t save the world, I’m simply pointing out the damage the belief does. It’s not some dry philisophical debate, it’s about a wide spread untrue belief which negatively affects behaviour.

I can’t dispel your myth, you are too far gone.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 June 2009 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 June 2009 02:23 PM

Sorry, we can’t save the world, I’m simply pointing out the damage the belief does. It’s not some dry philisophical debate, it’s about a wide spread untrue belief which negatively affects behaviour.

I can’t dispel your myth, you are too far gone.

It seems you have a history of misrepresenting the position of others. Dougsmith said: I don’t appreciate people rejecting my views by falsely misconstruing them. referring to you in this post. You apologized but seemed not to have learned better as you have somehow misconstrued my position even while I have taken no position whatsoever. I have only asked questions and made probative remarks. The most substantive remarks I made are as follows:

Maybe there is no free will.. what’s that have to do with anything?

Since I am talking about contra-causal free will I am mirroring remarks you make elsewhere. I continue by paraphrasing a scientist without adding agreement or disagreement:

Free Will vs responsibility
I remember one of Steven Pinker’s books lightly touching this subject. The perspective was interesting: true free will would eliminate responsibility. If actions of people were utterly and totally free, that is unaffected by any environmental factors.. society would be impossible. Law and punishments could not deter crime…

Which is rather similar to Dennet’s position. In other threads you seem to fully endorse it. So what exactly is your basis for dismissing me as “too far gone”? If you are unwilling to discuss your own remarks, then why are you here?

[ Edited: 08 June 2009 04:07 PM by sate ]
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Posted: 08 June 2009 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Maybe there is no free will.. what’s that have to do with anything?

sate, too many eloquent people have written too much on this subject for me to add anything, but if you’re really interested, Tom Clark’s web site, http://www.naturalism.org/ has a page of links with abstracts of each one: http://www.naturalism.org/freewill.htm

Tom was interviewed by DJ a couple of years ago: http://www.pointofinquiry.org/tom_clark_encountering_naturalism/

Jeff Schweitzer would have done well to visit Tom’s site before he wrote his book. grin

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Posted: 08 June 2009 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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sate - 07 June 2009 05:26 AM
unified theory - 07 June 2009 05:09 AM

I am still unsure how to get around the free will issue. I know many neuroscientists and philosophers are seriously questioning if free will exists. If no free will, where goes responsibility? I am not clear how Schweitzer rejects religious free will, but embraces some other type of free will. I guess I’ll have to read the book.

David

Hi David and welcome.

For the most part I find the question of free will boring and irrelevant. You just said Ultimate Meaning doesn’t exist, why search for Ultimate Responsibility? I know that the feelings I possess which I would call love arise from my genetics, neurotransmitters and so on.. does that change their meaning to me? nah. I don’t enjoy eating less because I know I’m biologically programmed to acquire sustenance. There is no ultimate meaning to love or pleasure but who cares? The proximal meaning is good enough for me. The alternative is, get off the ride early. Maybe there is no free will.. what’s that have to do with anything?

Free Will vs responsibility
I remember one of Steven Pinker’s books lightly touching this subject (sorry don’t recall which). The perspective was interesting: true free will would eliminate responsibility. If actions of people were utterly and totally free, that is unaffected by any environmental factors.. society would be impossible. Law and punishments could not deter crime because nothing could deter Free Will (if it could, then it wouldn’t be completely free). People would not repeat successful strategies in any arena because they would not be beholden to any rule system where considering successful/unsuccessful strategies was important. The fact that we can be influenced, we can intelligently limit our actions based on the environment, is what makes personal responsibility both possible. and worthwhile. At least, that is my vague recollection.

I’m more or less with you on the whole free will argument.  It doesn’t make any sense when I try to follow it and it never seems to go anywhere.  As you note, whether or not it exists doesn’t seem to really matter because I have to have a practical way of interacting with my environment.  I love my kids, doesn’t matter to me whether or not that was pre-determined or because I choose to.  It’s all functionally the same to me.  Likewise, if a violent criminal is in jail I appreciate the fact that he is no longer a threat to anyone, whether or not he was pre-determined to be violent or chose to.  So, yeah, ultimate meaning or no, I’m going to try to enjoy what I can while I can!

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Posted: 10 June 2009 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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sate - 08 June 2009 04:05 PM

So what exactly is your basis for dismissing me as “too far gone”? If you are unwilling to discuss your own remarks, then why are you here?

You were pulling my leg about “saving the world” and “dispelling your myth”, your other posts also seemed to be in a similar vein too and I was reciprocating (edit: light heartedly), nothing more.

I intend to write a more serious response on the free will thread, when I get time.

Stephen

[ Edited: 10 June 2009 09:22 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 10 June 2009 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Hawkfan,

It’s not whether pre-determinism is true or whether we choose. Clearly choosing is the name we give to processes like deciding whether to cook curry or make a salad. Thinking of choice as synonymous with free will or free choice is blocking your making a connection with the problem. Whether we have free will or not we certainly go through processes which we call making choices. 

Hawkfan - 08 June 2009 08:34 PM

  Likewise, if a violent criminal is in jail I appreciate the fact that he is no longer a threat to anyone, whether or not he was pre-determined to be violent or chose to.  So, yeah, ultimate meaning or no, I’m going to try to enjoy what I can while I can!

Perhaps this helps. Does it matter to you whether he deserves it or not?

Contrast your reaction to a violent criminal being in jail and an innocent man being kidnapped from his home and put in jail. Imagine it happening to you, how would you feel?

We all empathise with people who find themselves “wrongly” imprisoned but what about those “rightly” imprisoned?

Stephen

[ Edited: 10 June 2009 12:26 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 11 June 2009 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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sate - 08 June 2009 04:05 PM

So what exactly is your basis for dismissing me as “too far gone”? If you are unwilling to discuss your own remarks, then why are you here?

Ok, I’ve now replied on the free will thread.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 June 2009 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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StephenLawrence - 10 June 2009 11:57 AM

Contrast your reaction to a violent criminal being in jail and an innocent man being kidnapped from his home and put in jail. Imagine it happening to you, how would you feel?

We all empathise with people who find themselves “wrongly” imprisoned but what about those “rightly” imprisoned?

Stephen

Nope, not buying that straw man.  No connection between an innocent man kidnapped and put in jail and someone imprisoned for committing a violent crime.  It is about being held responsible for one’s actions relative to the laws of the society in which one lives.  I see it as a safety issue, primarily.  But also as a reinforcement of the rules(laws).  I think the evidence is poor for rehabilitation.  But, I am certainly for providing the incarcerated with some skills training to at least allow them other options after the sentence is served.

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Posted: 11 June 2009 10:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Hawkfan - 11 June 2009 08:15 PM

Nope, not buying that straw man.  No connection between an innocent man kidnapped and put in jail and someone imprisoned for committing a violent crime.

The connection is the experience for the person it happens to is fairly similar whether they are guilty or innocent. For the person who has the experience it’s about as bad whether guilty or innocent. The reason we tend to be fairly unconcerned about this is because we believe one deserves it and one doesn’t. We don’t believe that it might have been us who was unfortunate enough to be born with a bad set of determinants and that we are fortunate that we weren’t (who knows one of us might commit a violent crime yet.)

What I’m trying to do is show how belief in free will influences how you feel about it.

It is about being held responsible for one’s actions relative to the laws of the society in which one lives.  I see it as a safety issue, primarily.  But also as a reinforcement of the rules(laws).

Yep.

I think the evidence is poor for rehabilitation.

I think that believing if you do something bad will lead to something bad happening to you is more of a deterent than believing you’ll get rehabilitated. Someone might even deliberately do something bad in order to get rehabilitated, so I think you might be right.

But, I am certainly for providing the incarcerated with some skills training to at least allow them other options after the sentence is served.

P’raps, I have no strong view on what we should do I’m simply trying to show that you would feel very differently if you didn’t intuitevely believe in contra causal free will. And so would just about everybody else, so it does matter whether we have it or not.

Stephen

[ Edited: 11 June 2009 10:59 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 13 June 2009 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Here in NYC, the author is giving a free lecture, hosted by CFI.  Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

Location info: SLC Conference Center, on July 7, at 7 p.m., 352 7th Ave (30th St), 16th floor, a couple of blocks south of Penn Station.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/nyc/events/meet_the_author_jeff_schweitzer_on/
http://www.meetup.com/cfinyc/calendar/10548774/
http://www.meetup.com/RichiesList/calendar/10548859/

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