9
   

Trick of the Language?

 
 
georgeob1
 
  2  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:00 pm
@Cyracuz,
I don't think that anyone here has asserted the universe requires a beginning. However the alternative is that it always existed, or yet another inexplicable exclusion perhaps in the notion that time did not exist prior to the "beginning". Either way one ends up with something that is either infinite or undefinable.
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:08 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
This idea we have of "something coming from nothing" is just a mental construct.
This time I tend to agreed with Lola above. I don't see it as purely mental, the idea that everything appeared out of nothing; though myself I don't like it very well

Quote:
We arbitrarily define "nothing" and "something". It is probably reasonable to think that there was something before the big bang,
Of course, it is called the Big Crunch

Code:but then we cannot think of big bang as the absolute beginning.
Oh you're absolutely right Cyr. It stinks of contradiction and paradox

Quote:
In fact, why do we have to insist that the universe needs a beginning at all?
Again Cyr you've nailed it. In short, things are the way they are (the way I've described them) because they can't be any other way, were always so and will so continue forever

Quote:
Give me one good reason that the universe requires a beginning,
The religious soul insists
Not that there's anything wrong with it of course, they're entitled

Quote:
anyone who feels inclined to accept the challenge.
Yes let's hear from you fellas
0 Replies
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:14 pm
@georgeob1,
Quote:
…...the notion that time did not exist prior to the "beginning"
If it started as nothingness of course it couldn't have since after all time is something

Obviously we can't imagine the state of nothingness but we can talk about it
0 Replies
 
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:23 pm
@Cyracuz,
It won't be me trying to argue for a beginning. Since we exist, and I see no evidence of something coming from nothing, construct or not, I see no evidence that a beginning or an ending is necessary much less exists. It strikes me that there is no beginning or ending. I'm left with the concept of infinity and chance. In this sense, I suppose one could say there is no something or nothing. However, I have to say that I can see and experience somethings existing. I'm more inclined to think in terms of change rather than an absence of something. There may be something other than this, but I don't think we can know much about that for now. Still, we should be working on it as I understand scientists are. What would be do with ourselves is not for that?
dalehileman
 
  2  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:32 pm
@Lola,
Quote:
I'm left with the concept of infinity and chance.
Yea Lola we're largely on the same track. However I deny Infinity because it entails such intuitional absurdities as (a) an infinite number of Dales and Lolas discussing determinism at 12:27 pst March 5, 2013; (b) an infinite number at the same time in which the only difference is one hair on your head, Lola, is 1 nanomicron longer…………..© an infinite number in which the only difference that the ones occurring 3 microseconds from now the moon is 0.00000000001 in. closer; ad infinitum, proceeding in discrete quantum mechanical steps of course


There would also be an infinite number identical a few moments ago except that that the symbol is ( c ) as written, not ©, reflecting the condition that one of Mac's editing minions (actually an infinite number of this particular programmer) had had a higher IQ, by 0.01 or by whatever unit it advances

In our case, it might take 3 centuries or so to make the necessary correction of an infinite number each of an infinite number of versions occurring .0003 nanomicromilliseconds apart
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:38 pm
@dalehileman,
Yes, Dale...........but I'm not seeing the problem with that. It doesn't seem absurd to me, just hard to understand. Some things become so small or large that it's hard for us to engage with them. But that doesn't mean that they do not exist. I don't see how it follows that infinity doesn't exist just because we can't involve ourselves with it.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:40 pm
Does anyone else see the irony in invoking "language" to account for discrepancy without explanation, and this being considered less "spiritual" than invoking anything else ("free will", "God", "Ghosts")?
It just seems like the concern is less about explanation, and more about labeling of the (at least as yet) unexplained.
0 Replies
 
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:47 pm
@Lola,
Quote:
Yes, Dale...........but I'm not seeing the problem with that. It doesn't seem absurd to me, just hard to understand.
Yes, no, Lola, you're absolutely right about that on a purely "scientific" level

Quote:
Some things become so small or large that it's hard for us to engage…...don't see how it follows that infinity doesn't exist just because…….
Right on
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:53 pm
@georgeob1,
Or the entire universe might be just one big, ever branching thought, or something that hasn't yet occurred to us at all.

Sometimes, the right answer may not be among the alternatives we can think of. As of now, that is perhaps the case here. We know that something doesn't add up, that our metaphysical blueprint isn't accurate, even though it fits with all the facts.
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 02:55 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
Or the entire universe might be just one big, ever branching thought
Yea Cyr the apodictical existential pantheist asserts that the physical Universe is Her body while all the activity taking place therein is Her thinking
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Mar, 2013 04:42 pm
@georgeob1,
Quote:
1. Science is not able to prove either the existence or the non-existence of either an intelligent creator of the universe or of the existence or non-existence of anything we might call free will. (The fact that we are having this long discussion itself attests to the truth of these observations.)


Of course, science is agnostic in principle on every issue within its purview.

Quote:
I don't believe this discussion can ever yield convincing proofs to any party in it. The advocates for "no free will" rest their case on a degree of determinism that approaches that of the "clockwork universe" so universally rejected on the last pages. Their proof is ultimately based on arbitrarily and axiomatically disallowing the alternative, not proof. The advocates of free will can't prove their case to those who reject anything not provable to a science based on theory and observation.


Regarding the bolded statement above, what discussion can ever? Proof is too lofty a term to throw around in these discussions, and (as has been elsewhere noted) it may well be too foolish a term for most serious scientific discussions. My own advocacy for unfree will does not rest on determinism or anything else that has been rejected in this thread, it rather relies upon an understanding on the nature of choice which I've outlined a number of times and to which I've received no satisfactory rebuttal. I think I have argued against the alternative, not disallowed it.

Quote:
medium density has noted the "tautilogical" quality of this discussion with respect to free will. That is appropriate because he employs such taotological descriptions of how our minds work. To wit ; 'our choices, even in thoughtful decisions, are themselves determinened by our motives, which in turn are determined by our genes and experience'.


That ventriloquism of my argument seems fair. You dismiss it as tautologous, but I'd like to ask if you could be specific in saying what is incorrect, mistaken, or otherwise insufficient about it. The key as to why I haven't excepted that it is any of those things up to now is in this disbelieving tone you adopt when you say something like "even in thoughtful decisions". When we look at the idea of "thoughtful decisions" closely enough we see that it collapses under analysis. What do we have to be thoughtful about in such decisions? Is it things like reasons why a decisions would be good to enact? Is it probable consequences of taking that decision? Is it the recommendation(s) of others that we consider in making the decision? Is it factors relating to our mood in that moment? In none of this cases do I find room for "freedom", and neither does freedom seem to emerge from combinations of these elements, and neither does it seem to emerge from the random unattributable decisions (thoughtless decisions I suppose you'd call them) we make.

I would be delighted to hear a counter to the above. Since I can't imagine one I'm constrained against thinking free will has any validity.

Quote:
4. Human beings have a sense or awareness of a degree of freedom of choice. This is confirmed by our own experience and ancient literature as well. That awareness could, conceivably be an illusion, however, it should count for something in this discussion. What is it about the operation of our minds that provides us all with the strong impression that we are indeed making independent choices?


Certainly the illusion is a strong one, I said earlier in the discussion that it could be stronger than the illusion of god. I think the last sentence of this quote is a very interesting question. Like the best interesting questions it admits many probable answers. Most simply however I would submit that it feels better to believe you are the author of your thoughts and actions, and that you have purchase on your own life. We expect our fate is tractable at a minimum- it seems to be a necessary illusion to proceed in the world. I certainly can't act in a manner consistent with my unfree will position; I still feel like being angry with people for petty infractions though I know them to be ultimately not-responsible for their behaviour. That's the catch of being human. Or one of them.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 02:44 am
@MattDavis,
Quote:
Just to briefly follow up on your fatalism question.
Yes. Hard determinism = fatalism, unless you invoke material/spiritual dualism. This was deus ex machina.


Perhaps our definitions of fatalism are at variance. Mine would be something like "abject and total resignation to an inevitable future" -this view can only really work in retrospect, since prior to a decision being made we're still open to any new influences which may steer us in one direction rather than another. To quote Sam Harris: "[confusing determinism with fatalism] gives rise to questions like 'If everything is determined, why should I do anything? Why not just sit back and see what happens?' But the fact that our choices depend on prior causes does not mean that they do not matter." We have to make the choice, based on whatever is motivating us at that moment, in order for the future to arrive. Upon receipt of that future, (during which the tense tranforms into the present and, finally, the past) it yields to deterministic description.

Quote:
This is no "proof", but I think a description of such a system is much more accurately described as having a "will" and of being capable of making "decision", than as being "strictly determined" or "inevitable".
If anything other than God has free-will, it is emergent systems which behave like neural networks.


I'll repeat that I think will certainly exists, and that decisions are not really inevitable from our perspective, since we can't know what will motivate us at any particular moment.

Unfortunately I cannot engage with the substance of your argument regarding neural networks, since I'm not at all familiar with them. I'm doing some extra-curricular reading now though, and hope to be able to come to an understanding of how exactly one gets freedom from citing emergence in this way...
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 09:11 am
@medium-density,
Quote:
To quote Sam Harris: "[confusing determinism with fatalism] gives rise to questions like 'If everything is determined, why should I do anything? Why not just sit back and see what happens?'

I thought that we have already discussed the confusing ambiguity of a lay understanding of "determinism". Sam Harris is obviously addressing a lay audience with this passage. I attempted earlier to demonstrate the difference between "hard determinism" and the universe we apparently live in. To call the universe we live in "deterministic" is generous at best, and at worst it belies an assumption that we can find a deterministic explanation for quantum phenomena (as yet unrealized).

Hard determinism is fatalism.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_determinism
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 09:21 am
@medium-density,
Quote:
Unfortunately I cannot engage with the substance of your argument regarding neural networks, since I'm not at all familiar with them. I'm doing some extra-curricular reading now though, and hope to be able to come to an understanding of how exactly one gets freedom from citing emergence in this way...
Sorry about that. Sad
As I said I attempted to make it brief. I would be happy to address any more specific questions (I am no expert in neural networks or emergence however).
I think your satisfaction will hinge on what you consider "freedom" as it relates to decision making. Adequate determinism, requires a complex interplay between "random" events and "predictability". Serendipitously, this seems to match very well the universe in which we happen to inhabit.
From a logical standpoint, we couldn't really hope for much better in terms of what the physical laws of the universe are to allow for something akin to "free will".
Perhaps this speaks toward a weak anthropic principle regarding the physical axioms involved in the origin of the measurable universe.
It certainly serves as evidence that "free will"-like behaviors have an evolutionary advantage, owing to it's flexibility and optimization characteristics.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 09:26 am
@medium-density,
From my understanding of Sam Harris' work, his views on free-will are primarily a matter of attempting to distinguish conscious from sub-conscious behavior.
This is more a matter of self-identity than of free will. Are you your conscious activity or are you all of your mental activity? If this is interesting to you, you may wish to focus on the neurological/psychological explorations of "intuition".
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 10:15 am
@MattDavis,
Quote:
Are you your conscious activity or are you all of your mental activity?


You are all your mental activity. But frontal lobe activity indicates that we are able to reason and make choices in spite of the amygdalae.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 10:20 am
@Lola,
I agree Lola.
What I was alluding to is a self-identification with only your "conscious" self. That which you can see in your mind's eye. I think that intuition can sometimes serve as a bridge to a modest understanding of some subconscious aspects of self.
Plus the subconscious activity is where most of the "work" goes on.
I wish that there was a better term than "subconscious", it presumes and implies a hierarchical relationship, that I think confuses the issue and is inaccurate.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 05:13 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
I thought that we have already discussed the confusing ambiguity of a lay understanding of "determinism". Sam Harris is obviously addressing a lay audience with this passage. I attempted earlier to demonstrate the difference between "hard determinism" and the universe we apparently live in. To call the universe we live in "deterministic" is generous at best, and at worst it belies an assumption that we can find a deterministic explanation for quantum phenomena (as yet unrealized).


Harris actually takes the distinction from the philosopher Dan Dennett, who takes the idea that the future is inevitable as nonsense. Futures are evitable; avoidable.... I suppose the difference between determinism and fatalism as I see it is that a determinist recognises that whatever the outcome is it will have been determined, but that the agency of the individual to whom that outcome is relevant is not called into question. A fatalist meanwhile thinks that the outcome is inevitable, pre-ordained, and singular; it excludes the possibility that the agent might avoid the outcome, and holds that the agency of the individual is immaterial to that event's occurrence. This is where Harris' "laying in bed" analogy comes from.

I think there is something very difficult about that discussion. I'm not certain I fully understand it, and I'm pretty sure we're not really discussing it. For example I'm actually not arguing in favour of hard determinism. As I've said I need not invoke universal determinism to argue against free will. This is obviously a sideshow, but I was minded to respond to what you said on it.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 05:24 pm
@medium-density,
Yes, what Dennet ascribes to is not hard determinism.
He knows better than that Wink
My previous two (the longer ones) address the same assumptions (I think) that Dennet assumes.

My point was to draw the distinction, between evitable and inevitable futures.
This is an aside, but you might not be safe in assuming a strictly inevitable past either.
Hard deterministic models can collapse under this assumption when faced with certain computational processes.
Quantum mechanics is ambiguous on this question.

My previous explanations do not require either an inevitable or strictly evitable past.

If you would like to present either Dennets or Harris's positions that is fine with me. Very Happy
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 05:27 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
I think your satisfaction will hinge on what you consider "freedom" as it relates to decision making.


Yes getting a firm grasp on what the use of the word in this context means is what I'm struggling with here. Perhaps you could helpfully illuminate your definition of free will, then I can see what it is you think you are advancing an argument for. If I'm even close to apprehending what you say I think it will turn out to be a rather compromised and conditional definition. The neural network reading I've so far completed does not seem to offer us much scope for freedom, but then you were making rather modest claims for it.

In fact it all looks rather mechanical to me. This "self-organising" that neural networks lead to emerges from initial randomness via the means of simple rules? I'm just not seeing the connection to freedom of will. Perhaps that connection is still ahead of me, or perhaps I shall avoid it Wink

 

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