Lay it all out!

Posts and comments by Marvin Edwards

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I think it is simplest to recognize the human being as the physical object we identify as a "person", someone we might bump into (physical object), and feed (biological organism), and converse with (rational being). The simplest boundary between "internal" and "external" is the skin.

"That which is inside" begins an interaction with "that which is outside" at some point prior to birth. But most of the interactions we're concerned with are those after birth. The newborn infant immediately begins a negotiation with its physical and social environment, for example, the crying out for food and attention at regular intervals during the night. And this negotiation results in the infant making changes in its behavior to accommodate the environment and the environment changing its behavior to accommodate the new person.

I believe that probability and chaos are related to practical problems limiting our ability to predict certain events, rather than any problems with the underlying reliability of causes and their effects. A coin flip appears random, but it is theoretically possible to build a machine that would physically control the number of flips, just like the knife thrower controls the rotations to assure the point rather than the hilt hits the target.

Decision making is a deterministic process, whether performed by a program of logic running on the hardware of a computer or the calculations performed by the mind running as mental processes upon the hardware of the neurology.

A key distinction between actual and artificial intelligence is that living organisms come into the world with a will of their own, but machines are constructed by us to do our will, and have no will of their own. In order to have free will, you must first have a will.

My point is that free will exists even in a perfectly deterministic universe, because free will does not mean "freedom from causation", but only "freedom from coercion or other undue influence".

"Freedom from causation" is an oxymoron. Without reliable cause and effect we could not reliably cause any effect, and thus would have no freedom to do anything at all. All of our freedoms require a deterministic universe.

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Vira, I'm actually not sure how to answer the question "can intelligent beings transcend/defy the laws of physics". If we were to drop a bowling ball and a human being off the leaning tower of Pisa, both would hit the ground at the same time. On the other hand, if the human being were equipped with a parachute, and chose to pull the cord, he would land gently on the ground much later than the bowling ball. Does this qualify as "defying or transcending the laws of physics"?

And that brings up an interesting contrast between us and the bowling ball. We can "use" the laws of physics, but the bowling ball can't. The bowling behaves passively in response to physical causation.

But intelligent species can acquire knowledge of how physical forces work, and actively use these rules to accomplish a purpose which is unique to that living organism. And if you've ever tried to give a cat a bath, you'll find it actively squirming and scratching to avoid the threat of drowning.

It is highly improbable that any "Theory of Everything" will be found at any level of reality above quantum mechanics. And it may eventually prove necessary to treat quantum mechanics as just another macro description, as we delve into the smallest parts of the smallest parts.

But none of that is necessary. We can have a perfect determinism at the human level, simply by including purpose and reasoning, in addition to passive responses to physical causation, in our list of actual causes.

Every choice that any human makes is the inevitable result of some combination of physical (passive), biological (purposeful), or rational (deliberate, calculated) causation.

Now, it happens that we humans call "deciding for ourselves what we will do, when free of coercion or undue influence" a "freely chosen will", or simply "free will". That is what we call this empirical event.

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Vira, I'm actually not sure how to answer the question "can intelligent beings transcend/defy the laws of physics". If we were to drop a bowling ball and a human being off the leaning tower of Pisa, both would hit the ground at the same time. On the other hand, if the human being were equipped with a parachute, and chose to pull the cord, he would land gently on the ground much later than the bowling ball. Does this qualify as "defying or transcending the laws of physics"?

And that brings up an interesting contrast between us and the bowling ball. We can "use" the laws of physics, but the bowling ball can't. The bowling behaves passively in response to physical causation.

But intelligent species can acquire knowledge of how physical forces work, and actively use these rules to accomplish a purpose which is unique to that living organism. And if you've ever tried to give a cat a bath, you'll find it actively squirming and scratching to avoid the threat of drowning.

It is highly improbable that any "Theory of Everything" will be found at any level of reality above quantum mechanics. And it may eventually prove necessary to treat quantum mechanics as just another macro description, as we delve into the smallest parts of the smallest parts.

But none of that is necessary. We can have a perfect determinism at the human level, simply by including purpose and reasoning, in addition to passive responses to physical causation, in our list of actual causes.

Every choice that any human makes is the inevitable result of some combination of physical (passive), biological (purposeful), or rational (deliberate, calculated) causation.

Now, it happens that we humans call "deciding for ourselves what we will do, when free of coercion or undue influence" a "freely chosen will", or simply "free will". That is what we call this empirical event.

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Free will does not posit the contrary! Free will refers to the ability to decide for ourselves what we "will" do, when "free" of external coercion or other undue influences. Period. This is the definition that everyone understands and correctly applies in nearly all practical scenarios. It requires nothing supernatural. It makes no claim of uncaused choices. And yet it is sufficient for both moral and legal responsibility.

The idea that we must be free from reliable cause and effect in order to be said to be "free" is an irrational concept. Without reliable cause and effect, we could never reliably cause any effect! Which means we'd never be free to do anything at all. All of our freedoms require reliable cause and effect, and therefore we must assume that the concept of "freedom" subsumes a deterministic universe.

The semantic context of the inevitable actuality is reality. The semantic context of possibilities is the imagination. When we speak of what inevitability will happen, we cannot speak of possibilities, what "can" and "cannot" happen. And when we speak of what "can" and "cannot" happen, we cannot refer to the single inevitability.

The process works like this, (1) a problem or issue arises, (2) our brain begins imagining different solutions, (3) some solutions are rejected as "impossibilities" (4) other solutions may be possible, but impractical, so we discard them by saying they are not "real" possibilities, (5) we evaluate each of our real possibilities according to the criteria relevant to the problem or issue, (6) based on that evaluation, one solution seems to best accomplish our purpose and satisfy our reasons, (7) we implement that possibility, which then becomes the single inevitable actuality.

You cannot run this process backward! You cannot take the fact that we will end up with a single inevitability and use that fact to suggest we never needed to imagine those possibilities in order to get there.

So don't do that. You cannot say we did not have a choice, because we just made one. We did it right in front of you. You saw it happen.

Now, it also follows logically that if "I can choose this option today" then tomorrow it will also be true that "I could have chosen this option yesterday". So we cannot object to the "I could have done otherwise", because it will always be true!

If we take the classic scenario, where we roll back time to the point before we made our decision, while we were still uncertain what we would choose, then two things will be true: (a) Once again, I "can" choose any of my real possibilities. However, (b) I "will" make exactly the same choice.

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Each science derives its natural laws by observing the behavior of a given class of objects. Physics, and quantum mechanics, and chemistry, and the other physical sciences, observe only inanimate objects. Certain properties of biological organisms do not exist within inanimate objects. Certain properties of intelligent species do not exist within bacterium or viruses.

Atoms do not perform math or logic. But people do. Atoms cannot imagine alternate ways to solve a problem. But people can.

Without the concept of a "person", it would be impossible to explain why those molecules of water flowed down the hill, while these molecules of water hopped into a car and went to the grocery store.

You would have to redefine physics to include all the other sciences if you wanted to claim that physics could predict these events. Nor could you predict these events by an analysis of the water molecules themselves.

These sciences cannot be broken down into physics. You have to move up the chain into the other sciences before any practical predictions can be performed.

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Vira, We observe that material objects behave differently according to their level of organization as follows:

(1) Inanimate objects behave passively, responding to physical forces so reliably that it is as if they were following “unbreakable laws of Nature”. These natural laws are described by the physical sciences, like Physics and Chemistry. A ball on a slope will always roll downhill.

(2) Living organisms are animated by a biological drive to survive, thrive, and reproduce. They behave purposefully according to natural laws described by the life sciences: Biology, Genetics, Physiology, and so on. A squirrel on a slope will either go uphill or downhill depending upon where he expects to find the next acorn.

(3) Intelligent species have evolved a neurology capable of imagination, evaluation, and choosing. They can behave deliberately, by calculation and by choice, according to natural laws described by the social sciences, like Psychology and Sociology, as well as the social laws that they create for themselves. A child will ask permission of his mother, or his father, depending upon which is more likely to say “Yes”.

A naïve Physics professor may suggest that, “Physics explains everything”. But it doesn’t. A science discovers its natural laws by observation, and Physics does not observe living organisms, much less intelligent species.

Physics cannot explain why a car stops at a red traffic light. This is because the laws governing that event are created by society. The red light is physical. The foot pressing the brake pedal is physical. But between these two physical events we find the biological need for survival and the calculation that the best way to survive is to stop at the red light.

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And, of course, Newtonian physics has not been "replaced" by quantum mechanics. You must still apply the correct science at each level of organization.
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So, you didn't actually read it, then? I said that Physics cannot explain everything. To understand living organisms requires Biology, etc. To understand intelligent species requires Psychology, Sociology, etc.
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Okay. So, I'm alone in a room with a bowl of apples. I feel hungry. Eventually, I decide to eat one of the apples. Name any other object or force in the physical universe that controlled this event other than me.
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It is not an issue of science, but an issue of semantics. If you define "determinism" as the absence of free will, or if you define "free will" as the absence of determinism, then you can't have both. So, stop doing that. Consider this instead: https://marvined...d-how-to-fix-it/
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Did you have a specific possibility in mind? I'm not sure what possibility you think that I am disregarding.
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And you can also experience a real apple, its smell and taste, the smoothness and color of its skin, the sound it makes if you drop it on the floor. My point is that there is a distinction between the model of a real apple and the illusion of an apple. For example, if you feed upon real apples you continue to live. But if you only eat hallucinated apples, you will starve to death.

So, it is important to know the difference between the mental model of the real apple and the mental model of a hallucinated or illusion of an apple.

Now we can also apply this criteria to free will. In the grocery store, you may pick through the apples, choosing the ones that suit you and not choosing others that are too ripe. Anyone else in the store who looks at you can observe that you are choosing some apples and not choosing others.

Since no one is preventing you from choosing what you want, you are free to choose for yourself the apples that you believe you will enjoy the most, and avoid the apples that you expect will disappoint you. You are literally "free" to "choose" which apples you "will" eat. And this is called "a freely chosen will", or simply "free will".

As you're leaving the store, there is a woman with a child in the checkout line. The child wants a candy bar and reaches for the conveniently placed items that line the checkout lane, but his mother intervenes, and gives him a carrot from a bag she carries with her for nutritious snacking. The child is not free to choose for himself what he will eat. It is his mother's choice as to what he will eat.

Free will is our ability to decide for ourselves what we will do, when free of coercion or other undue influence. Whether we have it or not is not a matter of belief, it is a question of empirical fact. Either we were free to make the choice for ourselves, or we were not free to choose, and someone or something else controlled the choice.

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Oh, and Blazh, Graziano locates the mechanism of awareness and social thinking in the cerebral cortex, especially the superior temporal sulcus (STS), and temporo-parietal junction (TPJ).

He also notes that damage to STS/TPJ on right side creates a "neglect" of objects to the left side of the person.

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K and M, Michael S. A. Graziano presents a theory of consciousness in "Consciousness and the Social Brain". He suggests that attention is a physical process, and that awareness is a data model or "sketch" of attention. When we see an apple, we model it in our minds, assigning it a variety of properties like shape, color, flavor, crunchiness, etc. Our awareness of the apple is an additional property of our model of the apple. And we can also report that we are/were aware of the apple, such that we have an awareness of our awareness. In the same fashion that we presume there is an external object, an actual apple, that we are modeling, the process of attention is also a real process, an actuality, that conscious awareness is modeling. Basically, conscious awareness is a matter of data processing, being carried out by the brain, which primarily does data processing.
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What?! I'm wrong? Well, I'd be the first to admit it if that were the case, and the first to thank you for straightening me out. But, since we both agree that the only view we have of the actual reality is the one that we model in our heads, it should be the case that this is as real as reality can get. Thus, that is what we refer to when we use the word "reality". Luckily, we have each other to compare perceptions with, so that we discover that some of us have difficulty seeing certain wave-lengths of light, and some are more color blind than others. And then there are all the other species, especially among the insects, whose vision is so superior to ours that we would seem color-blind to them.

By the way, this is also the solution to the "brain in a vat" and solipsism riddles: If it is the only reality that can be known, then it is what we're going to call "reality".

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Hmm. Hypnosis can create "hallucinations built by others". So I can't buy into that definition either. Try this: "reality" is the world as it actually exists. Our "knowledge of" reality may sometimes be distorted by illusion or even hallucination. We improve our knowledge of reality by objective confirmation of additional observers. In the case of a single individual, we can detect illusions by comparing data from multiple senses, such as attempting to touch what we think we see.
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I suspect the proper statement would be that some people with less benign and more destructive illusions may need help from others or through medication in sustaining a better grasp of reality.
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I hope not, because here I am at home alone, and I still seem to have the same objective reality. In fact, I think I'll fix some lunch now.
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Here's that Oliver Sacks TedTalk: https://www.yout...ch?v=SgOTaXhbqPQ
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My only objection is to the "nothing but". Reality is of great practical significance, as when several people observe someone else about to step off a cliff. We need to exercise care in reductionism, to assure we only attempt to explain something, and not accidentally appear to "explain it away".
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Ah! Just noticed Oliver Sacks has a youtube presentation on hallucinations (he's the one who wrote those two books)
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I suppose. But we need an objective reality upon which our respective intersubjective experiences can agree upon as well.
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Shrapnel, If I'm hungry, and I see an apple, and eat it, and I'm no longer hungry, then the apple is real. But if I reach for it and my hand goes right through it, then it is an illusion, and I'm still hungry.
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My mother, who passed away recently at 96, had benign hallucinations. I told her I didn't mind if she fed the (imaginary) dog, as long as she put the food on a plate first. The doctor who wrote "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" published a book on hallucinations recently also.
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Shrapnel, However, even if everything were a dream, if that is all that we can possibly know, then our only option is to call that reality.
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