Naturalism states that we are all completely natural human beings, that there is no immaterial god "out there" and there is no immaterial soul "in here". It also states that freewill is an illusion, that we are as individuals who we are because of our genetics, environment, and culture.


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Although I don't personally believe there is a god or soul or in anything I have not observed, I can not deny their existence absolutely. I hold it to be arrogant to state for certain that something does not exist if I have not observed it. 

So although Naturalism may work for a pragmatic philosophy, it doesn't work in the realm of epistemology, necessarily. 

Agree. Naturalism is too arrogant, it claims to know more than it can.

Reliability is the criteria I use for knowledge. My beliefs have to be demonstrably reliable. Repetition is how things get burned into memory. Our brains are geared for reliable data. So I guess I would call myself an empiricist, rather than a naturalist.

Yes, freewill is an illusion. But it doesn't feel like it, and that's what counts.

It seems the correct position is that of the legal maxim: de non apprentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Reasoning about things that do not appear is the same as for things that do not exist—namely there is nothing at all to be said about them.


So what does work in the realm of epistemology?

Yeah, there's no such thing as free will, souls, or deities. So I am a naturalist. Did you want this discussion to go in the direction of epistemology or existentialism?

Epistemology. But seriously--how can one not have free will? I could randomly decide to go outside on a bike ride to see a friend of mine early. Or just stay in my room glued to my laptop. Either way, it's my choice. And if we really don't have free will, doesn't that mean we can't change anything about who we are as individuals? Like, what if we're lazy, or mean, or really hateful towards others (not saying I'm any of these things, just wondering), and we wish to change this?

Conscious thought is simply a reflection of, rather than an influence on, unconscious neural activity, which directs behavior.

You can't change your genes or the whole history of experiences you have had which led up to every decision you make, so you would need to show how there can be a cause within yourself that was not caused to show that you have free will. But this defies the laws of the physical universe. So if you "choose" to stay inside or go outdoors, it is because you have been caused to do so. This does not mean that we do not have agency, or (just plain old) will. We have been motivated by our genes and our environment to act and to carry that motivation forward into the future, but it isn't important whether we direct that energy externally or internally. So we are capable of changing our behavior, but only within the confines of the physical universe. This is why it is so hard to actually make big changes in our lifestyle. If it was easy and we could just wish we were better than who we are and suddenly become so, everyone would do it. It always takes some precursor, some preexisting motivation to make us realize, hey, you know what, I ought to really change how I do something. This happens in the form of a failure of some kind, or when we are driven by shame or pride, etc. We have to tap in to our reservoir of emotional energy to "make things happen", but that reservoir is limited. This is why we give in to temptation more easily when, for example, we are stressed, or early in the morning or late at night, or when we have other things that we are focusing our energy on and we are directing our energies elsewhere.


There is simply no support for the idea that we can pull things out of thin air. Again, read some of the articles I and others have posted on Sam Harris, he does a much better job of explaining this than I do.

Thanks for the links!

Oh cool Sam Harris links - will check them out Jedi.

Those options (go out, or stay in) popped into your head from your subconscious. How did they get there? Your brain pops ideas in your head based on recent events. The prompts then sparked other thoughts of how to spend your time. You then weighed the options and "decided" to choose the most emotionally rewarding option. This moment in time was always going to turn out that way. Nothing could have stopped it.
It might be sad to realise we're just part of a big pinball machine, but such dark thoughts rarely come into attention so we mostly act as if we are free.
Change is possible. But if you manage to change yourself, how did you do it? The desire to rebalance your priorities/character was prompted by past experience. It was always going to happen.
We are predictable machines that always respond in exactly the same way given the same inputs at the same moment in time. But time and inputs are always on the move, so we sure don't feel like machines.

Michael and Wanderer's recent posts are quite helpful.  Again semantics causes problems with philosophy.  Choices and free will are different.

my latest analogies:

Biology:  A road that we each  travel decided by genes and environment.

Choices: Twists and turns, on and off ramps on the road.

Creativity: Taking a never before explored off ramp.

Free Will: Magic ability to initiate new off ramps or leave the road.

Misunderstanding: thinking you created the off ramp out of thin air when it was really already there.

Evidence: See Cashmore etc.




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