If it is not possible to hold one's breath until one expires, then the "will" to live is not willful at all, but is a bodily reaction (at least in that isolated case). Furthermore, the emotions and thoughts accompanying such a reaction cannot be called willful either. A person will innevitably feel that they want to live, and will have thoughts about trying to stay alive, once their body has begun to struggle for air.

So, this is an example of a motive to stay alive, and thoughts and feelings about staying alive, that do not result from decision. The motivation, mood and thoughts all result from the body's lack of air, not from choice. And since at least once situation can be explained this way, why not assume that the rest of our thoughts, feelings and actions can be explained this way as well? The idea of 'choice' need never be invented to explain human behavior. It is a tempting idea, like God, but unnecessary.

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Comment by John Camilli on December 9, 2010 at 2:20am
Now you get it! Lol, indeed they are not my own, as I do not exist individually. I am only confused to think that I do.

I think it's funny that you say I'm drawn to eastern philosophy because I had almost no exposure to it until I was in my twenties, by which time I had begun developing something similar as a philosophy. Indeed, when I began reading the Vedas, the Gita, the teachings of Buddha and Confusius and Tzu and others, I discovered that they had already said much of what I was thinking.

And yet, I cannot truly identify with eastern philiosophies either because even they claim to have answers, where I think there are no answers, only stupid questions. Kind of a reversal on what teachers say. Buddhism is probably the closest thing to my philosophy because it encourages us to let go of our desires, but as far as I'm concerned it's worlds apart because there is still the goal of enlightenment in, which I do not think is possible, and skews all of man's valuations by giving him false purpose. The universe (I think) does not have purpose, so any time we insist on one, we are viewing something that isn't there. If we force it into the framework of what is "real" it changes our understanding of everything else that is real, throwing it off.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 8, 2010 at 11:14pm
Maybe my string theory neurons have deterministically deteriorated so I cant be held responsible for a foggy memory. Hell I aint me. One thing is clear-you are drawn to eastern philosophy/religion or at least less repelled than you are by western caca.
Are the ideas in your last paragraph your own (so to speak)?
Comment by John Camilli on December 8, 2010 at 7:38pm
You're right, that it is not fair to dismiss randomness as a possibility. Or rather, it isn't logical because there's no logical dis-proof of randomness. However, it is unreasonable to assume randomness as the answer unless we have SOME an example of it. We have plenty of examples of non-random, mechanistic systems in the universe. We don't have any examples of randomness.

Firing nuerons are not random. Nuerons can only fire if they have energy provided to them. They don't just fire for no reason, they fire because their energy has surpassed a threshhold and an electrical emission results. "Creation" and annihilation of particles and anti-particles are not random. A particle is always accompanied by a corresponding anti-particle, and both by their corresponding super-symetric particles. If there were something random about particle "creation," then we'd see anti-particles created without regular particles, or vice versa. We'd see shifts in the localized make-up of the universe, even if the fluxuations even out over large areas. We don't see any of that. So even though we can't predict when and where a particle will pop into observability, we still suspect their is a mechanism underneath it because our observations of particles are so consistent.

As for super string theory, it is still a theory based on causality, not randomness. It purports that particles and energy (fermions and bosons) are comprised of some number of two-dimensional, vibrating lengths. This makes it a quantum theory because it supposes that reality is comprised of describable, finite parts, whatever those parts may be. It's description of the qualities and behaviors of those "strings" is consistent, and it's description of how those strings loop and interconnect is experimentally consistent with actual results, which is why it is a promising theory. At its core, super string theory is one that says 'If reality contains these types of shapes, of these certain sizes, and each has these certain properties, then we will see reality behave like this to at our level.' And string theory comes pretty damn close to actually predicting the world the way it is. But for that matter, Newtonian mechanics and relativistic mechanics come pretty damn close too. It just depends on how close you want to look. For most people, Newtonian physics is still fine, and anythig else would be too complicated to serve their lives.

Your question about a beginning is certainly a good one. It's one of the key conceptual quandries (say that 3 times fast) of humans. We cannot perceive of things with no temporal beginning because time seems to only go one direction to us, and so we logically deduce that it must begin, since it seems not to be cyclic. A lot of difficulty in discussing time has resulted from this problem, and some people think that time represents an a-symmetry of the universe, others think time is looped like a mobius strip. Still others think we need to eliminate the whole concept of time from our vocabulary; that describing the way fundamental particles interract is the same as describing time. Some even think that time, not space or energy, is the fundamental fabric of the universe, and that all other observables are emergent from the fabric of time; that it is the most fundamental particle, of you will. The point is, we don't know about beginnings yet. I haven't read Hawkings new book yet, much to my shame, but there was quite a hubbub about Stephen saying that a creator is totally unnecessary to the notion of a universe coming into existence. Maybe he's got something worth looking at there.

I actually like what you say about consciousness being a miracle because, in order for it to be what we say it is - a thing that creates change in the world without a prior cause being responsible for that change - it would HAVE to be miraculous, meaning it would have to be something that could not happen according to our current views. And I think that's actually what it is - it can't happen, it HASN'T happened, but we are confusing it for something it is not.

I also think you're correct about the eventual view of cosmology changing. I think, in the end, we will come to view our very selves as everything that exists. We will no longer distinguish between people, or between a person and a tree, a rock, an electron. We will see that, because we are connected to all things all the time, we ARE all things all the time, and that our influence on everything else was only masked from our view, as was its unfluence on us. I think we will no longer be "human" at this point, but digital beings, and I think that will start to happen in our lifetime. But that's just my view.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 8, 2010 at 4:57pm
I cant buy into your differentiation of random and unpredictable. Is it any less plausible to assume that unpredictable is random? If you cant understand it perhaps the quacking duck is quacking or perhaps aspects of the universe are beyond our ken. So it is not fair to dismiss random. Furthermore what if string theory is correct? Does not that make it impossible to label the universe as deterministic.
If every action since the big bang or before is preordained then there is an author-right? Otherwise there is an uncaused cause-and there goes the neat course of events. If the course of events is interrupted at any point all that was preordained is changed.
Consciousness is qualitatively separate from physical processes. Hell, it is a miracel. Nah I do not know. In any event it is not my burden to show sameness when the bone digging tool has morphed into an f-16
John if you live long enough you will see the popular scientific cosmology turned on its head. It aint gonna be a deterministic universe neither.
Comment by John Camilli on December 8, 2010 at 1:30am
Well, I've been studying particle physics for eight years, so you might consider me an expert. Not only studying, I do physics for fun. Literally all I do with my life is work, read, write, and take care of my survival essentials, with occassional breaks for videogames and movies. I am in love, no obsessed with all things physics, so you can trust me when I say that scientists do not think the subatomic world is random. Unpredictable, yes! But not random. And the difference is that unpredictable just means we don't understand the mechanism yet, or that we can't. Random means there isn't one. If it were possible to create randomness, casinos would be doing it. Encryptors would be doing it. It is not possible within the parameters of human knowledge.


Even still, everything we study, every observation we make has revealed to us a mechanism behind what we previously did not understand; an explanation for how one thing became another, or failed to. Humans cannot explain everything because we cannot study everything. We are too limited. But that does not mean that everything is not understandable; it's just out of our grasp.

The burden of proof is not on me to show that randomness doesn't exist. It's on you to show that it DOES. Every study ever done is my example of non-random processes in nature. You have to give even ONE that validates your side, or it just isn't logical to conclude that anything random is happening in humans just because we are more complex than most matter (we are not even nearly the most complex thing to exist either, so why isn't consciousness and choice apparent in other, more complex entities in the universe?).
Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 7, 2010 at 11:03pm
I am no expert John, but I have read that the sub-atomic world is not predictable. It may be that we simply lack a handle on the little world.
You need to prove that cause and effect which controls the universe continues to operate in the world of consciousness. Do physical processes continue to be deterministic (assuming that the universe is deterministic about which I am unsure) once we have arrived at the point where consciousness emerges. I submit that as evolution creates greater complexity in animals it becomes less likely that behavior is preordained. Evolution naturally favors the flexibility of a brain making decisions, not decisions that are preordained. It is small speculation to conjecture the advent of a thinking brain and the concomitant reduction of strength. A mechanistic brain would tend to fail the test of survival.
As a general principle I think it is safe to say that humans lack sufficient understanding to form an opinion as to whether determinism is the way of the universe. Do we even see the shadows on the walls of the cave?
Comment by John Camilli on December 7, 2010 at 4:33pm
I like where you're going with this because I just started writing something along these lines last night, in response to another blog here. Hopefully, my explanation is cogent:

While you may be right that the universe does not lend itself to analysis of its methods, that has not stoppped people from trying for a long time, even into the present. You may be familiar with the former debate between Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind, in which Hawking purported that blackholes represent a randomizing process in the universe because they break the law of conservation of information. Even though he suspected that blackholes are not truly 'black' because of Hawking radiation, he thought that the output of radiation was only dependent on the hole's overall mass, not on the trajectory and momentum of the particles falling in (i.e. we lose that information about the particles falling in). This is important because any violation of conservation of information is actually a violation of causality. Hawking's would have been the first known example of such a process in the universe, IF he had been correct. He was proven incorrect, meaning we have no examples of randomizing processes that violate causation.

This does NOT prove the universe operates causally, but neither does it prove the opposite, so in that sense you are correct about us not being able to analyze this aspect of nature. You make a small mistake in saying that fundamental particles do not always act with newtonian causation. Newtonian causality is the idea that, not only do causes follow effects, but that if we have all the information about a system at one point, we can predict information at all other points past and future. Current theories of causality abandon this last part because of the uncertainty principal, which makes it impossible to have all information at any given time. However, that does not make fundamental particle behavior a-causal. As I mention above, Hawking would have been the first one to provide evidence of a-causality, if he had been correct. Barring that, we have no examples of a-causality, so it is not correct to say that fundamental particles act this way, nor that human action must therefore be partially a-causal.

You may be aware that subatomic particles are often popping into and out of existence and that we are currently unable to understand how, but this is not a-causal behavior anymore than a wave arising from the ocean is a-causal. The wave might not always have been there, but the stuff it was made of never went away; it was just distributed differently. This is analogous to particles coming into and out of existence (they probably don't actually stop existing for those moments, they just become undetectable to us, and we have no theories yet to explain where they go or what they do).

I know you were only tossing out loose examples to show the plausibility of human behavior possibly incorporating a-causality, but if you take out any reference to randomness, which has not been proven to exist, it's difficult to come up with any examples at all. You might argue that randomness has not been dis-proven either, but unless you can come up with some feasible way that randomization could happen, there's no juice to the argument because we have plenty of examples of how non-random processes can still result in just about anything. Consequently, it's more reasonable to assume that human behavior, complex though it may be, is not inexact or random at all, but that it arises innevitably out of prior states. Chaos theory, systems theory, fractal geometry, and other statistical fields, are wonderful for illustrating how complexity can arise out of disorder, often counter-intuitively. Why not assume that's all we are? That we act as we must, but that we do not understand what we must, so we often think we are choosing between multiple possibilities. We only see the multiple possibilities because we are not smart enough to see that only one eventuality was possible for any given circumstance. The times we feel we have CAUSED actions are the times when we figured out what was going to happen before it happened because our memories (which are symbolic of our experiences) can progress faster in our minds than in the real world, seeming to anticipate and cause some results.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 5, 2010 at 9:10pm
Ok John I digested. I stand by my first impression. Humans in particular and the universe in general do not lend themselves to the analysis you are using. In the universe we know or think we know, at the tiniest level causation is not always newtonian. If the most fundamental particles, elements and components of matter are "a-causal" is it unreasonable to assume that humans act in part in an a-causal way?
Perhaps our brain chemistry or random firing synapses make causation "inexact". Thus our behavior and choices are not preordained.
If you agree with the aforementioned you may counter that the a-causal choice or decision is not a choice or decision at all since we are not controlling it. At least you can loosen the choke-hold collar, even if the autonomous person is only matter in motion.
Comment by John Camilli on December 5, 2010 at 5:13pm
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. And you are probably right, that I lack sufficient understanding to convey my point. That's why I brought my issue to this sight. I want someone like you to keep telling me I'm wrong until it becomes impossible to do so without abandoning logic. Or until I abandon my possition because it has become untenable.

But it's tough to even begin such discussions because they are so fundamental that even basic words become overly complicated and incorrect. That's why I tried to start with the simplest and broadest ideas: 'reality is either causal, a-causal, or a combination thereof.' Whatever else is true, we can agree that any concept useful to human falls within this parameter. Then I narrow the parameters and start drawing conclusions.

If it is only causal, 'choice' cannot exist. That one's pretty clear.

If it is only a-causal, 'choice' might exist, but would be useless because a given effect could never be caused, and no concept of time could exist. That one's pretty clear too.

The possible combination of causal and a-causal is more complicated to consider. Is it possible that choice is some a-causal interruption into causal reality? Such an idea is probably the only one that could satisfy most people's definition of choice as an outcome that is not pre-ordained. To say something is not pre-ordained is to say it is not causal, so choice would HAVE to be something a-causal within a causal framework, if it exists.

But what could that be? What could exist in the human body that interrupts the normal sequence of events in the causal universe? And even if that something existed, COULD THE RESULTS BE SAID TO BE CHOSEN? If they are an a-causal interruption, then the results do not depend at all on what was intended. So even if there were something about humans that allow us to act in opposition to physical mechanisms, that thing could never produced results we desired.

Do you see where I'm coming from now?
Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 4, 2010 at 11:51pm
John,
Programmed artificial intelligence and results of evolution have a greater divergence than artificial selection and natural selection. It is not logical to dismiss the one based on the earlier dismissal.
My basic point is straightforward. Choice or free will is a phony metaphysical issue. Whether your ideas are valid I cannot judge because you lack the perspicacity to get those ideas accross. Either that or I am stupid.

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