Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

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Eduk
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 17th, 2017, 6:40 am

A good way of saying what's actually there is that we have agency which feels like authorship but we're simply not in control of our inputs thus our inputs really puppet us all the way along.
Sam's example of this is in asking a superficially free choice question. In his example 'name a city'. Now the city you thought of was just presented to your consciousness by your subconscious. So his conclusion is that all choice is like this. Now I don't agree with his conclusion that 'name a city' is as free a choice as it appears. Because what you are really saying is 'choose a city at random'. Now that is a different question. It makes sense that in order to be random the choice must be hidden from our consciousness.
I personally am more along the lines of Dennett and his opinion that we are free enough.
To give another example Einstein when thinking creatively attempted to achieve a state of unconsciousness where everything he 'knew' could be forgotten and he could be maximally free. In this way he came to the conclusion that maybe space and time are the same thing. Now that is creative thinking. That is an unconscious idea which is presented to his conscious mind. But does that mean he had no free will? Could anyone have come up with the same idea without many many years of trying. At what point does he take credit for consciously guiding his unconscious? It's complicated.

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Papus79
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 17th, 2017, 7:49 am

Where I get confused is that the more I thought about it, really starting close to ten years ago, I couldn't form a coherent understanding of what people actually meant by 'free will'. When I was a kid I was probably no better than anyone else with it - ie. I feel like going and grabbing a soda or glass of water so I'm following my free will to do so, until it occurred to me that that's not me so much as the needs of my body kicking my behavior into gear. It's almost like if my conscious mind were left to just tread water with no pressing demands my agency would be free-er but to what exactly? Maybe I'd be closer to following a more intrinsic/internal map rather than a map set up predominantly by externalities. It seems like when people do go on about having free will they mean that they have the ability to act on their own internal nature rather than being compelled by another person or circumstance but my general criticism has usually been - you decided your internal nature, your genes, and what you had to react to to even get that whole endeavor rolling? We very well might not be determined in any strictly Newtonian or atomistic sense but there seems to be no valid frame for me to say that in any given second or fraction of a second that I wouldn't have been doing exactly what I was, thinking or feeling exactly what I was.

As for Einstein and meditation - that's really just a person clearing a route between their conscious apparatus and their subconscious mind. Anytime people find themselves dealing with intuitions it's that deeper layer processing a lot more data at a different pace and its typically only when that deeper layer considers that such information is really important to our survival or at least influencing us to do what it wants that it offers such data to our conscious minds. Peter Carroll actually made an odd case for tarot divination that if a person does it slowly or only half-shuffles that said part of their brain can still track the cards and that the cards can be used as a dialog between the two strata - still not sure what I'd make of that.

-- Updated October 17th, 2017, 7:55 am to add the following --

The only other factor people tend to like bringing up these days, like in a Stuart Hameroff interview I was listening to last night, is the idea that somehow our minds may very well be processing impulses a half-second forward in time and that this somehow buys us more room for free will. That also is a claim that I don't know what to do with other than that, if it's true, it really blurs 'us' and suggests that we're going on at so many different hertz ranges and tempos that while we might have an inkling for what our immediate conscious mind is and what it does that we're on significantly shakier ground with everything else. To say we have a half second stretch of premonition does at least perhaps suggest that we're never quite in as bad of a bind with respect to decisions but, even if it were five seconds, ten, a full minute, we'd still be in a matrix of information that we did not create and we're still holding up our best interests against it - which again, it's not an economics so far as I can tell of us doing what we want to do, more like we're a vector map of internal and external possibilities and we're lead to guide their meeting and combining as judiciously as possible (the definition of judicious as well isn't ours).

Eduk
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 17th, 2017, 7:59 am

Well like I said look up Dennett, he makes some good points I think. He is not arguing we are absolutely free (whatever that would be) just that we are free enough. All your examples are restrictions but they don't invalidate free will. For example, although difficult, I can decide to starve myself to death.

You argue that under the exact same circumstances you would make the exact same choice (proving that their is no free will). I would say firstly that the exact same circumstances are impossible and secondly that even if that were true it wouldn't invalidate free will. It's just saying you aren't absolutely free.

I mean don't get me wrong I don't think there is a simple answer to this conundrum. But can self awareness be faked? I am reminded of Descartes' quote.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Chili » October 17th, 2017, 12:47 pm

Eduk wrote:I've never run into anything that contradicts atheism.
Consciousness and atheism have nothing to do with each other. One doesn't preclude the other.
For example Sam Harris is an atheist. He believes consciousness is an illusion. But that neither contradicts or supports atheism. Actually I think he's making the same mistake you are. It's unknown how materialism can lead to consciousness therefore it can't is the same claim as you make. He just draws a different conclusion. In my mind just as likely to be true as your own, well to be fair I think consciousness is an illusion is more likely than your ideas, but I'm still mostly agnostic to both ideas.
Calling Sam Harris and/or his apologists!

Consciousness cannot be an illusion. That would be a contradiction in terms. The only meaningful definition of an illusion is "something which *exists* in subjective consciousness, but not objectively". To put those words together in that order presupposes a model in which there such a real thing as subjective consciousness - which
in some way *exists* - for the illusory image to appear. How can this be missed ?!

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 17th, 2017, 1:38 pm

Well if you define something as existing as then yes to say it doesn't exist defies the definition. But that seems rather pointlessly circular to me.
Personally I see no problem in claiming that the subjective experience of having had a subjective experience can be objectively real. But to be fair that's a statement that is very open to interpretation.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Chili » October 17th, 2017, 1:48 pm

Eduk wrote:Well if you define something as existing as then yes to say it doesn't exist defies the definition. But that seems rather pointlessly circular to me.
Personally I see no problem in claiming that the subjective experience of having had a subjective experience can be objectively real. But to be fair that's a statement that is very open to interpretation.
If my neighbor is a reductionist machine, and his utterances convince me personally that he is conscious, then perhaps *his* consciousness is simply an illusion is *my* mind.

But if we accept at the outset that there is someone experiencing that they *themselves* are conscious, then it is clearly a contradiction in terms to then call that any kind of illusion.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 17th, 2017, 1:58 pm

Well it is easy to imagine someone else is unconscious and simple saying that they are conscious when asked.
However the same logic can be applied to yourself when you ask yourself if you are conscious and get an affirmative reply.
Of course now you have to ask who is asking yourself. Which is of course a mini marvel all of its own.
Now again I don't believe I am unconscious. I simply admit to not knowing what consciousness is. So saying what it is is tricky.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Chili » October 17th, 2017, 2:04 pm

Eduk wrote:Well it is easy to imagine someone else is unconscious and simple saying that they are conscious when asked.
However the same logic can be applied to yourself when you ask yourself if you are conscious and get an affirmative reply.
Of course now you have to ask who is asking yourself. Which is of course a mini marvel all of its own.
Now again I don't believe I am unconscious. I simply admit to not knowing what consciousness is. So saying what it is is tricky.
I would absolutely not say that I ask myself and then answer. I apprehend my own consciousness directly. Nothing is concluded. No scientific experiment could ever change that fact. I know it much more intimately than I know if there is a world. Am I conscious? Absolutely. Is there a physical world which causes sensations? Um, I guess so. Is my neighbor conscious? Um, that's a double "I guess so" - one for the outer world, and another for "other minds".

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/other-minds/

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 17th, 2017, 2:10 pm

Certainty is a tricky concept.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Atreyu » October 17th, 2017, 6:35 pm

Eduk wrote:Well it is easy to imagine someone else is unconscious and simple saying that they are conscious when asked.
However the same logic can be applied to yourself when you ask yourself if you are conscious and get an affirmative reply.
Of course now you have to ask who is asking yourself. Which is of course a mini marvel all of its own.
Now again I don't believe I am unconscious. I simply admit to not knowing what consciousness is. So saying what it is is tricky.
That is the proper way to proceed. If only everyone were as open minded as you.
Chili wrote: I would absolutely not say that I ask myself and then answer. I apprehend my own consciousness directly. Nothing is concluded. No scientific experiment could ever change that fact. I know it much more intimately than I know if there is a world. Am I conscious? Absolutely. Is there a physical world which causes sensations? Um, I guess so. Is my neighbor conscious? Um, that's a double "I guess so" - one for the outer world, and another for "other minds".
Absolutely, eh? Are you sure? Because 'absolutely' in this context implies to me that you're saying, basically, that you are always conscious, or at least whenever you are awake. But are you really?

Have you ever found yourself daydreaming? Ever found yourself reading a book and realized that your eyes are just going back and forth without comprehending anything, compelling you to go back up the page again? How about nervous movements like twiddling your finger or playing with your hair? Are you always conscious of that? Remember the last time you walked in a room and flicked the light switch on? Were you conscious of that act? Or was it done out of habit?

It's easy for Man to fool himself about "how conscious" he is, when he is able to wake up on command. (Are you conscious? Well, of course I am!) And he is, for that moment. But if a man learns to observe himself sufficiently, he will always find that he's rarely conscious. In fact, he'll find that he can't even remember to observe himself most of the time. The truth is that consciousness comes and goes, and is actually present a lot less than we imagine it is....

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Papus79
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 17th, 2017, 8:25 pm

Eduk wrote:Well like I said look up Dennett, he makes some good points I think. He is not arguing we are absolutely free (whatever that would be) just that we are free enough. All your examples are restrictions but they don't invalidate free will. For example, although difficult, I can decide to starve myself to death.
There's still something in there, ie. the assumption that we gave ourselves our identities. it's sneaky but for as much as I've acclimated to myself through the years I can't think of anything I gave myself that wasn't some compounding, iterative, or coping result of either genetics, environment, or both. That's where I tend to agree with Harris that the criminal justice system is really only a pragmatic thing, perhaps it's possible that he underestimates the degree to which fear of consequence can cause deferral of behavior but clearly I do think that genuine punitive thinking for the sake of giving the wicked their licks seems completely out of place with our understanding of how people come together.

Someone else who I also find fascinating, although he gets a bit too dour on the determinism thing at times, is George Lakoff. I agree with both him and Sam that there's really nothing we can do but what we were going to do, but that said I'm not sure fatalism in the 'I can't change' quite maps to reality - ie. our imaginations of the future are nearly always inaccurate in major ways. The other part, the software someone runs in their head is a big deal and those people who are constantly looking for the cleanest, healthiest, and most orderly software to run in their brains will easily enjoy a wealth of experience in positive directions over a similar version of them that hadn't caught that itch. It might literally be a matter of fate whether someone ever gets that urge but that's part of why I tend to think clearing the information channels and sorting high-quality tools from junk is a really big deal.

One of the more interesting side-effects of temporal determinism for me is that it actually makes thoughts themselves much more solid/concrete things than most people would usually consider them to be, especially when everything that's going on in a culture of sentient agents such as humans is a story of thoughts and feelings along with economics, historical events, etc. etc.. and in some ways big stories or serious historical complex can be even more hard, tangible, and consequential than the big rock in the front yard.

-- Updated October 17th, 2017, 8:39 pm to add the following --

Another side issue, and it scares me a bit. In terms of US and European politics it seems like if the alt-right catches on or starts catching any major attraction it will likely be because of the the philosophies of people like Julius Evola, Rene Guenon, etc. geared toward the romanticism of the adventurer and hero as self-actualizing ideal, tales of a perennial philosophy lost to us after the end of scholasticism, Hindu yugas and cyclical history, and loads of anti-modern concepts that might very well lead to atrocities but in comparison to the gray, drab, and bitter visage of our current left it looks like an outdoor rave. I'd have to hope that the center and classic liberals are able to draw this stuff up and make something of it (ie. take the goods - leave the racism), Jordan Peterson seems to have taken a serious running start at that, but this is also where we have to understand just how badly we served ourselves in telling people they were just cogs in a machine, that there was nothing to life but working and consuming, or even for as much as I revere science for how its clarified the universe it's still not something that's up to the task of keeping the dragons, ghosts, elves, and sirens of one's subconscious (let alone someone else's) truly at bay.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Chili » October 17th, 2017, 9:21 pm

Atreyu wrote:
Chili wrote: I would absolutely not say that I ask myself and then answer. I apprehend my own consciousness directly. Nothing is concluded. No scientific experiment could ever change that fact. I know it much more intimately than I know if there is a world. Am I conscious? Absolutely. Is there a physical world which causes sensations? Um, I guess so. Is my neighbor conscious? Um, that's a double "I guess so" - one for the outer world, and another for "other minds".
Absolutely, eh? Are you sure? Because 'absolutely' in this context implies to me that you're saying, basically, that you are always conscious, or at least whenever you are awake. But are you really?


I mean tautologically that I am conscious *when* I am conscious. "Always" is an abstraction. I recall other moments but those may be fake memories. If I am ever conscious, that is me being conscious, and that happens somehow somewhere which is beyond any kind of empirical investigation - when it happens.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 23rd, 2017, 3:44 am

There's still something in there, ie. the assumption that we gave ourselves our identities. it's sneaky but for as much as I've acclimated to myself through the years I can't think of anything I gave myself that wasn't some compounding, iterative, or coping result of either genetics, environment, or both. That's where I tend to agree with Harris that the criminal justice system is really only a pragmatic thing,
I absolutely agree the criminal justice system should be pragmatic. But that is true regardless of free will. Like I said I don't think I have absolute free will, just practical free will.
I agree with your point about the assumption of our own identity. I certainly didn't decide to be me (as such). But that said I have made decisions which have changed me. At the end of the day this is non trivial and doesn't have a clear and obvious answer.
Another side issue, and it scares me a bit. In terms of US and European politics it seems like if the alt-right catches on or starts catching any major attraction it will likely be because of the the philosophies of people like Julius Evola, Rene Guenon, etc. geared toward the romanticism of the adventurer and hero as self-actualizing ideal,
I don't believe this is a major factor. The major factor in right wing ideology is because your friends and family have that ideology. Beyond that the factors which make the ideology rise and fall are complicated. But my suspicion of the largest influence would be socio-economic. If you are not that bright because it was cool not to be and you have a not great job that you don't make a great job of doing with a not great wife (after all you are a not great person) and a not great relationship with your own children (if you even have a wife and children). Well at the end of the day logic doesn't come into it you will be looking for a revolution, whatever that revolution is. This is the problem with a tiny percentage of the population taking all the resources from the rest (sure they get to live like kings but sooner or later people get desperate).

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 23rd, 2017, 8:01 am

Eduk wrote: Like I said I don't think I have absolute free will, just practical free will.
How would you define the difference between saying that you have practical free will as different from simply saying that agency for certain actions flows through you? I'm not sure I understand whether what you're trying to say is synonymous to that or whether you are trying to say something distinctly different.
Eduk wrote:I don't believe this is a major factor. The major factor in right wing ideology is because your friends and family have that ideology. Beyond that the factors which make the ideology rise and fall are complicated. But my suspicion of the largest influence would be socio-economic. If you are not that bright because it was cool not to be and you have a not great job that you don't make a great job of doing with a not great wife (after all you are a not great person) and a not great relationship with your own children (if you even have a wife and children). Well at the end of the day logic doesn't come into it you will be looking for a revolution, whatever that revolution is. This is the problem with a tiny percentage of the population taking all the resources from the rest (sure they get to live like kings but sooner or later people get desperate).
All of that sounds about right for some of the putzes who were on VICE's Charlottesville feed but it unfortunately when I look at the movement heads or hear what they're talking about or how they dig into the issues it couldn't be more the opposite. It's a lot of highly intelligent individuals who are sick of western ennui, the flattening of spirit with materialism, and a lot of those people also want some way to build white ethnostates with the argument that they're seeing multiculturalism as such a pig-headed operation, in practice, that they have no faith that it won't be a bunch of groups carving up the west anyway in their own anti-Democratic interests. I don't agree with them on the last part, it has zero practicality, but the front end of that is enough to get a lot of people thinking which again - I really hope the center takes note and follows up.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 23rd, 2017, 9:04 am

How would you define the difference between saying that you have practical free will as different from simply saying that agency for certain actions flows through you?
Well agency for certain actions and practical free will sounds like much the same thing. Let me give an example. Let us say that we are playing golf and I am trying to make a putt and I miss. Now I could say if I took the exact same putt I would get it nine times out of ten.
Now let us imagine I did take the exact same putt and got it nine times out of ten. This implies free will is real.
Or let us imagine I took the putt and missed all ten times. This implies free will is not real.

Now in reality there will never be the exact same time, the best I can do is to replicate the conditions closely. For example I move the ball back to where I took the putt from and take the putt again. Under this scenario I score the putt nine times out of ten and assume I have free will. I have no absolutely demonstrated free will. Only demonstrated a practical case for free will.
unfortunately when I look at the movement heads or hear what they're talking about or how they dig into the issues it couldn't be more the opposite. It's a lot of highly intelligent individuals who are sick of western ennui, the flattening of spirit with materialism
I'm not sure who the heads are? For me Trump is the poster boy and he doesn't seem to align with what you are saying above? Also in my experience those people who complain about their culture being destroyed are amongst those with the least culture. By which I mean talk is cheap.

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