Origin of Volition

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Phylogenesis of Consciousness and Free will-Teleological Approach
Case against mind-body dichotomy and determinism
By Leonid Fainberg
“I know what I want, and that something which knows how to want-isn't that life itself?"
"We the living" Ayn Rand
Contemporary philosophy of mind is still living under deep shadow of Cartesian and non-Cartesian mind-body dichotomy. This is the text book description of this fallacy: "According to some, minds are spiritual entities that temporarily reside in bodies, entering at birth and departing on death, others reject the concept of mind, claiming that minds are just brains." (Join Heil, 2004).
And here is artistic description of the same premises: "They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison..."(Ayn Rand, Atlas shrugged,1957).
In attempts to resolve this contradiction Descartes had to reinvent God and Kant to divorce mind from reality altogether.
These attempts brought up more contradictions which contemporary post-Kantian philosophers are trying to resolve by means of reductive fallacy ( man is collection of chemicals, mind is electro-chemical process) or ,as functionalists do, by claiming that human mind is just complicated computer. Others are searching for the source of consciousness in the modern equivalents of Noumenal World like indefinable realm of quantum mechanics or unknowable world of holomotion and Tao.
In the proposed article I'll defend the notion that mind-body dichotomy should be rejected and replaced by the concept of unique indivisible mind-body entity (MBE) which represents essential property of the life itself. I'll also argue that the concept of determinism is not applicable to consciousness but from other hand consciousness is not causeless.
To define consciousness one has to define existence. Existence as Aristotle observed is every thing which exists. However to be is to be something, that is-to possess identity. Consciousness is the faculty which is able to identify entities. Existence is identity; consciousness is identification (Ayn Rand 1968).Existence of unanimated matter is unconditional, only living organisms face constant alternative: to survive or to perish.. Their existence depends on constant goal-orientated interaction with environment when the goal is organism’s survival, its benefit, enhancement and furthering of its life. In order to survive they need to have a tool which enables them to perform this kind of interaction. Consciousness is such a tool. Therefore consciousness is primary teleological concept.
Aristotle observed that locomotion is essential property of life. Though not all living organisms able to change their spatial position, in much wider sense life is represented by motion-that is constant interaction with its environment. Contrary to unanimated matter which can be only acted upon it, organisms able initiate response to environmental stimuli. Let me elaborate. If I cut dead wood, it would not respond, the cut will stay as it is. .However if I’ll cut living tree-the plant will develop complicated response in order to heal the cut. If I’ll hit the key on the piano keyboard, the instrument will respond by producing sound. If I’ll hit an animal (which I’ll never do) the animal also will respond with the sound (cry). The difference is that for the animal this sound is meaningful-its goal is to chase away the attacker or to summon help; for piano the sound which it produces has no meaning whatsoever. For living organism this initiated responsiveness has teleological nature, that is goal orientated and the goal is organism's survival, benefit and welfare. Life is self-sustained and self-generated process. (Ayn Rand 1964). The Self Initiated Response (SIR) is essential feature of any living organism. It exists already on the level of viruses which are able to resist antiviral drugs. Cancer cells respond to chemotherapy treatment by actively pumping out anticancer drugs from their bodies etc… It is important to emphasize here that SIR by definition is indeterminate but not causeless. Determinism is a concept which designates chain of antecedent interactions between two or more entities. Biological action, however is primary self-initiated and therefore indeterminate. For example if one shoots an animal and the animal died, then one may say that the bullet killed this animal. However if the animal was only wounded and consequently recovered it would be absurd to claim that the cause of the healing process is the bullet which only can cause damage. Healing is self initiated teleological process. Deterministic process is contradictory to SIR. The cause of this teleological response is not any antecedent factor but essential property of living tissue. In other words each and any organism is end to itself, its own "primary mover". .One may ask: in such a case what is the cause of this process? If alleged cause is restoration of health, then it’s clear that at the moment of process’ initiation this cause doesn’t exist. The answer is: the cause is the goal which is projected into the future-that is-anticipated result of that particular SIR. Every living organism has build-in evolutionary based mechanism of goal setting which causes its action. Man is only exception, his goal-projecting mechanism is not build-in but volitional. (See below) Any living organism can set its goals and act toward their achievement Philogeneticaly this intrinsic teleological SIR exists on four different levels: pre-sensorial, sensorial, perceptual and conceptual. Only SIR on perceptual and conceptual level can be defined as consciousness. On pre-sensorial and sensorial levels organism cannot identify entities.
Pre-sensorial level of SIR is a mode of action when whole organism is responding to environmental challenges without help of any specific sensory organs or receptors .Amoeba, for example, will escape light which is harmful to it but light doesn’t cause amoeba’s movement, rather anticipated harm. Plant will turn its leaves to sun, but sunlight is not the cause of this action, rather anticipated benefit to the plant.
Since SIR is basic mechanism of survival, the evolutional process is aimed to improve this mechanism to make it more sophisticated and effective. In multi-cellular animals certain cells become sensory cells which evolve to form central neural system and eventually the brain which enables integration of sensory data to percepts and concepts.
Basic biological Law postulates that ontogenesis repeats phylogenies. During his antenatal development human child is functioning initially on pre-sensorial and latter on sensorial level. After birth he automatically develops perceptual level (acquired skill) which is the base of conceptual consciousness. Observe that children with impaired perception have difficulty to develop conceptual faculty. A child without any perception will not be able to develop any consciousness-the fact which somehow escaped attention of skeptical philosophers, who invalidate perception .The sensory-perceptional consciousness, is given to us but conceptual is not. Child is learning to grasp concepts and to speak by active volitional process. Therefore Man’s consciousness is not innate but self-created.
Human brain integrates percepts into concepts creating unique Mind-Brain Entity. (MBE) The description of concept-formation process is behind the scope of this article. However it’s important to mention that contrary to pre-sensorial, sensorial and perceptional levels the action of SIR mechanism on conceptual level is not automatic but volitional. Volition or Free Will is directly observable by introspection and doesn’t require validation since all validations are based on it. Free Will is not caused by any anteceded event but represents inherent property of SIR on conceptual level and thus not deterministic. In other words Free Will is part of MBE identity. Its function is to set or reset volitionally projected goals according to Man’s priorities beyond immediate range of action. Since Man chooses his priorities according to his code of values Free Will represents bridge to morality. Man may decide to hold his life qua Man-that is rational being - as his standard of value and to set his goal accordingly or choose different standards and become self-destructive since SIR which in Man’ case represented by MBE can only properly act toward self-benefit exactly as on any other level of Life.
In summary:
Human mind is the tool which enables SIR function on conceptual level and therefore inseparable from the living organism.” The mind without body is a ghost, the body without mind is a corpse-both are symbols of death” (Ayn Rand, 1968).Mind-body dichotomy contradicts very essence of the mind purpose and function and thus invalid. The analogy of MBE with computer also doesn’t hold water-computer is unanimated matter, it doesn’t face life-death alternative and therefore doesn’t have any projected goals of self-preservation and self-benefit. For the same reason it’s useless to look for the base of MBE function on molecular atomic or sub-particle level since it is functioning only on biological level and its function pertains to certain living organism-human being. Human mind however doesn’t have SIR build-in rigid mechanisms which are substituted by the volitional process of concept-formation and therefore MBE function is necessarily volitional .This substitution represent huge evolutionary advantage .It also gives to him ability to make choices-Man becomes moral being. Volition is self evident unique property of MBE, doesn’t have any antecedent cause and then not deterministic by its very nature. MBE like any other entity has identity and volition is its identity. Mind without volition is contradiction in terms. Mind or reason is basic tool of human survival, it integrates perceptual data into concepts by means of non-contradictory identification (Logic) enables us to projects our goals far in time and space and to achieve them by adjusting environment to Man’s needs. It is something which “knows how to want” and therefore it is essence of human life itself.
Contemporary philosophers teach us that existence is narrative, Man is social construction, Mind is impotent, contradictions exist in unity, words are just labels, whishes are fishes, the best way to keep one’s cake is to eat it and the best way to know reality is to empty one’s mind by means of repetition of some meaningless sound and to wait for revelations from supernatural realm. Their unintelligible sounds are spreading across Western Civilization, like ULA-ULA screams of Martian invaders from the famous Wells novel “The War of Worlds”; extinguish last lights of Renaissance and bring up plain medieval fundamentalism. Can this trend be reversed? Yes, if we recognize that Man’s mind is inseparable from his body, that Man is volitional being which like any other living organism holds his own life as standard of value and that his mind’s only function is to enable him to live his life qua Man, that is- as rational being-the only way he can exist.


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Richard, I did what what you asked me to do

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Leonid
4.2. Metaphysics of Mind :: Dualism

4.2a Interactionism [49]

4.2b Epiphenomenalism [49]

4.2c Psychophysical Parallelism [14]

4.2d Dualism, Misc [68]

See also:
1.3 Materialism and Dualism

1.3g Consciousness and Dualism

4.6a Emergence

4.2a Interactionism

See also: 1.3g. Consciousness and Dualism, 1.6e. The Function of Consciousness, 4.2b. Epiphenomenalism, 4.2c. Psychophysical Parallelism, 4.2d. Dualism, Misc, 4.7. Mental Causation, 5.4. Free Will, 8.1d. Neural Timing and Consciousness, 8.7a. The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

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4.2b Epiphenomenalism

See also: 1.3a. The Knowledge Argument, 1.3g. Consciousness and Dualism, 1.6e. The Function of Consciousness, 4.2a. Interactionism, 4.2c. Psychophysical Parallelism, 4.2d. Dualism, Misc, 4.7. Mental Causation, 5.4. Free Will.

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Campbell, Keith (1974). Comments on: Mark Woodhouse, A new epiphenomenalism?. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 52 (August):170-173. (Google | Edit)
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Dennett, Daniel C. (1991). "Epiphenomenal" qualia? In Consciousness Explained. Little, Brown. (Google | Annotation | Edit)
Discusses two senses of "epiphenomenalism" -- "Huxley's" and "philosophical" varieties -- and argues that the philosophical sort is crazy. (N.B. Huxley actually subscribed to the "philosophical" variety.)
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Gallagher, Shaun (2006). Where's the action? Epiphenomenalism and the problem of free will. In Susan Pockett, William P. Banks & Shaun Gallagher (eds.), Does Consciousness Cause Behavior? MIT Press. (Google | Edit)
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Uses the Mary thought-experiment to argue that qualia are epiphenomenal, and argues that epiphenomenalism is a tenable doctrine.
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4.2c Psychophysical Parallelism

See also: 4.2a. Interactionism, 4.2b. Epiphenomenalism, 4.2d. Dualism, Misc.

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See also: 1.3. Materialism and Dualism, 1.3g. Consciousness and Dualism, 4.1. Physicalism, 4.6a. Emergence.

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IF YOU THINK IT IS NOT ENOUGH AND I'M MAKING STUFF UP I CAN BRING MORE.

Contemporary philosophy of mind

Richard Goode's picture

Contemporary philosophy of mind is still living under deep shadow of Cartesian and non-Cartesian mind-body dichotomy...

Except that... it's not. Sure, there are modern-day dualists, but they are few, and philosophers who claim that "minds are just brains" are also not many, if any.

Google the phrase "contemporary philosophy of mind" and you'll soon get an idea of what contemporary philosophy of mind is actually all about. A few minutes spent surfing the web is not rigorous research but it's better than just making stuff up.

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