I'm only responsible for what I say

Richard Goode's picture
Submitted by Richard Goode on Wed, 2012-06-20 07:24

I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand


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Possible worlds

Richard Goode's picture

Imagine that you were shown two worlds:

There's only one world, Callum. The real world.

"What is it that makes it true that you could have chosen otherwise?"

Whatever it is, it's not the literal existence of incomprehensibly many possible worlds, all of which are actual to their inhabitants, while merely possible to us. Or do you think that it is?

Richard

Callum McPetrie's picture

"I hope you're familiar with, and subscribe to, the correspondence theory of truth."

I am, and I do. In fact, I was pleasantly suprised in my Critical Thinking course last trimester that cultural relativism et. al. was explicitly repudiated in favour of it (I'm wondering if this will lead to a rift between disciplines in the academy further down the line).

"What is it that makes it true that you could have chosen otherwise?"

Hmmm, I'll try a thought experiment that will hopefully shed some light on this question. (This is all completely off the top of my head - so bear with me).

Imagine that you were shown two worlds: world (1), in which you choose X at some point in time, and world (2), in which you choose Y at the same point in time (assuming that choosing X and Y are mutually exclusive). Obviously, you live in either one of these two worlds; either world (1), in which the proposition "you chose X" is true, or world (2), in which the proposition "you chose Y" is true. However, you do not know which of the two worlds you live in; so either of the two propositions could be true.

This is all compatible with a four-dimensional view of time; both the propositions have a definite truth value in their respective worlds. So, the question is: what are the chances that you are living in either one or the other? Iff it is not impossible that you could be living in either of the two (i.e. neither of the worlds violate the laws of logic), then free will is in fact compatible with a four-dimensional view of time (such that you could choose otherwise, if you were living in the other world). As living in the other world is not impossible, it is also not impossible that you could have chosen otherwise - thus, I guess that that will be my answer.

Callum

Richard Goode's picture

The reason is that what does happen in no way affects what could have happened.

Yes, I suppose you're right. However ... metaphysically speaking, nothing can happen, except what does happen. Whereas, epistemically speaking, all sorts of things can happen.

Christianity and Objectivism both assume metaphysical libertarianism.

I hope you're familiar with, and subscribe to, the correspondence theory of truth. (Rand did, so I hope this is uncontroversial.) According to the correspondence theory of truth, every true statement has truthmaker(s). Truthmaker(s) are those fact(s) in virtue of which the statement is true.

If you have genuine free will, then to make a genuine choice, it must be true that you could have chosen otherwise. Do you believe in free will? If so, next time you make a genuine choice, say to yourself, "I could have chosen otherwise." Then ask youself, what is/are that statement's truthmaker(s). What is it that makes it true that you could have chosen otherwise? This is where the real problem lies.

Thank God you're not retarded.

Richard

Callum McPetrie's picture

The reason is that what does happen in no way affects what could have happened. If I had in fact chosen differently, the world would be different - another set of facts (in relation to what I had chosen) about it would be true, and the current set of facts would be false.

Essentially, proponents of the logical determinist argument about free will have causation backwards. It's the fact that I choose to do X that causes the proposition "I choose X" to be true, not vice versa. A four-dimensional view of time requires only that that proposition be true. It is fully compatible with the proposition that "if I had choosen differently, the world would have been different." Of course, I don't choose differently, so four-dimensional time is maintained.

La Cage aux Folles

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I wish Objectivists would read it, before making fools of themselves.

If one cannot help what one thinks, says or does, there can be no such thing as making a fool of oneself.

The only fool in this debate is he who says one cannot help what one thinks, says or does.

The only surprise in this debate is: who takes fools such as Baade and Dennett seriously. But I guess they can't help it.

Callum

Richard Goode's picture

Are you aware that a four-dimensionalist view of time (e.g. one in which the past and future exist, albeit in different temporal locations to the present) does not in fact present an argument against free will?

No, I was not aware of that.

Tell me more!

Richard

Callum McPetrie's picture

"You say that you could have chosen otherwise. Where's your evidence? Give me a specific example of someone who chose otherwise than they actually did. You cannot. There is no one in the whole of recorded history who ever chose otherwise than they, in fact, did."

Are you aware that a four-dimensionalist view of time (e.g. one in which the past and future exist, albeit in different temporal locations to the present) does not in fact present an argument against free will?

Richard Goode

Leonid's picture

A thermostat cannot decide anything. It doesn't need to-since it not alive and therefore doesn't face any alternative and doesn't have any goals of its own. It preset by those who do-namely human beings. For the thermostat itself the certain set of temperature doesn't represent any value. It cannot by itself adjust its setting even if certain temperature destroys it. But you could and would. If you feel too cold or too hot, you will change the setting. You free to change your mind in future and in any time exactly because you have a free will. Call yourself feeble minded then, every time you adjust a thermostat. The statement "I could not have chosen otherwise," is a contradiction in terms. It undermines the very concept of choice. You can choose otherwise anytime. If you couldn't-then you are no different from a thermostat. Compatibilism will not succeed until compatibalists like Daniel Dennet reject the notion of reductionism, that is-an attempt to explain the living in terms of dead. Everybody who claims as a proof for determinism that there is no free will in an autopsy or in DNA indeed makes fool of himself.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

If the 'decision' was driven by physics, [then it was not a choice,] and I believe and it appears Richard believes, that it was not a choice.

I'd like it if you paid just a tad more attention to grammar ... so that I don't have to guess your intended meaning. Smiling

Choice is the wrong word.

I take it this is your main point. And it's a worthwhile point to make ... but, I think, mistaken. In the philosophical literature, there is a position called compatibilism, which seeks to reconcile the existence of free will with determinism. It succeeds, although it does so at a cost, according to some. Some (including you, presumably) think that it waters down the meanings of terms such as 'free will' and 'choice' to too great an extent. I disagree.

Our disagreement, however, is purely semantic. Whereas, my disagreement (and yours, I think, correct me if I'm wrong) with Leonid is more than semantic. Leonid believes in what is called libertarian free will. Libertarian free will is the genuine article, not the watered down compatibilist version I believe in. There is no such thing as libertarian free will.

Unfortunately, if there is no such thing as libertarian free will, then both Christianity and Objectivism are in a spot of bother. This is a problem for me, as I acknowledge here.

I recommend Daniel Dennett's book, Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting. I wish Objectivists would read it, before making fools of themselves.

Lenoid is right here (wrong otherwise)

Damien Grant's picture

"I chose to believe in God. I could not have chosen otherwise. What on earth is the problem with that?"

Choice is the wrong word. If the 'decision' was driven by physics, and I believe and it appears Richard believes, that it was not a choice. It is a desire, which is not a choice.

His belief in god is not his choice, because he cannot choose his DNA, his life experiences and the other influences that have impacted on his brain that led it to belief in a god.

It is not a choice, it only has the appearance of a choice. A car does not choose to go faster, it merely responds to the forces acting on it, but from an outsider looking at the car, we observe the car making decisions.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

As for evidence-consider all examples of changing mind.

Examples of changing one's mind are NOT evidence of free will!

Specifically, you've chosen first to be an [atheist] and then choose to become religious.

Yes, that's right. I chose first to be an atheist and then I chose to be a Christian.

At time t1 I chose to be an atheist. At that time, I could not have chosen otherwise. At a later time, t2, I chose to be a Christian. At that later time, I could not have chosen otherwise, either. Of course, I am free to "change my mind" in the future.

Even something as simple as a room thermostat "changes its mind". At a time t1, it decides to turn the heater on. At a later time, t2, when it detects that the room is at the pre-set temperature (or above), it decides to turn the heater off.

A room thermostat does not have free will. Neither do you. No one does. Free will is a consoling delusion for the feeble-minded.

Richard Goode

Leonid's picture

Choice is always between two or more alternatives. Where is no alternative, there is no choice. if you couldn't choose otherwise, then your decision is not under your control, it's not yours, some antecedent forces act on you. As for evidence-consider all examples of changing mind. Specifically, you've chosen first to be an agnostic and then choose to become religious. That meanы you could choose otherwise.

"So you believe that the mind can violate the laws of physics?"

No. Mind and life cannot violate the laws of physics. Qua physical objects they obey these laws. But qua living entities they operate by the different set of laws. Living objects generates action, not acted upon. In fact all antecedent forces are detrimental for life. For example no inanimate object can on its own initiate movement. Laws of physics forbid it. Animate objects can and do. There is nothing magical in it.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

If you choose, you have free will. If you couldn't have chosen otherwise, this is not a choice. Choice presupposes an alternative.

You couldn't have chosen otherwise.

You say that you could have chosen otherwise. Where's your evidence? Give me a specific example of someone who chose otherwise than they actually did. You cannot. There is no one in the whole of recorded history who ever chose otherwise than they, in fact, did.

To make a choice man uses volition and mind which operates not by laws of physics ...

So you believe that the mind can violate the laws of physics? Miraculous!

You believe that you possess a magic superpower.

Objectivism is a religion.

Richard Goode

Leonid's picture

"I chose to believe in God. I could not have chosen otherwise"

If you choose, you have free will. If you couldn't have chosen otherwise, this is not a choice. Choice presupposes an alternative. To make a choice man uses volition and mind which operates not by laws of physics, but by laws of life. As God, reductionism is dead.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

You're not making much sense.

If however, a desire is a consequence of your DNA or your brain hardwiring ...

What else would it be? Everything I do can, in principle, be explained by the laws of physics. Why do you insist that I possess a magic superpower?

... and you have no control or choice whatsoever in this matter

I chose to believe in God. I could not have chosen otherwise. What on earth is the problem with that?

Even something as simple as a thermostat has control (over temperature).

"What has desire got to do

Leonid's picture

"What has desire got to do with volition?"

Everything. You said " I want"-which means that the source of desire is you, your self-consciousness and your personality. If however, a desire is a consequence of your DNA or your brain hardwiring , and you have no control or choice whatsoever in this matter, then it's not yours. In fact there is no "YOU".

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

"I believe in God because I want to."

Do you have an objection to people doing what they want to do?

Besides, how can you want-you don't believe in Free Will.

What has desire got to do with volition?

Richard Goode

Leonid's picture

"I believe in God because I want to."

Subjectivism causes delusion. Besides, how can you want-you don't believe in Free Will. "Free will"-you said, " is a comforting illusion for the feeble-minded." Do you confess now that you are the feeble-minded?

Err

Richard Goode's picture

That was my point, some posts back.

That Emerson has no property rights to his own words? And never did?

I think that was my point, repeatedly.

you are beginning to debate like wiig.

Yes, I'm winning.

Ummm

Damien Grant's picture

That was my point, some posts back.

Full circle, you are beginning to debate like wiig.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

How do I know what is your basis? It doesn't have to be rational.

The link I referred you to before was meant to answer your question.

But I'll give you the very short answer. I believe in God because I want to. I chose to believe in God. It was a pre-theistic choice, if you like.

Maybe you've had a revelation.

Yes, I had one of those, too. (But it might have been the drugs. One can never be too sure.)

Some people become religious as result of a brain tumor.

Objectivism causes cancer.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not Emerson's words. Household words.

"Are you asking me to provide

Leonid's picture

"Are you asking me to provide an argument for the existence of God?"

Not necessary. How do I know what is your basis? It doesn't have to be rational. Maybe you've had a revelation. Maybe it's in your DNA. Some people become religious as result of a brain tumor. I just asked a simple question and I'm only responsible for what I say.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Damien Grant's picture

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

Goode: Hoist with his own petard

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

Perhaps I misunderstood your question. It was

What then is the basis of your article of faith?

Are you asking me to provide an argument for the existence of God?

"God is the source of

Leonid's picture

"God is the source of morality."

"Yes. You can be an atheist and believe this. I was an atheist, and I did believe it. Accordingly, I concluded that morality was a fiction. But, as I said, nihilism is no way to live."

Hypocrisy neither.

"No. God is the content of my

Leonid's picture

"No. God is the content of my article of faith, not its basis."

Then your referral failed to answer my question.

Goode: Hoist with his own petard

Damien Grant's picture

Your blog has Give me Liberty, or Give me Death, who Wikipedia tells me originated with Patrick Henry. Not you. I see no attribution.

You lack a spotless reputation. Shakespeare’s prose are now household words, a blinking idiot can see that. Your complaint is much ado about nothing.

All the world's a stage

Richard Goode's picture

Damien, have you noticed how Perigo has "This above all, to thine own self be true" up in the top right corner, on about every fourth page load?

If I'm not very much mistaken, he's copied that word for word from Shakespeare! Without attribution and without permission! What brazen thievery!

having said that

Damien Grant's picture

I am very distrustful of the word moral, it seems dangerously subjective and too abstract for my liking.

wait up there Richard

Damien Grant's picture

Using drugs has not, so far as I can recall, been considered immoral. Some people think selling drugs is immoral; I may be in that group, but using drugs, not so much.

Using drugs is self-destructive in some cases, but you are not taking away something from someone else by doing so. There are no victims from my drug taking, except in the abstract where some people who may rely on me are sad, or I run over someone’s kitten or toddler because I am wasted.

By taking someone’s else’s intellectual property and not paying for it then you are doing harm to that person by denying them what matters, money (as opposed to my drug induced stupor running over their children!).

I understand your (erroneous) view on intellectual property but I think that there is a moral difference between drug taking and copying intellectual property.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

I'm just trying to establish for what you are responsible.

OK.

"God is the source of morality."

Yes. You can be an atheist and believe this. I was an atheist, and I did believe it. Accordingly, I concluded that morality was a fiction. But, as I said, nihilism is no way to live.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

You say silly things, is all I am saying.

Let's talk about demonic possession instead!

Well ...

Richard Goode's picture

You acknowledge the existence of intellectual property despite your belief in its non-existence.

There is no such thing as intellectual property, morally speaking.

But, yes. There is such a thing as intellectual property, legally speaking. Sadly.

That is my position. (And it's no sillier than stating, "Smoking dope is a crime," and then agreeing with me that smoking dope is not a crime, morally speaking.)

yes

Damien Grant's picture

you know that is my position Richard.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

Smoking dope is not a crime, morally speaking.

Do you agree?

hmmm

Damien Grant's picture

interesting,

I do not think we are talkiong past each other, I think we understand each other perfectly.

And yes. Smoking dope is a crime. Sadly.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

You acknowledge the existence of intellectual property despite your belief in its non-existence.

I think there's a bit of "talking past each other" going on.

I'll repeat what (you and) I said in an earlier comment on Reed's copy prohibition laws thread.

I would define property as something that can be owned. This covers pretty much everything ...

Sure. But a communist government could pass a law decreeing that what was previously your private property is now communally owned. Your stuff would then be my stuff, legally speaking. We would both balk at this. The question is not, do you have legal rights in so-called intellectual property? You do. The question is, do you have moral rights in so-called intellectual property? You don't. I can't think of a good reason why you should.

Suppose that, in the car crushing case, you think that the confiscation was unjust. Then, if I ask you, who is the legal owner of the vehicle, and who is the rightful owner of the vehicle, I get two different answers from you. Similarly, if you ask me, who is the legal owner of Atlas Shrugged, and who is the rightful owner of Atlas Shrugged, you will get two different answers from me. The correct ones!

(Whereas, if I ask what, exactly, it is that the legal owner(s) of Atlas Shrugged own, I get no intelligible answer!)

Is smoking marijuana a crime?

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

Am I to understand that God is the basis of your article of faith?

No. God is the content of my article of faith, not its basis.

but you do...

Damien Grant's picture

Does money exist? It exists as notes and coins and as book keeping records but its real value is the value our minds place on it, or more importantly what our minds think other minds will place on it. Tricky concept money.

The same is true for intellectual property. It exists on paper in the form of contracts and legislation but its real value is the value our minds place on it, or more importantly what our minds think other minds will place on it.

You may not value intellectual property. You may think it is mis-named, (the very words convey a legitimacy that you dispute), but the idea that one person owns and can trade the inventions of their mind is as real as the concept of money.

Your revert to authorship to try and create a distinction, but authorship is different from ownership. You acknowledge the existence of intellectual property despite your belief in its non-existence.

You say silly things, is all I am saying.

Richard Goode

Leonid's picture

"What then is the basis of your article of faith?"-"God is the source of morality."

I'm just trying to establish for what you are responsible. Am I to understand that God is the basis of your article of faith? If this is a case, don't you think that your definition is a bit circular? God is a basis and the same time an object of the faith. In fact this is a pure tautology-you believe in God because you believe in God. This is for sure pre-epistemic and pre-everything. It's like to say-it's just a belief, and to hell with explanations, ontology, common sense and too many questions which you cannot answer.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

What then is the basis of your article of faith?

See here.

You'd better stop soon before you commit the fallacy of many questions. Eye

What then is the basis of

Leonid's picture

What then is the basis of your article of faith?

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

And what could be the cause or reason for such a belief?

Another good question. Smiling

Anything non-epistemic, for starters. For example, pragmatism. Or, wishful thinking.

And what could be the cause

Leonid's picture

And what could be the cause or reason for such a belief?

cancel

Leonid's picture

cancel

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

What is an article of faith?

Good question. Smiling

An article of faith is a belief which goes beyond the evidence.

What is an article of faith?

Leonid's picture

What is an article of faith?

Well ...

Richard Goode's picture

You believe in something you cannot know exists

Yes. My belief in God is an article of faith. (So, too, is my belief in moral absolutes.)

I prefer to keep my beliefs to what I can actually know but I break this policy when I accept gravity because I most certainly do not understand the physics behind it

I take it that you don't have a problem with articles of faith, as such. (You're "superstitious".)

yet when it comes to intellectual property you claim to not believe in something that you know exists

I don't know that IP exists. I don't believe that IP exists, either. I'm not sure how often I have to state this before the message gets through, but there is no such thing as IP. Yes, there are books, movies, songs, drugs (thank God for drugs) and software, and your copy of Atlas Shrugged is your property, and my copy of VOS is my property ... but there is no such thing as intellectual property.

(even as a concept if not a tangible/tradable commodity).

To exist only "as a concept" is not to exist at all.

well

Damien Grant's picture

since I am no longer allowed to refer to goblins:

You linked to this: (not sure if they are your words or not but clerarly your beliefs)

"Christian agnosticism means being a Christian despite uncertainty about whether Christian teachings are true. It is not an oxymoron because the two terms refer to different things - agnosticism to knowledge, and Christianity to belief"

You believe in something you cannot know exists, yet when it comes to intellectual property you claim to not believe in something that you know exists, (even as a concept if not a tangible/tradable commodity).

Each on their own is silly, the two positions put side by side stretch your claim to being sanest one here.

I mean, you seem likeable enough but some of what you say is silly.

Damien

Richard Goode's picture

But you do say some silly things.

Like what? Sticking out tongue

Thanks for the picture tip though!

Damien Grant's picture

Much appreciated.

Ok

Damien Grant's picture

But you do say some silly things.

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