Another Open Letter to Stephen Hicks

seddon's picture
Submitted by seddon on Mon, 2012-07-30 14:41

Dear Stephen,

This open letter concerns Chart 1.3 on page 15 of the second edition of your book Explaining Postmodernism. You tell us in the “Where or When” square (one of 24 squares) that “Modernism,” the position you prefer, occurred during the Enlightenment and “20th century sciences, business, and technical.” Post-modernism is late 20th century while Pre-modernism is the medieval period. In chart 1.2, you provide the names of those who buy into “The Enlightenment Vision.” But this list includes Descartes, Leibniz, Locke etc., all of whom accepted Christianity, i.e., a two world metaphysics along with an epistemology of faith (in part) to assure us access to the beyond. This seems to move them completely into the pre-modern block, or at least requires one to see them as overlapping both pre-modern and modern blocks.

On the other hand, if we look at, say, Schopenhauer, who you include in Chapter 2, “The Counter-enlightenment Attack on Reason,” we, or should I say I, find many of the Enlightenment characteristic you list under “Modernism” in Chart 1.3 to be found in his writings. For an independent reality, the postmodernist substitutes “a social linguistic constructionist account of reality.” (6) This doesn’t apply to Schopenhauer for whom Will is the thing-in-itself and not dependent on humans for its identity or construction, linguistic or social.

As for epistemology, Schopenhauer’s position is complex indeed. But rather than excerpt a few quotations from Schopenhauer, I thought I would show how he is an advocate of reason, esp. scientific reason, by referring you to a (free) article by Don Howard entitled, “A Peek Behind the Veil of Maya: Einstein, Schopenhauer, and the Historical Background of the Conception of Space as a Ground for the Individuation of Physical Systems” that can be found at this web address

As for Politics, Section 62 of WWR-1 has enough in it to warm the heart of any Lockean, (he even cribs some of Locke’s examples) and he is surely closer to liberal capitalism than to socialism.

What are your thoughts on this?

Fred


( categories: )

Leonid

seddon's picture

Okay. I know what you mean by man. What do you mean by "self" and "self-consciousness."

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Notice you were NOT talking about man, but about the self and about self-consciousness. "

I am. Separate or, if it helps to you, autonomous volitional being is man who possesses awareness of being conscious.

Leonid

seddon's picture

So you're saying that man is a separate volitional being, not consciousness?? I don't see how that helps you. And I'm not sure you said what you said you said. Let me give the whole post.

I asked the question,
"Then for you, unlike say Branden or Hume, the self is a substance?"

And you answered,

"Why? I said it's kind of awareness of been conscious and of existence as a separate volitional being, not substance."

Notice you were NOT talking about man, but about the self and about self-consciousness.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Foolish me, I thought by the word "separate" you meant "separate."-Indeed.

"separate volitional being"

As you know, English is not my native language. But even I know English grammar enough to understand that adjective "separate" and " volitional" pertains to the noun "being", that is-man, and not to awareness.

On 11-26-12 you wrote, "it's

seddon's picture

On 11-26-12 you wrote, "it's kind of awareness of been conscious and of existence as a separate volitional being, not substance."
Foolish me, I thought by the word "separate" you meant "separate."

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"And since consciousness is an attribute and not a substance, it can't be separate, which Leonid claimed it to be."

I never claimed that consciousness could be separated.

Dr. Seddon

ding_an_sich's picture

"[whose picture is that ding an sich?--it certainly doesn't look like you.]"

Buckminster Fuller

Leonid and ding an sich

seddon's picture

So, it is a species of the genus "consciousness"."

And since consciousness is an attribute and not a substance, it can't be separate, which Leonid claimed it to be.

[whose picture is that ding an sich?--it certainly doesn't look like you.]

Fred

ding_an_sich

Leonid's picture

By category I mean " A specifically defined division in a system of classification; a class." (The Free Dictionary). Taxonomy is also a system of classification, " a classification into ordered categories:"( Dictionary.com). So these two concepts are closely interconnected, unless you mean Aristotelian or Kantian categories.

Leonid

ding_an_sich's picture

"According to your question "Then what category is self-consciousness" it is, unless you think that self-consciousness is not consciousness. According to Objectivism, consciousness is a faculty which man shares with other species, like high animals. Self-consciousness is an exclusive faculty of man. So, it is a species of the genus "consciousness"."

Category, not taxonomy: get it right.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"First, consciousness is NOT a category."

According to your question "Then what category is self-consciousness" it is, unless you think that self-consciousness is not consciousness. According to Objectivism, consciousness is a faculty which man shares with other species, like high animals. Self-consciousness is an exclusive faculty of man. So, it is a species of the genus "consciousness"

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Self consciousness obviously belongs to the category of consciousness."

First, consciousness is NOT a category. According to O-ism consciousness is an attribute. Therefore, self-consciousness is an attribute of an attribute. The only problem with that is that is cannot be "separate" as you said in was in a previous post. Only things (substances) can be separate.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Self consciousness obviously belongs to the category of consciousness. I do not subscribe to Cartesian substantial dualism. In Objectivism consciousness is "faculty of perceiving that which exists." (ITOE 37). Self-consciousness is a faculty of perceiving itself.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"not substance."

Then what category is self-consciousness in; quality, quantity, relation etc.?

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Then for you, unlike say Branden or Hume, the self is a substance?"

Why? I said it's kind of awareness of been conscious and of existence as a separate volitional being, not substance.

Jules

seddon's picture

I agree. I will be teaching ANTHEM in April of 2013. A wonderful way to end the EXISTENTIALISM course.

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"a separate volitional being."

Then for you, unlike say Branden or Hume, the self is a substance?

Fred

Self

Jules Troy's picture

In Anthem when Equality 7-2521 discovers the word "I" and re-names himself Prometheus.

A very poignant exaltation of self demonstrated in that novella.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"What do you mean by the self? There are over a dozen answers to that question, "

Could be even hundreds, but I already gave mine.

"In the concept "self-consciousness" what do you mean by "self?"-awareness of been conscious and of existence as a separate volitional being.

Leonid

seddon's picture

But this still leaves unanswered the question What do you mean by the self? There are over a dozen answers to that question, and most are questionable. So, what do the self mean?

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"But perhaps the baby is reacting (and not doing it consciously--here JJ comes in again) to the pain in his stomach and cries. We interpret this as he wants to eat."

Depends which child and of what age. Until he develops self-consciousness, the situation is as you described it. He simply reacts, pretty much like you cat or dog. However, the things become different when child develops self-awareness.

"There is a thing that happens with children: If no one is watching them, nothing is really happening to them. It is not some philosophical conundrum like the one about the tree falling in the forest and no one hearing it: that is a puzzler for college freshman. No. If you are very small, you actually understand that there is no point in jumping into the swimming pool unless they see you do it. The child crying, ‘‘Watch me, watch me,’’ is not begging for attention; he is pleading for existence itself. " M.R. Montgomery Saying Goodbye: A memoir for Two Fathers

See http://psychcentral.com/classi...

Leonid

seddon's picture

"I try to figure out how man starts to think and want in the first time,"

Your post take us into the area of chlld psychology, of which I am not an expert. But perhaps the baby is reacting (and not doing it consciously--here JJ comes in again) to the pain in his stomach and cries. We interpret this as he wants to eat. But this is a long way from the syllogism, or even the concept. We may use concepts and syllogisms to understand the baby, but that doesn't mean the baby is doing anything like that.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Yes, you put it right, but this is not my point. I try to figure out how man starts to think and want in the first time, in the very young age of about 18 months when he becomes self-conscious. He forms concepts on the implicit almost pre-verbal level and for sure doesn't construct explicit syllogisms as you presented. But nevertheless, he thinks and wants and connects these two processes. Self-consciousness implies a recognition of the fact that one is a conscious separate autonomic entity and awareness of ability to act as such. This is an implicit concept " I am". The implicit conclusion which follows is " I want" One could call it a very first syllogism.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"There are 4 premises and "want" is implied in the 4th."

Huh? The fourth premise is "Self-awareness means self-ownership" and neither means or implies 'wan't'. Besides, in a syllogism one must make things explicit. So your argument is still a non-sequitur. Let me help you. Maybe what you want to say can be put into a hypothetical syllogism.

If one is self-aware (or a self-owner) then one can want
One is self-aware
Therefore, one can want.

Or if you prefer a categorical syllogism try this;

All self-aware beings are beings that can want
All humans are self-aware beings
Therefore, All humans are being that can want.

Is that what you are trying to say?

"That why, in my view, Ayn Rand said that volition STARTS with the first syllogism."

You are right, but, and here is where the contradiciton comes in, she ALSO says it begins with the first concept.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

There are 4 premises and "want" is implied in the 4th. And of course you are right-Free Will is self-evident and doesn't require a proof. So I didn't try to prove it but to show how Free Will starts to operate. Remember I described not the formal logical process but a beginning of an implicit rudimentary process of logical thought of the newborn self-consciousness. That why, in my view, Ayn Rand said that volition STARTS with the first syllogism.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"This is a categorical syllogism"

No it isn't. It is a polysyllogism. I hope I don't come off as spitting hairs, but I think we both benefit when we use these logical terms in their normal meaning, unless we are challenging the normal meaning. So I repeat, a categorical syllogism cannot have, as your argument does, more or less than TWO premises. But that aside, your argument fails on a crucail test that applies to of ALL deductive arguments; to wit, you cannot have a concept in the conclusion that does not appear in the premises. Yet you have the concept "want" in the conclusion even though it appears in none of your premises. That means the argument is invalid. it is a non-sequitur.
Let me make another point. You seem to want to prove that we have "wants." But this is an axiom of Austrain economics and does not need proving.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

This is a categorical syllogism

1. Everything exists

2. I exists

3. I aware of my own existence

4. Self-awareness means self-ownership

5. Therefore I can want

Still don't understand what's wrong with it and why you shocked.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"This is true that " I exist" are two premises and conclusion is "I want. ""

1. I exist
2. I exist
3. Therefore, I want.

You must not know the rules of the syllogism. Here are the ones you violate. First recall the definition. "A syllogism is a deductive argument with two categorical premises and a categorical conclusion, and three terms each used twice." Notice that while you have three term, "I," "exist" and "want," you used "I" three times and "want" only once. So this is not even a syllogism!! Since "exist" only appears in the premises, it must be distributed at least once. You do not do this. "A" doesn't distribute its predicate. Leonid, I'm shocked. This is very elementary stuff. I cover this with my freshman. What is going on?? And why do you say "I exist" are two premises. You didn't do that in your original post.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

I know definition of syllogism and I applied it exactly in the way you described . This is true that " I exist" are two premises and conclusion is "I want. "

Seddon

Leonid's picture

canceled

Seddon

Leonid's picture

canceled

Seddon

Leonid's picture

canceled

Seddon

Leonid's picture

canceled

Seddon

Leonid's picture

canceled

Here you go Leonid

Jules Troy's picture

Leonid

seddon's picture

"My point is that syllogisms and concept formation don't have to be explicit."

This has nothing to do with Rand's point.

"How about concept " I exist" which immediately leads to syllogism " therefore I want"."

"I exist" is not a concept; it's two concepts, "I" and "exist" they have very different referents.

"I exist" doesn't lead immediately to a syllogism "therefore I want." A syllogism is a deductive argument with two categorical premises and a categorical conclusion, and three terms each used twice. See any beginning logic text. Come on, Leonid, you're better than this. This is stuff my freshmen know--and there idiots!!

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Because you dropped the context"

No. My point is that syllogisms and concept formation don't have to be explicit. It even could be pre-verbal and run simultaneously. How about concept " I exist" which immediately leads to syllogism " therefore I want".

Leonid

seddon's picture

“There is no contradiction.”

Because you dropped the context. So let me lay it out for you. ON the on hand she says, “volition BEGINS with the first syllogism." But earlier in the same paragraph she wrote, “volition BEGINS--it begins with the formation of concepts.”
Now as you correctly point out, concept formation comes way before syllogisms. Volition can’t begin with the first syllogism because it has already begun!

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

There is no contradiction.Ayn Rand describes two different processes. When she says ""It is a feat that man . . . has to perform by choice." Syllogisms are way down stream of concepts. They must be integrated into propositions which only then can be used to form syllogisms.", she really means man, an adult conscious being who can choose to think or to evade this effort. When she says " volition begins with first syllogism" she describes the beginning of the process, the young mind in the beginning of its work. I think that this first syllogism is " I am. I exist"-that is, an implicit self awareness of one's existence as a separate volitional being.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"In fact I agree with her."

But if you agree with her and she contradicts herself, where does that leave you? With a contradiction!!

"existence as a separate volitional being."

Existence as a volitional being? Only humans are volitional beings; not Existence.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Not only is this false, it contradicts what Rand herself says"

Do you argue with me or with Rand? In fact I agree with her. When you choose X, you do it for reason Y and you should be able mentally to connect X and Y. This is an establishment of cause- effect connection. For example you choose strawberry ice cream because you like strawberry or because you want to support strawberry industry or for many different reasons.

"In the concept "self-consciousness" what do you mean by "self?"-awareness of been conscious and of existence as a separate volitional being. For example I know that I exist, but my cat doesn't know that. It even doesn't know that it's a cat.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"In her own words " volition begins with the first syllogism. " (FNI pg14)"

Not only is this false, it contradicts what Rand herself says in the very paragraph you quote. The third sentence in that paragraph tells us when volition begins--it begins with the formation of concepts. She says, "It is a feat that man . . . has to perform by choice." Syllogisms are way down stream of concepts. They must be integrated into propositions which only then can be used to form syllogisms.

In the concept "self-consciousness" what do you mean by "self?"

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

We already discussed choice and focus. I do agree with Ayn Rand's statement "choice “to think or not” is the choice “to focus or not.". I disagree with the notion that choice precedes consciousness. In her own words " volition begins with the first syllogism. " (FNI pg14)

In other words, human consciousness, that is-self-awareness, is precondition of any choice. Man cannot become conscious volitionally, that would be contradiction in terms. But he can volitionally to certain degree forfeit focus and rationality.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"This concept presupposes existence of Free Will and therefore self-awareness."

So I take it you disagree with Rand on this She writes, Psychologically, the choice “to think or not” is the choice “to focus or not.” Existentially, the choice “to focus or not” is the choice “to be conscious or not.” “The Objectivist Ethics (20).

Notice the choice to focus is the choice to be conscious or not. Not "self-awareness."

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Without self-awareness no choice is possible."

A bold statement. Where is your proof?

A proof is in the definition of choice. This concept presupposes existence of Free Will and therefore self-awareness.

"If you make those errors on a very simple sentence (typos aside), then what chance do you have to understand deep and subtle points in philosophy??"

This is for you to figure out. I, from my side never claimed omniscience, omnipotence and 100% foolproof conduct.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Without self-awareness no choice is possible."

A bold statement. Where is your proof? And since it is the point of our discussion, it constitutes a petitio.

"In spite of my mistake I'm sure you've got my point."

Sure I did. But did you get my point. If you make those errors on a very simple sentence (typos aside), then what chance do you have to understand deep and subtle points in philosophy??

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

In spite of my mistake I'm sure you've got my point. You choose your destination-school, cinema, or what have you. Without self-awareness no choice is possible. Before you say " I want X" you should be able to say " I". The matter under discussion is not a book but your want of it. Animals have awareness, but not self-awareness. That why they cannot make any conscious choices.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"And your decision to drive from home to school at 105 m/h is not automatic. You could drive 55 ( as law prescribes) from your home to cinema".

WHAT??? How could you get so much wrong on a sentence so simple. What I said was "Somehow I drive the 105 miles from my home to my school in Altoona," Notice I did not say 105 m/h; I said 105 miles. That is the distance from my home to my work. Duh. Notice I did not say "cinema" I said "school"--i.e., where I teach philosophy. Duh. If you can't get this simple thing right, what hope is there for you?

"When you pick a book to read you are self-aware, otherwise it wouldn't make any difference to you which book to pick,"

No, I think not. Otherwise there would be no difference between "awareness" and "self-awareness." To be aware that I want a certain book is not the same as being "aware that I'm aware (i.e., self aware) that I want a certain book. In the first, my intentional object is a book, in the second case my intentional object is "my awareness." Surely you recognized that a book is not the same as an act of awareness. Hint: one is a physical object that can be placed on a shelf or dropped on a floor. None of this is true of awareness.

Fred

Jules

seddon's picture

I love Julian Jaynes. See my blog "Contemplating the 'Ifs'" 2011-8-2, where I discuss his book on the bi-cameral mind.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Automatic actions are consciously learned. And your decision to drive from home to school at 105 m/h is not automatic. You could drive 55 ( as law prescribes) from your home to cinema.

Self-awareness doesn't come alone. It's a package deal: self-awareness/Free will/ sense of self-ownership. One cannot exist without another. And this is as efficient cause of all your actions including automatic actions-like walking, driving bicycle or car, swimming or playing piano. All these actions have to be learned and man has to want to learn them. When you pick a book to read you are self-aware, otherwise it wouldn't make any difference to you which book to pick, and all the process of picking, that is-choice, would be meaningless. But you pick a certain book for your certain needs ( pleasure, learning etc...). This is YOU, who pick up your book and this simple action requires self-awareness ( book for me), choice, that is-Free Will ( which book) and ownership ( you own this book and take it by right).

Out of curiosity

Jules Troy's picture

Professor Seddon I was just curious about your views on Julian Jaynes book "The Origins of Consciousness". I know it has it's flaws however I found it to be interesting reading.  I often wonder what his second book would have said had he lived to finish it.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"For me to unpack means to heal contradictions."

Idiosyncratic, but no problem.

"all his actions are volitional."

I disagree, Most of my actions are automatic. Branden gives the example of dirving a car. Somehow I drive the 105 miles from my home to my school in Altoona, all the while focused on the topics I wlll be teaching that day. I agree with Branden.

"Self-awareness is an inherent feature of man's consciousness, his efficient cause, and with self-awareness comes volition and focus."

Self-awareness is an efficient cause of what? And man can be outer directed and free; wouldn't that mean that volition and focus are more primary that self-awareness. If I'm picking out a book to read, I'm not necessaryily self-aware; I'm book aware.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

For me to unpack means to heal contradictions. Man definitely can start a new casual chain, he's by himself a source of his own causality qua man and qua living being. That exactly why I object to the concept of primary choice as Peikoff presented it. He observed that " The process of focus is not the same as the process of thought; it is the precondition of thought ." (The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 3)

Rand , however holds that "The pre-conceptual level of consciousness is nonvolitional; volition begins with the first syllogism.

Therefore the choice to focus which is a volitional action cannot precede the process of thought. If it could, it would be an infinite regress since it would represent an effect before cause.

I heal this contradiction by observing that man as long as he is conscious is always focused and all his actions are volitional. Volitionally man can change degree of focus, but not to switch it off and stop to think altogether. You can try-this is an impossible task, unless you are drunk or stoned. I know because I tried. Self-awareness is an inherent feature of man's consciousness, his efficient cause, and with self-awareness comes volition and focus. What man does with it is a different matter.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"I tried to unpack the whole concept of focus and choice here"

For me, "unpack" has to do with explication, not contradiction. If I understand your piece, you contradict Rand on several points.

One point that i would take issue with is your claim that "The concept of primary choice is invalid since it leads to infinite regress." Here we might just have different intuitions. I regard free choice as the beginning of a new efficient (in Aristotle's sense) causal chain. If that is true, then there is a new beginning and not an infinite regress. Now in one sense this violates the law of causality. Objectivists try to avoid this by referring to man's nature. But this is not an efficient cause but a formal cause, so I claim that it represents a violation of the law of efficient causality. Man can start new efficient causal chains.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

I tried to unpack the whole concept of focus and choice here

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Leonid

seddon's picture

It's not so much that I disagree with you as that I wonder how to unpack Branden's statement that "Objectivism locates man's free will in a single action of his consciousness, in a single basic choice: to focus his mind or to suspend it; to think or not to think." If free will means this then after you focus your mind, what follows is determined by that focus. If you don't focus, then other things may follow.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Rand refers to the choice to think as a metaphysically given precondition of human survival and flourishing and therefore of all other choices. Since life is a ultimate value, this choice is value driven. Rand speaks in terms of hypothetical, not categorical imperatives. She says in fact that if you want to live you have to choose rational thinking

"But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question “to be or not to be” is the question “to think or not to think. A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions." (GS)

Every choice therefore answers a question " is it good or bad to me as a rational being whose goal is happiness"-and this belongs even to the choice between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. What if man chooses not to live? Well, in such a case he needn't make any further choices.

Tom

seddon's picture

"I read the book and can thoroughly recommend it, along with pretty much anything that Stephen Hicks writes"

That makes two of us.

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Rand refered to the primary choice-to think or not. The rest of choices depend on it."

"That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call “free will” is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character." (FNI 127)

Branden writes, "Objectivism locates man's free will in a single action of his consciousness, in a single basic choice: to focus his mind or to suspend it; to think or not to think." (Objectivist Newsletter Jan. 64)

Fred

I read the book and can

Tom Burroughes's picture

I read the book and can thoroughly recommend it, along with pretty much anything that Stephen Hicks writes.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Rand had a very narrow notion of free will."

Not exactly. Rand refered to the primary choice-to think or not. The rest of choices depend on it. In Objectivism all choices are value-driven when the standard of value is life of man qua man.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"But one may choose to use the gift of nature or to ignore it."

You're probably right but it reminds me of the fact that Rand had a very narrow notion of free will. The choice to raise or lower one's focus.

Fred

Ding-an-sich

seddon's picture

"It took me all summer to read Euclid."

Yeah, I know. That's why he is Newton and we're not.

Fred

Wow

ding_an_sich's picture

"For example, the story is told about Newton reading Euclid and just flipping through the pages and effortlessly understanding the content."

It took me all summer to read Euclid. Christ.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

No, one doesn't. But one may choose to use the gift of nature or to ignore it.

Leonid

seddon's picture

One doesn't choose to have a high IQ, i.e., to make effortlessly what for the rest of us requires real effort.

Fred

seddon

Leonid's picture

"No way an IQ of 320 chooses to be illiterate, and certainly not ignorant."

Yes, it is a way. IQ is only a potential. It's realization requires a volitional effort. A gay with the high IQ may prefer computer's games to Euclid. High IQ doesn't cancel Free Will.

http://www.edublox.com/iq-test...

Leonid

seddon's picture

"What if one has an inherent IQ of 320, but developed a character of illiterate ignorant lazy bum?"

i don't think you have a clue about what an IQ of 320 would be like. For example, the story is told about Newton reading Euclid and just flipping through the pages and effortlessly understanding the content. No way an IQ of 320 chooses to be illiterate, and certainly not ignorant.

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"I still think that " condemn" is improper verb in this context."

As it should if you take it toooooo literallly.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"You don't start with a nothing that then grows and matures."

You start with self-awareness and therefore with ability to choose. Conception and birth are unconscious processes at least from the newborn infant"s point of view. But birth of the character requires conscious volitional choices. This is my point. As for inherent traits, they are irrelevant. What if one has an inherent IQ of 320, but developed a character of illiterate ignorant lazy bum? A lot of good it will do to him!

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"No, again he is being literary. What he means to say is man has free will and there is nothing he can do about."

Well, that explains, although I still think that " condemn" is improper verb in this context. This verb presupposes an actor. Condemn by whom?

Seddon

Leonid's picture

cancell

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Self-make up is a process of growth and maturation."

And it is man that is growing and maturing. But that presupposes you already got a man, with a character, and certainly with some character traits. I think this is what Hospers is saying. You don't start with a nothing that then grows and matures.

"However if Hospers meant that person cannot cause his own conception and birth, he was undoubtedly right, but then he completely missed the point."

Close. He cannot cause his own conception, birth or character. And that is the point.

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

" "condemn" presupposes existence of some proximal cause which makes the whole statement a contradiction."

No, again he is being literary. What he means to say is man has free will and there is nothing he can do about. Which is the Objectivist position but put in Sartre literary style. After all, he did win the Nobel prize for literature. He is not only a philosopher, he is an artist. Try not to think of Ayn Rand here.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"To cause my original make-up, I must first have existed,"

This very formal proposition is wrong. Self-make up is a process of growth and maturation. First it is a purely biological and therefore self-initiated but unconscious process which brings up an emergence of self-awareness. From this point an infant is a volitional being, his mind takes over the make-up process and if he wishes, he becomes a captain of his soul ( not everybody does). However if Hospers meant that person cannot cause his own conception and birth, he was undoubtedly right, but then he completely missed the point.

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"It is a literary way of saying man has free will. Surely you already knew that."

No. I don't. "condemn" presupposes existence of some proximal cause which makes the whole statement a contradiction.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"you are your own primary mover."

But what does this have to do with Hospers' point, to wit: "To cause my original make-up, I must first have existed, and to exist I must already HAVE some 'original make-up'."??

Fred

Leonid

seddon's picture

"As for Sartre's statement " "Man is condemned to be free"-it is a contradiction in terms and I suspect that you already know that."

It is a literary way of saying man has free will. Surely you already knew that.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"Notice how your answer ignore Hospers point"

It doesn't. It simply shows that Hospers's point is invalid. Life is uninterrupted self-sustained process and procreation is an expression of this sustenance. Your existence theoretically could be traced to the first primordial cell. There is no such a thing as non-existence, unless you mean the abiotic stage. But even if you consider your personal existence as a result of a proximal cause, like an action of your parents, then from the moment of conception and first division of the fertilized ova you are your own primary mover. There is no proximal cause which makes you to grow, to born and to become a philosopher. Moreover, if your birth is result of the process of life's self-sustenance, then this is goal-driven self-causation. On the conceptual level such a causation is expressed as Free Will. Therefore your parents' action is not antecedent to your birth. It is simply continuation of life self-sustenance and self-causation.
As for Sartre's statement " "Man is condemned to be free"-it is a contradiction in terms and I suspect that you already know that.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"'So if you are the cause of yourself, you existed before you existed. '
Since life emerged, it never ended, it only changed its forms."

Notice how your answerr ignore Hospers point. It doesn't explain how you could have existed before you existed. That is what he wants you to explain, which you can't because it's a contradiction. If you prefer Sartre on this, "Man is condemned to be free" You focus on the free part and Hospers is pointing out the condemned part.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

The title of the book is " Life Itself". Maybe it's just a coincident , but in " We, The Living" Ayn Rand wrote " I know what I want and to know how to want isn't it life itself?"

Life is all about how to want. As a self-organized system which is able to develop self-initiated goal-orientated action life represents very particular case which is different from the Laplace causal determinism. The cause of actions of the living organism are anticipations, goals projected into the future. What causes to lioness to go on hunt? The anticipated meal. But such a cause doesn't exist prior to the hunt. The same applies to the student which learns toward degree in philosophy. He may never achieve it, such a cause exists only as a mental projection. In other words teleology means goal-causation. Rosen wrote another book dedicated only to the problem of anticipation as a cause of action of the living entities. (Rosen, R., 1985a. Anticipatory systems.)

In the article "ROBERT ROSEN: THE WELL POSED QUESTION AND ITS ANSWER-WHY ARE ORGANISMS DIFFERENT FROM MACHINES?" Donald C. Mikulecky observed:

" Another facet of final cause being acknowledged is the recognition that future events can cause present behavior. In the case of final cause and anticipation, the causality flows backwards so to speak. What would have once sounded like mysticism becomes perfectly reasonable in a dynamic system. The nature of causality introduces this new directionality in time in a way that the Newtonian Paradigm made impossible."

http://views.vcu.edu/~mikuleck/

"So if you are the cause of yourself, you existed before you existed. "

Since life emerged, it never ended, it only changed its forms. Although we don't know how exactly life emerged, it is clear enough that this was a process of self-organization. For further discussion see the article " To meditate on Life" which I posted .

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Leonid

seddon's picture

You mentioned Rosen. Could you please supply the title of the book you were quoting. I have some Rosen in my library.

"'Can anything be the cause of itself?' The answer is yes."

Aquinas says in the famous 2nd way, "There is no case known (nor indeed, is it possible) in which a thing is found to be the cause of itself, because in that case it would be prior to itself [in time] which is impossible." (ST I, 2, a3) So if you are the cause of yourself, you existed before you existed. I suppose one could say something sillier, but I can't think of anything. Surely you don't mean this?

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

What argument one can offer against proposition that A is non A? If there is an antecedent cause then one is not a master of his fate, the antecedent cause is. Hospers argues against the " theory of agency" which holds that man is a self-moving being, genuine originator of his actions. He says " But if it means that our decisions are self-caused, what does it means? Can anything be the cause of itself?" ( Introduction, pg 345)

The answer is yes. Life itself is "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. " (GS), or as Rosen put it " a material system is an organism if and only if, it closed to efficient causation." ( Life Itself, chapter 10). Each and any organism is its own primary mover. Mind is biological phenomenon and therefore also driven by the principle of self-causation. Free will as a an expression of awareness of this principle.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Nobody was born second hander, "

Well, that's what is said in the Fountainhead. Wynand wasn't born to be a second hander.

"To say that some antecedent cause causes to one to be master of one's fate is a contradiction in terms,"

Hospers says the opposite position is a contradiction. His argument seems to be a little better than yours because you gave no argument. Or if you have no argument, can you show where his argument goes off the tracks?

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Nobody was born second hander, including Keating. And Hosper is wrong. To say that some antecedent cause causes to one to be master of one's fate is a contradiction in terms, negation of self-awareness, ownership on the one own life and free will.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

But I think Hospers point is you didn't cause yourself to be one who is master of his fate and captain of his soul. Think of Wynand who wasn't born to be a second hander. And Keating who was.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

"What would it be like to be the cause of my own character? "

John Hospers evidently never heard an expression " self-made soul" and never read the poem " Invictus" by William Ernest Henley:

"It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Leonid

seddon's picture

"like animals who determined by instincts."

Schopenhauer would say we are determined by our being. Or as the scholastics would say, our POSSE is determined by our ESSE. Magee writes in his book about S, "I cannot choose to be a great composer or a safe driver or even a passable sprinter; I cannot choose to be an African Negro or a Victorian Englishman; I cannot even choose to be two inches taller than I am. . . I am what I am in a way that rules out nearly all human possibilites from the beginning and leaves me only a tiny reminder; indeed, in S's view it leave me nothing at all." Now I found a quotation from, of all people, John Hospers (the only philosopher that Rand corresponded with) on this very topic. In HUMAN CONDUCT, he writes, "What would it be like to be the cause of my own character? To cause my original make-up, I must first have existed, and to exist I must already HAVE some 'original make-up'. I can't cause myself unless I'm already there to do the causing. And if I already existed, then it wouldn't be my original make-up I was creating or choosing, and then where did I get the features or make-up which led me to choose the make-up which I chose? To choose a character, I must already HAVE a character. Being the cause of our own original make-up is, we see, a self-contradictory notion." (516) Now Rand tells us that what a thing is, DETERMINES what it will do. Hospers and S seem to be saying that the same applies to man. No instincts here.

Fred

Seddon

Leonid's picture

Yes, but here Schopenhauer tells us that we are not in charge of our will, that will is not part of our consciousness and therefore we are determined, like animals who determined by instincts.

Leonid

seddon's picture

"Man has no control over what he wills, he's not self-conscious."

I don't this that follows. In fact, Peikoff, in order to demonstrate free will on an intuitive, tells us to differentiate between what is in our control and what is not. His example was a guy holding a neck tie (I think I'm remembering correctly). Whether the guy keeps holding the tie or drops it is under his control, but once he releases it he has no control over its falling. But he is aware that he has no control over the falling tie.

Fred

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