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Friday, April 25, 2008

The Brain and Free Will

Here's Roderick Long on why recent brain studies say nothing about free will.

On a similar topic: When I read some dogmatic materialist asserting, "While we donùt know how brains create consciousness, it is obvious that somehow they do," it brings to my mind the image of some primitive tribe coming upon a working radio. After studying it for some time, the tribe's shamans proclaim, "We don't know how radios compose music and write news programs, but it is obvious that somehow they do."

8 comments:

  1. Brian N.2:12 PM

    To speak of creation is a rather dangerous road. So often do I see folks bitch about the slipperiness of language (myself included) and increasingly I suspect that for my own part it's just laziness with words.

    I wouldn't call it creation. An epiphenomenon or gestalt arising out of the brain, perhaps. The contrary assertion, that the brain plays no role in consciousness, or that it's all really fairies/God's fingers/pink unicorns/etc. is unacceptable. It looks at a scientific problem and retreats into myth the moment it gets difficult. Much like those who council the abolition of money as a cure to social ills. It's two steps away from being the kissing cousin of solipsism.

    I don't assume that you make or imply such assertion, but a serious consideration demands examination and criticism of such ideas, even if only for the time it takes to dismiss them.

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  2. "An epiphenomenon or gestalt arising out of the brain, perhaps. The contrary assertion, that the brain plays no role in consciousness..."

    WHO asserts that Brian? As far as I know, no one.

    "or that it's all really fairies/God's fingers/pink unicorns/etc. is unacceptable."

    Brian, Brian, Brian. You have an idea that has been asserted, in one form or another, by essentially ALL of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization's history -- Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, etc. -- that consciousness is the property of the soul. And to you, this is the same as pink unicorns? You are being childish and just sticking out your tongue at your opponents.

    "It looks at a scientific problem and retreats into myth the moment it gets difficult."

    Look, Brian, the above thinkers made great scientific advances in the understanding of the human psyche, 'scientific' in the sense of an ordered advance in knowledge. Materialism has made NO progress on this problem at all. It is a sheer assertion of a dogmatic faith that "consciousness arises from the brain."

    Materialism -- the new opiate of the masses.

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  3. Brian N.11:12 AM

    I wasn't dealing with them, Callahan. The point was for logical demonstration, only. I will deal with them now, however.

    "And to you, this is the same as pink unicorns? You are being childish and just sticking out your tongue at your opponents"

    Maybe I'm being flat-footed about this, but I doubt it. I don't admit mystical intuitions, or deductions that assume mystical intuitions true, to anything that could be called a science. We are, in such an instance, debating what is ultimately the content of fantasies, or might do just as well to. We might, in a perfectly rational and orderly sequence of construction achieve a perfect towering edifice of knowledge that proceeds, ultimately, from pure nonsense.

    But, really, what's more immature; rejecting a position on its basis as being untestable/unsound, or arguing for said position by argument from authority?

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  4. "I don't admit mystical intuitions, or deductions that assume mystical intuitions true, to anything that could be called a science. We are, in such an instance, debating what is ultimately the content of fantasies, or might do just as well to."

    And what about the sequence of constructions built on the fantasy of materialism? Has any materialist ever shown how consciousness could arise from insensate matter? Has any materialist ever even shown how their beloved inductions from empirical phenomena can be held valid without a spiritual basis? Has any materialist ever shown that there IS such a thing as a "material world" existing apart from consciousness? Since the last task is logically impossible -- any evidence evinced would have to be evidence presented to a conscious mind! -- it is clear that materialism is a mere dogma, and not a scientific hypothesis at all!

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  5. Brian N.1:55 PM

    You know, Mr. Callahan, in the purest sense of what you're attacking, I agree with you. Hopped up on their own lab equipment, many materialists do seem to have gotten ahead of themselves.

    Nevertheless, they're wrong (or perhaps right) about something that can actually be shown to exist. They are, in an empirical sense, falsifiable. Granted, many of them would probably be less than interested in actual proof; the doctrine of strict materiality serves a separate, and likely in their minds higher, purpose.

    However...

    "Has any materialist ever shown that there IS such a thing as a "material world" existing apart from consciousness?"

    You're fired again. I think this is probably the last time I'll ever read anything written by you.

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  6. When encountering a philosophical point when cannot refute, Brian, the best thing to do is take your ball and go home!

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  7. "Nevertheless, they're wrong (or perhaps right) about something that can actually be shown to exist. They are, in an empirical sense, falsifiable."

    By the way, Brian, I'm reading a book today by two neurologists who have shown that mystical states can be shown to be empirically real, and are like states involving the genuine perception of real things, and not at all like delusion or brain disease. Oops, science has "falsified" your scepticism!

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    ReplyDelete