Page 2 of 6 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast
Results 16 to 30 of 87
  1. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    Holy moly! Be careful what you wish for, I guess...

    Also, it seems to me that science is poorly equiped to answer the bigger questions. Science has proven unmatched in evaluating and explaining function, but not the reason. So, I will admit that eventually even the process of emotion may be completely understood (not in my lifetime probably), but the 'why' is still going to be a mystery. For me, that is ultimately more important.
    Given the complexities of the brain, nothing will ever be 'completely' understood, but then that's not the point. The problem is that the more we learn the more difficult it becomes to square that knowledge with what we assume about ourselves.

    The threat here isn't one of science 'answering the bigger questions,' but one of having those questions explained away. What happens when 'Why?' turns out to be a cognitive illusion?

    Can you help me out here, please? Is it your position that identifying the elements of the brain, the neurons, the synapses, the chemicals that excite and/or inhibit brain processes somehow describes the cause of our intentional behavior? Am I understanding you correctly that it is possible to say that if this given synapse closes I will act in a moral way and if it doesn't. I won't? If this is not what you mean, if I am mis-understanding your statement, then what am I missing, please?
    Take the 'feeling of will,' the sense we have that we are in some kind of control over our actions. 'Willpower' is looking more and more like a cognitive illusion. If there's no real such thing as 'choice' it becomes awful hard to make sense out of responsibility, which makes it hard to make sense out of morality... You get the picture: the whole conceptual house of cards comes tumbling down.

    If your position turns out to be correct, I still wonder if saintjon's question applies yet again: what difference does it make to us? We will still proceed as if we do exist; we do not seem capable of any other response.
    Just to be clear, nihilism is NOT my position. I'm just playing the devil's advocate.

    Given that morality and purposiveness seem to be written into the very structure of experience, we certainly we have 'no choice' but to proceed 'as if' they were real even if we know they're not. But certainly that's a big difference from knowing that they are in fact real!

    Perceiving the kind of inevitably this suggests as being controlled by your physical nature is wrong however - these properties shouldn't be seen as controlling our selves, they are our selves. An intrinsic part of our life and existance, unavoidable, and, because of the way our minds work, ultimately ignorable.
    But the issue is one of self-control not control-by-others. If willing is an illusion, that means a cornerstone experience, one that anchors the whole system of concepts we use to make sense of ourselves and each other, is in large measure false. I'm not so sure that's ignorable.

    So we manage to find little pieces of meaning in many of our actions, pieces that fit into our individual puzzles. God for you, science for him.
    But as you yourself say, Gary, the question is one of what this 'meaning' is... The question is one of whether we find little pieces of real or illusory meaning in our lives.

    Actually, I think that without an acute context for reference this is a non-question. It simply doesn't matter if genocide is right or wrong. I'd say, it's "neither wrong nor right" in the sense that the question is irrelevant to me.
    This actually answers the question as much as it challenges it, Dawnstorm. I'm curious, what would it take for genocide to be relevant to you, Dawnstorm? Must it impinge on your concerns first?

    Well, yes and no. At least my illusory choices come from my own set of bio-switches and not someone else's
    In other words, Yes and yes...

  2. #17
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    So we embrace a cognitive illusion. It feels good, right? We embrace illusions all day every day, and we know it. We rationalize all of the time, and we know it. Certainty has never been all that important to most people when it comes to issues like this. The bigger picture of socialization successes and physical pleasures that support our illusions of responsibility and ability are more important than the truth about the real origin of our efforts.

    There is a cognitive impasse here. No matter who tells us that we are nothing, that we don't really exist, that we aren't efficacious in our own right, we will never believe them. We still and always have this sense of self that is distinct from each other, that separates us from the things around us and that we go to sleep with at night and wake up with in the morning. That cognitive continuity of self makes your concerns fade into the background. It make them seem out of sync with the world as we see it daily. If you convince me that I am just an illusion, then the conversation is pointless to begin with, isn't it? Who the hell am I talking to?

    If we require certainty about perception and understanding, we are never going to be satisfied. There are always too many contingencies. But do we really need it Scott? Is there anything so special or crucial about certainty? I can live with expectations of likelihood. I can live with doubt. You are one of the proponents of doubt, so why do you have such a compelling need to be certain about our efficacy?

  3. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    We embrace illusions all day every day, and we know it. We rationalize all of the time, and we know it.
    Maybe a few of us do. But the vast majority?

    No matter who tells us that we are nothing, that we don't really exist, that we aren't efficacious in our own right, we will never believe them. We still and always have this sense of self that is distinct from each other, that separates us from the things around us and that we go to sleep with at night and wake up with in the morning. That cognitive continuity of self makes your concerns fade into the background. It make them seem out of sync with the world as we see it daily. If you convince me that I am just an illusion, then the conversation is pointless to begin with, isn't it? Who the hell am I talking to?
    You tell me. I have an experience of willing, of deciding and undertaking directed actions, and science - which is only the greatest instrument of discovery in the history of the human race - tells me that these experiences have no basis in reality, that I'm simply fooled into thinking I exercise control, the same way I'm fooled into thinking I can see colour in my periphery, or into thinking there's no hole near the centre of my field of vision.

    Were does that leave me? Are you suggesting that it doesn't matter what science has to say on these issues?

    If we require certainty about perception and understanding, we are never going to be satisfied. There are always too many contingencies. But do we really need it Scott? Is there anything so special or crucial about certainty? I can live with expectations of likelihood. I can live with doubt. You are one of the proponents of doubt, so why do you have such a compelling need to be certain about our efficacy?
    I'm don't see the 'compelling need' you refer to? Skepticism doesn't entail cognitive quietism. Otherwise, I'm not sure of the relevance of this concern to the question of nihilism.

  4. #19
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    Here's where you lose me. What in the world is this reality you refer to? I guess that I don't understand how, if all you are saying about our lack of existence as true cognitive entities is to be accepted, we can even use the word reality.

    Everyone rationalizes. We have an urge to eat something but we know it's not healthy, so we hem and haw and then we give in to the urge and tell ourselves that tomorrow we will exercise more control. We understand that the 'we' who wants not to eat that candy bar or to run that extra mile is the same 'we' who ends up eating it or pushing the stop button on the treadmil. But one, the one that knows how to rationalize, assimilates this disparate urge and consequent action, and determines that it's okay.

    Sure what science has to say matters. But still the facts of science are interpreted by humans and explicated by humans and assimilated by humans. How is this process of discovery possible? Can we really discover things that prove we cannot truly discover things?
    Last edited by Gary Wassner; June 22nd, 2005 at 09:57 AM.

  5. #20
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    Here's where you lose me. What in the world is this reality you refer to? I guess that I don't understand how, if all you are saying about our lack of existence as true cognitive entities is to be accepted, we can even use the word reality.
    It is a fact that we suffer cognitive illusions. I think I see colour in my periphery, but I really don't. This means what's 'real for me' (seeing colour in my periphery) isn't 'real in fact.' It is an entirely plausible empirical hypothesis that much, if not all, of our experience is not 'real in fact,' that we are as systematically deluded about ourselves as we once were about the world.

    At this level at least, I'm not sure I see your problem. Things start getting hairy when you consider the possibility that the cognitive opposition between 'real for me' and 'real in fact' is itself illusory: the possibility that cognitive illusions are themselves cognitive illusions (because cognition itself is a kind of functional deception)! I certainly can't make any sense of that, even though once again it is an empirical possibility.

    But this simply illustrates the profundity of what's at stake, doesn't it? If anything it makes the issue more pressing and problematic.

  6. #21
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    But illusion in the sense that you are using it here, has its own element of reality built into it, granted, not the one that you desire.

  7. #22
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Sinking in the quicksand of my thought
    Posts
    2,394
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    This actually answers the question as much as it challenges it, Dawnstorm. I'm curious, what would it take for genocide to be relevant to you, Dawnstorm? Must it impinge on your concerns first?
    It's not the concept of genocide that's irrelevant to me; it's its attribute of right/wrongness. And unless I'm called to judge perpetrators, that attribute is never going to be relevant to me.

    Being Austrian, I'm confronted with the Holocaust on a regular basis. TV, adds, discussions... The relevance of attempted genocide is merged into my identity; whether I like it or not. But the right/wrongness of it, that's just not a thing that interests me about this. I'm pretty sure I can lead my entire life without having to decide.

    I hate genocidal tendencies; if I'd ever experience them firsthand, chances are I'd really hate them. Does that make them wrong?

  8. #23
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    I hate genocidal tendencies; if I'd ever experience them firsthand, chances are I'd really hate them. Does that make them wrong?
    Why would you hate genocidal tendencies if you think genocide is neither right or wrong?

  9. #24
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Sinking in the quicksand of my thought
    Posts
    2,394
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    Why would you hate genocidal tendencies if you think genocide is neither right or wrong?
    Oh, come on. Surely thinking something is right or wrong is not a prerequisite for hating something? The (hypothetical) effects genocidal tendencies have on me appear to be at the very least unpleasant. Being killed or being forced to kill or having to watch people being killed... eew. No thanks...

  10. #25
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    Well, it's just not acceptable to say that I love genocidal tendencies

    There are non-moral reasons though for hating them: It's a messy process. It's hard to know what to do with the bodies. It's expensive to carry out.

    I just don't think that Dawn was thinking in those terms when he made the comment.

  11. #26
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    Oh, come on. Surely thinking something is right or wrong is not a prerequisite for hating something? The (hypothetical) effects genocidal tendencies have on me appear to be at the very least unpleasant. Being killed or being forced to kill or having to watch people being killed... eew. No thanks...
    I don't recall saying anything about prerequisites. I simply asked a question as a means of identifying your view (which I don't understand). Are you saying that your reason for hating genocidal tendencies is simply that you find them distasteful - which is to say, for aesthetic rather than ethical reasons?

  12. #27
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Sinking in the quicksand of my thought
    Posts
    2,394
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Bakker
    I don't recall saying anything about prerequisites. I simply asked a question as a means of identifying your view (which I don't understand).
    You're right, sorry, me assuming...

    Are you saying that your reason for hating genocidal tendencies is simply that you find them distasteful - which is to say, for aesthetic rather than ethical reasons?
    For a while, I did think it was aesthetic in nature. But that didn't hold. Now I'm simply unsure why I hate them. Aesthetics are certainly part of it, but I doubt they're the whole picture. I perceive that I hate them, when I'm confronted with them. It's my gutteral reaction to comments; it's a visceral reaction to pictures. Where they come from? Perhaps neuroscience can help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    There are non-moral reasons though for hating them: It's a messy process. It's hard to know what to do with the bodies. It's expensive to carry out.

    I just don't think that Dawn was thinking in those terms when he made the comment.
    True, I wasn't. I was thinking more along the lines of empathy/imagining the situation. I find no angle that gives me any satisfaction. I have a hunch, I'd say "genocide is wrong", if the heroic stance would give me any satisfaction.

    I think, it's a hatred born of frustration rather than anger.

    So, the essence is: I don't really know why I hate genocidal tendencies. And, btw, typing the words "hate genocidal tendencies" so often has made me wonder, do I actually hate them, or am I just catering to a social impulse? (It's a reflex. I've heard that what you say three times is true. But, to me, what I say three times is dubious...)

    Neuroscience may help me understand, or it may not. It doesn't take anything away from me, but it could be a useful tool to navigate the chaos (ever looked at my location - under the avatar? )

  13. #28
    Illustrious Gambler saintjon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    in a pimped out airship baby
    Posts
    4,506
    Okay, you're right. Yes and yes lol. but my point stands thatit's better to be controlled by organs than someone else's. If something else is going to hold the reins I'd prefer it were under my own skin.

    So how do you feel about the results of this thread so far?

  14. #29
    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    The island of Arylyn
    Posts
    1,508
    With modern neuroscience we are finally unravelling the human functional puzzle, and surprise-surprise, intentional phenomena like meaning, purpose, and morality are starting to seem as ephemeral in us as they were in the rest of the natural world. We are in the process of being 'disenchanted.'
    Scott, can you explain something. Was it ever your belief that things like purpose, morality, and meaning weren't part of the natural world ie based on biological processes exclusively? Or to put it another way, did you believe that these things, or more specifically, our consciousness, exist outside of our physical brains?


    The threat here isn't one of science 'answering the bigger questions,' but one of having those questions explained away. What happens when 'Why?' turns out to be a cognitive illusion?
    What do you mean by 'cognitive illusion'? By this do you mean that what we think of as 'willpower' or 'love' are nothing more than detectable, understandable, manipulatable purely biological constructs? If it turns out that is the case, so what?

  15. #30
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    high noon
    Posts
    591
    So how do you feel about the results of this thread so far?
    Pleased as punch! I've realized, for instance, that it's not enough to simply describe the dilemma in Neuropath, but to enact it... Words are too easy to shrug away.

    Scott, can you explain something. Was it ever your belief that things like purpose, morality, and meaning weren't part of the natural world ie based on biological processes exclusively? Or to put it another way, did you believe that these things, or more specifically, our consciousness, exist outside of our physical brains?
    None of the above. I've actually had a strange odyssey. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household and I can still remember the days when phrases like 'old time religion' buzzed with redemptive, even magical possibilities. I was a naive dualist like pretty much everyone else. Then in my midteens, I found myself thinking about cause and effect and I inadvertantly stumbled upon the problem of determinism. It literally blew my mind, I spent a few years as a naive, evangelical athiest, convinced that everything was a lie. Then I discovered Heidegger in University, and for quite some time I took the all too popular preemptive stance with regard to science: sure neuroscience was unravelling the biology behind experience, but it could only do that through the lense of experience, which meant that the verities of lived experience were 'ontologically prior' to the facts of science. The 'mind/body problem,' I thought, was simply an artifact of western metaphysics. Damn that Aristotle...

    Then I started playing poker with a nihilist. Talk about an ass kicking.

    What do you mean by 'cognitive illusion'? By this do you mean that what we think of as 'willpower' or 'love' are nothing more than detectable, understandable, manipulatable purely biological constructs? If it turns out that is the case, so what?
    A cognitive illusion is simply something we think we know is true of the world but actually isn't. The example I've been using has been colour peripheral vision: the fact we think we can see colour in our periphery when we in fact cannot. To give just one example of what's at stake: If it turns out that 'willing' is a cognitive illusion (and the evidence is trending more and more in that direction), then dollars to donuts 'responsibility' is a cognitive illusion as well, which means... Do I really have to describe how the house of cards comes tumbling down?

    Even those who say they don't care whether the bulk of their experience is deceptive have to admit that there's a profound difference between living a lie they think true and living a lie they know is false. It's something like the difference between scripture and fantasy, in fact...
    Last edited by Scott Bakker; June 23rd, 2005 at 06:35 AM.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •