Published on Sat 1 Mar We may thus concede that material forces ultimately govern behaviour, and yet at the same time reject the notion that people are always and everywhere motivated by material self-interest. As he points out, educated people today are often trapped in a strange kind of double-think on this topic. Officially, they believe physical science calls for determinism, which proves they have no control over their lives.

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If the mind is just the brain and there is nothing else, then our behaviours can be reduced to interactions of molecules in the brain, and appear to be deterministic.

If this is the case, then where is the place for free will? There are two ways of handling this situation. We are deterministic, and free will is a myth. Hard-headed scientific types sometimes proclaim their acceptance of this position, even declaring it a no-brainer.

But then, how come they hold onto this position with such vigour? Or, why do they let strongly held moral convictions to guide their actions in daily life? Libertarianism: We do have free will, so determinism must be false.

Fortunately, thanks to quantum physicists, the received view among scientists today is that indeterminism is true at the subatomic level and, by implication, at higher levels under various specifiable conditions So where does choice come from?

Consider intelligence as a result of a number of autonomous processes. The point is that a number of autonomous processes acting together he uses the game of Life, by Conway, to great effect p. Thus, higher-level structures categories were not present in ancient organisms, but have arisen as organisms have become more complex. One of the results is the emergence of free will, and Dennett argues that this free will can exist even in a deterministic world.

While he does consider game theoretic notions of equilibrium, I am surprised that Dennett does not consider the complexities arising from nonlinear system behaviour, such as chaos, which implies that even though the system is deterministic, this is true only if the input is measured with infinite precision. Hence, since our sensory inputs are finite, things for most agents in the world are far from deterministic.

The thrust of the argument is to support the case for humans being in some way distinct from other animals, and to tie in this argument with earlier positions in western philosophy linking human uniqueness with free will. As John Gray points out in his review below in The Independent, this is ultimately an attempt to defend what is essentially a Judaeo-Christian stance: If natural selection had been discovered in India, China or Japan, it is hard to imagine it making much of a stir.

Making your opponents extinct may be a more successful approach than convincing them. The rules are strictly deterministic - some cells are turned on to start with, and then at each step, a cell dies if it has 3 neighbours. At the same time, an empty cell with exactly three live neighbours is turned on.

For example, the pattern "glider", replenishes cells and moves one step diagonally downwards every four iterations. Other configurations can be "oscillators" e. Here are two oscillators - a "beacon", and the more complex "toad". There are many such "spaceship guns". Whatever is being consumed, the basic process is the same. A bridge forms between the eater and its prey. In the next generation, the bridge region dies from overpopulation, taking a bite out of both eather and prey.

The eater then repairs itself. The prey usually cannot. If the remainder of the prey dies out as with the glider the prey is consumed. Poundstone , p. These are typically known as emergent behaviours.

Where did these behavioural abstractions come from? Are they real? At least most humans can immediately recognize them. Is there an information-theoretic basis due to which everyone including other forms of intelligence may agree that these phenomenon exist and are real?

Certain patterns can be configured as logic gates; one can build a pattern that replicates an FSM - the system is an universal Turing machine. Another pattern, the Gemini, replicates itself in 34 million generations, and destroys the parent copy. As we saw in the Life world, whereas the microscopic deterministic "physics" dictates every aspect of behaviour, it is natural to leap above the atomic level and describe the Proceeding gingerly, then, we may form sentences such as "There is something that is human.

Problems: 1. If X includes those in which A, and not-A etc, and if all worlds in which C holds are also those in which A holds, then the statement may be causally necessary. THe agents cannot avert this consequent of their action. When he appeared to hear the wrong note, and challenged the player, the riposte was: "I had played B-natural. Some idiot had written in a B-flat". Institutions as organisms A young conductor, debuting with the formidable Boston Symphony Orchestra, wanted to impress them quickly.

He was scheduled to conduct the premiere of an unhearably discordant contemporary piece, and as he reviewed the score a brilliant stratagem occurred to him. He found an early crescendo in which the entire orchestra was screaming away on more than a dozen different quarreling notes and noted that the second oboe, one of the softest voices in the orchestra, was scheduled to play a B-natural.

He picked up the part score for the second oboe, and carefully inserted the sign for a flat—the oboe would now be instructed to play B-flat. At the first rehearsal, he briskly led the orchestra up through that doctored crescendo.

You were supposed to play B-natural and you played B-flat. Some idiot had written in a B-flat! It is a set of individuals, and this group is constantly in flux, coming and going, finances changing etc.

Analogy to biological organism. Yet it has "character". Twenty talented individuals, but all different. Some are brilliant but lazy while others are obsessive perfectionists; one is bored but conscientious, another is enraptured by the music, yet another is daydreaming about making love to that adorable cellist over there, but all of them are drawing their bows across their strings in perfect unison, a pattern robustly superimposed on a kaleidoscope of different human consciousnesses.

What makes this concerted action possible is a massive complex of cultural products, deeply shared by the musicians, the audience, the composer, the conservatories, the banks, the municipal authorities, the violin-makers, the ticket agencies, and so on. Human minds are furnished — and beset — by thousands of anticipations, evaluations, projects, schemes, hopes, fears, and memories that are entirely inaccessible to the minds of even our closest relatives, the great apes.

Are decisions voluntary? Or are they things that happen to us? Sit very still for a while, trying not to think of anything at all, and then, for no reason at all except that you want to, flick your right wrist once. A single flick, please, whenever, as we say, the spirit moves you. Call that voluntary, intentional act of yours Flick! It lasts the better part of a second—between and 1, milliseconds—ending when your wrist actually moves The motion of the wrist is preceded by less than 50 milliseconds by activity in the motor nerves descending from the motor cortex of your brain to the muscles in your forearm, but it is preceded by as much as milliseconds—almost a second— by a clearly detectable wave of activity in your brain known as the readiness potential, or RP Kornhuber and Deecke Somewhere among those thousand milliseconds is the notorious "time t" the time when you consciously decide to flick your wrist.

Benjamin Libet set out to determine just when it is. He showed the users a clock with a ticking dot second hand : Libet asked his subjects to take note mentally of the position of the dot on the clock face at the instant they decided to flick or were first aware of the urge or wish to flick. This conscious decision time was reported later, and correlated with their EEGs. The subject showed unconscious activity to flex about milliseconds before reporting conscious awareness of the decision to flex.

Indeed an earlier slow and very slight rise in the readiness potential can be seen as early as 1. This is a very large dennett uses the wor "whopping" gap by neuroscience standards. As the sophisticated neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga has put it: Libet determined that brain potentials are firing three hundred and fifty milliseconds before you have the conscious intention to act.

Is consciousness then epiphenomenal? Is there, then, any role for conscious will in the performance of a voluntary act?

An interval of msec, would allow enough time in which the conscious function might affect the final outcome of the volitional process. Actually, only msec, is available for any such effect. The final 50 msec, before the muscle is activated is the time for the primary motor cortex to activate the spinal motor nerve cells.

During this time the act goes to completion with no possibility of stopping it by the rest of the cerebral cortex. Libet , p. If — along with hundreds of millions of Hindus and Buddhists — you have never believed that humans differ from everything else in the natural world in having an immortal soul, you will find it hard to get worked up by a theory that shows how much we have in common with other animals.

Among us, in contrast, it has triggered savage and unending controversy. In the 19th century, the conflict was waged between Darwinists and Christians. Now, the controversy is played out between Darwinism and humanists, who seek to defend a revised version of Western ideas about the special nature of humans. After all, the notion that humans are free in a way that other animals are not does not come from science. Its origins are in religion — above all, in Christianity In fact, despite all his impassioned protestations to the contrary, Dennett is seeking to salvage a view of humankind derived from Western religion.

To be sure, he wants to demolish the metaphysical belief in freedom of the will that has been the foundation of this view in the past — but only in order to give it another, more solid foundation in contemporary science. Like many others over the past years or so, Dennett looks to evolution for the moral uplift that used to be afforded by religion.

The trouble with this unhappy metaphor is that there is no known mechanism for the spread of ideas akin to the transmission of genes. The history of ideas is made largely by political power and human folly — not through the workings of natural selection. Dennett is vastly more sophisticated a thinker than Huxley [who viewed evolution as a form of progress, and evolutionary change as a form of good], but like him he seems to derive a curious comfort from the belief that human culture is an evolving process.

Perhaps, like Huxley, he cannot help identifying himself with the evolutionary process and imagining that it is working obscurely to replicate his own values; but if there is such a thing as cultural evolution, it is no less blind, purposeless and value-free than biological evolution. Dennett describes human history as a "communal process of memetic engineering" — a saga that includes, he tells us, his own book.

He seems not to have digested the fact that the world is full of memetic engineers who do not share his values, some of them using methods rather more effective than philosophical argument, and who are as much a part of cultural evolution as he is himself. You can preface your extracts with a short review. We reply to all feedback!


Fate by fluke

If the mind is just the brain and there is nothing else, then our behaviours can be reduced to interactions of molecules in the brain, and appear to be deterministic. If this is the case, then where is the place for free will? There are two ways of handling this situation. We are deterministic, and free will is a myth. Hard-headed scientific types sometimes proclaim their acceptance of this position, even declaring it a no-brainer. But then, how come they hold onto this position with such vigour? Or, why do they let strongly held moral convictions to guide their actions in daily life?


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Synopsis[ edit ] As in Consciousness Explained, Dennett advertises the controversial nature of his views extensively in advance. Free will, seen this way, is about freedom to make decisions without duress and so is a version of Kantian positive practical free will, i. Evitability is entirely compatible with, and actually requires, human action being deterministic. Dennett moves on to altruism , denying that it requires acting to the benefit of others without gaining any benefit yourself. He argues that it should be understood in terms of helping yourself by helping others, expanding the self to be more inclusive as opposed to being selfless. In his treatment of both free will and altruism, he starts by showing why we should not accept the traditional definitions of either term. Beneficial mutual arrangements[ edit ] Dennett also suggests that adherence to high ethical standards might pay off for the individual, because if others know your behaviour is restricted in these ways, the scope for certain beneficial mutual arrangements is enhanced.

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