Determinists Strike Back, Part 4

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I would like to thank Robot Philosopher for providing this mental work out and for keeping me honest by pushing back on various assertions. The argument continues with a quotation from me:

“What on earth would “a good life” mean for a mindless automaton with no free will? Or, if it has a mind, a mind that is trapped within the automaton with no ability to alter a single thing about its life?”

Again, experience matters. Whether or not we make actual choices, we still experience good or bad. We didn’t decide what we experience as good or bad, but we still DO experience. With me so far? Not complicated. Continue reading

Determinists Strike Back, Part 3

1The following arguments should be prefaced with the fact that arguing for determinism, and thus about determinism, is irrational, in the same way that it is pointless to argue with someone who will not follow the law of noncontradiction.  This should be admitted up front in case this is not immediately clear and readers later come to feel like they have been led up the garden path. They are being led up that path. Thomas F. Bertonneau pithily described determinism as the denial of consciousness. Not having as much exposure to academic philosophy, he left it at that. In what follows, Robot Philosopher disconcertingly does write that he believes in “experience,” a concept that depends on consciousness, but it is a nightmare version with no substance to it, since there is no “I,” doing the experiencing, and the experiencer has no ability to alter anything. “His” reactions to that experience have nothing to do with “him” either. Experience in this context seems a little like a bare recording device existing in a giant stream of causation. Without agency, it can be a passive observer only. Better never to be born. There could be some interest in viewing someone else’s life, one that you had no control over, except this vicarious experience would be meaningless because the life one is observing has no conscious mediation either, just grains of sand being blown by the wind. Continue reading

The Metaphysical Status of Preferences

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Robot Philosopher, following Sam Harris, suggests that since we do not choose our preferences, we do not have free will. This is an odd line of attack for a determinist because the concept of a preference is mind-dependent. We never refer to mindless phenomena as having “preferences,” unless metaphorically, and determinists cannot allow that minds are causally efficacious because then a non-material phenomenon encompassing ideas and concepts would be able to bypass mere physical causation. Physical determinism involves the postulate of causal chains stretching back into the distant past. Given cause A, effect B must occur. B then becomes the cause of C, ad infinitum. When fuel is ignited in the cylinder of a car engine, the piston is forced down. It is meaningless to refer to “preferences” in that context. If we are mindless automatons following the rules of physics, as determinism conjectures, then it makes no sense to be discussing preferences in the first place. It is not a “preference” that is causing us to act in a particular manner, but physics. Such inconsistencies are commonly found on this topic.

One doubts whether Robot Philosopher or Sam Harris are actually interested in the phenomenon of preferences per se, so it seems a little disingenuous to write a response taking the topic seriously. Nonetheless, it might be rewarding to do so. Continue reading

Determinists Strike Back Part 2

8Thank you, Robot Philosopher, for providing material with additional pro-determinism material with which to convince my students that I am not inventing strawman positions that no one believes. As will become quickly obvious, bullet point statements come from me. I hope it is clear from the context that I am often arguing against my own beliefs and just trying to get a determinist to follow his own logic.

  • “If determinism is true, there is no “you” to have preferences or not. Only agents have preferences.”

Says who? Human action, at its foundation, is no different than one of those small robots programmed to point its camera at the floor and follow the black line where it leads. Humans are simply much more complicated and have much more programming – the choices we make generally much more complex – but we follow the same sequence when determining our course. When the robot makes a “choice” to veer left to follow the line, it has done nothing but reference its programming and equations and variables to their inevitable conclusions. Humans do nothing except reference our programming (genetic, chemical, societal, etc) in order to come to also inevitable conclusions (at least, in the conscious decisions which you would claim we “freely” make).

[Robot Philosopher had claimed that there is nothing nihilistic about such a view.]

  • You pretty much make all my points and then some in your first paragraph. There is not much more to say. Utter nihilism. According to you, human beings are little robots following black lines on the floor. You literally write that we are “no different” from that. We make no choices. What appears to be choices is “nothing but” our programming. Little robots following black lines do not have “preferences.” They do what they are told. If it made any sense to refer to “preferences,” it would be the preferences of their programmers.
  • All of that follows directly from your assumptions about human beings. Iain McGilchrist calls it the philosophy of “nothing butterism.” Humans are nothing but…
  • You have no evidence for any of that and it seems a radically inadequate way of characterizing human consciousness and behavior. See https://voegelinview.com/the-chinese-room-thought-experiment-by-john-searle/

Continue reading

The Gorgias Is As Relevant As Ever

1As with The Republic, in The Gorgias Plato is trying to defend the idea that it is worth it to try to be a good person even when it does not seem to be in your interests to do so. That is a surprisingly hard position to defend when dealing with cynics, especially those with psychopathic tendencies and ambitions like Polus and Callicles. This gives Socrates very little common ground to act as a basis for discussion. Given their narcissistic tendencies, Socrates has to try to appeal to their self-interest to persuade them.

It is worth knowing that Socrates was in fact put to death partly due to his unwillingness to lie and flatter in the manner of rhetoricians. When asked what he thought his punishment should be for corrupting the youth, he replied, “Free meals for life,” the traditional reward for successful Olympic athletes. He was tried in the Assembly which consists of 500 citizens acting as a giant jury. Whoever is most convincing to the jury “wins.” The same tricks used to win over a jury could be used to push for political goals, such as military campaigns, when the Assembly was functioning in its legislative function. In court, it was necessary to provide one’s own defense while someone else acts as the prosecutor. Rhetoricians are basically lawyers trained in manipulating jury members, not in the truth that a good philosopher seeks.

Plato considered Socrates to be the best of man. So, these debates between Socrates and types who had him killed have an enormous pathos hanging over them. The victim strikes back. In real life, Socrates lost and they won. However, he only lost his life. He died with dignity and his memory lives on thousands of years later. When Callicles says the bad man has total control of the life of the good man this is a threat that was in fact carried out. Socrates would rather die a good man than switch sides to join Callicles.

A student writes: “I genuinely believe that if Plato hadn’t existed in his era but existed today, releasing Gorgias as a modernized philosophy, keeping the same structure and characters, this work would have been laughed out of any serious discussions.” Continue reading

Kierkegaard and Chesterton – Use and Misuse of the Media

Article by Gary Furnell, secretary/treasurer of the Australian Chesterton Society. This is not by permission or arrangement, but simply a link to the original article. The argument connects to the topic of Edward Bernays’ “the engineering of consent,” and the way the BBC conspired to make mass immigration seem to be supported by English “public opinion” mentioned in The Populist Delusion. Part of Furnell’s argument is that the news, being about the unusual and the bad, can undermine one’s faith in the goodness of Creation.

Kierkegaard and Chesterton – Use and Misuse of the Media

Annihilation (movie) by Alex Garland

1Based on a book by Jeff VanderMeer, the movie Annihilation[1] is a fairly straightforward presentation of the ideas of René Girard. The book is more nuanced and less Girardian, which actually makes it more aesthetically rewarding. It is better that a work of art not be too much a simple application of theory. Even a seeming communist propagandist and partisan like Bertolt Brecht wrote The Good Woman of Setzuan in such a way that it is capable of more than one interpretation. Encyclopedia Britannica states:

“The play is set in China between World War I and World War II. The title character, Shen Te, is a poor but warmhearted prostitute. Because she alone was willing to shelter three gods, they have favoured her with a gift of money. She purchases a tobacco shop but finds that her kinsfolk and other customers take advantage of her kindness. To save her business, Shen Te adopts an alter ego; dressing as a man and acting the role of her tough, pragmatic cousin Shui Ta, she is able to exact just payment. She is forced to assume this role so often that, as Shui Ta, she is accused of murdering Shen Te. In the climactic trial scene, Shui Ta reveals that he and Shen Te are the same person.”[2] Continue reading

The Populist Delusion by Neema Parvini Part 3

Do managers believe their own lies, and why do so many of their policies seem directed at the collapse of the economy and the end of the human race or Western civilization?[1]

From The Populist Delusion by Neema Parvini, AKA Academic Agent:

PopulistApparently, there is some dispute as to whether the elites really believe their own ideology or not. Samuel T. Francis was sure that managers cynically adopt whatever ideology will serve to increase their own power. Paul Gottfried, it seems, is more convinced that they are in fact true believers. Edward Dutton’s take on it is that smart people are capable of self-brainwashing, being high in openness and better able to control their instincts, impulses, and intuitions. Many people simply figure out what beliefs they need to have for their optimum career prospects and convince themselves of their truth. Thus, Dutton’s interpretation splits the difference. Yes, managers adopt ideas that serve their own interests, but they also genuinely believe them. Dutton suggests that the evidence is that many people will simply and happily adopt any new orthodoxy that comes down the line. The DEI true believers would just as soon adopt fascist principles if they needed to; they are seemingly soulless opportunists, not thinkers. If that seems farfetched, Facebook announced that pro-fascist statements are now permitted on their site if the pro-fascists are fighting the Russians as part of the Ukrainian military, specifically the Azov battalion.[2] We know that ideologues will simply ignore inconvenient truths. For instance, female happiness has declined with greater female participation in the workforce. This is described by feminists as a “paradox.”[3] Likewise, we know that men and women will make violently different occupational choices given maximal freedom and minimal social pressure. Only 23% of engineers are women in “free” Sweden, while 50% of Iranian or Indian engineers are female. This will seem odd only to an ideologue. Sane people call this sexual dimorphism. We know that women as a group are more attracted to people, not things, and when they do go into science, prefer life sciences. Women, being more agreeable than men, are extra specially capable of bending and reshaping themselves to follow where the political winds blow, going from being more conservative than men in the 1940s to being more liberal than they are now. This chameleon tendency is particularly useful for mating with conquerors and invading forces who kill all the men and take all the women to boost the men’s ability to reproduce. Genetic records show greater continuity with DNA passed on from women, than the genes contributed by men within particular regions. The female line remains intact more so than the male. Continue reading

Globalism

Those of us on the right are used to being a minority of one when academics gather to socialize. Last night one expounded on the evils of nationalism and displaying the American flag. The other announced his love and devotion to globalism, using that actual word, and thus his suspicion/hatred of antiglobalists.

Moral development works from the narrow to the broad; from egocentrism, to various levels of ethnocentrism, to worldcentrism. One cares first for oneself, then one’s family, community, nation, and then for everyone, in principle at least.

We know that leftists and liberals are antisocial narcissists motivated to attain social status via virtue signaling: pitting the outgroup against the ingroup. High in neuroticism, they view the world as a frightening place and thus want power and status to control things. Those who want economic redistribution are filled with malicious envy of the rich as their primary drive, not concern for the poor. They virtue signal and think it sufficient to vote for welfare programs to demonstrate their moral superiority, whereas it is primarily conservatives who donate to charity and man the soup kitchens. The Salvation Army is more right wing than left wing. Continue reading

The Populist Delusion by Neema Parvini Part 2

Why do the number of managers proliferate and why are none removed as harmful charlatans who do nothing useful?

From The Populist Delusion by Neema Parvini, AKA Academic Agent:

Populist “The logic of managerialism is to create false “problems” which can, in effect, never truly be solved, but rather can permanently support managerial jobs that force some arbitrary compliance standard such as “unconscious bias training,” “net zero carbon,” the ratio of men and women on executive boards, or whatever else.”[1] Unsolvable and frequently false problems include “racial equality, gender equality, Islamist terrorism, climate change, mental health, and the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.”[2]

Presumably, in order to justify all these managerial interventions, a big head of steam has to be built up. In this regard, we went from a situation where homosexuals and even drag queens were tolerated, at least in urban areas, to a circumstance where these tiny minority of relatively harmless people have turned into a furious lynch mob. The question that arises is, “What are they so angry about?” Of course, most drag queens and homosexuals just want to go about their affairs and mind their own business. It is, however, in the interests of the managerial elite to promote the angry and belligerent few, rewarding them for acting up and speaking out. Without this salient and visible “problem” of gay and drag queen rights and supposed discrimination, managers have nothing to manage in this regard. Would you like a meeting with the college president? We will get you one, but only if you are very angry and willing to harangue the president – but don’t go overboard if you know what’s good for you. Would you like safe spaces, maybe a scholarship, a committee chairmanship, just for you? Would you like to get an academic position based on having the currently necessary credential and your sexual preference? Many years ago, a white professor at Le Moyne College was hired overtly because he was gay and promptly made chief of diversity on that basis, before that was a strictly administrative post. Being out and proud, gay and angry, is made as lucrative and attractive as possible. If people get too used to transexuals, then managers need to find more despised groups to promote and stir the pot. Managers have struck gold with pronouns since, as often commented, there need be no end to them and confusion can reign. Continue reading