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Lucianox

you guys are no longer intellectually interesting

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After getting through a bunch of weighty non-fiction and also The Idiot, I kind of need a novel written in delectable English (or a translation that carries the flourish over from another language). Suggestions please.

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FINALLY

 

A book called The Melancholy of Resistance did the trick. It's translated from Hungarian and Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies is based off of it. Totally different from the film though, much more insane. The film was only beautiful, this was somewhat manic and really there is no point to publishing a book if its author can't write like this.

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I bought Godel, Escher, Bach from a used bookstore and I'm starting to read it, Joost this appears to be your domain so do you have any warnings?

 

I also bought both volumes of Spengler so I can finally finish reading the second volume sometime in this lifetime.

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I bought Godel, Escher, Bach from a used bookstore and I'm starting to read it, Joost this appears to be your domain so do you have any warnings?

Don't draw the conclusion to the meaning of life and thinking from it like so many CS students do?

  • I'm with stupid 1

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Or do, why not, that shit is philosophically defensible

 

Also if you feel suddenly inspired to become a mathematician, that's normal, that's how normal people turn mathematician. Never expose your 16 year old to GBE unless you want him to become a wealthy, soulless banker

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well second degrees do seem to be in fashion and mathematics would have always been a second or third choice thanks for the life advice guys

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Or do, why not, that shit is philosophically defensible

 

Also if you feel suddenly inspired to become a mathematician, that's normal, that's how normal people turn mathematician. Never expose your 16 year old to GBE unless you want him to become a wealthy, soulless banker

I feel like everyone extrapolates far too much from its intention. You kind of gave the examples of what I'm talking about so I guess you agree with me.

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I bought Godel, Escher, Bach from a used bookstore and I'm starting to read it, Joost this appears to be your domain so do you have any warnings?

Don't draw the conclusion to the meaning of life and thinking from it like so many CS students do?

 

 

If by CS students you mean Computer Science undergrads then I'm insulted you would think such a thing but if you mean Cognitive Science undergrads then I guess I'll be flattered.

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It's an interesting proposition of what consciousness is, and I don't have any strong beliefs about how that state emerges so I'm glad to have been shown that perspective. In terms of natural philosophy I still give the most credit to the claim that free will simply does not exist and that it is illusory, from what I know the evidence in favour of this (although I suppose it might also be impossible to find contrary evidence). It's far from 100% and I don't live according to that belief.

 

There was recently an article in The Guardian on the topic of consciousness (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/-sp-why-cant-worlds-greatest-minds-solve-mystery-consciousness), this suggested to me (I don't recall anything of the sort stated in the article) the idea that consciousness could emerge as its own symbol (using Hofstadterian terms) if it were prompted to, which is a terrifically vague and doesn't exclude the possibility for greater or lesser conscious states, but it certainly suggests a basis in terms of biology/evolution. For example, the more you ask a child to consider its own state of being, or an early human, the more you direct it towards generating its own self-image. This is assuming the requisite hardware exists, but the hardware itself requires that environmental prompt.

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For what it's worth, the better neuroscientific/neurophilosophical works don't answer the question whether there is free will or not but rather refines it and shows subtleties in it. (Long story short, there's good evidence that we make many arbitrary short-term choices "automatically", without any conscious intervention, but little to suggest that we have no conscious influence over our long-term goals, decisions and priorities that in turn inform how we "automatically" behave.) I can see if I can find you some good literature on the subject if you're interested.

 

Also between Hofstadter's colourful insights on pattern and consciousness, there is a lot of, well, Pythagorean "numbers are in the world" bullshit mixed in with his philosophy that makes me kinda sad.

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How are we defining "free will" vs "no free will"? Seems like there's a range from "absolute self-determination" necessary for/inherent in certain strands of theological thought, to "I'm a chemical machine with baseline heuristics but possess a self-examining and priority-setting linguistic center [to varying degrees]", to "I'm an instinctual creature, all thought is a weightless post hoc illusion, woe is me."

 

I'd consider only the first to be true "free will". The second which allows for "conscious influence" just gives us higher agency/possibility for moral agency, but still isn't free will per se because we're still slaves to the internal mechanics of our consciousness. But since I don't think anyone here (except maybe Veggie?) would still believe in that implicitly spiritualistic formulation, I have assume that's not the definitional consensus?

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Without knowing anything about the book beforehand (should I read it?), any insistence on 'free will' as traditionally understood is kind of passe now. DF's summary is a good one of the currently prevailing assumption in many fields. Another way of putting it is that many aren't willing to throw out a reflective, decision-making, agentic consciousness altogether... but we would much rather focus on what parts of our thinking, feeling and behaving occur beyond or behind that consciousness. So what was once a debate about how consciousness is master of the human, is now a debate about how far consciousness' remit goes and what things it has little/no control over.

 

This is why any halfway educated person these days is inundated by popularised science about manipulating people in subconscious ways not by 'fooling' their consciousness necessarily, but directly touching on the ways people work non-consciously anyway. Actual examples:

  • A study where putting the vegetable cart in a natural bottleneck in the school lunch queue increases vegetable consumption, because your thought choices about what you want to eat is actually very much dependent on as simple a thing as "fuck, this carrot is there, I'm not moving away from it, ITS STILL THERE, oh god"
  • A study where you are shown Lief, the supporter of baby-eating, and Martin who opposes it, and you love baby-eating. The parts of the brain shown to handle short-term memory is temporarily taken out with a chemical injection, effectively making you an amnesiac for a while. You still prefer Lief overwhelmingly to Martin, even though you cannot remember what their stance is on baby-eating. Your poor consciousness tries to make up some reasons why you must be favouring Lief, such as his large testicles and his manly throat hair.

Now, when you get to the stage where experiments are purporting to not only show us that some things we do bypass consciousness, but that we can manipulate those automated processes, and even further, we can manipulate those processes in a way that those processes then fool consciousness - the question changes: the stakes are no longer 'to what degree we have free will', but 'to what extent does it matter that we have some free will'.

 

----------------------

 

As for my own views - I don't think there's any real need to try and defend the theological absolute of free will, and I think the ability to defend it was already lost when we began to conceive of the human body biologically and neurologically. To an extent, the idea of absolute free will and a rational subject who has a full and happy understanding of himself actually presumes the I as a divine figure - someone who does not just live in the present, but has a kind of possession of himself that transcends the time that he lives in, as if he is able to comprehend, plan, and assess himself and his living in a larger sense. When we are creatures of the now, it is inevitable that we are always surprised by the situations we find ourselves in. What you decide to say 'now' in conversation is predicated on things you said a few seconds ago which, properly speaking, no longer belong to you but are 'foreign' things. You are pondering which coffee to order, and already the choices which 'another' you made in the past has hedged the bets, weighted the dice, in how you make decisions in that moment. We recognise that we 'fool ourselves' in more obvious things like confirmation bias, but such things are not exceptions where our consciousness is 'fooled', it is essential to how consciousness actually works; the gap between saying 'This goat is so sexy' and 'I mean, look at its perfectly curved horns' is a gap in which I pull myself forward into a set of feelings and perceptions, and then in the next moment, I find that 'somebody else' has put me in that situation to which I must respond.

 

So that is all pretty consistent with the prevailing 'automated' view, which many consider to lead towards the demise or at least negligence of 'free will'. I don't think so. Sartre said emotions are a kind of 'magic', because they are a way to make you - and everybody else - see the world entirely differently without changing anything about its material aspects. When you can't kill someone physically, you can hate them - and that is usually presented as a weakness, a compromise; "you can't act, so you just feel, or think, or talk". But over a longer duration, this organisation of how I and we feel and think about things is precisely the way in which you achieve things you cannot achieve immediately by material means. Now, this kind of power, today, is attributed to subconscious, automated processes, as shown in examples above; you can make people 'feel' differently about Lief or baby-eating. But I think this is, ironically, the path forward for consciousness, or rather, 'free will' and human agency.

 

That is to say: sure we are 'wired' and 'automated' to respond to stimuli in certain ways, which leaves us vulnerable to many kinds of manipulation that we wouldn't even be aware of. At the same time, consciousness / 'active reflective thought' remains a special corrective to all this, if a limited and partial one. If human will is limited and much of human life is controlled by automated processes, that is the same as saying, biological and neural processes are limited, and is at least partially vulnerable to human will. Human will isn't something that controls you in a direct and interference-free way; rather, human will is the crucial faculty by which we look back on what automated processes are doing to us, and then try to reprogram its influences in various ways. Post-Victorian repression of sexual desire, for example, is usually interpreted as stupid consciousness trying and failing to stop natural urges and desires from having their way. Again, the inverse way to look at it is, that was a prime example of how human will, via language, achieves some degree of success in molding natural urges and desires to different ends. There is no absolute free will, but there is a will which bears upon the automated, blind being of humanity.

 

There's some obvious problems with how I've described that view, but I've played a bit fast and loose with the language and used a fairly binary split of consciousness and automated processes to make it simple.

  • I'm with stupid 2

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luckily avenger sprinkled exciting references to beloved dictator Lief and his manly throat hairs in this post, to keep readers engaged and entertained

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I thought I had a definition of free will but I'm not sure it holds together, stating something like, "any form of agency that originates from the conscious self" would suggest that there is a clear way to distinguish the conscious self from the physical body, i.e. dualism.

 

Veggie's description makes sense to me, the element I may not have fully considered is that memory could be accessed in order to change behaviour. I can't say that this constitutes free will as I'd have considered it, but perhaps because that idea of free will was itself bound to dualism.

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Books I read in the last 30 days:

 

Tom Wolfe - Bonfire of the Vanities

Seneca - Dialogues

Bordewijk - Blokken / Knorrende Beesten / Bint

 

Next up on the list is Kafka.

 

For my studies,

 

John Etchemendy - The concept of logical consequence

F. William Lawvere - Conceptual Mathematics (currently)

Richard Tieszen - Phenomenology, Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics

 

CBA to look further back than 30 days

 

DF PRODUCTIVITY UPDATE:

 

I still didn't finish Conceptual Mathematics, I got through Tieszen for the fifth and final time two weeks ago, and Kafka is still on next on my pleasure reading list because the concept of "pleasure reading" was, I suspect, stored in this very post for me not to retrieve for 13 months

 

ETCHEMENDY WAS GOOD THOUGH IIRC

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