Friday, August 29, 2008

The Naturalistic Existence of Free Will, Soul, and Ego

In Tuesday's blog (8.26) I made a big deal of the concept of the actual existence of an actual human soul, and of free will as something actually available to men.

“Free Will,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), refers to "a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives [and] that the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility."

As I shall show, this "moral responsibility" is at the heart of most schools of naturalism--and there are many varieties, but almost all admit, "Brains and buffaloes exist (for instance), but minds and moral values must not, because they are invisible to the five senses and therefore invisible to scientific enquiry." J. P. Moreland [italics added]

In quoting Moreland, I understand I am open to the naturalist's defense that I am using religious claims to counter scientific claims. But the heart of this metaphysical and epistemological portrayal by science of "man without mind or moral responsibility" is what is wrong about naturalism, and what is right about religion--for the wrong reasons.

It is because of the correct view of moral responsibility by religion, and of the wrong view by science, that epistemological caveats were placed on the definition of naturalism by which this Academy operates. [See sidebar]
[Mirriam-Webster Online defines caveat as "an explanation to prevent misinterpretation; a modifying or cautionary detail to be considered when evaluating, interpreting, or doing something." B.A.G.Fuller's definition, standing alone, does not cover all the subjective, non-normative goals of an empirical science that can scan a brain in real time and watch its parts "lighting up" while the subject under scrutiny looks at pictures of porn or posies, listens to various types of music, eats most-favorite and least-favorite foods, or in general has his or her empirical sensory organs stimulated.]

The view of an active will that is free of coercion whether it is coercion by other men or by nature, satisfies "the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. [ ] But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility" (as we shall see,) continues the SEP.

For the sake of the argument allow that "ego" is an agent of cause in the lives of men. Naturalists will deny the ego exists, and people unfamiliar with the complexities of naturalism will not know why the ego should be discounted at all, since they believe all men believe it exists. The ego seems to be self-evident, and we base our morals on restricting the ego as it attempts to become king of a hill. Most naturalists do not agree it exists, that what appears "self-evident" is fiction designed only to explain, before modern science "showed" otherwise, why we acted in such and such a way.

So for the sake of the argment, "ego" is accepted by most men as the reason for demanding and accepting recognition for one's accomplishments of time, effort, and creativity; accepted as the reason for the recognition of individual sovereignty and the dignity of persons to remain free of human coercion; and accepted as the reason for values we place on other people, places, things, attributes and actions.

But naturalists don't accept free will, the soul, or the ego as real objects, not even as objects that reflect the reality of the mind, because they don't accept "mind" as anything but a fiction designed to explain a phenomenon.

The moral argument for them is exactly "[a]s you'd expect in a culture wedded to mind-body dualism but inhabiting an age of science..."

That partial sentence says it all, if you know what is at stake. The mind-body dualism leaves us "at the mercy of two monsters whom man [can] not fathom or control: of a body moved by unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations—" Ayn Rand
For the New Intellectual, Men who believe in existence without a free consciousness want no part in moral responsibility, as the direct quotes below will show. That is why consciousness "inhabiting an age of science" is not a good thing for them.

The problem is that "they" have now declared that not only does the soul not exist either as "mystic revelation," nor as a natural element of the consciousness of man. They also now deny that consciousness is anything more than neurons firing, memes, genes, etc. and that what we think is consciousness--is not.

Modern science is philosophical materialism, "the metaphysical view that there is only one substance in the universe" and that that substance is empirical." The philosophical materialism of naturalists is the belief that spiritual substance does not exist.

In one sense only they are correct: that thing which they deny as "soul" cannot be objectively evaluated by any known scientific standards or methods. You can't make the "soul" light up like parts of the brain do. It is metaphysical, but metaphysical descriptions are descriptions of things that exist, in this case of what we sense as the effects we feel as emotional, or at least physical, within our bodies.

The difference between the materialist and the Objectivist position accepted by the majority of all humans who ever lived and who live now, is that "ego," and "free will" explain non-material objects that are not supernatural, and not of any substance except of knowledge of events in space-time that occur inside out bodies. As for "soul," Objectivists are on the side of the naturalists in declaring it to be the effect of empirical activities originating within the central nervous system, and which therefore die with the body.

Yet, it is disagreement as to the cause of these events that distinguishes the difference between materialistic science and objective epistemology; and it precisely the epistemology of both science and religion that is wrong.

A rational man will not harbor "the soul-body dichotomy. He will discard its irrational conflicts and contradictions, such as: mind versus heart, thought versus action, reality versus desire, the practical versus the moral. [ ] He will know that the [ ] volitional level of reason and thought—is the basic necessity of man’s survival and his greatest moral virtue. He will know that men need philosophy for the purpose of living on earth. Ayn Rand
For the New Intellectual

[I take up Rand so much in this article because one of the staunchest supporters of scientific naturalism, denying the soul and individual responsibility for personal action, is Tom Clark, of Naturalism.Org, already quoted above and much quoted below.

In email between myself and Tibor Machan, who has argued against Clark in the past, Machan said, "Clark is an avowed reductive materialist, which is a highly restricted version of naturalism (it begs the question as to what can be part of nature.)" Obviously, soul, ego, and free will are not "parts of nature," but are reduced to biological functions of the brain.

Science takes the fact that soul, ego, and free will cannot be objectively evaluated by any known scientific standards or methods to mean that no such ontological objects exist. When we insist they mean more than the identification of empirical effects on our nervous system, the effect that "feels" like what humans have always called our soul, our ego, our free will, science denies it. Once we give those objects the identity of a "moral existents" of consciousness, they cease to be scientifically useful. You can't put morals under a microscope. So soul, ego, and free will are denied, not as things we don't recognize and can not talk about, but as something with any scientific value. The only value to science of the soul and the ego is that they are the empirical effects of an empirical (chemical/electircal) cause, or of a conceptual, e.g., ideological, cause.

But conceptual causes are, themselves, attributed to empirical causes, thus eliminating them as ontological.

"In his book
Consilience, E. O. Wilson took note that sociology has identified belief in a soul as one of the universal human cultural elements. Wilson suggested that biologists need to investigate how human genes predispose people to believe in a soul." [attribution unknown]

"Man is viewed as coordinate with other parts of nature, and naturalistic psychology emphasizes the physical basis of human behavior..." says the SEP. [ibid]

"Daniel Dennett has championed the idea that the human survival strategy depends heavily on adoption of the intentional stance. [This,] Dennett suggests, has proven so successful that people tend to apply it to all aspects of human experience, thus leading to [to] conceptualizations of soul."

Watching parts of the brain light up (with functional magnetic imaging resonance) demonstrates a causal relationship between sensory stimuli, and those parts of the brain responsible for registering something about the stimuli. Comparisons are made on the particular emotions the subject is feeling at the time this-or-that part of the brain shows activity.

For example, "when you're in love, your eyes light up, your face lights up -- and, apparently, so do four tiny bits of your brain, said Andreas Bartels, a doctoral student at University College London who presented his research at the Society for Neuroscience."

We know this. This kind of thing is not new news. We've all seen it on TV if not in our own lives. What those of us in the general population don't comprehend is that scientists reverse the cause and effect, enabling them to make claims such as that because a part of your brain lights up, it causes an emotion; therefore, emotions are caused by events that take place within the empirical brain; therefore, "an individual’s development and behavior are entirely the result of prior and surrounding conditions, both genetic and environmental;" [italics added]

Or this: "Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us...We see that there but for circumstances go I. We would have been the homeless person in front of us, the convict, or the addict, had we been given their genetic and environmental lot in life." [italics added]

But in order to humor us about our souls, and in an attempt to explain what it is that people are comtemplating when they meditate upon their mortal souls, we get explanations like this:

"It doesn't know... to think about people playing harps sitting on clouds..." Daniel Dennett; The Atheism Tapes

The soul is the seat of self-awareness as a metaphysical entity. The soul incorporates the inner "voice" of each living being. It is the basis for consciousness of consciousness, because it is that consciously "given" thing within us upon which we focus our consciousness. We focus our consciousness back inside ourselves, and there we find an entity with a specific identity; the self.

Consciousness of consciousness is found in our Latin name. We are Homo sapiens sapiens, not, as some mistakenly believe, just "plain old" Homo sapiens. "Plain old" Homo sapiens is called "Archaic Homo sapiens" and lived "300,000 to 30,000

The soul is the basis for our seat of self-awareness, but not the cause. The cause is simply that when someone got around to looking, he saw. It had been there all the time, like math and oxygen. But someone had to be the first to see it.

Other animals have self awareness, but it is on the level of what naturalist and biologist Loren Eiseley called the eternal present. They are stuck in it. They can't think further than their next meal, or at least further than their next act. Chimps have been seen to take justice to the "eye for an eye" variety. Worse, they have been seen stomping other chimps to death just for having accidentally entered the other tribe's territory-- but they only stomped the other chimp to death after searching for it for hours, in apack like wolves. That is more than "eye for an eye," so it really means they have not given morality any consideration. They only live by their emotions, and if you are an invading chimp, friendly or not, you deserved to die.

A dog can think far enough ahead to know that when his master needs help, he must go seek that help. Dog's have a persistence to be admired. But after the rescue, they do not pat themselves on the back, and tell their friends, or their puppies, how they heroically ran up the hill, swam the creek, and ran two miles to get home to tell the Mrs. that the Mr. was injured. When the rescue is done, as far as the dog is concerned, its done. There may be residual pride. Who has not seen a proud pet. My cat's proudest moment was showing off her kittens, but after that it was the night she brought home an owl. She didn't egoistically act as if she even remembered it the next day.

So, after the event, everything is back to normal, and as for the chimps you wouldn't know in either tribe that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Because it was not out of the ordinary. And things were back to normal. Normal is living in the present with no thought to any means of bettering their relations with other tribes, or whether that is even necessary for their own survival as a species, as a tribe, or as an individual. They act as their species has acted since they popped up on the evolutionary scene, with a consciousness stuck in the moment.

Man's self-consciousness is on a different level. I like to think that psychologically man gained "sapient sapience" when the first Greek (or someone of another culture such as the Chinese,) made the first syllogism of philosophy and connected it to another and another. That was a feat no creature on earth had ever done before, and that none but man has done since.

So inner reflection, on an ontological entity, as a learned action, and the capability to make chains of syllogisms that are specifically philosophical, is the seat of the self consciousness, and what it is conscious of is its empirical sensory manifestations collectively called conscience.

But here is where I must repeat: science has the cause-and-effect backward. So what if the mechanism of the brain causes those empirical sensory manifestations? They relate to something, and that "thing" is value based. Science tests the lighting-up of the brain by using sensory stimuli, but then forgets to mention that all stimuli have value-based relationships to life; and that when it is man's brain lighting up to the smell of popcorn, or the picture of a national hero, or the sound of a melody that one danced to at his/her senior prom, that all those things have value-based relationships to a human life.

This forgetfullness should bother us--greatly. Man has the virtue of volition. Human beings are a volitional species, where "volition" means "[acting] without being compelled - by someone, or by external circumstances, or by mental illness," against one's rational considerations. The problem with this quote is that in the original it didn't end with "rational considerations." It ended with "to do it against one's wishes" which the materialist naturalist will tell you "are entirely the result of prior and surrounding conditions, both genetic and environmental." [italics added]

Volition and free will are synonymous, where free will means "the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions," No such virtue as volition can exist as freedom to think or not, when genes and the chair you sit in and the sandwich you had for lunch are the cause of your desire to talk to your mother, or vacation in Orlando instead of New Orleans.

Why does science get cause and effect confused? It is entirely purposeful and based on altrusim; and not just on altruism, but on altruistic bones that we somehow get from mother nature even when altruism is a moral choice.

"The capacity for such self-modifying choices [as come with what some call free will,] and their direction, for good or ill, can always be traced back to influences that were prior to both our character and our choice-making capacity. Such tracing is at the heart of empirical explanation; it’s what science does for a living, partially. This is to say that, on a scientific understanding of ourselves, our autonomy and its uses are fully natural and fully determined, ultimately arising out of conditions that were not within our control.

"[To suppose the existence of free will] is to suppose that in empirical fact we are merely self-interested creatures. But we aren’t; there are many altruistic bones in our body," writes Clark. [2] [italics added]

Since he said this specifically in response to the "ruthless egoism" of Objectivism*, let me quote again from the originator of Objectivism: [*rational egoism is not ruthless. It is the justice one pays himself in recognition of his individual sovereignty and of the sovereignty of every other individual.]

"Do not hide behind such superficialities [in the argument about altruism] as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime." [italics added] Ayn Rand "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,Philosophy: Who Needs It

Altruism, as I personally argued with Clark, was coined by Auguste Comte and adopted in Britain by H. Spencer. For Comte the word meant the eradication of self as found in ones "desire," and it meant a life devoted to the good of others, not just freely offered when one had a desire to do so, since desire was to be eradicated. More particularly, Comte meant by "altrusim" selfless love and devotion to Society. In brief, it involved self-abnegation conceived as an ideal. As thus understood, altruism involves a conscious opposition to egoism, understood as rational self-interest.

Altruism is not to be confused, as Clark does, with kindness, e.g., "altruistic bones," or with good will or respect for the rights of others, said Rand. Altruism makes kindness impossible, because Comte also meant that altruism was opposed to the formal or theological pursuit of charity.

"The irreducible primary of altruism," Rand wrote, "the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good." [ibid]

Clark responded, saying, "It would be nice if all Rand’s acolytes examined her philosophy as assiduously as do you..."

To which I would add, "It would be nicer if educated men do not misunderstand it, or the meaning of such words as "altruistic," as badly as you do."

I said that science willfully forgets to tell us about the value relationship that existents have on our consciousness, and that this ought to bother us greatly. Well, here is the reason why. It is as "faith based" as religion is, and I can say this because people who forget to tell us about the value relationship of our right to give or not to give to someone needy is what altruism is all about; and the people who forget to tell us that tell us the things they want us to believe.

"Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us...Seeing that we are fully caused creatures - not self-caused - we can no longer take or assign ultimate credit or blame for what we do. This leads to an ethics of compassion and understanding, both toward ourselves and others. We see that there but for circumstances go I. We would have been the homeless person in front of us, the convict, or the addict, had we been given their genetic and environmental lot in life."

We are all blameless. The astronaut who walks in space cannot take pride for having earned that position of responsibility as a crewmember: it was "entirely caused by conditions that preceded him/her and surrounded him/her." And it was genes that "predisposed" him or her to believe that all the hard work and years of waiting were the cause of his/her position of responsibility on the crew.

Thus, it was Hillary Rodham-Clinton's genetic and environmental "lot in life" that prevented her from winning the Democratic nomination; and Barrak Obama's charm, youth, good looks, and electrifying speeches were not the result of having worked hard to earn or to maintain those virtues, or to use them at the time in his life when he knew he could make them come true; it was his "lot in life."

Do you know what a "lot in life" is? When used as it is here, it is a predisposition, pre-set fate, that which one carries in his genes as given him by some long-ago primate ancestor; and in his mental makeup as caused by the size of the bedroom he grew up in, the condition of the mattress on his bed, and the lack of calcium, or the excess of caffeinated soda he drank, while growing up or just before deciding to run for President.

"Researchers [from the World Health Organization] are asking people throughout Britain to describe how happy they are with their lot in life to help improve the effect of the healthcare they receive."

"[I]f we remain unconscious of [ ] predispositions we can only continue to run into inexplicable and irresolvable conflicts. These are the battles where logic and reason fly out of the window..."

"...environmental factors [ ] and genetic predisposition for asthma..." Yes, I believe we do have such things as predispositions to diseases that may be environmentally or genetically caused. But there is no environmental or genetic predisposition to running for President or for losing the candidacy, nor for robbing a bank, nor for drive-by shootings, nor for cutting fetuses from living wombs, nor for strapping a bomb to one's body and blowing it up in the middle of a market, nor for anything else that science would like to attribute to "genetics and environment," which, but for the grace of god go I.

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The Free Assemblage of Metaphysical Naturalists is the sm of the Academy of Metaphysical Naturalism tm, the educational arm of the Assemblage. This publication © 2008 by Curtis Edward Clark and Naturalist Academy Publishing ®

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