Saturday, October 25, 2008

Naturalism Denies Free Will; Assumes "Locality" of Abstractions

On the website Objectivism Online.Org, a young man asked a question about "spatial locality of abstractions" within the brain. It was an insightful question. Not many people would think about such a thing.

In spite of the fact that Ayn Rand was specifically asked about such a thing in her book "Philosophy: Who Needs It", I wasn't thinking of placing that "spatial locality" in the brain. I thought, "Of course its in the brain. The philosopher in the book who asked about it has to mean something else." What that "else" was I didn't give a second thought. I just knew that abstractions were not "out there"; they were in my head.

After all, Rand said as part of her answer that abstractions "are mental entities [,] or put it this way: a phenomenon of consciousness."

That is what I would have answered myself, that abstractions exist, but not in any empirical way unless they related directly to an object about which one drew the abstractions; even then, it's not the abstractions that would have empirical existence. Abstractions are in the mind.

She also said, "[W]e can call them 'mental entities' only metaphorically or for convenience. It is a 'something.' For instance, before you have a certain concept, that particular something doesn't exist in your mind. When you have formed the concept of 'concept,' that is a mental something; it isn't a nothing."

But in the conversation string, someone who calls herself "Dragon Lady" answered the question about "spatial locality" this way:

"When you're talking about a memory, a thought, or an emotion, you're talking about the *experience* of that mental entity. You don't *experience* any of those things as a conscious awareness of neurons firing in a specific location in your brain. The *thought* is conceptually distinct from the neurons just as the mind is conceptually distinct from the brain."
Well, that is precisely what I would not have thought to ascribe to "a phenomenon of consciousness." But that is what the young man was asking.

The Dragon Lady was right. But her answer led me to add an answer of my own to the string, one that I think raises the spectre that there are famous and respected philosophers who take the other view, and who have the power to cause such a question to be asked--and answered--the wrong way.

I once answered a similar question, without having the same understanding of the "spatial" element I now have after reading the question, Rand's answers, and the response by the other reader of the string. That first answer of mine was published two months ago in Memes, Free Will, Strong Naturalism, and Toilet Paper. It isn't incorrect. It just didn't go far enough.

Yet that was a very long answer. Looking at it today I'd say I could probably re-write it to be shorter, but what writer doesn't go back and look at his/her work and see where it could be reworked--over and over? In it's essence it is correct from a metaphysical naturalist view, and I will say from the view of a "student of Objectivism."

Bigoted, Lying James Dobson to be Honored

I once had a revealing conversation with an A-list news reporter, when I was trying to convince him to cover the scientific distortions of Focus on the Family's James Dobson. He declined to do so because he felt that Dobson lies so frequently that it wasn't news. Wayne Besen - Daily Commentary

Truth Wins Out (TWO) launched a new website today,, that calls on the Museum of Broadcast Communications to reverse its decision to honor Focus on the Family’s James Dobson in its Radio Hall of Fame. Unless the museum withdraws its pledge to induct Dobson, TWO will join Equality Illinois and the Gay Liberation Network to protest the awards ceremony, Saturday, Nov. 8, (5:30 PM – 7:30 PM), at the Renaissance Chicago Hotel. MORE

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