Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wrong, I guess...

Rape is a crime in which one agent external to another forces the latter to engage in sexual activity. By "forces" the law means the activity was initiated and consummated against the latter agent's will. The law also assigns responsibility for that consummation to the former agent. The former agent is guilty of rape by depriving the latter agent of his or her freedom to resist the influence of the external agent.

Determinism is a doctrine in which one or many agents external to an agent force the latter to perform any and all of its actions. By "forces" determinism means the actions were initiated, sustained, and completed wholly on account of conditions external to the latter agent. The external agent (or the set of determining conditions) is the explanation for the latter agent's actions, and this because the latter had no freedom to resist the deterministic influence of the former.

How does rape differ from being a mere deterministic event? Why is a rapist guilty of assaulting a victim but a falling tree is not guilty of assaulting its victim? Compatibilism seeks to integrate "having a will" and "being determined" by saying that "having a will" just means not being coerced to act contrary to one's internal dispositions at time t1. According to compatibilism, being wholly determined by our molecular constitution––under the influence of the weather, magnetic currents, our diet, etc.––does not eradicate our having a will, since we are able to exercise our will precisely as the actions we do in distinction to the things we observe. I may have no choice about wanting to eat a slice of chocolate cake on the table, but my will is still intact as I am integrally involved in nature bringing it about, deterministically, that the cake gets eaten. As long as an agent acts within the parameters of its determined physical and cognitive options, the agent still has a "will" on compatibilism.

If agent B at time t2 influences agent A to act contrary to A's dispositions, then it can be said B deprived A of A's will. Oddly, this means disagreeing with and persuading other people is a form of subjugating their "will," since persuasion brings a listener to a new set of dispositions at time t2 against the original impulses of their will at time t1. If compatibilism is meant to preserve the only kind of meaningful "will" people can have in a deterministic world, why do compatibilists attempt to persuade other people of compatibilism, since doing so would suppress and eliminate other people's wills in exactly the way compatibilism is meant to preserve them? If compatibilists want to salvage my will for me as the ability to act in accord with my own dispositions, as opposed to being coerced to a new set of dispositions, then the best they can do is stop trying to persuade me against my dispositions against determinism.

Unfortunately, it is easy to conceive of a "compatibilist" account of rape: insofar as, say, the woman's legs opened and her vagina widened in response to the insertion of the rapist's penis, her actions did not "violate" her own natural constitution. Nothing in the rape violated the determined parameters of the victim, since it was always in her power to open her legs and a perfectly natural capacity of her vagina to receive a penis. Even more bizarrely, the actions of the rapist are but a whole-body form of persuasion. Typically, men and women use sound waves––and good doses of alcohol––emitted from their lungs (and home stereos) to persuade each other to have sex. Now and then, however, some people are determined by prior conditions to exercise their will in an uncoerced way to persuade others to have sex with them by much more full-bodied means.

It is a mere weak-kneed bias on the part of determinists to regard the "mental states" of an agent as more important than its somatic actions and entire physical constitution in accounting for its actions. After all, for determinists, any agent's mental states are a direct function of "lower level" somatic behavior and total physical influence. I could, by holding a gun to his head, "persuade" a man to shoot a total stranger, and he would do it even if he didn't "feel like it." I can, and often do, tell myself to take out the trash even when I don't feel like doing so. In both cases, the actions would be the result of a successful persuasion by whatever means against another agent's initial dispositions. Persuasion is as persuasion does. In the end, both forms of persuasion––seduction and rape––derive from the same deterministic matrix and both result in the same thing: the target complied with the perpetrator's influence. If every rapist is just an overly determined man, and every man is just an over-determined agent, then there seems to be little to object to in any action from a purely metaphysical standpoint. Strangely, though, for a determinist, rape is wrong, I guess. But I can only guess.

12 comments:

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

"then the best they can do is stop trying to persuade me against my dispositions against determinism"

Why is this the "best" that a determinist can do? Is there something wrong with believing true things? Isn't that what you desire?

It is self evident that people do what they most want to do (even if that amounts to trying desperately to get out of coercion). And we don't choose our wants. No one says, "I now decide to have the desire for ice cream," and poof, they have that desire via choice. Or even if they could do that, they would still only do so because they *wanted* to have that desire. And that desire to have that desire would yet again be something they did not choose to have. It is inescapable.

Feel free to remain unconvinced if somehow the knowledge that you will do what you want to do is somehow bizarrely demoralizing. Doesn't seem to change anything important. It's just a matter of self awareness and understanding.

Ben

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Oh and I meant to say that even if this understanding did somehow cancel out morality, that would have no impact whatsoever on the above observations. Incidentally I don't think it does once morality is properly understood. But that's a topic for another day.

Ben

The Cogitator said...

WOE:

1. You missed my point about arguing for compatibilism. Compatibilism is espoused in order to salvage the obvious reality of people's "internal" willing despite the truth of determinism. Salvaging the will on compatibilism means letting it function in an uncoerced way, a way proper to its "own" dispositions. But persuading me to believe in compatibilism destroys what "my will" means on compatibilism in the very act of coercing me against my anti.compatibilist dispositions. Ergo, compatibilism is false but the reality of willing remains as evident and undeniable as ever.

2. By suggesting I should opt for true beliefs over false ones, you are committing two errors. First, you are assuming I have a choice to select my beliefs, which you say is impossible to do. Second, you are admitting the cleft between truth and deterministic causation, since you assume there is some free-floating realm of propositional truth I or anyone can draw from, like a Platonic bank, despite the wholly determined character of my cognition. Truth just is the way the world is. As it happens, truth includes my determined cognitive states, about numerous topics, which you consider false. But on determinism, my cognitive states are absolutely in accord with the state of the world, since they are wholly generated by prior, natural causal conditions.

3. Your assertion that people do what they most want to do is too crude as it stands. In point of fact, people do what they will to do, even if it is not conjoined to an emotional desire. By not seeking with all my might for a way to live forever (à la Ray Kurzweil) I am willing to die even though it is not what I most want to do. I most want to read all night every night, but I will to sleep. Further, while breathing is something I most want to do every second, it is not something I will to do. Hence, there is a crucial distinction in both directions between willing and wanting.

Add to this that I am doing numerous things I most want to do simultaneously––pumping blood with my heart, receiving photons into my retinae, digesting food, regulating my temperature, etc.––without my will being involved in any of it. All of these highly desirable functions are metaphysically equivalent to "the will" on compatibilism, since my cognitive make-up (my will-matrix, if you will) is just as determined and not-up-to-me as my digestive, circulatory, etc. functions.

Best,

The Cogitator said...

WOE:

Let me isolate some essential lines from this post so you can see even more clearly what I am getting at:

"Why is a rapist guilty of assaulting a victim but a falling tree is not guilty of assaulting its victim?"

"It is a mere weak-kneed bias on the part of determinists to regard the "mental states" of an agent as more important than its somatic actions and entire physical constitution in accounting for its actions. After all, for determinists, any agent's mental states are a direct function of "lower level" somatic behavior and total physical influence."

Best,

The Cogitator said...

WOE:

Let me add to my disjunctions about willing and wanting. Kurzweil most wants not to die, but he will die. Does he then do what he most wants? Obviously not.

I suspect you will reply that he has no choice about the matter, since death is a natural necessity for humans. Leaving aside whether that's true as a matter of empirical fact, I want to note that such an objection only strengthens the disjunction between willing and doing precisely against compatibilism. For compatibilism says that we can only will what we are naturally determined to will. Yet, Kurzweil (whom I suspect is a compatibilist) actively wills to achieve a goal which violates a naturally determined end, namely, his demise. His death is metaphysically proportionate to his cognitive make-up, according to compatibilists, since he has just as little say in his naturally determined beliefs as he has in his naturally determined death. If mental states are wholly determined natural events, then they are like the inevitability of death; nonetheless Kurzweil et alii are obviously capable of willing against death qua naturally determined condition, so it follows that people can in principle choose against the former determined states as well. If humans could only will what they were naturally determined to do, no human could will not to die, but people do will that, so at least in one (more) case, people's willing is not coextensive with their naturally determined somatic and cognitive states.

Best,

The Cogitator said...

WOE, I add:

Compatibilism says that willing is just the active manifestation of an agent's wholly determined "internal" dispositions, uncoerced from without. Willing X is just how agent A is determined at time t1. So, on compatibilism, Kurzweil's willing to live forever with vitamins just is how he is determined; it just is the way his determined nature unfolds in time. By the same token, though, his eventual death just is the way his determined "internal" nature unfolds––and wilts––in time. For a compatibilist free of the cognitive bias, Kurzweil's willing-not-to-die and his dying are of the same wholly determined and externally uncoerced character.

Best,

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Oh dear. This is where I have to say, "nuh uh! you missed *my* point!" I apologize ahead of time. *chuckles*

Your rebuttal to my "crude" point has already been rebutted by you:

"I suspect you will reply that he has no choice about the matter, since death is a natural necessity for humans."

It is so abysmally obvious that when I said, "people do what they most want to do" I would have qualified that with "if they can" if I'd realized that would be too hard to anticipate. *scratches head* You seem to think you've gotten beyond this, but I'm not really sure how. You just seem to restate the rebutted point. You'll have to point me at what the new information is. All of your examples that are supposedly contrary to the "we always attempt to do what we most want to do" bit fail to note that we had to have a good reason to override other wants. In other words, we *wanted* something else more. Noble, dignified, and health related desires are still desires. And we can actually want them more than the more superficial aspects of life.

Your other error is equivocating all physical states. We can build two robots to fight each other. The fact of that confrontation doesn't negate the physical causation, just because their goals conflict. It's just physically determined systems dueling against other physically determined systems. Granted there will be one physically determined outcome, but that isn't necessarily represented in the relative programming of the individual unit that will attempt to accomplish the prefabricated goal. Not sure how you pull a contradiction out of that.

I'd address the moral issues, but I'd prefer to be solid on the compatibilist issues first.

Ben

The Cogitator said...

Ben:

Please, cool it with the snotty diaper-waving. Let me gratify you now: you're smart. Feel better?

But you still missed THE point. Your "if they can" is entirely vacuous since the whole point is that determinism leaves no room possibility in action. My disjunctions suffice to show there is at least an analytical difference between willing and most wanting INSOFAR as determinist "most wanting" JUST IS the agent's subsequent and ultimate course of action.

In any case, if determinism is true, I have no more REASON to heed you than I have to heed the pitter patter of rain as meaningful SOS on behalf of determinism. I may have CAUSE to respond to you but that is not any better a reason than my being hypnotized by a rhythmic sound or sent into a seizure by a flashing light. Nor, on your own premises, do you have any reason to heed me as any more compelling than a bleating sheep. So who or what the heck do you think you're talking to?

Rationality presupposed being able to select and revise our hyotheses so we can folow different conclusions. Determinism allows for no rational revisability and is therefore inherently irrational.

Best,

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Hey,

Not sure what you mean by "snotty diaper waving." I was trying to defuse the stereotypical internet banter, "nuh uh! you are the one who missed the point!" but apparently I failed. Sorry. If this is the sign that you are too irritated with me to put positive constructions on what I say, please let me know now so I don't waste my time trying. These are difficult topics and I meant no offense.

"Your "if they can" is entirely vacuous since the whole point is that determinism leaves no room possibility in action."

You seem to be conflating physical states as I said. Also as I said, a robot may have a programed intention which is completely physical representation, but also be physically unable to carry it out as planned. Physicalism leaves room for possibility in practice because we never have enough information on all physical states to make exact predictions. The physical state of the processing is separate from the physical states that may inhibit the success of the plan. Two different physical states that don't have to work together to produce some overall intentional goal.

I'm always curious when Christians don't seem to understand how this works, since this is basically the same setup in theology land. God knows everything we are going to do, but that doesn't mean it makes sense to expect Christians to know. Hence even a compatiblist Calvinist can still coherently say from their frame of reference, "all things are *possible* with God" even though God wouldn't actually deal in possibilities from his absolute frame of reference. I'm assuming you have some other kind of Christian view?

"So who or what the heck do you think you're talking to? "

Your additional fallacy is here one of poor analogy. The only analogy that would be as sufficiently complex as the pattern of personhood we are able to identify would be another person. No simplistic stimulus that I know of can be used as a pejorative determinist analogy (even though obviously we are capable of processing simplistic stimuli as well) because there simply isn't anything out there we know of that generates anything at the level of the human brain.

"Rationality presupposed being able to select and revise our hyotheses so we can folow different conclusions."

Rationality without motivation is as active as a pocket calculator sitting on a desk, unused. Hidden behind any "reason" is actually some desire. In common language people often conflate the two. "I have my reasons" actually translates into something like, "I'm overfocused on the rational processes which have been sorting out the complexities of my emotional states." But who is going to say something like that? Reason is the means to analytically sort out our desires. The drive to sort out our conflicting desires is also yet another desire. As I said initially we have many kinds of desire which do not need to be looked at in terms of stereotypical Christian categories. We have the desire for truth, justice, compassion, etc. Not just for Doritos.

Ben

The Codgitator said...

WOE/Ben:

WOE:

Thanks for modulating your tone. By diaper waving I meant that I found your reply, especially as it included histrionic stage blocking (scratches head, etc.), puerile and condescending. Not that I can't or won't sometimes sound the same. But you seemed so impressed with "catching" me in such an "obvious" error that I wondered why you'd even bother dialoguing with such an obvious moron as me -- unless you missed something not-so-obvious about my point, which you did. You're not wasting your time dialoguing with me in a respectful tone, but otherwise, yes.

Now, here's why I deny physicalism (or physical determinism, PD) allows for genuine possibility and, in turn, why it renders your "if we/they can" vacuous. First, the epistemic unpredictability of a complex physical system has no bearing on the determinism of the system itself. This is, e.g., W. Duch’s fallacy in his attempt to salvage agency on neural PD. The unpredictability is, so to speak, our problem, not the system's. If, however, you say that a sufficiently complex system is inherently unpredictable (even for Laplace's magus) -- which I'd say is a foregone conclusion in our day -- then the system is indeterminate and PD is false. If however it is inherently deterministic, albeit in a way that outstrips our epistemic access, then not only does PD not allow for alternate possibilities, but it also forbids us from asserting PD insofar as it is epistemically inaccessible. Either way, PD is modally and epistemically vacuous. Cf. http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/12/reporting-live.html

Second, the reason your “if we/they can” is vacuous vis-à-vis rational motives is because, on PD, insofar as all rational and non-rational motives alike just are the results of PD, then there is no formal, non-physical way to parse or rank them as an agent’s “truest” desire or “highest” motive. On PD, your wanting Doritos (good choice!) is a brute efflux of your physical substrate system. Unfortunately, so is your wanting to know the truth in these matters. Unfortunately, as well, so is your eventual decrepitude and death. All are equally non-intentional and irrevocable effluvia of ‘your’ physical substrate complex. As such there is, on PD, no non-physical way to assign one bundle of drives to “core” values or “higher” aims and another bundle of drives to “peripheral” or “lesser” values (which you attempted to do in your previous reply). If what an agent ultimately does just is what he actually most desires to do, and vice versa, then, on PD, what an agent most desires to do just is his final state. It is irrelevant to protest that A’s wanting to X is “superior” to A’s ultimately doing Y, since wanting to X includes a cognitive, teleological, emotional element, whereas Y just comes to pass for no good (rational) reason. It’s irrelevant because, on PD, there is no metaphysically real distinction between X’s and Y’s coming to pass. A’s “higher” cognitive “emotions” are just epiphenomenal smokescreens for what, in brute physical fact, he, as a unified (well…) physical system, is inclined to do in fact. Cf. http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/12/let-them-fall-as-they-may.html

...

The Codgitator said...

...

In any case, your facile and illicit dip into the honey pot of finality and absolute values is unbecoming of a convinced physicalist. Take a hint from your naturalist betters -- e.g., Alex Rosenberg in “The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality” at http://onthehuman.org/2009/11/the-disenchanted-naturalists-guide-to-reality -- and drop the sentimentalism. (See also Dr. Feser’s analyses of Rosenberg’s radical naturalism: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/rosenberg-on-naturalism.html, http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/rosenberg-responds-to-his-critics.html, http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/misinformation-campaign.html .) I am well aware of the value of “cognitive finality” (or “rational reliance” -- cf., e.g., http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/04/reason-or-values.html, http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/11/evidence-for-evidence.html, http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/12/dont-mind-me.html), but, again, it is something that actually fits my general worldview, not yours. Physical states don’t display intrinsic formal finality, since, among other reasons, no physical is in only a single quantitative relationship in a single case. Cf. http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/10/immaterial-aspects-of-thought-by-james.html Hence, your allusion to an unused calculator is ironic, since I have written about the same scenario, mutatis mutandis, contra naturalism. Cf. http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-naturalism-naturally.html; cf. also http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/11/eyes-have-it.html, http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/07/just-super-naturalism.html, http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-fertilizer.html. Notice in the comments of the last link how another atheist, with whom I have interacted the past year ends up calling natural formal finality an arbitrary anthropomorphic illusion. Fair enough, I guess, but so much for science and ethics.

In the same way, your reference to a comparably complex system as a human just begs the question, since, apart from intrinsic formal unity, there is no way to delineate one causally homogeneous patch of physical matter from another on PD. You realize this, by alluding to a “pattern” in a human being, but probably don’t realize such a notion opens the door to classical hylomorphism, which is miles from your desired PD. A formally real natural pattern is, in principle, not reducible to its physical medium, otherwise it is not a really formal natural entity. Hence, if formal patterns are real, physical reductionism is impossible and PD is false. Relying wholly on physical parameters to measure complexity is like trying to measure inches in inches. It’s either trivially, disquotationally true or vacuous and formally incoherent.

On top of that difficulty (i.e., “where does ‘it’ end and ‘I’ begin?”), there is the problem of intelligibly knowing what rational-formal “program” a humanoid entity is “running” at any time. As you will learn from the Ross-immaterial essay (linked just above), N. Goodman, S. Kripke, and H. Putnam, inter alii, are well aware of this difficulty, so it’s hardly a Christian’s pet claim. Indeed, Putnam’s recent contribution to a naturalist critique of naturalism (_Naturalism in Question_) is evocative of the general erosion of naturalism as a coherent worldview. Cf. http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2009/12/doing-my-work-for-me.html

It should go without saying that I hope you will read the plethora of links in this reply. Additionally, though, I should explain that my full reply includes all that I’ve written or cited in those links, so I’m not interested at this juncture in continuing this thread in any serious way until you read my full “nested” response. I’m writing a book on free will and determinism, as well as on animal cognition and hylomorphism and on naturalism and theism scientific viability, so I’m plenty busy enough offline. My blog is a scratch pad only. ;)

Best,

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Okay, I see why you might interpret my previous comment as you did. When you combine the opening with the first argument (that's just incidentally the situation that you responded to your own critique), it does seem kind of look dickish on my part. They were separate in my mind.

Anyway, I think I've stated my basic reasons well enough here. The fallacy of composition is the primary crux of dispute as far as matter and brains go, and then there are random supporting fallacies and I've demonstrated some of those, I think.

I constrain myself to respond to people on Mondays, because I have larger projects I'm working on as well. I respect that not every conversation has to be the end all be all of everything on any issue.

If I get a chance, I'll peruse your links. I do have a pending huge project in response to Victor Reppert, Derek Barefoot, Bill Vallicella, and J. D. Walters on the argument from reason and many associated issues that are common here. So I probably won't mount a response to your version. I won't drag you through that.

Ben