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Mia: “Have you even read the Bible?”
Posted: 05 March 2007 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]

We agree animals cannot lie; neither can they discern truth

What an amazing arrogant claim. Animals lie constantly. The chameleon is always lying about its color. The Praying Mantis lies when it pretends to be just another little twig.

To be spiritual they would have to be aware of themselves as agents with free will.

My dog exhibits free will all the time. It will be playing with the neighbor’s dogs. I call it to come home, and I can see my dog pondering what to do.

All living creatures have the ability to choose. They must constantly choose ‘fight or flight”. They must choose to eat or sleep.

The confusion arises because the phrase “Free Will” has no meaning. It is just one more thing in the infinite list of absurdities required to support a belief in the Christian God.

I think you are making projections of human choice onto animals.  This is called animism and is a very primitive form of magical thinking.  What you call an animal choice may be nothing more than movement toward the most attractive alternative.  If that is your definition of free will then you are suffering from misinformation—free will involves conscious choice.  Or perhaps you agree with the idea of complete determinism (I assume it is not astral determinism since we can agree that astrology is false) so that conscious of not, we have no choice but to behave in the ways that we do.

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Posted: 05 March 2007 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]  
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From the American Heritage Dictionary:

free will
n.

  1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
  2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

How does an ‘alternative’ differ in any significant way from a ‘choice’? They are synonyms. And how was Joad’s dog anything other than ‘conscious’ when he made his choice?

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Posted: 05 March 2007 04:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]I think you are making projections of human choice onto animals.  This is called animism and is a very primitive form of magical thinking.

I think you are thinking of anthropomorphism.  Animism is the belief that all objects have a soul or spirit, animals included but also including plants, mountains, oceans, etc.  You can believe that animals have free choice without believing that they have a soul.

Ya, I know this post is way too pedantic.  But I can’t help myself.

And by the way, I agree with everyone else about this topic: animals make free choices. (Man has no advantage over the animals)

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 05 March 2007 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]  
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It’s interesting to see how the particular assumptions that we each hold on to so dearly structure our arguments and lead to our different conclusions.

I also feel that animals have some rudimentary form of the same thing we call “free will” - of course being a determinist, I am one who believes and can prove it to my own satisfaction that the thing we refer to as freedom is not something that is “non-deterministic” but rather, freedom is the achieving of a measure of self-determination even while immersed in a fully determined universe.  Very briefly what determinism means is that the events of the past always and necessarily determine the events of the present (and future), however some events occur at very slow momentums (velocities) like the earth making one revolution on its axis, while other events happen much faster like me deciding whether or not I am going to eat that ice cream before it melts.  Cognitive events and perceptual events happen at velocities that are immediately accomplished while most mundane events in the world unfold much more slowly.  SO, the fact that I can decide to interrupt the unfolding of a slower event, i.e., I can eat the ice cream before the sun melts it, appears to give me a certain measure of freedom, and it does.  BUT, all of these events are happening in a fully deterministic world, it’s just that some events happen quickly (cognitive decisions) while others happen more slowly (the bus moving from Alvena to Smuts).  Our freedom is not something that happens in some sort of disembodied, non-deterministic realm, and most animals (at a perceptual level and some a a fairly complex cognitive level) experience this same freedom.  (Of course our access to human language increases the velocity of cognitive events at an exponential level, and this ‘literal’ explosion gives us the mistaken idea that we are free of the determined world, but that is merely an illusion.)

Now, whether animals can lie, well that too is a relative measure.  They certainly cannot lie in the same linguistic way that humans can lie to one another, but I can also lie to my cat who doesn’t understand my language (i can pretend to fill her bowl with food and set it down in front of her, and she will be agitated if not disappointed by my fooling actions when she goes to take a sniff or a bite and finds that the bowl is empty).  Of course I don’t think that my cat can play the same sort of trick on me - my cat never fools me.

I agree with Joad and hampsteadpete that animals are sufficiently cognitive enough to be spiritual.  They can certainly show affection for one another and they can obviously play with one another.  I don’t think that a being must be able to “withdraw the mind from the senses and divert thought from habit” (as burt has quoted Cicero saying) in order to be spiritual, but a being certainly must be able to love another being and play with another being in order to be spiritual and animals are very good at that.

I think it was Nietszche who said, “the spirit is something that is wholly in the body” - and once we are able to get in touch with how incredibly intelligent our bodies are, we might be able to actually feel the life of our true spirit and how that life can be shared with other embodied spirits (including animals).

To answer two of andonstop’s challenges, firstly it is a fact that many people seeking some sort of spiritual awakening do seclude themselves in caves and cut themselves off from all human contact - whether they forage for food mindlessly, I doubt.  But then, how many animals mindlessly forage for food?  Now surely an intelligent, linguistic, and moral individual would not wish to revert to the state of a (noble?) savage in order to find her spiritual nature, but nevertheless some kind of re-embodiment is necessary -  relaxation and focus on the breath are entryways into meditation, and so is the release from language (mind) and the perception of the pure presence.  These things are, to me, all about spiritualism.  But belief in god, belief in an afterlife, eternity, sin, heaven, hell - NONE of these concepts contain any true spiritual value.  All of these are exercises in a self-centered attempt to become superior, these concepts may lift a person up and out of the body, but they also then separate one from the true life of the spirit.

I’m not sure what you mean by the statement, “As to “superiority”, CanZen, I would argue it is an essential component of Darwinism.”  Darwinism is not about a “chain of being” sort of classification, where human beings claim the apex of the hierarchy.  Those fittest who survive are superior relative to their environment when compared to those who failed to survive, but this does not mean that they were in essence superior to the others. Had the environment been different, then a different set of survivors would have been better adapted to pass on their genes.

I also don’t see how I could make a comparison between Darwinism and zen buddhism or daoism to find out which is the “higher level of thinking?”  That sort of competition just doesn’t make any sense.  I may be wrong, but I suspect that you threw that wrench into the machinery because you feel that christianity (or some kind of theism) is indeed a “higher level of thinking” - am I wrong?  All forms of theism are heavily laden with those kinds of cognitive one-up-man-ship . . . and that’s exactly what happens when you assume that spirituality is linked to some sort of supernatural entity.  This is the heart of fascism but instead of worshipping one particular culture or race as superior, this sort of theistic fascism is the worshipping of one particular god as superior.

Bob

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Posted: 05 March 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]  
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Mia,

2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

That is the real argument. Animals can’t have ‘free will’ because they don’t have that special relationship with the Christian God.

Are people here really ignorant of the ‘Free Will’ argument? It is one of the most abysmally perverse examples of convoluted reasoning in order to justify an obscene conclusion.

1: God is perfect, so everything he does is perfect.
2: God created man, therefore man must be perfect.
3: Man is not perfect.
4: The cause of Man’s imperfection cannot be God.
5: Therefore it is something else, which is called ‘Free Will’.

In Rational world, that would be called ‘Blaming the Victim”.

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Posted: 05 March 2007 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]  
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CanZen, as a determinist, is your choice to eat the ice cream before it melts really a choice?  I recall that you favored Stoicism a bit as well as Zen, but if you go all the way with them it is not really a free choice, just an exercise of a preference (you would rather eat the ice cream and enjoy its coolness and texture as well as taste rather than drink it later) but that, in itself, is already determined.  It was written in the stars that you would exercise that preference.  Or are you less of a determinist than that? 

What seems interesting to me is that there is something in here of the “It’s all God’s will” thinking (this is, of course, going with complete determinism, not some namby pamby partial determinism).  The difference is that with physical determinism you are really just an aspect of the universe in process (motion, change) as are all your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and so on.  (I really get off on the Stoics, they were histories most hardened physical determinists, although their astrological theories went out with Copernicus).  On the other hand, for a Christian determinist it is all predetermined by God.  Same with Islam, but more so: it is all the will of Allah—the flame on the candle is not the cause of the wick burning, rather God is pleased to associate the flame with the blackening wick.  The Stoics were less religious about it: all causation resided in the Universal Logos, whose influences propagated across the planetary spheres to control events on the earth.  (Then the Christians went and appropriated the Logos for their own purposes.) 

Cheers

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Posted: 05 March 2007 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]Mia,

2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

That is the real argument. Animals can’t have ‘free will’ because they don’t have that special relationship with the Christian God.

Are people here really ignorant of the ‘Free Will’ argument? It is one of the most abysmally perverse examples of convoluted reasoning in order to justify an obscene conclusion.

1: God is perfect, so everything he does is perfect.
2: God created man, therefore man must be perfect.
3: Man is not perfect.
4: The cause of Man’s imperfection cannot be God.
5: Therefore it is something else, which is called ‘Free Will’.

In Rational world, that would be called ‘Blaming the Victim”.

Interesting, never came across that particular argument before.  Whether or not we are talking in a Christian context, however, it seems to me that no action made on the basis of habit, or conditioned response, or genetic programming, or such can be based on free will.  Now if you go with Dennett and believe that all consciousness is is a particular web of stories that are spun out in the brain then there is no such thing as a free choice because all choices are already there in the stories and the neural processing that determines which wins out in the Darwinian competition for admission to awareness.  Without free will, you cannot consciously choose those impressions that you will accept and those which you will not accept.  And that makes you a conditioned automaton.  (There is, however, a potential infinite regress hidden here.  smile )

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Posted: 05 March 2007 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]  
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burt,

The notion of ‘Free Will’ was fabricated out of thin air by St Augustine. He was told to create an apology for ‘imperfection’ and Free Will was the resulting nonsense.

You seem to be arguing that there is a percentile standard which catagorizes decisions.

For example: I want to smoke a cigarettte.

My decision is based 50% on addiction, 25% on habit and 25% on desire.
Is that a free choice?

What if it is based on 90% desire, 5% addiction and 5% habit?
Does that make any difference?

I disagree that all choices are there. We can always choose “none of the above”. 

In practice, it doesn’t matter if we have free will or not. We will continue to act as though we do.

I reject nihilistic arguments because it is pointless to consider pointlessness.

What if I am not really making a free choice? So what? I can’t ever know that and I can’t change it.

Just for fun: Define ‘Unfree Will’.

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Posted: 05 March 2007 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]Andonstop, it depends upon what the reality is.  Did the competitor have a legitimate shot or not?

hampsteadpete, the reality is I cannot be the one who determines whether the competitor has a legitimate shot unless I am the competitor. The greatest comebacks in history have come when seemingly no reasonable person thought there was a chance.  When a competitor stops believing they have an opportunity to win, does that opportunity go away partly, completely or not at all?

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Posted: 05 March 2007 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]  
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Oh, I see, duh, I didn’t get it.  I guess I would say that the belief that one can prevail in an athletic contest is part of the reality of his possibility for doing so.  So I would say that if one ceases to believe that winning is a possibility, that fact would diminish one’s chances of doing so.

The greatest single sports performance I have ever seen occurred at the Olympics many years ago in France.  Franz Klammer was a world-class downhill racer who was expected to medal in those games, but not necessarily win.  His final downhill run was made against great odds, on a frozen slope, and I have never seen an athlete throw himself (herself) into a performance like Franz did.  Throwing all caution to the wind, he coaxed every possible bit of speed out of the mountain, throwing himself around curves with careless abandon. 

He won, of course, and in the interview after the run, he admitted he remembered absolutely nothing about it.  He was so focussed on winning, nothing else mattered.  He said he knew he was going to win before he left the gate, and he felt that was the reason he did. I agree with him.  Our minds are very powerful in this respect, when we are able to tap it.

Did Franz change physical reality?  No, his body was physically capable of the performance it produced, his equipment was state-of-the-art, and the mountain was in a very fast condition.  His thrust of mind was responsible for his body being able to produce every bit of skill he was capable of, and that was the difference.  Without that belief, who knows.

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Posted: 06 March 2007 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]  
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[quote author=“CanZen”]. . . But belief in god, belief in an afterlife, eternity, sin, heaven, hell - NONE of these concepts contain any true spiritual value.

 

Let’s use baseball as a parallel. You start in the A league. The uniforms, locker rooms, stadiums and fans aren’t that nice. But you know if you work hard, you can move up to AA, AAA and even the majors, where you know you can make contacts which will enrich the rest of your life. Would that lift your spirits?

I’m not sure what you mean by the statement, “As to “superiority”, CanZen, I would argue it is an essential component of Darwinism.”  Darwinism is not about a “chain of being” sort of classification, where human beings claim the apex of the hierarchy.  Those fittest who survive are superior relative to their environment when compared to those who failed to survive, but this does not mean that they were in essence superior to the others. Had the environment been different, then a different set of survivors would have been better adapted to pass on their genes.

I also don’t see how I could make a comparison between Darwinism and zen buddhism or daoism to find out which is the “higher level of thinking?”  That sort of competition just doesn’t make any sense.  I may be wrong, but I suspect that you threw that wrench into the machinery because you feel that christianity (or some kind of theism) is indeed a “higher level of thinking” - am I wrong?  All forms of theism are heavily laden with those kinds of cognitive one-up-man-ship . . . and that’s exactly what happens when you assume that spirituality is linked to some sort of supernatural entity.  This is the heart of fascism but instead of worshipping one particular culture or race as superior, this sort of theistic fascism is the worshipping of one particular god as superior.

Just curious, CanZen. Darwinism, Zen and Daoism seemed an unusual mix to me. Would you consider your thinking superior to mine?

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Posted: 06 March 2007 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]  
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[quote author=“Joad”]Are people here really ignorant of the ‘Free Will’ argument? It is one of the most abysmally perverse examples of convoluted reasoning in order to justify an obscene conclusion.

1: God is perfect, so everything he does is perfect.
2: God created man, therefore man must be perfect.
3: Man is not perfect.
4: The cause of Man’s imperfection cannot be God.
5: Therefore it is something else, which is called ‘Free Will’.

In Rational world, that would be called ‘Blaming the Victim”.

Would you consider that perfection is boring, so God created us as imperfects so He could vicariously enjoy the thrill of success, even while risking the possibility of temporary failure?

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Posted: 06 March 2007 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]  
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[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]Did Franz change physical reality?  No, his body was physically capable of the performance it produced, his equipment was state-of-the-art, and the mountain was in a very fast condition.  His thrust of mind was responsible for his body being able to produce every bit of skill he was capable of, and that was the difference.  Without that belief, who knows.

Inspiring!  But was it faith or superstition which may have influenced his performance?

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Posted: 06 March 2007 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]  
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But was it faith or superstition which may have influenced his performance?

Neither!  I think it was the belief (based upon evidence) that he was, at that moment, the very best in the world.  If you have not checked it out yet, I offer for your consideration:

 

Just curious, CanZen. Darwinism, Zen and Daoism seemed an unusual mix to me. Would you consider your thinking superior to mine?

I’m just curious.  Why is this important to you?  Are you perhaps feeling some cognitive dissonance?

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Posted: 06 March 2007 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]  
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[quote author=“andonstop”]Darwinism, Zen and Daoism seemed an unusual mix to me. Would you consider your thinking superior to mine?

Suffering and omnibenevolence make for a strange brew, too, and yet 2 billion humans are currently held in thrall by it. . . and are unable to articulate why it makes perfect sense for the Supreme Being portrayed in the Bible to be both all-loving AND a jealous, murderous bastard. They also have no issues with the tri-split personality, where one persona (Jesus) revises the previously-absolute laws of another persona (Jehovah).

[quote author=“andonstop”]Would you consider that perfection is boring, so God created us as imperfects so He could vicariously enjoy the thrill of success, even while risking the possibility of temporary failure?

Wacky, imagining that the master of all creation requires a thrill, so badly that he’d create expendable playthings to entertain him. You imagine a god who creates unbearable suffering just so we won’t get bored? Uh. . . why would boredom even have to exist if the architect was in charge of every little thing? Couldn’t he boot boredom right out of his mind without need to fashion this whole “salvation of the sinful, based on blood sacrifice” deal?

Every personality profile we get of this god gets more preposterous.

Either way, our existence would not be necessary to an all-powerful god. And since, per the lore, he creates human souls one-by-one, from out of nothing, it’s not as if there was some prison he was freeing us from by giving us our human life. The story implies that he created us to suit his own needs, and not for our benefit. Awww, poor lonely widdle God, who needs to keep spitting out automatically-sinful little widgets in order to pass the time rolleyes.

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