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February 15, 2013

Comments

We have plenty of reason hold each other accountable for misbehavior under materialism.

Here are five reasons to punish a criminal.
I'm using "punish" is short hand for a variety of actions.

1. Incapacitation: keep him from doing it again.
2. Deterrence: discourage similar future crimes.
3. Restitution: make him compensate the victim.
4. Retribution: hurt him back (since he could have done otherwise).
5. Rehabilitation: try to change his future behavior.

Of the five, only #4 needs libertarian free will.
The dualist and the physicalist agree on the other four.

Interesting stuff, but the logic seems backwards. Basically, the post assumes that humans have free agency. How do we know that? Well... apparently we just do? It would be more interesting to see ideas how exactly can we prove that humans have free agency rather then just assume it because the alternative would be, you know, sad.

Mr. Wallace,

In order for your argument to work, you need to outline a sense of moral responsibility and a sense of agent freedom which satisfy all of the following:

(1) Physical beings are not free agents;

(2) Only free agents have moral responsibility;

(3) Human beings have moral responsibility.

But each of these claims is controversial in its own right. To suggest that all three are simultaneously true will require a significant defense, which you do not provide.

-"You can’t blame a car for running over a victim..."-

You can, in fact. If a car was defective, we would blame the car. And we would, appropriately, demand that the car be repaired or removed from the streets.

Hi Ben and Erkki, I dont think J.Warner is lacking in proving moral free agency/responsibility, to begin his case. He admittedly assumes it in the title of the post saying in effect if moral responsibility, then materialism is false.

If you dont want to allow the assumption to begin with, dont blame the author. Otherwise, assume it and prove materialism in the face of it.

Brad,

Fair enough. But that only gets him off the hook for (3). It remains to show that (1) and (2) are true.

Hi Ben, I have to admit, I dont follow your #1, but it seems to me that he's also assuming #2 since he qualifies that he is specifically describing human responsibility. If I'm interpreting too much from what he's written to broaden the prior assumptions he is making it isn't for any particular reason, I just think his point is regarding human moral responsibility and that presupposition doesn't need to be justified to most people.

I dont think the average person has any doubt that mankind is free, in fact I think that most believe mankind is free-er than he/she really is, or can be...thus even more culpable for their free choice actions. Beginning there, I think J.Warner has made the argument against materialism. In this way, he's arguing that morals are only justifiable where event causation begins within the agent's decision making processes. I think RonH's comments are denying the necessity for objective moral absolutes that J.Warner is also assuming but not proving in the post.

Brad,

Well there are different kinds of freedom, right? I agree that it is obvious we have some kind of freedom. But which kind? That is not clear at all.

But anyway, Wallace can assume whatever he wants I suppose. The point I wanted to make above is that items (1)-(3) are quite controversial, yet Wallace's argument against materialism depends on all three. All the materialist needs to do is resist accepting more than one of them, or else deny one of them.

    Hi Ben and Erkki, I dont think J.Warner is lacking in proving moral free agency/responsibility, to begin his case. He admittedly assumes it in the title of the post saying in effect if moral responsibility, then materialism is false.

Okay, though I would kind of see it as more interesting to discuss whether humans have moral responsibility. It seems Mr. Wallaces argument seems to be less about materialism, and rather more about that so-called materialists do not behave consistently in their philosophy, because I cannot really assume that Mr. Wallace thinks that the condition of the universe depends on how we treat offenders.

Ok, here is the challenge by J.Warner for the adherents of materialism.

"If we, as humans, are only physical systems (merely matter), we ought to stop trying to hold each other accountable for misbehavior. In fact, there can be no misbehavior if we are only physical brains and bodies; there can only be behavior."

Since I'm pretty sure Ben and Erkki have both stated [possibly agnostically] a materialist position by claiming that since you can not emperically prove supernatural-ism...maybe the thing to do is to argue for some kind of freedom in a purely naturalist/materialistic way. What kind of freedom/thus culpability does a being who is controlled by physical processes have? Even with this, we'll have to assume moral oughtness because even if the materialist scheme allows that mankind is free in some way, what is the offense if there are not moral absolutes?

JWW used the interesting construct "moral freedom of choice" rather than simply "freedom of choice". I that by means of that construct, he meant to limit the freedom he is talking about to the freedom of choice that is required for moral responsibility.

Given this understanding, JWW's argument could be recast as follows:

  1. No Physical System has freedom of choice (in just the sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility)
  2. Moral Responsibility requires freedom of choice (in just the sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility).
  3. THEREFORE: No Physical System Has Moral Responsibility.
  4. Human Beings DO Have Moral Responsibility.
  5. THEREFORE: Human Beings Are NOT Simply Physical Systems.
Now, the inference from #1 and #2 to #3 is uncontroversial. Likewise, the inference from #3 and #4 to #5 is uncontroversial. That is to say there is no question that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must also be true.

It is, of course, still possible to question the premises.

But not premise #2. Premise #2 is like "Bachelors are unmarried". It's true by the meaning of words alone.

And not premise #4. From the title of the post, you can see that the subject of this post is not whether human beings are purely physical, but that if we assume item #4 is true, then we have to say that they aren't.

One way to prove an if-then statement true is to assume the if-clause and then prove the then-clause from it. Well, that's what JWW is doing here. Item #4 is the if-clause, item #5 is the then-clause.

Has JWW proven the if-then?

Well, we don't know yet.

But it is no objection to his argument to contend that item #4 might be false. He's assuming #4 and proving #5 from it as a means of proving that if #4 is true, then #5 is true.

Did that project succeed?

Well it all comes down to item #1.

Can a purely physical system have freedom of choice (in just the sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility)?

Now, I think there are two questions here. One is "What do we assume in all our practices?" The second is "What is true?"

I don't think JWW is trying to argue directly about the second question, but the first. That's why he talks about what we DO to those we consider guilty of crimes and other misbehavior.

I think we must admit, as a logical matter, that even if all our practical assumptions point to X, X might still be false and -X true instead. Still, if all our practical assumptions point to X, that does place a pretty heavy burden of proof on X-naysayers.

I'll have more to say in a bit. (In particular, Ben, I want to address your question #2). But let me highlight one point in response to a comment that Ron made about JWW's argument.

Nowhere does JWW assume that we are talking about 'libertarian' freedom. JWW's assumption is that we are talking about 'moral freedom of choice'. I took that to mean that he's talking about precisely that sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility whatever that sense is.

typepad is freaking out on me... permit me this test please

Brad,

Strictly speaking I'm not a materialist. However I am probably closer to materialism in most ways than I am to dualism, so we can go with that for now.

Anyway, the challenge you quote from Wallace depends on an argument I do not accept. Namely, Wallace claims that only nonphysical beings can misbehave. Clearly, though, this is incorrect.

Why? Well, what is misbehavior anyway? On my view, it's just behavior which violates a certain set of behavioral norms. But that means even unconscious machines can be said to misbehave. After all, there are plenty of behavioral norms we impose on machines. For example, consider a smartphone which habitually freezes. Surely you wouldn't think it inappropriate to say that this smartphone is misbehaving.

But someone will complain that this is a different kind of misbehavior than human misbehavior. And sure, that's true enough. But that doesn't change the fact that both kinds of misbehavior amount to a violations of behavioral norms. Only the norms are different for smartphones than they are for humans. (The way we respond is going to be different too, but, again, that doesn't change the fact that both objects are violating behavioral norms.)

(continued below...)

(...continued from above)

Moving on, though, you ask: "What kind of freedom/thus culpability does a being who is controlled by physical processes have?"

I don't know. Remember, I said above that we don't have a clear answer to this question. About all I can say is this: We have experiences which we call free choice. Whatever kind of experiences those are, that's the kind of freedom we have.

I would also remind you that the relationship between agent freedom and culpability is neither clear. So I cannot approve of your remark about "freedom/thus culpability."

You also ask: "Even with this, we'll have to assume moral oughtness because even if the materialist scheme allows that mankind is free in some way, what is the offense if there are not moral absolutes?"

But on my view, misbehavior (which is what I take you to mean when you talk about "the offense") is just a violation of behavioral norms. Those norms don't have to be moral norms, and so it doesn't follow from the nonexistence of moral oughtness that therefore misbehavior neither exists.

Ben-

JWW's entire argument could be recast to completely avoid the issue you raise with your Question#2...Is it true that only free agents have moral responsibility? In short, instead of arguing, via premises #1 and #2 for derived premise/sub-conclusion #3, he could have just assumed #3 as a basic premise.

That is to say, it seems to me that this is a pretty challenging argument:

  1. No Physical System Has Moral Responsibility.
  2. Human Beings DO Have Moral Responsibility.
  3. THEREFORE: Human Beings Are NOT Simply Physical Systems.
As before, The main purpose of this argument is not to argue directly for the conclusion that Human Beings Are NOT Simply Physical Systems. Instead, the goal is to argue indirectly that IF humans have moral responsibility, THEN Human Beings Are NOT Simply Physical Systems. As such, there's no case to be made against JWW's argument, even the recast version of it above, that turns on questioning premise #2. The whole argument turns on our new premise #1.

Can purely physical systems bear moral responsibility for their behavior?

Now JWW does offer a pretty extensive argument, given that it's blog-post length, for the claim that our practices all assume that physical systems cannot bear moral responsibility. We do not, for example, send knives to jail or try to rehabilitate them through counseling or seek revenge on them.

There is a half-baked physicalist response to this that Ron alludes to above when he speaks of the different purposes of punishment.

Here's an analogy. Suppose that we have an AI robot that's involved in some manufacturing process. Suppose that instead of performing the welding task it is supposed to perform, it starts wacking other robots on the factory floor.

Now, Ron would argue (and I'd agree with him) that we'd certainly hold that robot responsible (in some sense) for the havoc it wreaks. And we'd take certain steps that, in many respects, resemble punishment.

For example, we'd take it out of commission to keep it from continuing to wack its fellow robots (Incapacitation).

Given that the other robots are sufficiently sophisticated that they can 'learn/re-program themselves' by 'observing' what happens to misbehaving/malfunctioning robots, we might be hoping to train them not to wack other robots (Deterence).

We might try to fix the misbehaving robot (Rehabilitation).

Once fixed, we might even set it up to fix the robots that its wack-spree damaged (Restitution).

Ron, I think, would note that we would not seek vengeance on the malfunctioning robot, and I think he'd be right (so no Retribution).

There are a number of points to be made about this.

First is that the principal purpose of punishment is revenge/retribution. So when you say that physicalists can account for every aspect of punishment except for revenge, you might as well be saying that they can account for every aspect of punishment except for the part where people get punished.

The second is that, if we couldn't fix the robot...no matter what it's malfunction is...we would ultimately break it down. Cannibalize it for its spare parts and send the rest to a scrap heap.

Are physicalists prepared to say that if rehabilitation fails, then no matter what the offense is, we will ultimately not be averse to killing the offender and harvesting his organs?

Or are they going to say no, you can't do that. The punishment has to fit the crime. If it's the later, then welcome to the wonderful world of punishment as revenge/retribution.

Hi Ben, I think your taking an overly critical look at this and wanting to justify it by making quite frankly absurd criticisms. When you call your smart phone a "good" smart phone I pretty sure you mean something quite different from when you say something about a good person.

Lets say I have a dog [to use RC Sprouls analogy], and I say good dog when he sits when told to sit and does his business where he's been trained to. Then I have a friend who self sacrificially gives his time to needy people and I say Tom is a good man, I mean something quite different when I use the word good. I'm pretty sure you would too.

Now, lets say I have a cat that catches mice and plays with them for hours as they slowly die and then he leaves it when the enjoyment of playing is gone. Is he a good cat because he does cat things even though I am not happy about the torture and killing for enjoyment? I would guess you'll agree that he's a good cat and not assign bad cat terminology when he obviously has no moral oughtness constraints.

You want to champion behavioral norms as the standard...this is obviously another whole discussion which in the end you have no foundational standard that imposes itself upon all mankind so who gets to say what is the standard in you scheme? If it's behaviorally normal for the physical brain to compel the unjustified killing of another human being your definition is unacceptable-even for you I would hope.

btw, I see that W/L has posted another response but I only have a minute to respond so I'll catch up later today, hopefully I'm not stepping on his thoughts, but I think his earlier post framed the argument in a way that answers some of your problems with J.Warners post.

WL,

Please explain your reference to my comment.

I took 'moral freedom of choice' to mean the ability do otherwise - morally.
That's a kind of ability to do otherwise - generally.
And that is libertarian free will.
So, I think the OP is talking about libertarian free will OR a part of libertarian free will, anyway.


Brad B,

The OP says materialists 'ought to stop trying to hold each other accountable for misbehavior'.

I gave reasons materialists have for holding each other accountable for misbehavior - reasons they seem to share with dualists.


By the way,

If a dualist becomes a materialist he keeps all the best reasons for holding his fellows accountable for misbehavior; retribution is the worst of the bunch I listed.

Brad,

I agree with what you say about goodness. We do indeed mean something very different when we say that the smartphone is good, and when we say that a person is good. But the concept of misbehavior is not like the concept of goodness. In particular, the former is sufficiently general to apply to a wide variety of entities, whereas the latter is not.

But if goodness is what troubles you, then you may rest easy that I agree that unconscious machines are not good in anywhere near the same sense that a person can be good. Only that is not the topic at hand.

You ask:

"...so who gets to say what is the standard in you scheme?"

The speakers of the language.

By the way, in light of my tech difficulties above, and in light of WL's comments in another post, permit me to briefly plug this firefox add-on: lazarus form recovery.

WisdomLover,

I guess I don't see why listing a bunch of physical objects which cannot have moral responsibility constitutes evidence to suggest that NO physical object can have moral responsibility. Are you aiming at an inductive argument here?

Ron-

I think that usually when people make a big deal about 'libertarian' free will, they mean to contrast it to 'compatibilist' free will. And the next move, once that distinction is done, is to say that the variety of freedom of the will that is relevant to moral issues is 'compatibilist' free will, not 'libertarian' free will.

BTW, libertarian free will is usually understood as having access to a number of open possibilities where you do otherwise than you actually do. In contrast, compatibilist free will is understood as the claim that had you intended to do otherwise, you would have.

My point was that JWW made no commitments along these lines. He merely mentions moral freedom of the will (i.e. freedom of the will in just the sense "freedom of the will" that is required for moral responsibility...whatever that sense is.)

Ben-

Nice plug-in. I'll check later to see if they have something similar for Chrome.

On my argument, No I was not going for an inductive argument. I was issuing a challenge: explain how it is that we can ever be revenged upon a physical object.

Or, to put it another way. Given that human beings are physical objects and that misbehavior is a kind of malfunction, why shouldn't we treat their malfunction like the malfunction of any other physical object: If we can't fix it, we break it down, recycle what we can and scrap the rest.

It looks to me like, if inveterate thieves, for example, are just malfunctioning machines, then they should just be killed and have their organs harvested.

Is that wrong?

WL,

Whatever kind of freedom the OP thinks we don't have on materialism... we still have all our best reasons to hold each other accountable for misbehavior (including nitpicking).

RonH

Ron,

So which premise will you deny?

Premise #1 in my initial characterization of the argument?

No Physical System has freedom of choice (in just the sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility)
Or premise #1 from my modification/simplification of JWW's argument
No Physical System Has Moral Responsibility.
And how will you defend that denial given that there is no way to visit vengeance on purely physical systems?

Hi Ben, your last post answered a question:

"You ask:

"...so who gets to say what is the standard in you scheme?"

The speakers of the language.


[Italics are my question]

And RonH has the "best reasons to hold each other accountable for misbehavior" but neither of you can provide a standard that is more than just your opinion of how you think the world should operate. It seems most often, the standard is relying on fluid criteria where in any given instance, the rules could change based on the current flow.

As for Ben's answer, this doesn't work so well for the unborn among us as you argued in the thread a few months ago that the convenience of the mother always trump the rights of her baby to live through receiving normal care and feeding even though her baby has a future capacity for autonomy just like everyone else who is alive.

I wonder can you give me reasons for behavior that are binding on my conscience[?], reasons that are authoritative by more than apparent current convention, ones opinion, by persuasive speech, or appeal to majority/popular practices?

WisdomLover,

You write: "It looks to me like, if inveterate thieves, for example, are just malfunctioning machines, then they should just be killed and have their organs harvested."

Why on earth would you think that? Don't you care about the well-being of other people? Even thieves? I do. So do we all, I hope. Even though we might grow angry and feel resentful towards criminals, that is almost always counter-balanced by our desire to see them be happy and fulfilled.

Maybe you think you would STOP caring about the well-being of other people if you learned that we are only physical beings. But I very much doubt that is true. I think you would still care, even then. At any rate, I have never heard of a materialist convert suddenly ceasing to care about others. I certainly didn't stop caring, and I doubt you would either.

+ + +

Brad,

You write: "As for Ben's answer, this doesn't work so well for the unborn among us as you argued in the thread a few months ago that the convenience of the mother always trump the rights of her baby to live through receiving normal care and feeding even though her baby has a future capacity for autonomy just like everyone else who is alive. I wonder can you give me reasons for behavior that are binding on my conscience[?], reasons that are authoritative by more than apparent current convention, ones opinion, by persuasive speech, or appeal to majority/popular practices?"

I'm sorry but you have completely lost me. I do not follow any of that.

"that is almost always counter-balanced by our desire to see them be happy and fulfilled."

Nice use of mental language to describe malfunctioning machines.

"At any rate, I have never heard of a materialist convert suddenly ceasing to care about others. I certainly didn't stop caring, and I doubt you would either."

Which just goes to show that you need to borrow ideas from MY world-view.

You're welcome.

Sorry, but if you are right, people are toasters.

BTW-

Anger is precisely not what my comment about killing criminals and harvesting their organs is about. I would kill them and harvest their organs precisely because I can't feel angry toward them. It's precisely because I can't make them PAY for what they did. Revenge is off the table.

What we do do to malfunctioning machines that cannot be fixed is break them down, recycle the parts we can, and throw the rest away. We don't do this because we are angry at the machines. We do it because that's just what makes sense. Only hoarders hang on to junk machines.

And it's precisely what we should do with people if they are nothing more than machines. I mean, why should meat machines be treated any differently from any other machines? How does that make any sense at all?

Hi Ben, your appeal to "the speakers of the language" as authority to determine the standards of what is good behavior is what I'm referencing. You argued similarly in November when you said: "So on my characterization, what counts as murder depends on a social context. From the vantage point of our own social context, killing a slave in antiquity was murder. From the vantage point of the ancient Greek (or Roman or Persian, etc.) viewpoint, it was not."

Your standard of acceptable behavior is rooted in shifting sand. You can suggest to WL that he'd surely care for criminals' rehabilitation as if to not care was some kind of lacking on is part but tomorrow you may not have the same standard...so why should we listen today?

So far, Ben, you are all over the map with nothing solid to firm up your thesis that there is Ought beyond mere biological reflex; the downhill cascade of photon-flux.

You hint at a vague "freedom that we experience" to get your foot in the door, or try to, but you don't give us any reason to believe you that that freedom is the sort of freedom we need.

You've not shown us any reason to believe your view allows us to break free of blind reflex and driven flux.


As WL noted: "Can a purely physical system have freedom of choice (in just the sense of "freedom of choice" that is required for moral responsibility)? Now, I think there are two questions here. One is "What do we assume in all our practices?" The second is "What is true?"


This all about fairy tales vs. the true nature of things.


You must have at least ONE emperical reason to think cascading photon fluxes are servant rather than master?


Servant to what?


There is a cloud up in the sky which appears to be the hand of Jesus; it is a mistake to think it is waving at us.

It isn't.

Clouds of particles don't wave.

They don't do anything at all.

They just fall down the hill of Net-Force-Sum.

Squeezing and compressing those particles into the confines of the human skull changes nothing.

It's not as if "small spaces" magically create little I-AM's in that cloud.


Photosynthesis is remarkable. Water extraction from soil by plants is remarkable. But then, every physical system in Earth is "downhill" when compared to the Sun. The Sun, even, is falling down the same hill.

It's an odd physical system. "Uphill" is an illusion.

But it isn't the worst illusion.

The worst illusion is "Uphill intentionally.

Ben you haven’t given us any reason to think that the photon fluxes in our skulls are not servants to Net-Force-Sum in which blind reverberations are ever constrained this way and that way by this force and that force wherein the Sum-Of-Forces just is the Sightless Master of the direction of flux.

And, even if we just pretend that they are not the Servant to that Sum (pretend they are Free), then, being Free from Net-Force-Sum, you haven’t given us any believable explanation as to how they are Free.


In any physical system.


Be it the cloud up in the sky that looks like the hand of Jesus waving at us, or, the cloud in our skulls.

We are talking about Materialism, after all.

Now, in the past you’ve claimed to be an Immaterialist and perhaps there is some pathway over in that direction which gets us through the dead end of Materialism?

All the systems in this Earth which grant the illusion of Uphill Motion are but the Servant to some higher Net-Sum-Force, such as the Sun through a myriad of avenues, and other Forces, such as various Magnetic Clouds, which themselves are bounced this way and that way by yet some other set of Forces, and so on, and so on, each step of which is itself Falling Down Hill. Uphill Motion is in all these but an illusion, for each is the slave of some other slave which is yet a slave itself, and so on, and so on, and all the slaves are blindly reverberating within their prisons. Constrained and in chains these Slaves dance downhill forever in their shackles.

The Dance is the worst illusion of all for it feigns Intent but the Bio-Reflex called Comfort it does grant, thus the Slaves Dance the Dance and call it their own Will lest absurdity ulcer the stomach and pierce the mind as this too is a Reflex within Flux. From Photon to DNA to Man the music is played, and everybody is dancing. The Dance lies hidden within the Subtext beneath all the Slaves say and all the Slaves do, and the Calling it Will is too yet another Bio-Reflex the Context of which is built atop the Subtext beneath the ankles around which those unbreakable Chains are eternally wrapped. And thus we find that the Subtext beneath our feet cannot support the weight of the Context above our heads, for the sky just is always falling irrespective of the varied Contexts as all Contexts just are standing atop that Everlasting Subtext which just is the Master of all Contexts.

Personally, I believe the core of this debate can be pretty much avoided if we acknowledge that the defining point of difference between man and machine is not that one is physical, rather then one of them has consciousness and self-awareness.

It's still just part of the Slave Camp, Erkki.

The Context of Self-Aware does not Free the Flux.

Is Self-Aware now some sort of Absolute Value in All-Contexts?

I don't see why you would think that and you have not given us a reason to believe you.

And I don't see how that frees any slaves or why you would think that it would, or why we should agree with you.

    And I don't see how that frees any slaves or why you would think that it would, or why we should agree with you.

Well, let's put it this way. Let's assume someone can be build a fully conscious and self-aware android. It feels exactly the same pain, has memories, feelings, love, fear, just as you do. However, it has a "flaw." It is still completely made out of matter, and has no true free will. I know that most of you probably don't think this is possible, but that it is irrelevant for our thought scenario. Would you say that this self-aware "machine" deserves the same treatment as your computer or your car? Or would you feel that there is something wrong about killing, maiming or hurting this kind of android or treating it like trash? Let me remind that there is no doubt that this android is self-aware and feels pain, so that is not a cop-out.

" I know that most of you probably don't think this is possible, but that it is irrelevant for our thought scenario"

It is relavent.

For two reasons. Mainly, love entails choice, so it can't love. If it can't love, it can't value. If it can't value, it can't care. If it can't care, it can't fear. And so on....


Secondly, we are concerned with reality in this thread.


Thirdly, things eat meat. Some people do. Do you eat Fish? I think they feel pain and so forth. I have no idea if they love. They seem to differentiate between Self and Other.

And here it comes:


If you do not eat fish, why should the fish-eater listen to you ?

On what grounds?

    Mainly, love entails choice,

But it would still have the EXACT SAME feeling of love, only not the choice whom it would love.

    Secondly, we are concerned with reality in this thread.

I was not trying to prove that materialism is true. I was merely illustrating that the main difference between man and machine does not really lay on the physical-nonphysical distinction.

What I mean by that last question Erkki is it is an appeal to majority opinion. Nothing more. So, that is shifting sand. Now, the materialist is content with that so long as "most" of us agree, or, so long as "Utility" is satisfied, and so on.

So we still have no Moral Oughts which transcends Whim.

Lastly, none of this has freed us from the status of Slave and none of this has given us any reason to believe that Photon Fluxes in any physical system are Free from the everlasting Subtext that just is the Master of just every Context: Net-Sum-Of-Forces.

Erkki,

I think so far we are still at Whim as our guide, and, we are still determined, and not Free. And thus not responsible.

WisdomLover,

You write: "Nice use of mental language to describe malfunctioning machines."

Are you suggesting the materialist cannot talk about consciousness? Remember, part of the materialist thesis is that consciousness is a physical phenomenon. You are free to argue against this position, but if you merely assume that it is false then you are begging the question against materialism.

You continue: "Which just goes to show that you need to borrow ideas from MY world-view."

I'm sorry, but that is a nonsequitur. It does not follow from anything I wrote that therefore I need to borrow ideas from your view of the world.

You also write: "I mean, why should meat machines be treated any differently from any other machines? How does that make any sense at all?"

I already answered this question. It's because we feel differently about some machines than others. In particular, we care deeply about the well-being of our fellow human persons.

Erkki has it right when he points to consciousness as a key factor. I don't think it's the only factor, but it's a big one for sure. We care about beings with consciousness. If we discovered that consciousness is just a physical phenomenon, well, that might color somewhat our view of things, but it wouldn't make us stop caring.

Brad,

You wrote: "...your appeal to 'the speakers of the language' as authority to determine the standards of what is good behavior is what I'm referencing. "

That's not what I did, though. Notice from above that I used the word "norm," not the word "good." Misbehavior is behavior which violates behavioral norms. Whether that behavior is good is another issue altogether.

Nor am I interested in appealing to or establishing some kind of "authority" for determining behavioral norms. People are free to refer to whatever norms they like.

The problem I was answering is as follows: Which behavioral norms are we going to refer to in a given situation? In other words, it's not good enough to merely say that misbehavior is the violation of some behavioral norm or other. In order for the word misbehavior to mean something definite, we must fix a set of behavioral norms to which the word applies. But who fixes this set? I answered, the speakers of the language. The speakers are the ones who shape what is meant by the words they speak.

Ben,

Nothing you have said has demonstrated norms beyond Whim (which I know you are content with) and nothing you have said has shown us how ANY physical system has been freed. Your consciousness is merely a particular cloud of flux constrained and determined.

Now, the OP is about THAT. You seem to be trying to say some physical system has broken free of Net-Sum-Of-Force.

But nothing you have written has shown this to be the case, nor has any of what you have written given us a reason to even suspect it MAY be the case.

Thus far the OP stands: We are not responsible and the reason is because we are not Free.

Ben-

"Remember, part of the materialist thesis is that consciousness is a physical phenomenon."

Indeed it is. It is also the key unsolved problem for materialism. It is a problem that materialists have often claimed to have answers for. But the reality is that they have literally made zero progress in the history of philosophy.

So, yes, I think you can't really start using mental language as an explanation for why people aren't toasters. After you've shown that consciousness can be understood as a physical phenomenon, feel free.

(And good luck with that.)

And because you are not really entitled to that language but find yourself compelled to use it anyway to explain why people aren't toasters, you are borrowing my stuff.


It is even worse than all that for Ben (Materialists…. Although he smuggled in claim that he is a “Immaterialist” in one of these threads a few months ago. I have no idea what he meant).


The Materialists, or Ben, can come to the table with “consciousness” which just is nothing at all except blind fluxes of photons constrained by that which ALL material stuff is constrained: the Net-Sum-Of-Forces. There is no Non-Slave in any of these posts here by Ben. Every motion is a slave to some other motion, which is itself a slave to some other motion, and so on, and so on. Nothing in any physical system can break free of these Force-Sets.

Thus his consciousness, his self-awareness, just is nothing more than the Robot and the Toaster. He resists this but offers not even a vague or subtle reason as to why we should see his consciousness, his self-awareness as more than a Cloud of photons, a raw Physical System, constrained by the Net-Sum-Of-Forces from top to bottom.


He uses words like “we are free to decide which norm to live by” as if “decide” means something more than will-less, volition-less particles streaming ever downstream. Which physical system has broken free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces and thus “decides” in the way he means (he is borrowing constantly from other worldviews).


He uses words like “free” in the same way. Which physical system has broken free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces and thus “Volition-ates” in the way he means (he is borrowing constantly from other worldviews).


Then he says things like, “The speakers are the ones who shape what is meant by the words they speak”. Now this is a funny statement coming from someone who seems to agree that there just is not any physical system which breaks free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces.

“Speakers shape things”. What? What is a “speaker”? Which physical system has broken free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces and thus “speaks” in the way he means (he is borrowing constantly from other worldviews).

What is “shape”? Which physical system has broken free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces and thus “shapes” in the way he means (he is borrowing constantly from other worldviews).

He attempts to use the talk and hint of “volition” and “decide” and “free” and “choose”. He uses phrases like we “shape” our world, as if there is some sort of Volition in any physical system and yet all the while Materialism just offers us, and he offers us, no reason at all to think that any physical system has broken free of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces (he is borrowing constantly from other worldviews).

Until Ben addresses the Subtext of Slavery in all material stuff whatsoever which underlies all of his Contexts it is impossible to take his terminology seriously for there just is no substrate for him to appeal to which allows him to use such terminology.

He is borrowing. The Slavery that just is the Net-Sum-Of-Forces (from top to bottom) disqualifies him from justifiable access to such terms.

None of these posts in this thread by the Materialists have freed us from the status of Slave and none of this has given us any reason to believe that Photon Fluxes in any physical system are Free from the everlasting Subtext that just is the Master of every Context: Net-Sum-Of-Forces.


From Photon to DNA to Man the music is played and everything --- and thus everybody --- is dancing to the music (if Ben is correct).


Ben,


Wisdomlover is correct.


You have no justification to use the terms you use in the way you do.

For a list of a few examples, see my last post.



Now, you typically reply to these things with something as thin as, “Well you may see it that way, but I just don’t see it that way…..” and just redefine.

But that won’t work here because we have all the empirical data of just all material stuff everywhere, every bit of it, which testifies against you. Every time. It’s called Science. Until the issue of Slavery is addressed you are saying just nothing at all really, and, you are borrowing from others in the process. You hint and nuance your way to some sort of beneath the surface suggestion of “free” or “speak” or “will” or “choice” or “shape” which just is nothing other than, now and always, that fierce imprisonment within the Slavery of the Net-Sum-Of-Forces.

That Cloud up in the sky that looks like the hand of Jesus may appear to be waving at us. But it isn’t waving. Clouds don’t “wave at people”.

WL,

So which premise will you deny?

ONE answer, "Either", is pretty clearly implied by my earlier comments.

Both of your versions of the argument and the version in the OP lump all 'physical systems' together.

I distinguish, for example, between knives and knife wielders because there are relevant differences between knives and knife wielders (even if knife wielders are 'physical systems').

Here, again, are five reasons to punish a criminal.

1. Incapacitation: keep him from doing it again. 2. Deterrence: discourage similar future crimes. 3. Restitution: make him compensate the victim. 4. Retribution: hurt him back (since he could have done otherwise). 5. Rehabilitation: try to change his future behavior.

Which apply to knives? Wielders? Which wielders?

1) Knives and wielders - on physicalism and dualism.
2) Wielders only - both kinds.
3) Wielders only - both kinds.
4) Wielders only - dualism only.
5) Wielders only - both kinds.

So knife wielders are pretty different from knives even if both are physical systems.

That's ONE problem with the argument.

It's not quite right to say that I 'deny' the premise.

This objection is with the meaning of a term in the premise which is prior to its truth or falsity. I don't know, technically, how to classify this kind of objection. Too many meanings? Not enough? Ill-formed comes to mind by that usually applies to questions. Not even wrong comes to mind but is not very nice. Supposing I want to be nice, what options are there?

When there's a problem like this, the question

So which premise will you deny?
becomes a problem in its own right.

I am not saying, by the way, that this problem (with the meaning of 'physical system') is the ONLY such problem with the argument.

My sense is that the argument a hopeless train wreck: it doesn't and can't be fixed to show that materialism is false.

And, even if materialism is true, we still have good reasons for holding each other accountable.

RonH


WisdomLover,

I agree that consciousness is an unsolved problem for materialism, and that is one of the main reasons I'm not a materialist. I would certainly join you in making that argument! But it is a different argument than the ones we have been discussing.

In other words, if we agree that consciousness is nonphysical, then since human beings exist and are conscious it follows that materialism is false, and we are done. In contrast, you wanted to work moral responsibility into your argument to show that

(*) If human beings have moral responsibility then materialism is false, and in particular human beings are not physical systems.

But if we have already shown that materialism is false, then what is the point of (*)?

RonH it seems that all Physical Systems are the same in both their addiction to and their Slavery to the Net-Sum-Of-Forces.

That is to say, the issue of Slavery, of being enslaved to the Net-Sum-Of-Forces simply makes nonsense of the Materialist’s terminology.

Also: good reasons to hold each other accountable......well, most importantly, "accountable" is impossible so long as we are Slaves.

The Net-Sum-Of-Forces just is the Materialist's Master. Nothing in this physical universe, as far as we can see, even in theoretical constructs, is free from that.

Consciousness? Clouds don't "wave at people".

I suppose you, and Ben, and the Materialists, and so on, can borrow the word "wave" if they’d like to. Of course, "wave" in one fashion (the Materialists) is something toasters and rocks do, while in the Theist's fashion it is something Volition does, via Hand.

I suppose you, and Ben, and the Materialists, and so on, can borrow the word "accountable" if they’d like to. Of course, "accountable" in one fashion (the Materialists) is something toasters and rocks have, while in the Theist's fashion it is something Volition is guilty of, via Hand.

In this entire thread I still do not see a physical system which is free from the Net-Sum-Of-Forces.

That cloud up in the sky that looks like the hand of Jesus waving at us………. The materialist shouts, “Look! That cloud is waving at us!”

The Theist pities the Materialist in that moment for the Materialist really believes the cloud is waving at him.

If the Materialist just understood a little bit about particle physics………..

Ben,

The point is that no one knows what you mean by "I'm not a materialist".

Etc.....

Do you merely regress to "dark matter" or strings or some other form of energy or is it something more interesting?

I'll admit: I'm curious.

JB

"-"You can’t blame a car for running over a victim..."-

You can, in fact. If a car was defective, we would blame the car. And we would, appropriately, demand that the car be repaired or removed from the streets."

A better way of putting this would be to say that a car cannot be held accountable for running someone over if it is defective. That is why the manufacturer might be held accountable for the defect and thus for the injury or death. It is a case of poor choice of words, but a choice driven by long many years of experince in the legal system. Sometimes, experience can work against accuracy in a different field. In other words, some experience just doesn't translate well from one career to another. That's life.

On Ben’s Immaterialism and why Consciousness alone does not save us from moral absurdity:

I’ll make two posts to be safe. Here is 1 of 2:

In allowing my mind to run the experiment suggested by Ben I find the mind running down the following avenues…..

From Brad B, “In this way, he's arguing that morals are only justifiable where event causation begins within the agent's decision making processes. I think RonH's comments are denying the necessity for objective moral absolutes that J.Warner is also assuming but not proving in the post.”

Then from Ben, “I'm not a materialist. However I am probably closer to materialism in most ways than I am to dualism, so we can go with that for now. Anyway, the challenge you quote from Wallace depends on an argument I do not accept. Namely, Wallace claims that only nonphysical beings can misbehave. Clearly, though, this is incorrect. Why? Well, what is misbehavior anyway? On my view, it's just behavior which violates a certain set of behavioral norms. But that means even unconscious machines can be said to misbehave.”

In other threads we’ve watched Ben reduce his philosophical claims to a few interesting points. One is that Truth is not valuable and Error is embraceable so long as the Self has a very fun or ‘good’ (or pleasurable) or favorable experience.

The other is reflected in this reminder from Brad B, “You argued similarly in November when you said: "So on my characterization, what counts as murder depends on a social context. From the vantage point of our own social context, killing a slave in antiquity was murder. From the vantage point of the ancient Greek (or Roman or Persian, etc.) viewpoint, it was not." Your standard of acceptable behavior is rooted in shifting sand.”

In all of this we do not find moral responsibility, which entails Moral Value stacked in the Vertical Direction. If all we have is the Horizontal Direction then we end up with exactly what Ben himself has described: “A” (killing slaves) and “B” (not killing slaves) are Moral Equivalents in and of themselves (there is no Moral, there is only Whim). And this by Ben’s own (and often) descriptions. In the same way Ben will philosophize that Truth is not valuable in and of itself so too here he will philosophize that Consciousness (Life) is not valuable in and of itself yet you use it (Consciousness, Life) as some sort of supposed “Foundation” for all his moral philosophizing. Well, if it is not valuable when we all say it is not valuable, then Ben and the toaster and myself can all be disassembled in one long Horizontal Moral Equalizer.

The thing that is Man can truly say, “I am accountable to no one” and mean it quite literally.

This is the death of accountability, of culpability of Self atop Other.

Now, again, Ben is still borrowing from another world view when he use the phrase “Moral Responsibility”. We can kill and dissemble the thief just as we can a toaster: they are equivalent claims innately and only change by Horizontal Whim rather than Vertical Innateness.

And here is where Authority enters. Headship. If Man is his own god, he has no moral responsibility, no Ought to which Man is beholden. If Man is beholden to No-Thing, including the value of consciousness (which Ben admits on his own terms) then Consciousness ends up being just no help at all in the playing the role of “Foundation” simply because Consciousness (Life) can be killed in one society and raped in another and valued in another: all three Moral-Contexts are Morally-Equivalent-Contexts innately, that is to say, horizontally. Only when the Vertical is combined with Consciousness is Volition tied to Value allowing us to arrive at Moral Responsibility.

Part 2 to follow.

Part 2 of 2 on why Consciousness alone does not save us from moral absurdity:

Only when the Vertical is combined with Consciousness is Volition tied to Value allowing us to arrive at Moral Responsibility. If in one breath we praise the value of Consciousness as the foundation for our morality and moral pontifications and in the next breath we assassinate Consciousness on Whim then we have not only entered the absurd, we have self-negated, and, not only have we entered the absurd and self-negated but we have also attempted a bait-and-switch which fails utterly.

“I am accountable to no one” is the truth of the matter in this experiment where we grant Freedom to the Materialist (via the Immaterial).

Now, “truth” is, according to Ben, not valuable in and of itself, just as, Consciousness is not valuable in and of itself, and thus the Truth that just is, “I am accountable to no one” is held up in one of Ben’s hands for us to see and in his other hand he holds up the word “Accountability” and that word ends up describing an Entity which in Truth does not exist. Ben has already stated here, “People are free to refer to whatever norms they like” for he well knows that in his Horizontal-Tunnel the value, the worth, the important thing is a very fun or good or pleasurable experience and thus, “I am accountable to no one” is a statement of Truth in his system.

Only where the Horizontal is bound in some coordinate other than the Horizontal do all the felt-oughts fall into a place of sanity and internal coherence and external coherence.

Now we end with this: Ben has arrived at the Isolated-Coordinate. The Pure-Self. The other Two Coordinates he refuses, that of the You and that of the Collective We for when push comes to shove the I trumps both the You and the We in all of Ben’s various descriptions.

Love is God’s I-You-We. It is Thrice Coordinate. It is Triune. Now that just is what is necessary to maintain coherence where Morality is concerned, where Moral Responsibility is concerned.
Ben has a One-Coordinate system, the Horizontal in isolation. That is why it just falls apart as soon as we place any weight on it. The Subtext within just that one Coordinate cannot support the weight of what is necessary: Three Coordinates within the I and the You and the We.

Consciousness and Truth are the equivalent of a Toaster. In fact, Ben has gone on record as stating the Error may be “better” than Truth so long as a very good (fun, pleasurable) experience is had. So too with Consciousness: it is expendable so long as the bottom-line is satisfied: “I”.

And so we end in this One-Coordinate system of the Horizontal in Isolation, of the ‘I’ in Isolation and we find ourselves throwing Truth and Consciousness (Life) under the bus whenever it suits us.

No. There is no Accountability in this system. There is no Responsibility. There is no Beholden-ness. There is none of that.

If there will be Moral Responsibility, or Accountability, or Culpability there must be that Vertical lift out of the Self, out of “I am accountable to no one”. The only hope we have for internal and external coherence is Authority. And where Personhood is concerned, we can use this word: Headship.

This is a first pass on this experiment of Ben’s and even without any fine tuning it becomes readily apparent that his Horizontal-Isolation gives us no such thing as Moral-Any-Thing. He has us throwing both Truth and Consciousness under the bus so long as we have a very fun experience. Welcome to the jungle.

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