Saturday, July 26, 2008

Responding to Bearded Spock

One of the joys to owning a blog: I can post when answering comments. :)

For the most part, I was acting as "devil's advocate" on my "axiom busting" in the last post. I do want to make a second pass on two items.

If good just means preferable, then you're open to "you may prefer truth, but I prefer not to tell the truth sometimes".

untrue. All things being equal, you always prefer to tell the truth. So do I. So does everybody. It's when things aren't otherwise equal that our preferences diverge. This is observedly true. Pathological liars are acting irrationally. That's why it's a pathology and not a preference.

This is very close to a "no true Scotsman" fallacy. "Everyone prefers to tell the truth." "Liars don't." "They don't count, they're pathological." If morals are universal, then they have to apply to people who would be "pathological". If they're based on universal preferences, then why not include their preferences too?

First, it assumes free will. It is entirely possible for me to posit this argument without free will. My biological computer program, faced with an input set that drives it through a super-complex steady state tree, drives my hands to type out this post. I am no more "responsible" than the first Intel Pentium was "responsible" for rounding errors in the floating point unit.

Is a bacterium inanimate because it is composed of inanimate chemichals? Of course not. Is free will nonexistant because your mind might be a biological computer program, faced with an input set that drives it through a super-complex steady state tree? Of course not. UPB doesn't "assume" free will. It acknowledges free will, free will that is observed the same way the animation of of a bacterium is observed.

You are the one confusing the Pentium with the program it processes, a program that to some small but vitally important degree, writes (or at least alters) itself.

I disagree that free will is self-evident. Even Wikipedia has a decent summary of the philosophical debate on free will. It is not axiomatic that people act rationally or that they act via free will. Even Calvinists reject the concept of free will as it's commonly defined.

One more thought experiment: (axiom) humans are simply the result of undirected biological evolution. (axiom) The "mind" is nothing more than the results of the biological actions of the brain (i.e. no spirit). If there is a source of randomness within the brain, then the decision you make may be the result of randomness, not "rationality". If there is no randomness, then the brain is just a biological steady state machine of incredible complexity and there's no free will.

An aside: I believe most of Stephan's axioms, but I reject that they're axioms. Instead, I believe then as a consequence of my Christian theology. That's why I'll reject the concept of free will separate from Christian theology, since I think the only way free will can occur is if there is more to us humans than just this bag of salty water.

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