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Ch. 1 - The Divided Self 
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
:lol: masterful stylin' :lol:



Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:19 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
DWill wrote:
I couldn't find where I'd posted the link to an Atlantic article by Paul Bloom called "The War on Reason," but I'll post it here again. . . .

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc ... on/357561/


This article makes a very good ancillary read to go along with Haidt's book. Bloom's central theme has to do with free will, as in do we really have it? Or are we just a "soft machine" (John Updike) or "biochemical puppet" (Sam Harris)? He quotes Haidt with regard to the lawyer part of our brain called upon to defend the actions of his client.

But I don't get the idea that Haidt is arguing that we have no free will, only that a lot of our actions are based on automatic impulses. Maybe this is the strawman that DWill alludes to? Certainly we use free will all the time, choosing the college we go to, accepting a job offer, even planning the best way to get to the grocery store (and maybe stop at the dry cleaners on the way back). Our brains evolved a certain autonomy exactly so we can sometimes override our animal instincts. Just using birth control is our way of inserting our free will (not to make a baby) without having to abstain from sex.


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Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:09 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
No, I don't get the idea that JH is arguing against free will, that argument that I always have such a hard time understanding. But it has never occurred to me that the role of reason is central in the free will debate. I guess it can be. Whatever we mean by "will," it denotes a conscious process, and Haidt is saying that our conscious willing or reasoning is often just a contrived explanation for our deeper intuitions. But not all reasoning or willing falls into that category, of course: calculating the best way to get to the airport, or using birth control, for example. He says our reasoning starts to function like a lawyer or press secretary when we are presenting reasons connected with morality, broadly speaking, which would include politics.

I was probably unfair to Bloom in saying he was hitting at a straw man. He is balanced in his criticism. The title of the article is hyperbolic, but that's not his fault.

The most significant thought I took away from this chapter was that the development of our frontal cortex was not just a boost for our ability to reason, but also brought emotion to bear crucially on our exercise of reason. We (or at least I) usually think of emotion as residing in an older part of the brain, but the orbitofrontal cortex is essential for both emotional experience and exercising reason. The research on that seems fairly convincing. The case of Phineas Gage is often used as an example.

"Reason and emotion must both work together to create intelligent behavior, but emotion (a major part of the elephant) does most of the work. When the neocortex came along, it made the rider possible, but it also made the elephant much smarter, too."



Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:35 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
The Divided Self phrase reminds me of this old lyric

For united we stand, divided we fall
And if our backs should ever be against the wall
We'll be together, together, you and I.



Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
geo wrote:
Certainly we use free will all the time, choosing the college we go to, accepting a job offer, even planning the best way to get to the grocery store (and maybe stop at the dry cleaners on the way back). Our brains evolved a certain autonomy exactly so we can sometimes override our animal instincts. Just using birth control is our way of inserting our free will (not to make a baby) without having to abstain from sex.


A hardcore determinist like Sam Harris would argue that this is not really free will (of course people define it differently, as Daniel Dennett does) in that those choices depended on your brain state at the time, which depended on previous brain states, etc. Unless you believe that your brain can somehow mysteriously step outside this sequence of causation.



Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:04 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Dexter wrote:
geo wrote:
Certainly we use free will all the time, choosing the college we go to, accepting a job offer, even planning the best way to get to the grocery store (and maybe stop at the dry cleaners on the way back). Our brains evolved a certain autonomy exactly so we can sometimes override our animal instincts. Just using birth control is our way of inserting our free will (not to make a baby) without having to abstain from sex.


A hardcore determinist like Sam Harris would argue that this is not really free will (of course people define it differently, as Daniel Dennett does) in that those choices depended on your brain state at the time, which depended on previous brain states, etc. Unless you believe that your brain can somehow mysteriously step outside this sequence of causation.

As a proficient meditation practitioner, wouldn't Sam say that we have some ability to alter our brain states? Your brain can't step outside the chain of causation, but your brain isn't just one unit, either, so that it's possible for a part of it to alter that chain of causation (I guess).



Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:37 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Dexter wrote:
A hardcore determinist like Sam Harris would argue that this is not really free will (of course people define it differently, as Daniel Dennett does) in that those choices depended on your brain state at the time, which depended on previous brain states, etc. Unless you believe that your brain can somehow mysteriously step outside this sequence of causation.


Yeah, I've never quite understood the hardcore determinist position, though I haven't read much Sam Harris. I could prove free will right now by going downstairs to the lobby of our hotel (in Boston) and for no reason at all, punch the clerk in the face, thereby setting off a sequence of events that previously didn't exist (get arrested, arraigned, etc.) I'm not going to do that for the same reason I'm not going to jump off a cliff to prove the effect of gravity. But it sure seems that we have some level of free will.


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Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:14 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
geo wrote:
Dexter wrote:
A hardcore determinist like Sam Harris would argue that this is not really free will (of course people define it differently, as Daniel Dennett does) in that those choices depended on your brain state at the time, which depended on previous brain states, etc. Unless you believe that your brain can somehow mysteriously step outside this sequence of causation.


Yeah, I've never quite understood the hardcore determinist position, though I haven't read much Sam Harris. I could prove free will right now by going downstairs to the lobby of our hotel (in Boston) and for no reason at all, punch the clerk in the face, thereby setting off a sequence of events that previously didn't exist (get arrested, arraigned, etc.) I'm not going to do that for the same reason I'm not going to jump off a cliff to prove the effect of gravity.


But if you punched that clerk in the face, that would be the result of a series of causal events and brain states leading up to it. Since you didn't, that was in fact the result of all those previous events. Just like you don't really choose the next random thought that pops into your head. And just like the subjects of the split brain experiments didn't choose to give a rationalization of what the other side of their brain is apparently doing.

Quote:
But it sure seems that we have some level of free will.


True, it seems like you could have chosen something else than what you actually did. But that would seem to require an exception to the physical laws that govern everything else. And quantum theory, as some have wanted to invoke here, would seem to give you some randomness, not anything like free will.



Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:50 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
DWill wrote:
As a proficient meditation practitioner, wouldn't Sam say that we have some ability to alter our brain states? Your brain can't step outside the chain of causation, but your brain isn't just one unit, either, so that it's possible for a part of it to alter that chain of causation (I guess).


In a sense, yes, just like hitting yourself over the head can alter our brain states. But what led you to hit yourself over the head? STOP HITTING YOURSELF OVER THE HEAD, DWill!



Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:03 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Dexter wrote:
Quote:
But it sure seems that we have some level of free will.


True, it seems like you could have chosen something else than what you actually did. But that would seem to require an exception to the physical laws that govern everything else. And quantum theory, as some have wanted to invoke here, would seem to give you some randomness, not anything like free will.


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Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:44 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Quote:
I could prove free will right now by going downstairs to the lobby of our hotel (in Boston) and for no reason at all, punch the clerk in the face


Reasons are like causal pathways. If you went and punched your hotel clerk in the face, the reason would be to prove free will exists, which would defeat the point.


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Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Dexter wrote:
Haidt quotes Hume: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

He probably explained this in his other book, and might be about to do the same, but why did Hume say "ought" here?


This idea from the great David Hume has long struck me as possibly the most incomprehensible and wrong argument in all philosophy, showing why the English are so confused about morality.

If my passion makes me feel it would be a good thing to punch a hotel clerk, or enslave foreigners, or some other morally obnoxious action, it is my reason that enslaves my passion, applying higher intelligence to raw emotion, providing the basis of what we ought to do. Passion is and should be the slave of reason.

The facts of morality are precisely the reverse of Hume's statement. So how people take Hume's line seriously, and why it is allowed to sow such abominable confusion, has me stumped. :hmm:


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Sun Mar 16, 2014 6:58 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Robert Tulip wrote:
Dexter wrote:
Haidt quotes Hume: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

He probably explained this in his other book, and might be about to do the same, but why did Hume say "ought" here?


This idea from the great David Hume has long struck me as possibly the most incomprehensible and wrong argument in all philosophy, showing why the English are so confused about morality.

If my passion makes me feel it would be a good thing to punch a hotel clerk, or enslave foreigners, or some other morally obnoxious action, it is my reason that enslaves my passion, applying higher intelligence to raw emotion, providing the basis of what we ought to do. Passion is and should be the slave of reason.

The facts of morality are precisely the reverse of Hume's statement. So how people take Hume's line seriously, and why it is allowed to sow such abominable confusion, has me stumped. :hmm:

But Robert, I think you'd agree that Hume was no dummy, so would he be likely to agree that going off on people whenever we felt annoyed was the way to be? What we have here is probably a shift in the meaning of words, or a specialized use of a word such as "passion" in Hume's hands. In the 17th and 18th centuries, theories of emotions received a great deal of attention, which resulted in more diverse, nuanced, and sophisticated ways of talking about them. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on this says, in part:

Quote:
Every philosopher of the early modern period developed distinctive terms of art for discussing the emotions. Still, some vocabulary was general currency. The most common term for describing the emotions in the seventeenth century was undoubtedly ‘passion,’ perhaps because of the influence of Descartes's Passions of the Soul (1649), perhaps because of a general tendency to see the emotions as receptive, passive states. It was not the only term used: ‘affect’ and ‘sentiment’ also appeared, as did ‘perturbation,’ or ‘emotion,’ although these are not usually terms of art, and ‘emotion’ usually meant little more than ‘motion.’ The choice of terminology often marked intellectual allegiances: Descartes saw himself as introducing a new theory, in which “passions” are a species of perception, while Spinoza's “affects” signaled his debt to Stoic ethics, as well as distinctive features of his metaphysics. In his Pensées (1670), Pascal introduced “feelings” or “sentiments” [sentiment], sometimes contrasting them with the corrupted passions and marking his neo-Augustinian understanding of love (see Pensées 680, 531).


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emotions-17th18th/



Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:26 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
I deleted my post because it belongs with the next chapter's discussion.



Last edited by DWill on Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:45 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:42 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
DWill wrote:
This idea from the great David Hume has long struck me as possibly the most incomprehensible and wrong argument in all philosophy, showing why the English are so confused about morality.

If my passion makes me feel it would be a good thing to punch a hotel clerk, or enslave foreigners, or some other morally obnoxious action, it is my reason that enslaves my passion, applying higher intelligence to raw emotion, providing the basis of what we ought to do. Passion is and should be the slave of reason.

The facts of morality are precisely the reverse of Hume's statement. So how people take Hume's line seriously, and why it is allowed to sow such abominable confusion, has me stumped.


I don't get the "ought" part of the statement, but my experience and readings on the subject tells me that the rest of the statement is most likely true, "reason is the slave of the passions".

He appears to be saying that reason can inform us about the means necessary to attain what we choose to do. Reason can also inform us as to the consequesces of our action or inaction. But reason can never tell us ultimately what choice we should make. In the end, that will always be left to the passions.
Although I don't fully understand the philosophical arguments in support of his statement, my historical readings tell me that humans can rationalize all and any form of the most despicabl moral behavior. This tell me that our ultimate decision to act or not to act in areas of morality comes from a place that is deeper that our powers of reasoning.



Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:57 am
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