Earlier this semester we talked about consciousness. I wanted to see what other ideas were involved in the existence of consciousness. Panspsychism is the belief that consciousness is universal. Everything material, however small, has an element of individual consciousness. This definition raises questions on what it means by “material” and by “mind”. Some philosophers argue that literally every object and every system of objects possess some mind-like qualities. Other philosophers argue that only some things possess mind or the smallest part of things like atoms possess minds. They may not be complete panspsychist though because they don’t believe that every thing has a conscious. Panspsychism does not attempt to define “mind” nor does it explain how mind relates to the objects that possess it. As a result, panspsychism is more of an overarching concept, a kind of meta-theory of mind.
I don’t think consciousness is universal. Things that are not alive or have a soul are not capable of having a conscious. I think something has a mind if they are capable of making their own decisions based on past experiences or other factors.
We’ve been discussing Free Will in class and I decided to look up a scientific way to prove if Free Will exists or not. Researchers at the University of California-Davis measured the brain activity of a handful of undergraduates as each made choices to look left or right when prompted by images on a screen. A bunch of controls ensured the only thing directing their gaze was their own arbitrary choice. The researchers want to determine if what they call “ongoing spontaneous variability” in neural signaling (brain’s background noise) influenced the student’s decisions. The result showed the fluctuations in brain static actually predicted the direction in which students chose to look. These constant fluctuations exist apart from the normal chain of thought, so they seem to allow spontaneous bits to disrupt constant chain of thoughts toward particular actions and open up other possibilities. Our purposeful intentions, desires, and goals drive our decisions in a linear cause-and-effect kind of way, but their findings shows that decisions can also be influenced by neural noise within any given moment. This can be problematic because it probably plays a role in making mistakes or acting against a person’s intentions but it does prove that we have the freedom of choice.
We recently discussed Free Will and if it really exists or not. There are five different views broad incompatibilists , semicompatibilists, hard incompatibilists, soft incompatibilists, and soft causalists. Broad incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. Semicompatibilists are narrow compatibilists who are agnostic about free will and determinism but claim moral responsibility is compatible with determinism. Hard incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are not compatible with determinism. Illusionists are incompatibilists who say free will is an illusion. Soft incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with strict determinism, but both are compatible with an adequate determinism. Soft causalists are event-causalists who accept causality bu admit some unpredictable events that are cause sui (self0-caused cause) and which start new causal chains.
There are six essential requirements for chance to contribute to libertarian free will.
1) Chance exists in the universe. Quantum mechanics is correct. Indeterminism is true.
2) Chance is important for free will. It breaks the causal chain for determinism.
3)Chance cannot directly cause our actions. We cannot be responsible for random actions.
4) Chance can only generate random unpredictable alternative possibilities for action or thought.
5)Chance, in the form of noise, both quantum and thermal, must be present.
6) Chance must be overcome or suppressed by the adequately determine will when it decides to act, de-liberating the prior free options that “one could have done”.
I think I’m a broad incompatibilists because I think free will and moral responsibility are not compatible with determinism. A person decides what to do with their life and their decisions cannot be determined in advance by earlier circumstances. You can predict someone’s actions based on their past but it’s not definite. Someone can easily change their mind. What are you?
In class, we’ve been discussing the connection between mind and body. I decided to look up some scientific discoveries related to consciousness. fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) produces vivid images of the areas of the brain that respond to a variety of stimuli. Instead of trying to measure a purely subjective response, such as “that made me feel good”, scientists can also see what part of the subject’s brain is responding, for how long, and to what degree. Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed one of the most promising theories for consciousness, known as integrated information theory. Integrated information theory starts with consciousness itself, and tries to work backward to understand the physical processes that give rise to the phenomenon. Bernard Baars, a neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, developed the theory known as the global workspace theory. This idea is based on an old concept from artificial intelligence called the blackboard, a memory bank that different computer programs could access. Anything from the appearance of a person’s face to a memory of childhood can be loaded into the brain’s blackboard, where it can be sent to other brain areas that will process it. According to Baar’s theory, the act of broadcasting information around the brain from this memory bank is what represents consciousness. What do you think about Baar’s theory? I think it makes sense and explains why we feel a certain way about something because of past experiences.
If you haven’t already watched this, I highly recommend it. This short film gives you insight on a different perspective where being gay is normal and being straight goes against social norms. The main girl realizes that she’s different from the other kids because she is attracted to boys. She tries to kiss the boy and he almost kisses her back but his friends catch them and he pushes her away. The girl gets bullied by the other kids physically and verbally. I can only imagine how hard it is to be gay in a society where the majority is straight.
Today in class we talked about how Gallagher could have made her argument stronger. I couldn’t come up with anything at the time but I looked it up and found some things that can support her side. Children need a father figure and they won’t have that if both their parents are women. Fathers exercise a unique social and biological influence on their children. A recent study of father absence on girls found that girls who grew up apart from their biological father were much more likely to experience early puberty and a teen pregnancy than girls who spent their entire childhood in an intact family. This study, along with David Popenoe’s work, suggests that a father’s pheromones influence the biological development of his daughter, that a strong marriage provides a model for girls of what to look for in a man, and gives them the confidence to resist the sexual entreaties of their boyfriends. Children also need mothers. Children with homosexual men as parents will miss out on having a mother who provides emotional security and excel in reading the physical and emotional cues of infants. They also give counsel as they confront the physical, emotional, and social challenges associated with puberty and adolescence. Same sex parents can try to provide the emotional needs only mothers and fathers can provide but it won’t be as efficient.
Here’s the link to the studies: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=if04g01
In class we discussed Justice by Nagel and how he suggests that in order to create equality, the government should increase the taxation of the rich and give the money to the poor. I agree that there should be limitations because people will start taking advantage of it. The government should make sure that the people receiving financial help are in need of it. I volunteered for this event called “Good Neighbors” that provides food and entertainment for the homeless while they take turns choosing from an assortment of clothes and blankets to take with them. I saw homeless people with iPhones and other advanced cellphones and name brand shoes like Nike and Jordans. It made me think that if they can afford to buy expensive things, why can’t they afford to buy their kids food or a home? It relates to what we just discussed because people do get away with taking advantage of different financial aid the government provides and that makes it unfair to the rich. In order for Nagel’s idea to work, they have to set up very strict rules in order to send the money to those who are truly in need.
Wolf mentioned Aristotle’s theory of Eudaimonia which states that if a person does not want to find meaning in life, it just shows they were not well brought up and there is no point trying to educate them. I did some research and another definition of Eudaimonia is “a moral philosophy that defines right action as that which leads to the “well-being” of the individual”. Eudaimonia as the ultimate goal is objective, not subjective, because it characterizes the well-lived life irrespective of the emotional state of the person experiencing it. Plato refined the idea of Eudaimonia, claiming that the rational part of the soul or mind must govern the spirited, emotional and appetitive parts in order to lead all desires and actions to eudaimonia, the principal constituent of which is virtue. Epicurus agreed with Aristotle that happiness, or eudaimonia, is the highest good, but he identified this with pleasure, on the grounds that pleasure is the only thing that people value for its own sake, and that its presence or absence is something which is immediately apparent to everyone. Eudaimonia can be associated with Egoism.
A few days ago our class talked about the role of God when it came to defining what is right and wrong. Theists believe that God determines what is right and wrong and our laws should be based on that. There is a segment on PBS called “God In America” where they talk about the Founding Fathers and their different religions. They claimed that even though they had different religious beliefs, they all “professed a belief in God as the Creator of the Universe and believed that religion encouraged a moral citizenry”. I agree with this claim that our original laws were founded on christian beliefs. The website I have linked also talks about the different beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Go check it out!
On Wednesday we discussed the article “Good Minus God: The Moral Atheist”. I can see why she thinks that morality is independent of the existence of God. If the meaning of “good” relies on whatever God commands, then “good” could mean anything. I do agree that moral value does exist in the natural world but I just don’t understand where that goodness would come from if God did not create it. Does it just automatically appear when someone is born? I agree more with the Divine Command Theory because God does have commandments that people are suppose to obey because He is the only one who has the power to always do good. I believe that the Divine Command Theory does require faith and trust in God and I can see why atheists are skeptical of this theory but I don’t see how people can just rely on what they think is morally right if they aren’t perfect.