A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Tue, 6 Apr 1999 10:31:37 EDT

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 10:31:37 EDT
Subject: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

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Unfortunately this message seems to have been lost to the cyberspace monsters
who must have devoured it before it could be distributed to the list. So I
am resending a copy of it. I apologize if this ends up being a duplicate.

-Jake

In a message dated 4/5/99 9:23:03 AM Central Daylight Time, Meme Lab writes:

<< In a message dated 4/3/99 6:04:11 PM Central Daylight Time,
EGraham1@aol.com writes:

>>You define determinism in terms
of prediction/control.<<

I mostly define it in terms of prediction with the potential for control.

>> It is usually defined as the doctrine that every event has a *cause*.<<

It is because events that we witness have causes, that determinism works.

>>I find your distinction between control and cause enlightening, but to
redefine determinism in terms of control leaves a semantic gap. What do you
then call the doctrine that every event has a cause?<<

For most purposes "determinism" works just fine. But it you wish to make a
distinction, and you wish to emphasize that *every* even has a cause, as
opposed to just our general ability to determine them, you might try "strict
causality".

>>What do you call the process of making an undetermined choice if not
"free will"?<<

I don't call it anything. If you are talking about the idea that we can
make choices that are free from material cause - in otherwords supernaturally
or non-materially caused - I would call that "supernatural free will", or
maybe "dualistic free will". I don't accept that, but that is what I would
call that position.

>> Maybe that is where we differ, I use "free will" to define a conceptual
process, you use it to define an experience.<<

The experience is the reference point for a cognitive/intentional process.

>>I would prefer to leave the term "free will" to the dualists and define
something new, such as "self control" to describe the experience.<<

I wouldn't, because free will is too culturally important to not participate
in its definition. It becomes difficult to understand how somebody can
participate in a culture that values individual freedom, and condemns
excessive coercion and slavery, if you don't have a concept for "free will".
I am not saying that you can't, but that it makes you generally less
cohereant and easier to ignore.

Besides these same issues extend to matters of defining the "self", for very
similar and related reasons. We have a number of people into memetics, or
really trying to discover memetics, who are trying to say that the self is
"just an illusion". Even greater than any concerns about a culture of
individual freedom, treating "self" as "just an illusion", is a mystical
assault on our very language, and indeed on the activity of language in
general. Far from reaping any insight, this only guarantees that we will
soon be babbling incoherently should we endorse this postion.

Imagining the self to be an illusion can at best be treated as a mystical
metaphysical performance - certainly not a mode that can be maintained for
any adaptive purpose - and indeed I have known none to do so. I can
appreciate people wishing to redifine "self" for greater understanding and
accuracy, but denying it as an illusion is as big a farce to me as watching
people who claim to be "speaking in tongues".

>>I would prefer to leave the term "free will" to the dualists and define
something new, such as "self control" to describe the experience. To my mind
this is much more descriptive of the processes, both you and I appear to
agree are actually happening.<<

Defining and understanding "self control", as commendable as it is, does not
mean that we should abandon discussing "free will". Aside from issues of
self-control, it becomes difficult to understand what freedom actually is or
why it is important without some concept for free will.

>>Thanks for shedding a little light on this issue for me. I'm a bit
worried we are straying off topic here and it's only my third post in this
group, my apologies!<<

Only slightly. I think this issue of "self as an illusion" is becoming
quite a prevalent notion amongst the community of people who like to think of
themselves as memeticists. I think if the effort is ever to be expected to
be taken seriously, this idea has to go. Self is very integral part of
culture, and IMO any student of culture who believes it to be "just an
illusion", has in effect turned their back to the subject in preference to
mystical ideas that have no business being taken seriously.

So I find this discussion to be appropriate here.

-Jake >>

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From: MemeLab@aol.com
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Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 10:23:03 EDT
Subject: Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
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Reply-To: MemeLab@aol.com

In a message dated 4/3/99 6:04:11 PM Central Daylight Time, EGraham1@aol.com
writes:

>>You define determinism in terms
of prediction/control.<<

I mostly define it in terms of prediction with the potential for control.

>> It is usually defined as the doctrine that every event has a *cause*.<<

It is because events that we witness have causes, that determinism works.

>>I find your distinction between control and cause enlightening, but to
redefine determinism in terms of control leaves a semantic gap. What do you
then call the doctrine that every event has a cause?<<

For most purposes "determinism" works just fine. But it you wish to make a
distinction, and you wish to emphasize that *every* even has a cause, as
opposed to just our general ability to determine them, you might try "strict
causality".

>>What do you call the process of making an undetermined choice if not
"free will"?<<

I don't call it anything. If you are talking about the idea that we can make
choices that are free from material cause - in otherwords supernaturally or
non-materially caused - I would call that "supernatural free will", or maybe
"dualistic free will". I don't accept that, but that is what I would call
that position.

>> Maybe that is where we differ, I use "free will" to define a conceptual
process, you use it to define an experience.<<

The experience is the reference point for a cognitive/intentional process.

>>I would prefer to leave the term "free will" to the dualists and define
something new, such as "self control" to describe the experience.<<

I wouldn't, because free will is too culturally important to not participate
in its definition. It becomes difficult to understand how somebody can
participate in a culture that values individual freedom, and condemns
excessive coercion and slavery, if you don't have a concept for "free will".
I am not saying that you can't, but that it makes you generally less
cohereant and easier to ignore.

Besides these same issues extend to matters of defining the "self", for very
similar and related reasons. We have a number of people into memetics, or
really trying to discover memetics, who are trying to say that the self is
"just an illusion". Even greater than any concerns about a culture of
individual freedom, treating "self" as "just an illusion", is a mystical
assault on our very language, and indeed on the activity of language in
general. Far from reaping any insight, this only guarantees that we will
soon be babbling incoherently should we endorse this postion.

Imagining the self to be an illusion can at best be treated as a mystical
metaphysical performance - certainly not a mode that can be maintained for
any adaptive purpose - and indeed I have known none to do so. I can
appreciate people wishing to redifine "self" for greater understanding and
accuracy, but denying it as an illusion is as big a farce to me as watching
people who claim to be "speaking in tongues".

>>I would prefer to leave the term "free will" to the dualists and define
something new, such as "self control" to describe the experience. To my mind
this is much more descriptive of the processes, both you and I appear to
agree are actually happening.<<

Defining and understanding "self control", as commendable as it is, does not
mean that we should abandon discussing "free will". Aside from issues of
self-control, it becomes difficult to understand what freedom actually is or
why it is important without some concept for free will.

>>Thanks for shedding a little light on this issue for me. I'm a bit worried
we are straying off topic here and it's only my third post in this group, my
apologies!<<

Only slightly. I think this issue of "self as an illusion" is becoming quite
a prevalent notion amongst the community of people who like to think of
themselves as memeticists. I think if the effort is ever to be expected to
be taken seriously, this idea has to go. Self is very integral part of
culture, and IMO any student of culture who believes it to be "just an
illusion", has in effect turned their back to the subject in preference to
mystical ideas that have no business being taken seriously.

So I find this discussion to be appropriate here.

-Jake

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