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Re: [existlist] Re: From very small to very large

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  • eduardathome
    Jim, I don’t think that I said that it is neurons which decide what you do, in the sense that they are conspiring to lead you in a direction where you do
    Message 1 of 171 , Jun 13, 2013

      I don’t think that I said that it is neurons which decide what you do, in the sense that they are conspiring to lead you in a direction where you do want to go. I have said before that if you do not wish to go in a particular direction, then this is also a script that you learn. The one plays against the other and a choice is made.

      The only point I am making is that our thinking and our possible subsequent behaviour is a matter of what we have learned and adopted. And this adoption is in our brains.

      For example, your car probably has an upper speed of 220kph. A teen or young 20-something may decide to drive it to the limit ... for the extreme fun of it. As an adult, one has learned caution which is yet another script. The one overrides the other, so most people tend to stay away from sudden death. However, the “one” and the “other” are both in your brain. Some would like to say that they heard a little voice warning not to drive so fast. But that is just a metaphor ... there is no little voice ... it is only your brain talking.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jim
      Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2013 5:44 PM
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [existlist] Re: From very small to very large


      I agree with what you say about Holt's book. It is an enjoyable read and I learnt quite a bit about both science and philosophy which I didn't know before, but I didn't feel I got a substantial new insight into existence. With regard to the book, I would say the parts were greater than the sum.

      I think you make a good point that there seems to be too much interest in beginnings (a long time ago) and too little interest in change (which is going on now).

      As you say, change involves the interplay between something and nothing, and now the behaviour of humankind is affecting nature (for example with global warming), change for the better or from the worse is the result of human freedom.

      On the topic of freedom I am currently reading a book called "A Theory of Freedom" by Philip Pettit. It is quite a difficult book – very dense – but I like Pettit's idea of freedom as non-domination. He opposes the liberal idea of freedom as non-interference, by arguing that in a society with unequal power relations (e.g. the rich having more power than the poor, or men having more power than women), then even if the more powerful act benignly and don't oppress the less powerful, the mere fact that the less powerful rely on the good will of the more powerful reveals that they do not have the freedom they ought to have.

      A passage I have just read on what is involved in personal freedom strikes me as relevant to your dialogue with Eduard. Pettit writes:

      "That an agent is a self means that he can think of himself, or she can think of herself, in the first person as the bearer of certain beliefs and desires and other attitudes and as the author of the actions, and perhaps other effects, to which they give rise. And that an agent is a free self means that the way attitudes are formed, and lead to action, is consistent with holding the agent responsible. There is nothing about the psychology of the agent in virtue of which they are distanced from what they want and think and do, for example, and have to look on those attitudes and actions like a more or less helpless bystander. They must be able to see their own signature in those attitudes and actions. They must be able to think: I want or think or do that; this is me, and not just the work of an alien mechanism within me."

      Eduard seems to want to say that rather than me deciding what to do, it is my neurons deciding for me what to do. Or it is my mental scripts deciding for me what to do. But talking this way about the neurons or mental scripts sounds like the sort of "alien mechanism" which Pettit says is exactly the opposite of human freedom. To view myself as a "helpless bystander" whilst the neurons get down to the serious business of living my life is to view myself as `unfree', as lacking freedom.



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    • daveylee40
      It seems to me that we are limited to the qualities and capacities of humanness as supplied by the natural state of being human. Other than that, I personally
      Message 171 of 171 , Aug 25, 2013
        It seems to me that we are limited to the qualities and capacities of humanness as supplied by the natural state of being human. Other than that, I personally cannot conceive of a fixed nature or essence.

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
        > No congratulations from Sartre unless I understand how I am being in-itself and being for-itself. Since I'm sufficiently satisfied with my grasp of Sartre's Bad Faith, I'm now going to spend some time with how Sartre explains what he considers the 'correct' view of in-itself for being human. What for Sartre is fixed as human essence other than existence, nothing, and freedom?
        > Mary
        > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@> wrote:
        > > Sartre could encounter the waiter whilst serving the table and ask "what are
        > > you??"
        > >
        > > "I'm a waiter"
        > >
        > > "Aha ... and obvious case of mauvais foi". "But, what are you besides a
        > > waiter??"
        > >
        > > "I'm a father of a family"
        > >
        > > "Still mauvais foi ... a sad case". "I mean, underneath, besides these
        > > particular roles??"
        > >
        > > "Of course, I am a human being".
        > >
        > > "Congratulations".
        > >
        > > eduard
        > >
        > > -----Original Message-----
        > > From: Mary
        > > Sent: Saturday, July 20, 2013 10:28 AM
        > > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        > > Subject: [existlist] Fixed nature
        > >
        > > We reject labels which identify us as essentially one particular thing. I am
        > > not my job, so whichever occupation I choose or find myself in and
        > > regardless of the education and training it requires, I am still not that
        > > position/role/job in-itself. It is this idea of having a fixed nature, a
        > > something in-itself, which Sartre opposes. We are being for-itself and
        > > either struggle or recoil at the thought of having the freedom of not having
        > > an identity (an in-itself) so we find ourselves in the 'project' or
        > > condition of bad faith. Sartre thinks our nature is to desire a fixed
        > > nature. But this is further complicated by the fact that others tend to
        > > label us as having a fixed nature.
        > >
        > > If I say you, eduard, are essentially a positivist or a reductionist or
        > > whatever, you reject this because you feel you are not that. If I say you
        > > are an electrical engineer, you're more likely to say this is true, but are
        > > you really only or strictly what your job entails? Aren't you first eduard,
        > > a human being who thinks and does many things besides his job? Aren't your
        > > ideas and ways of being constantly changing? To say that you perform your
        > > job/role as an electrical engineer means you are not strictly that block of
        > > identity. Even if you were to change careers, you wouldn't strictly be that
        > > new identity either. You would be free to be more than just that. Sartre
        > > means that all jobs are equal only in the sense that we still would not be
        > > identified strictly with what we do.
        > >
        > > To say I am not *that* means I am not merely a being in-itself. But it's
        > > more complicated, because if there weren't some facticity about being human,
        > > we wouldn't be able to negate it and be a being for-itself. We would merely
        > > be this block of identity. This is really what Sartre uses bad faith to
        > > explainâ€"the relationship between being in-itself and for-itself.
        > >
        > > Mary
        > >
        > > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduardathome <yeoman@> wrote:
        > > >
        > > > Mary,
        > > >
        > > > I think that part of the difficulty may be that we are dealing with
        > > > 1930’s thought. The way I see it, Sartre is describing psychology as to
        > > > mental functioning and associated behaviour. But in the 1930’s there
        > > > was very little in the way of realising that we actually used our brains
        > > > to think, so Sartre and others had to resort to labels and phraseology
        > > > which might suffice.
        > > >
        > > > But since such phraseology is disconnected from reality, it easily leads
        > > > to convoluted statements such as, "If I am a cafe waiter, this can be only
        > > > in the mode of *not being* one." That statement makes no sense, and I
        > > > can well appreciate the need for 800 pages of reading to obtain some kind
        > > > of understanding. I don’t believe that such a statement would be made
        > > > by anyone today in the 21st century.
        > > >
        > > > I read the paragraph at least 4 times now and still cannot make any sense
        > > > of it. For example, â€Å"This is the result of the fact that while I must
        > > > *play at being* a cafe waiter in order to be one, still it would be in
        > > > vain for me to play at being a diplomat or a sailor, for I would not be
        > > > one”. I think that what Sartre is saying is that a â€Å"diplomat” is a
        > > > position that requires substantial training and something to which you are
        > > > assigned. You can’t just walk into the Ministry of State building and
        > > > start acting like a diplomat as one might act as a waiter when walking
        > > > into a restaurant. But if that is the case, then Sartre weakens his
        > > > argument for mauvais foi, since the diplomat could equally confuse himself
        > > > with his role.
        > > >
        > > > I agree with your understanding of bad faith. I asked at the office, what
        > > > was the meaning of â€Å"mauvais foi”. It comes down to misrepresenting
        > > > yourself to others, as for example to have a hidden agenda. Sartre seems
        > > > to be using the term as misrepresenting yourself to yourself. In regard
        > > > to the question of whether it is possible to misrepresent yourself to
        > > > yourself, I should think that it is entirely possible. There is nothing
        > > > in the rule book of brain thinking that one has to be entirely logical and
        > > > transparent.
        > > >
        > > > I think the example of the waiter is put in the wrong sense which
        > > > compounds the difficulty. The waiter is said to be too precise and
        > > > therefore he/she has mauvais foi. But it really should be expressed the
        > > > other way around, as waiters who have mauvais foi tend to act in too
        > > > precise a manner. Not all waiters who act precisely have mauvais foi.
        > > > Neither do all beau parleurs.
        > > >
        > > > eduard
        > >
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