Why I am going on strike

Why I am going on strike March 20, 2014

Wednesday 26th is an important day for the National Union of Teachers here in the UK. We have voted to go out on strike and I am going to do so, foregoing my pay for the day. I don’t take this action lightly, but then nor do I accept what the government is doing to the education system lightly. I would like to elucidate on this and give the reasons to support my action.

Let me just prime you with this scandalous statistic: 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years. Think about that stat and ask yourselves why that is. That is a terrible retention statistic. Terrible. So what is Michael Gove, the UK Secretary of State for Education, doing about it? Making the system better and more supportive? Hmmm…

Here are the direct reasons for not going on strike:

1)  Children lose a day’s education

2)  Worst case scenario, parents cannot find anyone to look after children and have to take a day off work themselves

And that is it. What it usually comes down to is people complaining that we are unable to ‘look after’ their children; we become glorified child-minders. People don’t usually concentrate on 1). In other words, that their children have someone to look after them is more important than the working rights of that person or the future of the education system.

Michael Gove is an unpopular man, even by the standard of Education Secretaries. I would go so far as to say he is the most unpopular one in living memory, perhaps ever. But why is this? Well, I will list some of my own reasons which act as reasons for me striking:

1)  Gove is trying to liberalise and deregulate the education system in the UK.

2)  With free schools and academies, people whose primary interest is not in the education of children are running and financing schools. This is my biggest gripe with the move in education – the political and educational decentralisation of schools in line with right-wing political liberalist ideologies which will result in a postcode lottery for schooling. Not just of quality but of what might actually be taught.

3)   Schools with dangerous ideologies can misinform and indoctrinate children. In the context of this blog, this is absolutely vital.

4)  It seems the Conservatives are trying to minimise local authority and department power and support, making the Department for Education nothing more than accountants.

5)  He is trying to steal ideas from other countries with no realisation that there are many more variables and mixes at play. Our children and teenagers are VERY different to those in South Korea, for example.

6)  He is making the curriculum less prescriptive in one sense whilst making it far more prescriptive in other senses (you can teach what you like as long as it includes all f these classics and poems that I learnt at school, because I’m alright…).

7)  He puts out to consultation on different things (eg the curriculum) to experts in the field who advise X. He ignores them and goes for Y, which is what he always wanted to go for, against the experts’ advice.

8)  He has deregulated working conditions for teachers so that our rights, pay and conditions have been incredibly curtailed.

9)  Plans are afoot to get rid of teaching assistants, meaning that the amount of time teachers will be working on admin, photocopying and creating displays amongst other things will exponentially rise (I work late at school and then most of the night until I go to bed on the days I work at school, without having to add another2 hours+ to my day, thanks).

10)  I work within Hampshire which is an excellent authority and we get superb support. We would lose that under academy / free school in an attempt to save money (that is what it is). But then, in realising we still needed that support, we would have to buy it back at a higher cost, therefore making it a more expensive process!

11)  We would lose vital support such as legal cover. At the moment, if we get sued, Hampshire pick it up such that we do not have to worry ourselves on a day-to-day level about angry parents suing over broken wrists or far worse. We get on and teach, and improve aspects of the school on request of the authority if needs be. As an academy or free school we would be on our own. WE would be sued.

12)   Gove has refused to sit down with the unions over any of this.

13)  Having to work until 68 as a teacher (likely to go up, too). Now I agree pension pots are being squeezed by longer lifespans. I actually agree that teachers should work longer. But not as teachers. We should be put into training, support or policy or other such roles. Would you really want a 68 year-old PE teacher teaching a bunch of teenagers? Teaching the exceptionally tiring reception class? I am 37 and exhausted after teaching. I know an excellent ex-reception teacher who just retired at the then statutory age of 60. She really struggled the last couple of years and her effectiveness greatly diminished. Technology changes, policies change, and demands change and she was unable to keep up at the level to which she was accustomed. Add what will be 10 years to that. I can’t tell you how ridiculous that is. Teaching is absolutely exhausting. I am lucky enough to be part-time and I am not going to go back full time as a result of the demands on teachers. It’s just too much (and I have many other things on my plate which float my boat). We daily plan and so cannot plan the next day’s lessons until you have marked all of the books (that can be up to 60 books for Maths and English, at a minimum of 2 minutes each on new feedback policies… you do the maths. On large bits of English that can be 7-10 minutes each book…). This is great for the children since you react to their needs and teach accordingly – real child-centred, individualised planning. But that means that every night I have to mark for several hours at least followed by several hours planning (including my afternoon lessons, too). And I have to get my classroom sorted, sort out resources, do paperwork, organise staff meetings and training and manage my own subject leadership things etc etc. And Gove wants to massively increase hours, days and weeks that teachers have to work.

14)  The government refuse to value the Teachers’ Pension scheme.

So on and so forth.

The list is far greater. As the NUT states of Gove:

1)  He has a narrow view of what makes a good education – one that doesn’t include vocational subjects.

2)  He constantly runs down our education system and our children’s achievements, despite our country doing well in international league tables – this demoralises our teachers and our children

3)  He has removed the need for schools to employ qualified teachers, and attacks our teachers’ professionalism.

4)  He has presided over the unfairness of last year’s GCSEs and refused to do anything to help the 10,000 children given unfair grades.

5)  He has done nothing to resist the trebling of tuition fees.

6)  Abolition of the EMA has resulted in fewer 16-19 year olds in education. He will have cut post-16 funding by 20% across the lifetime of this Government.

7)  He has unpicked many long-standing requirements for school premises, including dropping requirements for minimum temperatures, staffrooms, and minimum ratios for toilets; and he’s reduced the space standards for new schools as well.

8)  He has cancelled the modernisation programme for all schools and diverted the money to supporting Free Schools, often in areas which don’t need extra school places.

9)  He has cancelled the City Challenge programme which was improving results without privatisation.

10)  He wants to end the national teachers’ pay system, putting recruitment and retention of teachers at risk and forcing head teachers and governors to focus on negotiating pay instead of improving standards for students.

Teachers’ workloads are also increasing hugely:

Let me post a Guardian article to help explain the issues:

A friend of mine who is currently undertaking his PGCE, yesterday described our education system as akin to that of a buffet restaurant. For those of you who are unlucky enough to not have experienced this culinary delight, allow me to explain. The USP for these establishments is that they have taken the most popular cuisines of the world and brought them together for us to enjoy under one roof. Gove is doing for educational policy as they have with food. Buffet table policy making. I’m sorry Michael, but it isn’t working.

Gove has kept a low profile in the months since his ‘u-turn‘ on GCSE reform, but this week has seen the man arrive back on the political stage with a loud thud. This week alone has seen guidelines on performance related pay, the possibility of teaching assistants being reduced and the relaxation of the restrictions that govern clerical work for teachers. Not satisfied with this, yesterday Gove announced in his speech at a conference for The Spectator that teachers and students in Britain don’t work hard or long enough.

Let’s glance at some of the policies that Gove has been successful in implementing or wishes to implement should he be given carte blanche to do so;

• Charter schools – USA

• Free schools – Sweden

• Performance related pay – Asia

• Extended working hours and shortened holidays – Asia

Gove would have us believe that he has seen how successful these policies are in their respective countries, so why shouldn’t we use them here. What he is doing is taking a slice of a system in Asia and placing it on the table next to a nugget from Sweden. He’s placing Thai Green Curry next to Pickled Herring and hoping that it works. It doesn’t take Ken Baker or Ken Hom to understand that this simply won’t work.

Like a good meal, the sum of its parts come together in a blend of flavours and spices on the tongue. Each element of the dish compliments each other in a taste sensation. As we all know and understand, sometimes we need to stop adding ingredients or the dish gets ruined. Throwing things together and seeing how they work may be acceptable in your kitchen Mr Gove, but it isn’t when applying this experimentation to our classrooms.

What Gove seems to forget when he poaches (I’m bleeding this cooking analogy dry, I know) ideas from other systems is that they may be successful because they blend with another area of policy that he wishes to ignore. For instance, longer working hours and shorter holidays might be successful in Asia because teachers spend, on average, 10 to 15 hours a week in the classroom. In Britain, we teach 20 to 30 hours a week. This means that teachers in say South Korea have more time to plan lessons, prepare work, assess learning and tailor the curriculum around the individual needs of their students.

Furthermore, schools in South Korea allow teachers more time to do their jobs properly – and, presumably, employ enough of them to cover the hours that the students are in school adequately; the same cannot be said here. So if Gove wants to force us to work longer days he need only increase the schools budget so school leaders have more money to spend on employing more teachers.

If we look at the free school model brought over from Scandinavia, then he did the same thing. He found something he liked, that fitted his free-market ideology and borrowed the recipe. However, once again he let out key elements that made it work. What Gove won’t tell you and what he won’t borrow from Scandinavia are their policies of league tables and school inspectors. They don’t have league tables and they don’t have Ofsted. It would be nice if when Gove was selling the principles of free schools that he informed the electorate of the whole picture. Actually, he would do well to look at the whole picture himself. However, this would probably require him speaking to an expert and we all know his ambivalence towards them, unless they agree with him, of course.

Quite simply this type of buffet table policy-making doesn’t work. Gove needs to invest more of his time into looking into why these policies work in their countries of origin. However, his dogmatic approach to his brief won’t allow him the scope to do this. He is like the worst type of MasterChef contestant. He believes that because he can follow a successful recipe he has the skill to alter it and still make it work. He has little respect for the time and expertise it must have taken to reach that point.

Once again Gove has taken the opportunity to talk down our already overworked and stressed profession. More dangerously than that, he is talking down the hard work of our students at a time when coursework deadlines are dropping like anchors and exams are arriving at speed. Gove would do better to focus on making his current policies successful instead of putting another platter of policies on the table.

Mike Britland is head of ICT at a comprehensive school in Bournemouth. He tweets as @MikeHBritland.

So that’s why I am going on strike. Let’s reverse this downwards journey into educational oblivion.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Luke Breuer

    You realize this is all designed to create a two-tiered society, right? Give the masses shitty education and send the rich kids and really smart poor kids to private schools. It’s happening in the US, too.

    • Ha! We might just agree on something there…

      • Luke Breuer

        :-) Now, how do we fight this, effectively?

        • Void L. Walker

          Simple, give up our modern trappings and technological prisons in favor of a more hunter gatherer life style. Back to Africa!

          • Luke Breuer
          • Void L. Walker

            Who ever said we’d be happier, live longer, be healthier? I presented this option as a means of rectifying Jon’s dilemma Muahahahaha >:-D

            Edit: I suppose we WOULD be healthier, in certain ways.

          • Void L. Walker

            Join me in the plains of Chad, Luke! Bring your wife and a couple spears. We have hunting to do.

          • Luke Breuer

            Unfortunately, I’m too damned interested in the internet and all the wonderful discussions and discovery of even more structure of (a) the outside world; (b) people’s inner worlds, which can happen.

          • Void L. Walker

            Alas, I am too. Just cancelled my flight. It occurred to me that I do not have a visa, OR common sense. Oops!

          • Luke Breuer

            Oops! From where to where?

          • Void L. Walker

            I was kidding :-p

          • Luke Breuer

            Manic people have done crazier!

    • Void L. Walker

      Luke, I’m no longer able to post on The Thinkers blog. Why? I have no clue. I can enter text, but it does not appear to me; attempting to post text never seems to work. Let us relocate our discussion here.

      We have actually talked about this issue before, in many of our exchanges.

      You may remember, I posed the following question to you: How could God granting us the power of first causation make him exempt from culpability? He would have known the potential outcomes this would entail, both good and bad, but still He moved forward with his “choice” to grant us first causation akin to His own.

      You must surely see the problem with this. If we make the claim that God could NOT know ANY of the probable outcomes eventuated by granting us this kind of free will, his Omni nature would be significantly diminished, such that calling him an omni-being to begin with would be inherently flawed/problematic. If, on the other hand, we grant that God would be partially culpable, he is then no longer maximally loving. He would have known that, among the many probable outcomes of us possessing first causation, evil/suffering would be counted with them.

      How can this be solved?

      • Luke Breuer

        Here’s the post on TT’s blog.

        Void, I would like to discuss the ideas I brought up. In particular, is there a difference between simulating digital, sentient, sapient beings and them actually existing? I’m not so sure. Likewise, the difference between God imagining full flesh-and-blood humans and him creating them might not exist, either.

        You may remember that I posed the following question to you: How could God granting us the power of first causation make him exempt from culpability? He would have known the potential outcomes this would entail, both good and bad, but still He moved forward with his “choice” to grant us first causation akin to His own.

        Here’s part of what I drafted for the article but didn’t post:

        One way to think about God’s creation of the universe is to see him as ensuring that no matter what happens, certain invariants hold. For example, it seems that the universe can evolve in many ways, but mass-energy muss be conserved (on average), and entropy must increase across the entire system. Many options can happen within these constraints, but these constraints are Law.

        Suppose that God creates the world with moral invariants. God ensures that whenever evil is committed, it will eventually redeemed to greater good. Humans can choose whether to be part of this redemption or to not be part of it, but ultimately good will win out over evil, and it will have been worth it. I believe it makes perfect sense for God to create a world this way, where the creatures therein still have tremendous freedom. Indeed, any given creature can choose to be for or against God, and repeat the Law-based consequences of that.

        Do you see errors in the above reasoning?

        • Void L. Walker

          I see two primary problems, actually.

          Firstly, you are limiting God.

          “Many options can happen within these constraints, but these constraints are Law.”

          Why are they the law? Is this the ONLY conceivable law? Remember that an omni deity is capable of ANYTHING, and EVERYTHING. Why must you assume that this “law” cannot be superseded? Why could it have not been much different to begin with? The “law”, as it currently is, allows for suffering, natural evil, death. All of these are at odds with a maximally loving, omni God.

          Secondly, you’re still operating under the assumption that we are first cause agents.

          “tremendous freedom.”

          Really? How do you know that we are even a fraction as free as you presume us to be? What evidence do you even have to support this assertion? Much of your argumentation for your faith honestly seems dependent upon the existence of free will (you strike me as a dualist).

          I believe I understand where you’re coming from, but your argument just doesn’t seem very strong to me.

          • Luke Breuer

            Firstly, you are limiting God.

            Is it limiting God to say he can’t or at least wouldn’t create square circles? Do you think God ought to just violate the laws of logic to satisfy your imagination, which you judge to be ‘better’ than any alternatives?

            The “law”, as it currently is, allows for suffering, natural evil, death. All of these are at odds with a maximally loving, omni God.

            But this is a very point of contention among, for example, those who advocate a soul-making theodicy! Also, Christians disagree that death is forever. If anything, it is a reprieve from the crappiness that is a world of people who continually make sinful decisions when they could have made better ones.

            Secondly, you’re still operating under the assumption that we are first cause agents.

            Yep. I see no way to falsify this or the “no freedom” claim. Can you think of a way?

            Really? How do you know that we are even a fraction as free as you presume us to be? What evidence do you even have to support this assertion? Much of your argumentation for your faith honestly seems dependent upon the existence of free will (you strike me as a dualist).

            See above; I think one’s position on free will is necessarily philosophical, not evidential. As to dualism, I’m not so sure that the interaction problem allows dualism to not collapse into monism. Honestly, I don’t have enough productive ways to think about dualism, to further my understanding of the issue.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Is it limiting God to say he can’t or at least wouldn’t create square circles? Do you think God ought to just violate the laws of logic to satisfy your imagination, which you judge to be ‘better’ than any alternatives?”

            God is loving, no? We possess many of His traits, do we not? How, then, is it unfair for one of his “images” to find difficulty with the world as it is? Is there something “sinful” about desiring a world with no pain, suffering, death? If we mere mortals can conceive of a world without these atrocities, why could God not do the same? If he can conceive of it, then contrast it with the current state of existence, why did He not simply start out with heaven?

            Again, these “laws” of logic that you mention could have been fundamentally different to begin with. Why should God need to violate something that could have been better from the outset? No death, etc.

            “If anything, it is a reprieve from the crappiness that is a world of people who continually make sinful decisions when they could have made better ones.”

            It is hardly a reprieve for those condemned to eternal damnation, which Christians hold to equally.

            “See above; I think one’s position on free will is necessarily philosophical, not evidential.”

            This is false. Our wills are found in our brains; cognitive constructs. The human brain is subject to empirical knowledge seeking. Therefore, it is easily within reason to assert that we can test whether a person is “freely” choosing. Some tests have already started to do so and I believe that, as our understanding of the brain increases, so too will our understanding of the will.

          • Luke Breuer

            How, then, is it unfair for one of his “images” to find difficulty with the world as it is?

            The most important free choice that can be made is to choose God over self, or self over God. Without this freedom, why even call it freedom of choice? Would you want to be in a relationship with another person who was designed, from the ground up, to slavishly love you? I doubt it! You’d want that person to have chosen, freely, to hang out with you and develop a relationship with you. Or have I mismodeled you?

            Is there something “sinful” about desiring a world with no pain, suffering, death? If we mere mortals can conceive of a world without these atrocities, why could God not do the same?

            I don’t think it’s sinful, I just think our imaginations aren’t to be trusted when thinking about such things, unless we can substantiate it with e.g. via worldbuilding. I have run into too many human beings who trust their imaginations too much. Too often, ‘tweaks’ are required to the imagined concept that make it no longer palatable.

            Again, these “laws” of logic that you mention could have been fundamentally different to begin with.

            Not everyone agrees on this. I think I’m one of the people who disagrees.

            It is hardly a reprieve for those condemned to eternal damnation, which Christians hold to equally.

            Some Christians hold to Annihilationism. Many, including CS Lewis and myself, think that hell is locked from the inside. I think humans make hell. The only alternative to this is for God to restrict our freedom. Maybe you think this would be best; some do. Such people tend to support government forms which vastly restrict freedom. Those governments tend to be pretty bad in my opinion, but maybe someone can imagine God doing it in a way that wouldn’t suck. I still am tempted to think that what they really want is a cosmic Sky Daddy who will do the hard things so they don’t have to. But perhaps that’s mean. Perhaps the people most qualified to grow up and govern well are drinking and partying and playing in the halls of power instead of being public servants.

            Therefore, it is easily within reason to assert that we can test whether a person is “freely” choosing.

            Define “”freely” choosing”. I cannot conceive of how such a test would work. I’m aware of the Libet experiment; I don’t find it compelling in the slightest. I do not equate conscious decision making with the will; I think the will has many automatic, habitual processes which we can tune, but are generally unconscious and/or subconscious. See the little quotation of the Monk meditating:

            A monk meditates. Human agency, the ability to affect the surrounding world, may be a result not so simply of conscious choice – but instead a result of training unconscious habits beforehand.

            This makes perfect sense, and it has nothing to do with the will being free or not. It has to properly understanding what the will is. Anyone who has trained in anything will tell you that a lot of that training is developing automatic responses, so that your conscious part of the brain can focus on the stuff that actually needs conscious analysis.

            How on earth could an experiment verify the principle of alternate possibilities? If there is no answer to What would falsify compatibilism?, then I suspect there is something deeply wrong with the formulation of compatibilism.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Would you want to be in a relationship with another person who was designed, from the ground up, to slavishly love you?”

            Again, your only two options are God creating us with “free” will, which eventuates suffering and death, or God making us slaves. Why are you limiting God, Luke? Either or, as always.

            “Not everyone agrees on this. I think I’m one of the people who disagrees.”

            Why? Elaborate.

            “Some Christians hold to Annihilationism.”

            And many of them do not. “Eternal” generally means what is seems to mean. Even if the above claim was true, how the FUCK is this a good thing? Scenario. You’re in heaven, thinking about an old, dear friend. “God, where is Bill?” God calmly approaches, answering: “Bill is in Hell, Luke.”.

            Tell me, how would this make you feel? If heaven is devoid of pain, would you just shrug it off? Moreover, do you honestly think that being informed your friend was obliterated completely would somehow be cathartic to you? Good lord, man.

            “Define “”freely” choosing”. I cannot conceive of how such a test would work. I’m aware of the Libet experiment; I don’t find it compelling in the slightest.”

            Perhaps you should define “freely” choosing. But, for the sake of argument, I’ll repeat myself. Freely choosing (when I believed in free will) is the act of deliberating between several available options, without noticeable constraints; weighing the pros and cons between varied options and deciding among them.

            The Libet experiments are but one example of this kind of research. If you’d like, I can provide you with a link or two?

            My point is, we are beginning to understand the brains role in both consciousness and the will. To limit ourselves by asserting that only philosophy has a grasp on freedom of the will is untenable and limiting.

            Also, causal chains (I bet you’re tired of me mentioning these, but still). You still have not given me even one decent example of how we may violate them. I await a cogent response.

            “How on earth could an experiment verify the principle of alternate possibilities? If there is no answer to What would falsify compatibilism?, then I suspect there is something deeply wrong with the formulation of compatibilism.”

            dude, what is it with you and compatibilism? I never even mentioned that. You have a serious crush on CFW…

          • Luke Breuer

            Again, your only two options are God creating us with “free” will, which eventuates suffering and death, or God making us slaves. Why are you limiting God, Luke? Either or, as always.

            I have repeatedly talked about God being able to give us as little or as much free will as he desires; have I not talked about this with you? I thought I had, but perhaps not. I really need to start blogging about this stuff, and track which people I have referred to which statements of belief. :-|

            Why? Elaborate.

            This shows up most commonly in the omnipotence paradox; scroll down to “Types of omnipotence”.

            And many of them do not. “Eternal” generally means what is seems to mean. Even if the above claim was true, how the FUCK is this a good thing? Scenario. You’re in heaven, thinking about an old, dear friend. “God, where is Bill?” God calmly approaches, answering: “Bill is in Hell, Luke.”.

            Tell me, how would this make you feel? If heaven is devoid of pain, would you just shrug it off? Moreover, do you honestly think that being informed your friend was obliterated completely would somehow be cathartic to you? Good lord, man.

            This is an extremely complex issue and I have thought very little about it compared to what I would want to have thought, to talk about it confidently. Heaven is the logical conclusion of the Christian’s beliefs; “taking the limit” is a pretty hard operation. Most people refuse to “take the limit” of their own particular philosophy of life; this leads to e.g. people going into denial that public education in the UK and US is going down the shitter, and will create a two-tiered society.

            Ultimately, I don’t think my old friend Bill would have been growing in friendship with me, if he were growing ever more distant from God. If he is really in hell, I think it would be due to a long string of choices that led away from me and from God, if indeed I am getting closer to God (maybe I’m getting further away!). And ultimately, I would respect Bill’s choice. I believe God gives us all enough information so that when we choose, we choose ‘fairly’. Otherwise, in heaven we could see how God overrode this person’s will, that person’s will, and the other person’s will, so that he could have a bunch of humans who never wanted him, but who have been forced and coerced to want him. This just isn’t aesthetic, to me.

            I don’t know how I would feel. I don’t trust my feelings enough now, to imagine properly. I could try, via a very small example: how do I feel when someone rejects a piece of advice of mine that I have high confidence was good advice? (I try to give it rarely, although that is something I’m working on doing better.) There is some sadness, but I also know that I frequently rejected advice myself, sometimes for good reasons (like: I had other things to work on, first). Ultimately, I have to let each person make his/her own choices. This, I see as the ultimate way of showing other humans dignity.

            Freely choosing (when I believed in free will) is the act of deliberating between several available options, without noticeable constraints; weighing the pros and cons between varied options and deciding among them.

            This never happens, according to you? By the way, Lagrangian point is a very useful mathematical construct for “without noticeable constraints”; it is an ‘existence proof’ that such conditions really do exist! We send satellites through Lagrangian points all the time; see the Interplanetary Transport Network. If it could somehow be shown that human thought passes through mathematical Lagrangian points in the right way, would that constitute “freely choosing”, to you?

            The Libet experiments are but one example of this kind of research. If you’d like, I can provide you with a link or two?

            Yes, please.

            Also, causal chains (I bet you’re tired of me mentioning these, but still). You still have not given me even one decent example of how we may violate them. I await a cogent response.

            Please demonstrate that you understand what I have talked about when mentioning “Lagrangian point”. You seem to have completely ignored that concept so far, and it is very important for my “cogent response”.

            dude, what is it with you and compatibilism? I never even mentioned that. You have a serious crush on CFW…

            You may replace ‘CFW’ with whatever it is you believe about the will.

          • Void L. Walker

            “I have repeatedly talked about God being able to give us as little or as much free will as he desires; have I not talked about this with you? I thought I had, but perhaps not. I really need to start blogging about this stuff, and track which people I have referred to which statements of belief. :-|”

            It just so happens that he gave us the type of free will that eventuated suffering and death. You’ve talked about this with me, but it honestly seems empty at this point. An Omni deity incapable of creating freedom of the will with no adverse consequences? Really? what of heaven, then? Will we be free there? Or, as I’ve stated, will we be determined goodness robots? You must surely see the dilemma here.

            “This never happens, according to you?”

            Nope. I’ve already told you why I think it does not happen, too.

            “Yes, please.”

            Here’s another example, but I know you won’t be happy with it :-p

            http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/04/mind_decision This is really more an update of Libets experiment, I’m pressed for time. Later I can find more, so remind me :)

            “You may replace ‘CFW’ with whatever it is you believe about the will.”

            Considering my beliefs about the will are at odds with CFW, this would defeat your mischaracterization of me….so perhaps I should do this. Frankly, your insistence on CFW applying to ANYthing I’ve said is kinda irritating….

          • Luke Breuer

            Void, c’mon:

            LB: Please demonstrate that you understand what I have talked about when mentioning “Lagrangian point”. You seem to have completely ignored that concept so far, and it is very important for my “cogent response”.

            It just so happens that he gave us the type of free will that eventuated suffering and death. You’ve talked about this with me, but it honestly seems empty at this point. An Omni deity incapable of creating freedom of the will with no adverse consequences? Really? what of heaven, then? Will we be free there? Or, as I’ve stated, will we be determined goodness robots? You must surely see the dilemma here.

            Oh, I definitely see the dilemma. I just happen to think that not all dilemmas are avoidable; not all dilemmas can be gotten rid of by redefining terms and denying things. Imagine what would have happened if scientists had avoided the particle–wave duality of light by just defining the problem away before they discovered more about light? The results would have been terrible!

            In accepting freedom of the will in this reality, you do understand that I pick up a huge mantle of responsibility, right?

            Here’s another example, but I know you won’t be happy with it :-p

            http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/04/mind_decision

            I just don’t see it as demonstrating what you think it demonstrates. This is probably due to a difference in how we define the ‘will’, something which I got at in a recent response to you on a different thread, on a different blog post.

            Considering my beliefs about the will are at odds with CFW, this would defeat your mischaracterization of me….so perhaps I should do this. Frankly, your insistence on CFW applying to ANYthing I’ve said is kinda irritating….

            I’m sorry, what I mean to say is that I re-ask the question I asked in What would falsify compatibilism?, but via replacing ‘compatibilism’ → {Void L. Walker’s conception of the will}.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Void, c’mon”

            You really think there is a shred of credence to your hypothesis? I apologize if I seem to have ignored it, but from what I gather it really isn’t effective.

            In the example you gave, the human creators of the simulation in question would be as culpable as the beings they created; the human designers would be as aware as Yahweh of the potential negative outcomes.

            “Oh, I definitely see the dilemma.”

            Do you, really? I mean, has it resonated with you completely? You haven’t even answered what I asked you regarding heaven. Your thoughts? If you can be concise, please do. If not, I understand.

            It makes ZERO sense that God would allow free will in heaven, devoid of nasty repercussions, when he could have done JUST THAT in the beginning. Do you honestly not see a major issue here?

            “I just don’t see it as demonstrating what you think it demonstrates.”

            Fair enough, I didn’t think it would sway you.

            “I’m sorry, what I mean to say is that I re-ask the question I asked inWhat would falsify compatibilism?, but via replacing ‘compatibilism’ → {Void L. Walker’s conception of the will}.”

            Void L. Walker is a determinist, plain and simple.

          • Luke Breuer

            You really think there is a shred of credence to your hypothesis? I apologize if I seem to have ignored it, but from what I gather it really isn’t effective.

            Then I wish to cease this discussion. If you are going to simultaneously:

                 (1) ask me for a ‘how’, and
                 (2) reject my proposed ‘how’ without comment,

            then I give up.

          • Void L. Walker

            Wait! Don’t give up, dammit!

            Delve into your hypothesis again. I’ll dissect and respond.

            Sorry :-/

          • Luke Breuer

            Search this page for “Lagrangian point”.

          • Void L. Walker

            Disqus is being “that way” again. Now I can only see 7 comments on the page. Could you please just repost?

          • Luke Breuer

            Freely choosing (when I believed in free will) is the act of deliberating between several available options, without noticeable constraints; weighing the pros and cons between varied options and deciding among them.

            LB: This never happens, according to you? By the way, Lagrangian point is a very useful mathematical construct for “without noticeable constraints”; it is an ‘existence proof’ that such conditions really do exist! We send satellites through Lagrangian points all the time; see the Interplanetary Transport Network. If it could somehow be shown that human thought passes through mathematical Lagrangian points in the right way, would that constitute “freely choosing”, to you?

          • Void L. Walker

            Are you suggestion that thought exists outside of our minds? Could you elaborate more? I’m not calling you vague, either, I just want a bit more clarification :)

          • Luke Breuer

            No; I do not see thoughts existing outside of our minds as necessary. For example, the following works with thoughts being entirely within our minds:

                 (1) Beauty can be truth-seeking.
                 (2) Thoughts supervene on matter (physicalism).
                 (3) Thoughts can become more beautiful.
                 (4) There is an ontic force of beautification.

            Is this ontic force evolution? If so, that makes it suspiciously teleological. For, what better goal of a creator than to increase the amount of beauty in the world?

          • Void L. Walker

            “No; I do not see thoughts existing outside of our minds as necessary.”

            Then how could our thoughts possibly pass through Lagrangian points?

            “If so, that makes it suspiciously teleological.”

            The only “purpose” that evolution allows for is better, more efficient survival. What about evolution could really be teleological? Examine the fossil record, for instance. The countless forms that life has taken in the past really only reflect more optimal “designs” that facilitate more fluid, effective survival.

            The evolution of natures many weapons/defenses really show this; what use for fangs and claws, poisonous tails and the like accept for killing and/or defending from a potential killer?

          • Luke Breuer

            Then how could our thoughts possibly pass through Lagrangian points?

            Because Lagrangian points are physical configurations of particles and fields. Aren’t our thoughts constituted of particles and fields?

            As to the rest, do you think there is (4) an ontic force of beautification? Is my (1) → (4) reasoning valid? Is it sound? Let’s address those before the two sentences afterward.

          • Void L. Walker

            (1) Beauty can be truth-seeking.

            Lets unpack this claim, first.

            What kind of truth are you speaking of? How can an emotional reaction such as beauty allow us to reach the aforementioned truth?

          • Luke Breuer

            Did you click the link?

          • Void L. Walker

            My bad, I just checked it out.

            The article strikes me as very opinionated. I agree that a perception of beauty CAN lead to insights into the natural world, but this is not always the case for scientists.

            My oldest brother is very well acquainted with an evolutionary biologist. From what my bro has told me, chief among his friends motivations for becoming a scientist was curiosity. Now, you could argue that some curiosity is driven by a perception of beauty, but much of it hinges upon a desire to, as his friend said, “See what’s on the other side of the hill.” Curiosity is actually a very clever adaptation, as it drives organisms to get out and explore for the sake of procuring food/better shelter, potential mates, etc.

            My point is that a great many emotional drives can propel us towards “truth”. Another example, which you may find a bit odd, comes from my early twenties. One of my cousins was suspicious that her boyfriend was cheating on her, so she enlisted me to follow him at night (yes, I’ve gone on stalking missions…). As it turned out, he was sneaking away to rebuild my uncles old Ford, piece by piece, as a gift for her. They are now married, with their 4th child on the way. Essentially, her intense, burning jealousy was used as a means of truth seeking; finding her soul mate and life partner, in this case.

            So, you see, even something as nasty and volatile as jealousy can be used to truth seek.

            But, I have ranted. I do see your point, so lets move on to (2):

            “Thoughts supervene on matter (physicalism).”

            This time I read the link in advance. How, in your mind, does 1 relate to 2?

          • Luke Breuer

            The article strikes me as very opinionated. I agree that a perception of beauty CAN lead to insights into the natural world, but this is not always the case for scientists.

            Our judgment CAN be valid, but this is not always the case for people. :-p

            My point is that a great many emotional drives can propel us towards “truth”.

            Very true. Have you thoughts on “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? I should really have added our faculty of judging things to be more or less true: that seems to be a computation over the percepts our brain ‘shows’ our consciousness. But so is beauty, and perhaps so are emotions! So what I see here is a truckload of special-pleading. I’ll add some Descartes’ Error:

            When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (xii)

            A second idea in the book, then, is that the essence of a feeling may not be an elusive mental quality attached to an object, but rather the direct perception of a specific landscape: that of the body. (xviii)

            So it’s not at all clear that emotion is any worse than our judgment! It might be crucial to our long-term judgment! So I renew my claim of special-pleading.

            This time I read the link in advance. How, in your mind, does 1 relate to 2?

            They are both premises. (3) is a premise too, although hopefully a non-controversial one. (4) flows from the conjunction of (1) – (3).

          • Void L. Walker

            “Very true. Have you thoughts on “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses?”

            I honestly don’t consider emotions senses; senses are used to derive information about the world, whereas emotions can often convolute matters. Why do you consider emotions to be on the same level with our senses? You seem to more or less equate the two.

            “So it’s not at all clear that emotion is any worse than our judgment!”

            I disagree with this. In my experience, emotion can cripple judgement. This isn’t to say that is ALWAYS the case, but it appears to be more often than not.

            “They are both premises. (3) is a premise too, although hopefully a non-controversial one. (4) flows from the conjunction of (1) – (3). ”

            Going from 4, what IS this force, specifically?

          • Luke Breuer

            I honestly don’t consider emotions senses; senses are used to derive information about the world, whereas emotions can often convolute matters. Why do you consider emotions to be on the same level with our senses? You seem to more or less equate the two.

            Did you just not read the bits I quoted from Descartes’ Error? Here they are, again:

            When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (xii)

            A second idea in the book, then, is that the essence of a feeling may not be an elusive mental quality attached to an object, but rather the direct perception of a specific landscape: that of the body. (xviii)

            See also the somatic marker hypothesis. Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes’ Error:

            is a University Professor and David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California (where he also heads the Brain and Creativity Institute), an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute,[1] and the author of several books describing his scientific thinking. “As a leading neuroscientist, Damásio has dared to speculate on neurobiological data, and has offered a theory about the relationship between human emotions, human rationality, and the underlying biology.”

            So once again, I lodge the charge of special-pleading.

            In my experience, emotion can cripple judgement.

            Antonio Damasio discovered that when patients have lesions on the parts of their brains that give them access to their emotions, three things happen: (i) they can reason analytically just fine; (ii) they cannot make good life decisions; (iii) they can no longer access those emotions. In other words, emotion may truly be critical for reasoning well, as the (xii) quotation indicated. Void, please say when you don’t understand or think relevant things that I say/quote, instead of just ignoring them?

            Going from 4, what IS this force, specifically?

            That is the question. There seems to be a beautifying force. That seems odd. Evolution doesn’t beautify, except as a byproduct, right?

          • Void L. Walker

            “Did you just not read the bits I quoted from Descartes’ Error?”

            I read them, twice. My conclusions remain; we disagree, but what’s wrong with that?

            “That is the question. There seems to be a beautifying force. That seems odd. Evolution doesn’t beautify, except as a byproduct, right?”

            Therefore, God?

            The only “Goal” (and I would be hard pressed to call it that, actually) that evolution has “in mind” is modification. Nature is a relentless gauntlet of cluster fuck; life happens to be caught in the middle of it.

            Luke, ultimately, where are we going with this?

          • Luke Breuer

            I read them, twice. My conclusions remain; we disagree, but what’s wrong with that?

            I’d like to know why they don’t convince you. Antonio Damasio’s results are scientific, not psychological or philosophical. Whence comes your idea of what the emotions are? It seems like a very strong idea, resistant to updating.

            Therefore, God?

            Maybe, maybe not. I’ve just been thinking about beauty a lot, and found (1) – (3) ⇒ (4) to be fascinating. What is the nature of this beautifying force? Is it a part of evolution? If so, how does it work? Why work toward beauty? It’s almost as if the universe is devoted to self-understanding, which is very much not part of any theory of evolution I know about.

            Luke, ultimately, where are we going with this?

            I don’t know. I just find this stuff interesting. I find it fascinating that the emotions may be critical in reasoning, especially long-term reasoning of the type required to live life well. Furthermore, this would give insight into how one might alter one’s will, or if the will is simply “the desire for more goodness, less badness”, then this would give insight into how to direct that desire toward making the world a better place and enjoying the process, even if it contains pain and suffering. If you’d rather know where this is going (which one cannot, with evolution!), we should let this tangent die.

          • Void L. Walker

            “I’d like to know why they don’t convince you. ”

            I never said I was completely unconvinced by them, but rather that emotions are not on equal footing with reason/logic. This conclusion was reached by a careful examination of MY emotions, their impact upon my powers of reasoning and the ways in which they compliment/degrade eachother.

            “Maybe, maybe not”

            Which is it, damn you?! Kidding :-p

            “I don’t know.”

            Okay, good. I was worried for a moment. It seemed like we had fallen into a supermassive black hole of confusion…

            Perhaps we should allow this tangent a peaceful, dignified death.

            We can then move on to something else, yes?

            Pick a topic, any topic.

          • Luke Breuer

            emotions are not on equal footing with reason/logic.

            How do you know this? Again:

            When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (xii)

            How do you defend your “not on equal footing” comment? What science or model are you working off of? I remind you of The Unreliability of Naive Introspection.

            Which is it, damn you?! Kidding :-p

            I don’t know. I don’t have everything figured out already, Void! Part of the reason to talk online is to discover new things with fun people. :-D

            Pick a topic, any topic.

            I’m actually really interested in the beauty/emotions thing. The more I look into this, the more I find that special-pleading is the only answer to “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? The consequences are profound: what if, just like the sense of beauty can be tuned, so can the emotions? What would be the result? Many people downplay the inner life, or say that it’s a 100% personal experience, despite the fact that we talk about our inner lives with therapists and friends all the time.

            We know that the mind can be incredibly disordered. You have much more personal experience with this than I. But how ordered can the mind become? I find that an utterly fascinating question; how about you?

          • Void L. Walker

            “How do you know this? ”

            Honestly, my views are subject to change on the matter. Doing more research as we type. Perhaps my mind will change?

            “I don’t know. I don’t have everything figured out already, Void! Part of the reason to talk online is to discover new things with fun people. :-D”

            Who could be more fun than a guy nicknamed Void who posts Spooky Scary Skeletons for NO REASON?!

            “We know that the mind can be incredibly disordered. You have much more personal experience with this than I. But how ordered can the mind become? I find that an utterly fascinating question; how about you?”

            Unfortunately, I do indeed have a lot of experience in this regard.

            So, last night I went over to see my Grandfather. His dementia has progressed to an extreme stage. Here is a sampling of our conversation:

            G (grandpa) V (Void)

            V: “Hey, grandpa. How are you tonight?”

            G: “Hey…randy? What’s the new job like?” (Randy is his eldest son, and I have been working at the same job for some time now)

            V: “Uh…it’s me, (censored for Disqus). Are you doing alright?”

            G: “Hows that new cook job…meet any hot chicks?” (I’ve been in a 4 year relationship that he used to know about, and once again, where the hell did ‘cook job’ come from?)

            He repeated himself about 10 times within 30 minutes (sigh). We used to be best friends. It’s really hard seeing this shit happen.

            As for your question, I do not know how ordered the mind can become. I’ve known very brilliant people who’s minds were an incoherent mess. Conversely, I have known people who weren’t that bright, but had their mental shit together. Your thoughts?

          • Luke Breuer

            Honestly, my views are subject to change on the matter. Doing more research as we type. Perhaps my mind will change?

            That’s good, but you didn’t actually answer my question: “How do you know this?” Surely you have reasons for your current set of beliefs on the matter of “what emotions are”? Could you enumerate them? Would you enumerate them?

            So, last night I went over to see my Grandfather. His dementia has progressed to an extreme stage. Here is a sampling of our conversation:

            :-( All I can say is that I hope we figure out enough science to fix/prevent this shit ASAP. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be that high of a priority. By the way, something I’ve been wondering for a while: why aren’t older people respected for their wisdom more? It’s almost as if we just shove them off, out of the way, so that we can get on with our lives, instead of having them play a critical role in society. One thing I do know is that the less the mind is used, the more likely it is to atrophy. When people don’t feel valued, they have less reason to live, and live well. I don’t think this is the only thing that can be done to prevent aged mental degradation, but I do think it is an important factor.

            As for your question, I do not know how ordered the mind can become. I’ve known very brilliant people who’s minds were an incoherent mess. Conversely, I have known people who weren’t that bright, but had their mental shit together. Your thoughts?

            Well, I probably have cyclothymia, and I’ve done the opposite of kindling: I’ve learned to discipline my mind more and more, making hypomanic episodes more and more productive with less and less associated badness. The common trend with Bipolar spectrum disorders is for them to get worse and worse. It reminds me of “lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” from Rom 6:15-23, in contrast to:

            Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

            How could we help more people “exercise self-control in all things”? One thing I know for sure: it has to seem worth it, and it has to be a sufficiently tractable problem. These, I think, are avenues worth pursuing. But, as I’ve said before, this is an area of very active research for me; I don’t know that much about it.

          • Void L. Walker

            “That’s good, but you didn’t actually answer my question: “How do you know this?”

            As I said, from personal experience. That’s really all that I can offer you. I do realize, however, that I may not be the best test subject. I really haven’t delved into this subject that much, but I’m beginning to see your points, and the research does seem pretty strong.

            “:-( All I can say is that I hope we figure out enough science to fix/prevent this shit ASAP.”

            As do I. As you said, though, this is not really on the priority list. Why? Because most people who suffer from dementia are old. “Why waste our funding researching something that afflicts mostly elderly people?” Fucked up, isn’t it?

            I have always gathered as much wisdom as possible from elders. They have gone through life, experiencing countless highs and lows. The lessons we can learn from them are absolutely priceless, IMO.

            “How could we help more people “exercise self-control in all things”?

            I don’t know much about it either. I’m a man of many vices, so asking me this question probably won’t net a worthy answer :-p

          • Luke Breuer

            As I said, from personal experience. That’s really all that I can offer you. I do realize, however, that I may not be the best test subject. I really haven’t delved into this subject that much, but I’m beginning to see your points, and the research does seem pretty strong.

            Wait a second, earlier you seemed offended when I said I was trying to get you to think rigorously about cognition. Perhaps you didn’t understand that when I said “think rigorously”, I meant employ both personal experience and the best science has to offer on the matter? Now, don’t think I’m faulting you for much of anything; I think the West knows next to nothing about emotions. From what I can tell, the West is really dumb when it comes to emotions. Its strongest ability is to manipulate them, through advertising. Our best search engine exists because of this! Very sad, in my opinion. But it’s also a reason to not help people bring their brains into order: should they do this, advertising revenues and impulse buys and all that stuff could drop sharply. Not good for business!

            Fucked up, isn’t it?

            Certainly. But I do want to place some blame on the mentally healthy elderly. They could make themselves more relevant. They could fight the culture, seek out young people to disciple, etc. Most though, don’t. It is very sad. As usual, there is blame to go all around. That being said, the most wise really ought to bear a disproportionate amount of the burden to push for fixing things. This ought to be the precise strength of the older, wiser people, who can’t work in factories or even work full eight-hour days. It’s like they’ve abdicated their responsibility in society! The seeming single exception is our government, full of people without backbones, without character.

            I don’t know much about it either. I’m a man of many vices, so asking me this question probably won’t net a worthy answer :-p

            Do you like all your vices? One thing I’ve discovered is that you can’t just “not do” a vice; you’ve gotta replace it with something better. Something that better serves your good, core desires.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Wait a second, earlier you seemed offended when I said I was trying to get you to think rigorously about cognition. ”

            That is because I, like other humans, enjoy the sensation of being right. Upon close examination of your link and the subject in general, I am beginning to realize that I was wrong. :-)

            “Certainly. But I do want to place some blame on the mentally healthy elderly.”

            I agree.

            “Do you like all your vices?”

            Certainly not. Among them has been the bottle…which, thankfully, I’ve been able to give up. My replacement? Haven’t found one yet!

          • Luke Breuer

            That is because I, like other humans, enjoy the sensation of being right. Upon close examination of your link and the subject in general, I am beginning to realize that I was wrong. :-)

            I’ve suffered so much due to false beliefs in myself and others, that I’ve done the best I can to give up the desire to be right, and replace it with a desire to match my beliefs with reality. It’s a kind of humble surrender that I hope to be able to better describe at some point. “I don’t give a flying fuck about my conception of reality if it is wrong, but do please take the effort to show how it is wrong and not just assert so.” How’s that? :-p It comes directly from Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5.

            Certainly not. Among them has been the bottle…which, thankfully, I’ve been able to give up. My replacement? Haven’t found one yet!

            How about with learning more about reality, even when it conflicts with preciously held beliefs? I love to read books, but they get boring quickly without someone else who is interested in the same thing. This is one reason I spend so much time commenting on blogs. It’s boring trying to understand reality all by oneself—at least for my personality type.

            I used to spend tons and tons of time playing video games, but when it’s “easy enough” to do better things, like gain understanding about objective reality and objective morality, I prefer that. I’ll return to video games and TV shows if things become too difficult, though. I’ve even learned to “watch myself” when I do dive into addictive activities, to analyze myself even while I’m doing them, and figure out what it is that’s wrong and some strategies for fixing it and getting myself back to trying to make the world a better place—for now, primarily via understanding how it actually works.

          • Void L. Walker

            “I’ve suffered so much due to false beliefs in myself and others, that I’ve done the best I can to give up the desire to be right, and replace it with a desire to match my beliefs with reality”

            Indeed, cognitive biases can hinder/cripple our ability to discern what is valid from what is patently false. I actually enjoy when someone changes my mind on something. Well, not always. My previous belief in free will meeting it’s demise was hardly a pleasant experience.

            “How about with learning more about reality, even when it conflicts with preciously held beliefs?”

            I do this, daily. Coming to a better, more lucid understanding of reality has been near the top of my life’s priority list for many a year now. We are always wrong about something. “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing” seems fitting here.

            “I used to spend tons and tons of time playing video games”

            In my extensive experiences with video games, I have found that they CAN teach us valuable lessons. Take Fallout 3, for example. The morality system in that game was very effective. The more evil you did, the more that NPC’s would scorn and avoid you; the more good that you did saw an increase in how many rewards/benefits you would gain. But also, you just felt GOOD about it. You really ought to check that one out. There is a moral decision in it that involves the destruction of an entire town. You actually gain more from destroying it, in this case, but you feel like SHIT after.

          • Luke Breuer

            My previous belief in free will meeting it’s demise was hardly a pleasant experience.

            One of my interpretations of “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” is that we ought not be dissuaded merely because the experience will be unpleasant. Indeed, avoiding unpleasant things is a kind of slavery.

            There is a moral decision in it that involves the destruction of an entire town. You actually gain more from destroying it, in this case, but you feel like SHIT after.

            Interesting. I think I’ll steer clear of Fallout 3 for now, though: I get sucked into computer games and get addicted really easily.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Interesting. I think I’ll steer clear of Fallout 3 for now, though: I get sucked into computer games and get addicted really easily.”

            Wise decision. I lost 80 hours of my life to that one. It’s basically elder scrolls with guns, set in a post nuclear war Washington D.C. Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.

            “One of my interpretations of “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” is that we ought not be dissuaded merely because the experience will be unpleasant. Indeed, avoiding unpleasant things is a kind of slavery.”

            Yes, indeed. Sometimes the truth hurts.

          • Luke Breuer

            A lot of people prefer comfort to the truth. :-(

          • Void L. Walker

            Ain’t that the truth? I suppose it’s only natural, though. How good at surviving would we be if depression were the only option?

          • Luke Breuer

            I don’t think depression is the only truth-grounded option.

          • Void L. Walker

            What do you mean, specifically?

          • Luke Breuer

            I thought I was responding to:

            How good at surviving would we be if depression were the only option?

            It appears that I didn’t understand what you meant; would you elaborate?

          • Void L. Walker

            Of course. What I meant was, in a nutshell, we would be LOUSY at surviving if it weren’t for denial/cognitive biases. Their presence often grants a defense from “harmful” truths. Depression, as you know, generally strikes down any interest in engaging in activities. Lethargy is not conducive to survival!

          • Luke Breuer

            So if we were to accept all “”harmful” truths”, we would get depressed? I’m still not quite sure what you’re saying, here.

          • Luke Breuer

            That is because I, like other humans, enjoy the sensation of being right. Upon close examination of your link and the subject in general, I am beginning to realize that I was wrong. :-)

            I decided to transcribe a good chunk of the intro to Descartes’ Error:

                Although I cannot tell for certain what sparked my interest in the neural underpinnings of reason, I do know when I became convinced that the traditional views on the nature of rationality could not be correct. I had been advised early in life that sound decisions came from a cool head, that emotions and reason did not mix any more than oil and water. I had grown up accustomed to thinking that the mechanisms of reason existed in a separate province of the mind, where emotion should not be allowed to intrude, and when I thought of the brain behind that mind, I envisioned separate neural systems for reason and emotion. This was a widely held view of the relation between reason and emotion, in mental and neural terms.
                But now I had before my eyes the coolest, least emotional, intelligent human being one might imagine, and yet his practical reason was so impaired that it produced, int eh wanderings of daily life, a succession of mistakes, a perpetual violation of what would be considered socially appropriate and personally advantageous. He had had an entirely healthy mind until a neurological disease ravaged a specific sector of his brain and, from one day to the next, caused this profound defect in decision making. The instruments usually considered necessary and sufficient for rational behavior were intact in him. He had the requisite knowledge, attention, and memory; his language was flawless; he could perform calculations; he could tackle the logic of an abstract problem. There was only one significant accompaniment to his decision-making failure: a marked alteration of the ability to experience feelings. Flawed reason and impaired feelings stood out together as the consequences of a specific brain lesion, and this correlation suggested to me that feeling was an integral component of the machinery of reason. Two decades of clinical and experimental work with a large number of neurological patients have allowed me to replicate this observation many times, and to turn a clue into a testable hypothesis.
                I began writing this book to propose that reason may not be as pure as most of us think it is or wish it were, that emotions and feelings may not be intruders in the bastion of reason at all: they may be enmeshed in its networks, for worse and for better. The strategies of human reason probably did not develop, in either evolution or any single individual, without the guiding force of the mechanisms of biological regulation, of which emotion and feeling are notable expressions. Moreover, even after reasoning strategies become established in the formative years, their effective deployment probably depends, to a considerable extent, on a continued ability to experience feelings. (xv-xvi)

          • Void L. Walker

            Fascinating. I’ve been doing a lot of research on emotions these past few days, and have decided to retract my previous claim that emotions are detrimental to reason; that they are hardly complimentary, as I’d claimed, now seems quite false.

            Actually, curiosity is an emotion that has taken us to the moon, revealed the process by which life has arisen, unlocked the mysteries of the human genome, etc. I think, now, that a marriage of both emotion and reason is mandatory for truth seeking of any variety.

            Thank you for changing my mind :-)

          • Luke Breuer

            My pleasure!

            It may help to note that I grew up despising all emotions other than curiosity/excitement. It has been a hard road to learning to tune them and trust them. I used to think that the ideal human was the perfectly logical human. The funny thing is, when I tried to understand other people’s actions through this filter, I had a terrible time understanding them! A breakthrough happened when a psychologist suggested to me the following activity:

            1. Think of a person with whom you’d like to have a conversation.
            2. Write down your opening sentence.
            3. Immediately write down how you think the other person would respond—do not filter.
            4. Write down your response.
            5. Iterate.

            The result was mind-blowing: with this technique, I could understand people a lot better than I ever had before! It was like I’d been digging with a shovel all my life, and was just given an enormous excavator with which I could dig all future holes.

            An ironic thing is that John Calvin asserted the doctrine of Total Depravity to argue that not just our passions, but our intellect as well, fell when Adam and Eve fell. The RCC held that the intellect was more trustworthy than the passions. Somehow, Calvin’s worst contributions to Christianity have been propagated, while his best contributions have largely been ignored. Very twisted.

          • Void L. Walker

            I, too, grew up loathing emotion in general. Romantic love, especially. My lovely lady changed that, of course :-)

            I think it’s crucial to marry positive emotions with one’s thinking; the opposite, of course, leads to chaos. Anger, jealousy, hatred- all of these must be adequately filtered. This is, of course, much easier said than done!

            I really have enjoyed our many exchanges, it’s always fun when someone changes my mind for the better.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think all the emotions need to be tuned appropriately. People can gleefully ignore the needs of others by feeding the good emotions too much.

            One thing I worry about in my own comments is that sometimes I’ve thought through an issue so much and thus settled on a tentative position, that it seems like I’m stubbornly resisting all modifications to my beliefs, when it really is the case that I’ve just thought about it a lot, and it takes a lot of back-and-forth to tease out my full thinking on the matter, such that my interlocutor can finally find something I haven’t thought about. Perhaps the only real solution to this is to start a blog. Alas, I avoid doing so, perhaps irrationally…

            P.S. Yay for ladies. :-D

          • Void L. Walker

            Do it, I’d visit your blog. Hopefully not drunk….you already have experience with Drunk Void ™ :-p

          • Void L. Walker

            “P.S. Yay for ladies. :-D”

            I second that!

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, let us discuss quantum physics. Yes? I haven’t ever had a partner in discussion for that subject.

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, I know bits and pieces about it. I have Bernard d’Espagnat’s On Physics and Philosophy, although I haven’t read much of it yet. On my short-list is understanding why it is that some quantum operators anti-commute, and how this might be represented intuitively within noncommutative geometries. I also find the Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester fascinating, especially as it relates to counterfactual definiteness. What are your interests on this topic?

          • Void L. Walker

            My interests are in the apparent “randomness” that we see at the quantum level. I wonder: is it truly random, or is there some predictability we have yet to discern?

          • Luke Breuer

            Oooh, I’m very interested in that one, too. You might like Why is information indestructable? and especially this answer. See also Is there a symmetry associated to the conservation of information? I’ve started to wonder though: are we in a block universe (Jonathan posted an article by someone else about this), a growing block universe, or something else?

            If we’re in a block universe, then information seems to be conserved. So far, we know of no way that information can be destroyed (see the quantum no-deleting theorem). Can information increase? We have the no-cloning theorem, but that’s just cloning. If we’re in a growing block universe, that seems to imply that the amount of information is increasing. Or does it? Pure randomness has no informational content (it cannot be compressed).

            Another way to think of pure randomness is that it is impenetrable: there are no further patterns to discover. You get at that in your comment. Impenetrability is sad in the sense that it means there’s no more science to be done in the ‘downward’ direction. On the other hand, high-quality randomness is important to the proper operation of probabilistic algorithms. One way that a programmer of a computer simulation could screw with digital lifeforms therein is to have subtle violations of randomness. Whether they would even know that they’re being screwed with is unclear.

            Ok, back to you. :-)

          • Void L. Walker

            That’s hard to follow up :-p Nice links, by the way :-)

            In my opinion, we really need more advanced methods of detection. Our technology grows daily it seems, so I honestly believe that within 10-20 years we will have (hopefully) solved the problem. Maybe not, though….who knows! Science is groovy man.

            I can imagine discovering an underlying level of order in the quantum realm. As it is, we appear to be very ignorant on the matter. The last book I read on the subject seemed to draw far too many conclusions, and it’s authors seemed WAY more certain of the alleged random nature of quantum mechanics than they should have been. I suppose we have to wait and see….which SUCKS, by the way. I’m not getting any younger :-/

          • Luke Breuer

            One thing to realize is that there is no way to prove that a given set of data are 100% random. That is, and will always remain, a statement of ignorance. Consider: maybe we’ll find out, at a later time, that a rather simply definable pseudorandom number generator can generate a given set of allegedly 100% random bits. Well, if there are fewer possible PRNGs than the entropy of the bits, then there is a more compact representation of them and they aren’t 100% random. But until you can find that PRNG, you don’t know whether it exists.

            As to further order, I suggest looking at quantum nonlocality. Reductionist tendencies have made us think that a local hidden variable theory tells us what is purely random and what is not. You might also look at quantum discord; I just found out about that today, via Are general quantum correlations monogamous?! The WP article isn’t very good yet. Heh, there exists quantumdiscord.org: “News and Views about the measure of the Quantumness of Correlations”. I wonder if quantum discord will be useful in topological quantum computers. The Scientific American article Computing with Quantum Knots is a neat introduction to these beasts.

          • Void L. Walker

            Thanks for the all you can read link buffet :-) Should keep me busy for a bit. I’ll reply later for further discussion.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sweet! I’d love to have someone with whom to discuss this stuff.

          • Void L. Walker
          • Luke Breuer

            It’s not quantum (which dilutes this thread), and I don’t see what there is to say, here, other than that it is a tragedy and I hope we develop better technology and, if these people built their houses where they oughtn’t have (this article indicates they had warnings of landslide issues), greater awareness and caring about such things.

          • Void L. Walker

            Yes, it was not quantum related (that’s why I said “random” article).

            Back to our previous discussion, you may enjoy this lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h1E3YJMKfA I watched it last night. Kinda slow, but informative :)

          • Void L. Walker

            “Our judgment CAN be valid, but this is not always the case for people. :-p”

            Are you insinuating that my assessment of the article you linked me to is at fault?

          • Luke Breuer

            No, I’m trying to get you think rigorously about cognition.

          • Void L. Walker

            As if I’m not doing that already?

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, you seemed to be ignoring the stuff I was quoting which is quite relevant to cognition. :-(

          • Void L. Walker

            Sorry I came off like that. I never ignore your materiel.

            We are really bad at communicating :-p I think that both of us have a lot in common. We were both isolated, suicidal, and not the best at socialization.

            We both have difficulty communicating our thoughts effectively. I wonder how we may better ourselves in this regard?

          • Void L. Walker

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSdSemAMzdY Now, be a good chap and allow the skeletons to consume you.

          • Luke Breuer

            You are odd. :-p

          • Void L. Walker

            Haha, that is the usual response I get when I whip out the skeleton card….

          • Andy_Schueler

            If it could somehow be shown that human thought passes through mathematical Lagrangian points in the right way, would that constitute “freely choosing”, to you?

            If you have to choose A or B, and you removed all external constraints that “pull” your will towards choosing either A or B, then your will could indeed choose between A and B without any external constraints influencing the choice.
            So lets say your will selects A, and ask: why didn´t it select B? Obviously because that´s not what you willed, you willed A and not B. It could only have been different if you had willed something different. So in order to choose B, you would have to will something that you do not will – which you could rephrase as “you have to do x while not doing x” – libertarian freedom in choosing things only sounds like a meaningful concept if you don´t think it through, if you do think about it, it always boils down to this:
            Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

          • Luke Breuer

            Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

            What logically possible thing does this deny?

          • Andy_Schueler

            None.

          • Luke Breuer

            Then it is meaningless.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Why?

          • Luke Breuer

            You taught me that lesson. If a statement doesn’t deny anything, it doesn’t assert anything. Or were there additional requirements for something to be ‘meaningless’? You were saying that if theological statements don’t deny anything, they’re meaningless. How is this situation different?

          • Andy_Schueler

            How is this situation different?

            You didn´t ask “what does this deny” you asked “What logically possible thing does this deny?” – willing something you do not will is not logically possible.

          • Luke Breuer

            Let me try and rephrase this in my own words. Statements which attempt to construct a logical concept, and say this construction fails, can be meaningful. Constructability is pretty big in some areas of math, as well as in getting investment for startups. :-)

          • Void L. Walker

            It is odd for me, reflecting back upon my prior belief in DFW. I was passionate about it, much as my religion. Losing a belief in free will resonated with me even more than the loss of my faith, though.

            Were you ever religious, Andy?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Were you ever religious, Andy?

            I was baptized and nominally a member of a christian church for roughly 25 years (we have this odd concept here in germany where you officially join a church right after being baptized), but to me, christianity was always just a part of our culture and traditions and I was never religious (that´s a very common attitude here in central europe, most of the “christians” around here are just nominally christians but don´t actually believe in christianity, including my parents – the only reason they had for having me baptized was “well, it´s tradition” ;-) ).

            Losing a belief in free will resonated with me even more than the loss of my faith, though.

            I can sympathize with that – I never really though about free will for most of my life, I just assumed we had free will and was genuinely shocked when I first realized that libertarian freedom is an impossible concept.

          • Void L. Walker

            Fascinating :)

            I was raised as an evangelical fundamentalist, YEC, science denier, anti-choice, homophobic, GOD fearing Christian. I was a VERY religious person and sincerely believed that I had a personal relationship with Jesus. I mean, I TALKED to him regularly. Yeah.

            Imagine my shock (and utter agony) when I first began exposing myself to the scientific literature. Suddenly my entire perception of reality collapsed upon itself. Years worth of studying and discussing the bible, God, free will and the like eventually culminated in the person that I am now.

            As an aside, why (in your opinion) do so many Christians vehemently defend free will? Would you say that they cannot conceive of their God without it?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Imagine my shock (and utter agony) when I first began exposing myself to the scientific literature.

            It´s very hard to imagine for me, I know what it´s like to give up beliefs that were important to you, that you wanted to be true, but only for particular beliefs (like free will for example). Leaving behind not only a particular belief but rather an entire system of beliefs that affects pretty much all aspects of life is a very different scope – I cannot imagine what it is like but I have no problems believing that it is an agonizing experience. Glad you came out well ;-)

            As an aside, why (in your opinion) do so many Christians vehemently defend free will? Would you say that they cannot conceive of their God without it?

            Good question… Free will doesn´t seem to be strictly necessary for there to be a benevolent and personal god. But I guess that an absence of free will would be a defeater for most fundamentalist christianities because they depend on you being able to freely choose to believe that Jesus died for your sins. For non-fundamentalist christianities, an absence of free will wouldn´t be a defeater, but I think that many (not only christians) intuitively assume that moral accountability becomes a meaningless concept without free will (actual libertarian free will, not some compatibilist version) and reconciling christianity with humans not being morally accountable for their actions does seem to be impossible. If a christian would understand that moral accountability does not depend on libertarian freedom, (s)he might be able to reconcile their concept of God with an absence of free will…

          • Void L. Walker

            Good point. I have noticed that many “progressive” theists (now there’s a contradiction for you) seem to hold onto free will more tightly. A certain commenter comes to mind.

            It seems when one abandons fundamentalism, just about ANYTHING goes; shirking off the apparent restrictions that fundamentalism eventuates opens many, many more doors. But that is not a good thing :-p

          • Luke Breuer

            Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

            Does man will anything other than ‘more’ goodness and ‘less’ badness? I’m trying to get a handle on how specific or general “what he wills” is. For example, people can think they want one thing, but be shown that they actually want another. Theologically, we say that all core desires are good, but they’re often satisfied in bad ways. I can desire lots of candy but choose to eat it in moderation. Thus, I can rightly satisfy that desire.

            I’m looking at The World as Will and Representation, and I’m having a bit of difficulty reconciling the bit you quoted with:

            By asceticism, the ultimate denial of the will, one can slowly weaken the individual will in a way that is far more significant than violent suicide, which is, in fact, in some sense an affirmation of the will.

            According to Schopenhauer, denial of the will to live is the way to salvation from suffering.

            Isn’t Schopenhauer trying to change what he wills—so that he wills less strongly? I’m a bit confused. How can you will to not will? But perhaps I am missing out some fundamental Buddhist truth, here.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Does man will anything other than ‘more’ goodness and ‘less’ badness?

            “Goodness” and “badness” are moral categories and plenty of the stuff you will is neither good nor bad, it is completely nonmoral – you are not doing something morally good or bad when you breathe for example.

            Theologically, we say that all core desires are good, but they’re often satisfied in bad ways.

            That would be simply wrong. If you felt a very strong desire to be slaughtered (literally), cooked and eaten by another man, desiring it more than anything else so that you are actually willing to do it and thus die to satisfy this desire – then this couldn´t really be called a “good desire that is satisfied in a bad way”, it would be a bad desire, a very bad one (and that´s not a hypothetical – stuff like this actually happens).
            Or take the desire to have sex with prepubescent children, or the desire to torture people.

            Isn’t Schopenhauer trying to change what he wills—so that he wills less strongly? I’m a bit confused. How can you will to not will? But perhaps I am missing out some fundamental Buddhist truth, here.

            Imagine that you train to be better at delaying gratification. Now imagine taking this to extreme levels, reducing the strength of your desires to the lowest possible level. That indeed is very similar to the four noble truths of buddhism (german philosophers at that time were fascinated with eastern religion and philosophy).

          • Luke Breuer

            “Goodness” and “badness” are moral categories and plenty of the stuff you will is neither good nor bad, it is completely nonmoral – you are not doing something morally good or bad when you breathe for example.

            Man doesn’t so much will to breath as he autonomically breathes, though. How many nonmoral things do you really think of yourself as willing?

            If you felt a very strong desire to be slaughtered (literally), cooked and eaten by another man, desiring it more than anything else so that you are actually willing to do it and thus die to satisfy this desire – then this couldn´t really be called a “good desire that is satisfied in a bad way”, it would be a bad desire, a very bad one

            Very bad from what basis? Why must one’s choice of euthanasia be limited? Clearly I think this is “very bad morally wrong”, but that’s because I have a word-salad belief system. You, on the other hand, have a well-thought out, rigorously coherent belief system. So I’m asking you to judge this from your belief system, not mine.

            Or take the desire to have sex with prepubescent children, or the desire to torture people.

            Theologically, these two desires would be called wrong satisfactions of deeper, good desires. The Christian would say, “You think you want to torture people, but this other thing could give you even more satisfaction, and it wouldn’t involve inflicting pain and suffering on other human beings.”

            Imagine that you train to be better at delaying gratification. Now imagine taking this to extreme levels, reducing the strength of your desires to the lowest possible level.

            What is the thing that will eventually be gotten, though? Does it even exist this side of death? I’m sensing some “religion is the opium of the masses” here.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Very bad from what basis? Why must one’s choice of euthanasia be limited?

            For the exact same reason for why you couldn´t even sign a cell phone contract yourself if you are legally insane and would need a legal guardian to do that for you.
            Look up “sound mind” and “informed consent”.

            Clearly I think this is “very bad morally wrong”, but that’s because I have a word-salad belief system.

            Have you changed your mind on moral issues? Previously, you argued that “good” means “maximizing human thriving” – so you no longer believe that and your current views on what is “good” can only be expressed as some christianese word salad?

            Theologically, these two desires would be called wrong satisfactions of deeper, good desires.

            Be specific, what is the “deeper, good desire” of the desires to torture people or the desire to have sex with children?

            What is the thing that will eventually be gotten, though?

            No idea, I have only extremely superficial knowledge of eastern religions and philosophy – I´d recommend to ask a buddhist.