Friday, October 26, 2012

"... why would it write a book?"

A letter to the editor in the New York Times Book Review regarding Sam Harris' silly book "Free Will", in which Harris argues that libertarian free will is an illusion. (from the 7/29/12 print version-- I don't have the link)

To the Editor: 
I am puzzled by Sam Harris's argumet. If we are not the authors of our actions, who (or what) wrote Harris's book? The book says that all human action is produced by purely physical processes and causes, even the writing of the book itself. How can the physical produce such an insight, and why would it write a book? How can physical processes produce a work that says that the physical is the basis for all human thought and action? These physical workings certainly seem to be a good simulation of a conscious being. And the most puzzling question of all is why it would find the need to write a book to tell us of its hegemony.

Lawerence A. Berger
Carmel, New York
The writer is a graduate student in philosophy at the New School.
[Emphasis mine] 


To deny free will is to affirm free will. If the opinion that free will doesn't exist is determined by the physical, then the opinion that free will doesn't exist has no truth value. It's just meat drippings.

Materialism is such crap.  


  1. If the opinion that free will doesn't exist is determined by the physical, then the opinion that free will doesn't exist has no truth value.

    Come back when you understand what the words you use mean, and then we can talk.

    There's a reason why people pay to read Sam Harris, but not you or Lawrence Berger.

    1. Let's talk now. What's your point? (or should I say, what point is your neural carbon/oxygen/nitrogen/hydrogen making?)

    2. There's a reason why people pay to see Kim Kardashian, too. It's not because she's a brilliant philosopher.

    3. It makes noises about 'understanding' ... even as it denies the reality of that which gives meaning to 'understand'.

      What a fools these atheistic fools are.

    4. If the opinion that free will doesn't exist is determined by the physical, then the opinion that free will doesn't exist has no truth value.

      The source of an observation has no bearing on the truth of that observation. Once you figure that out, then you can leave the kiddie table.

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  3. “How can the physical produce such an insight, and why would it write a book?”

    Why wouldn’t it? As a matter of fact, if you want to understand how the thought process works you must start with the assumption there is no God or magic. The history of science is the history of explaining how “the physical” produces all kinds of things, all the time.

    I on occasion run computer simulations because the computer provides much more accurate “insight” to specific problems than I ever could. I feed it information; it manipulates the information and pops out an answer. I have no reason to believe something similar isn’t happening in Sam Harris, and I’m very confident our growing understanding of the process will fill another gap currently filled by Egnorance.


    1. You know, I used to write Monte Carlo simulations. And I taught graduate level machine intelligence.

      Only an idiot would compare the two. Harris should kick your ass.

    2. @KW:

      You computer simulations are not done just by the computer. The meaning of the simulations-- intentionality is the technical word-- is entirely yours, and you create the algorithm, you input the data, and you interpret the data. All the computer does is process, which is a mechanical algorithm without inherent meaning.

      The mind is not a computer. It has aspects that resemble computation in crude ways, but the essential aspects of the mind-- intentionality and qualia-- have nothing whatsoever to do with computation, which inherently lacks both.

  4. To summaries the facts for afficiados of 'woo':

    The mind is a product of the brain. Affect the brain and you will affect the mind.

    The brain does things of which the mind is completely unaware.

    The brain is moulded by the individual's genetics and past experiences, including nutrition and learning. Largely beyond control of the individual.

    The brain makes the decisions, largely subconsciously, and presents them to the mind, which then rationalizes the decision. Even when the brain presents more than one decision, the mind still rationalizes the decision eventually taken.

    The mind has veto power over any of the brain's decisions.

    Postulating that there's a non-materialististic 'soul' does not rescue or even explain free-will.

    The Law still assumes that there's free-will. Even if it's your non-conscious brain that's making the decisions, it's still your brain that's doing it.

    1. What is the mind?

      (Hint: the answer "It's what the brain does" isn't sufficient.)

      I'm referring to an ontological definition-- what is mind?

    2. Michael,

      The 'mind' is that part of the brain that the person is aware of, conscious of. It's the same as consciousness.

      What's your definition?

    3. Another point is that the mind can be physically divided, unlike the fictional soul, which can't be divided, not even in horcruxes.

      The left side of the brain has the motor speech centre, controls the right side of the body and sees the right visual field. The right brain controls the left side of the body and sees the left visual field.

      The corpus callosum connects the two halves of the brain and allow communication between right and left. In 'split brain' patients, who've had the corpus callosum divided for the control of intractable epilepsy, it's possible to present a photo of a snow covered driveway to the right brain and a photo of a hen to the left, and if the patient is asked to point to a related photo from amongst a selection, including a photo of a snow shovel, with the left arm, the person will pick out the photo of the snow shovel. Which is logical; the right brain sees the photo of the snow covered driveway, which needs to be shoveled. The indicating limb is controlled by the right brain.

      If the person is asked why he picked the shovel, he'll probably not know. The motor speech centre is on the left. The left brain saw the photo of a hen. If the person comes up with an explanation, it will probably be along the lines that hens live in hen houses and produce a lot of droppings. Occasionally you'd need the shovel to clear away the droppings. Logical, but contrived.

      But demonstrating that the person has two minds, with the left mind not being aware what the right mind is thinking.

    4. @bach:

      Your definition won't do. "Aware of" presupposes mind, so "the part of the brain the person is aware of" can't be a definition of the mind.

      The mind is the aspect of the soul that intellects, emotes, perceives, etc. The soul is the substantial form of the body. Man is the spiritual composite of soul and body, created by God, who is Spirit.

    5. Michael,

      Absolute bullshit. What is your evidence that the soul actually exists? You have absolutely no evidence that it exists. No way of demonstrating that it exists. You don't have the slightest idea how it's supposed to function.

      Whereas, neuroscientists know that the mind exists physically. Affect the brain and affect the mind. It can be deceived by physical methods, including in the split brain scenario.

      You're an idiot. How did you ever become a neurosurgeon? Please start another thread crying over how bullshit-believing 'scientists' are being persecuted by materialists - I want you to go for the absolute record of all time for the number of pointless threads in a calendar month.

  5. "Another point is that the mind can be physically divided, unlike the fictional soul, which can't be divided, ...

    The left side of the brain...

    Brains are not minds. Nor are 'souls' fictional.

    But, of course, since you are intellectually dishonest, you will keep spouting such falsehoods.

    1. And your evidence that souls are real?

      In the split brain scenario, clearly there's a 'right' mind and a 'left' mind. They're split. The right mind is aware of its surroundings and inputs, and makes logical decisions. The left mind is aware of its surroundings and inputs, but is unaware, independent of, the right mind, and comes up with an explanation for the right mind's decision as if it's the mind of a completely different person.

      Most of the time, the right and left brains get the same input from the surroundings, so they're making similar if not identical decisions.

      The mind is a product of a functioning brain. 'Brains are not minds'. Agreed. But that's not what I claimed.