When someone insists that human behavior “must” be determined by something (anything!) other than free will…

I was cited in a comment at A Voice For Men; I’m posting my response here as well as there. –GSS

The Cul-De-Sac Hero is my hero. Thanks for the link.

If readers here are interested, I undertake a defense of free moral agency in chapters 2, 3 and 4 of my book Man Alive!

The Cliff’s Notes: Conceptually-conscious volitionality is effected in notation systems (that much is tautological) and hence is not illuminated by discussions of animal behavior or biological sub-systems. These topics can be interesting to ponder as influences on human choice, but choice itself is effected in abstract symbols in the interior monologue inside an individual human being’s mind. This process cannot be caused or prevented by external forces — nor even observed by other people except in its transient and potentially-misleading secondary physical consequences.

When someone you meet insists that human behavior “must” be determined by something (anything!) other than free moral agency, don’t waste your time arguing. Instead, find that person’s luggage and cut off all the “If Lost Return To” tags. If he doesn’t bitch about it, he’s a robot. If he does, you will have his own explicit admission that he believes that human behavior is caused by volition.

No one actually doubts the existence of free will. I keep hoping someone like Sam Harris will take me on so I can make his life a living hell until he begs me to stop — which entreaties will be his admission that he knows I can choose to stop tormenting him.

Most of this academic horseshit comes from the refusal by supposed scientists to understand the difference between human and animal behavior. Here is an extended example, the claim that mathematical calculation is “automatic”:

Consider this nonsense, also spotted at Instapundit: Our brain can do unconscious mathematics.

What is nine plus six, plus eight? You may not realise it, but you already know the answer. It seems that we unconsciously perform more complicated feats of reasoning than previously thought — including reading and basic mathematics. The discovery raises questions about the necessity of consciousness for abstract thought, and supports the idea that maths might not be an exclusively human trait.

Shout it out loud: “Dancing Bear Fallacy!” That mess is everywhere, like so much monkeyshit. But that’s not the choice bit:

Previous studies have shown that we can subliminally process single words and numbers. To identify whether we can unconsciously perform more complicated processing, Ran Hassin at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and his colleagues used a technique called continuous flash suppression.

The technique works by presenting a volunteer’s left eye with a stimulus — a mathematical sum, say — for a short period of time, while bombarding the right eye with rapidly changing colourful shapes. The volunteer’s awareness is dominated by what the right eye sees, so they remain unconscious of what is presented to the left eye.

In the team’s first experiment, a three-part calculation was flashed to the left eye. This was immediately followed by one number being presented to both eyes, which the volunteer had to say as fast as possible. When the number was the same as the answer to the sum, people were quicker to announce it, suggesting that they had subconsciously worked out the answer, and primed themselves with that number.

In the second experiment, participants were subliminally shown a sensible or nonsensical sentence such as “I drank the coffee” or “I ironed the coffee”. The sentences were presented to the left eye until the people highlighted that they had become aware of any of the words in the sentence. People noticed words in sentences that didn’t make sense more quickly than in those that did, which suggests that the sentences had been unconsciously processed.

That sounds astounding when it’s written up by a pop-sci journalist, but it’s all just a reckless conflation of terms to imply that fully-conscious Fathertongue ratiocination is somehow “unconscious” or “subliminal.”

Did the distractions in the right eye prevent perception of the Fathertongue expressions by the left eye? Obviously not.

Were those expressions perceived as Fathertongue — as abstract notation — and not simply black blobs on a white background? Obviously yes.

Did the processing of that Fathertongue itself require the application of Fathertongue — the voluntary initiation of abstract conceptual reasoning in that learned notation system? Obviously yes.

Ergo, was the entire process fully conscious, even if habituated from long practice and impeded by exaggerated distractions?

Yes, of course. No possible doubt.

Are you sputtering out yeah-buts — academic quibbles?

Put a patch over the left eye. No perception, no results.

Anesthetize the test subject. No conscious awareness, no results.

Swap in a macaque. No human consciousness, no results.

Swap in a child of three-years-old. No Fathertongue, no results.

Use Roman numerals for the math problems and Attic Greek for the grammatical errors. No habituated fluency in the notation system, no results.

What we have is a breathlessly reported account of arrant nonsense disguised as “science.”

I do wish more people would talk to me about this. If y’all want more, there is a lot of stuff at my YouTube page, too.

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