"You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm." - Sam Harris
"It’s true that human persons don’t have contra-causal"You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm." - Sam Harris
"It’s true that human persons don’t have contra-causal free will. We are not self-caused little gods. But we are just as real as the genetic and environmental processes which created us and the situations in which we make choices. The deliberative machinery supporting effective action is just as real and causally effective as any other process in nature. So we don’t have to talk as if we are real agents in order to concoct a motivationally useful illusion of agency, which is what Harris seems to recommend we do near the end of his remarks on free will. Agenthood survives determinism, no problem." - Tom Clark (excerpt)
A compatabilistic consciousness is a noumenological limning of the concrete, representing an actualized, emergent self, despite its causal roots.
Harris thinks that's only an illusion, nothing more. He cites microorganisms living in the body, which cannot claim itself simultaneously possessed of personhood - a concrete, emergent self - and dependent on an infinitude of forces beyond its control.
Of course, the problem with that reasoning is that your consciousness, while dependent for existence on your lower body, does not actually belong to it. In other words, if you lose your arm, you'll still be whole. The same cannot be said of losing your brain.
As Dan Dennett points out: A brain transplant wouldn't be a brain transplant at all. It would be a body transplant. It's the only time you actually hope to be the one donating an organ.
So, just because you're dependent on bacteria that composes the organic human machine doesn't make that bacteria central to the subsequent emergence of self awareness.
Again, Harris doesn't consider consciousness to be separate from clockwork; it is clockwork. On the other hand, Dan Dennett considers consciousness to be a noumenological product: it emerges from clockwork.
"Yes, there is a soul. But it's made of lots of tiny robots." - Dennett
The concept of emergence is far easier to understand for someone familiar with Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory. Finite starting conditions diverge into infinite complexity.
So, we can look at an anthill, and figure out how the universe began. We cannot, however, examine the starting conditions of the universe and extrapolate an anthill. Or, another way: the universe is deterministic backwards, but not forwards.
Time is that direction in which entropy increases. It is not a meaningless dimension, but purely phenomenological and relative.
Harris' claim that you can do what you want, but you cannot choose what you want is a rephrasing of Schopenhauer's: "Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills." Nothing new. Why Harris felt the need to compose this book when all his practical conclusions (which appear to be the purpose) already exist in political philosophy like Rawlsianism is beyond me. ...more
"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or isOne of the greatest opening lines of all time:
"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer."
- Albert Camus
To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. - Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember'd.