Showing posts from 2024

Undetermined - a response to Robert Sapolsky. Part 4 - Loosening the treaties of fate

In Part 3 of this series, I argued that organisms really do think about what to do, really do come to their reasons by reasoning, and really do make decisions, in ways that cannot be pre-determined.   If the neural computations are causally sensitive to semantic content, rather than detailed syntax, and those semantics relate to organism-level concepts, and all that information is integrated in a hugely contextually interdependent way, and is used to direct behavior over nested timescales, in ways that cannot be either algorithmically or physically pre-specified, based on criteria configured into the circuits derived from learning, which embody reasons of the organism and not any of its parts, then I would say that just is the organism – as an integrated self with continuity through time – deciding what to do.   I also argued that more fundamental principles of indeterminacy and emergence and organisation are the things that enable organisms themselves to come to be in charge o

Undetermined - a response to Robert Sapolsky. Part 3 - Where do intentions come from?

In his book Determined , Robert Sapolsky argues that our intentions arise in a completely deterministic fashion from the combined effects of all the prior causes that have acted on us, right up to the moment of action. He contends (i) that our intentions determine what we do, and (ii) that we have no control over their formation – they just appear when we are confronted with each successive situation we encounter. Referring to a classic turn-back-the-clock kind of thought experiment, he says:   But no matter how fervent, even desperate, you are, you can’t suc­cessfully wish to have wished for a different intent . And you can’t meta your way out— you can’t successfully wish for the tools (say, more self- discipline) that will make you better at successfully wishing what you wish for. None of us can. (page 46, original emphasis)   Here, Sapolsky seems to be arguing for psychological determinism . Your behavior at any moment is fully determined by the sets of reasons that you brin