Thursday, June 6, 2013

OK, I'm back. I have been absent from posting on this blog since June of last year (2012). I do have some excuses for the lapse, mostly valid, IMHO: some distracting medical issues, plus teaching senior and graduate level classes in elementary particle physics at UCCS. The latter has required a great deal of time, since my PhD in the field was "many years ago" ---er, many decades ago, actually. So not only was considerable review of the subject required, but I also had a lot of catching up to do. However I love the subject passionately, so the "work", though intense, was really more like an inspiring kind of play for me. The course focused on the "Standard Model" of particle physics, which is heavily reliant on gauge theory of quantum fields as well as the abstract mathematical field of Group Theory. This is not easy stuff! And, BTW, as I have noted in previous blog entries, it is a very odd thing that the universe appears to be, in a very real sense, mathematical (I understand this to be a "Pythagorean" view of the world, so-named in honor of the ancient Greek philosopher that held essentially this view). In any case, I now have a considerable backlog of topics I want to consider in these pages. For example, though I have previously written a lot about consciousness, and free will (versus determinism), I want to further consider them in view of my recent, related studies. I plan to also add (at the risk of venturing---or blundering---into some areas that I lack professional credentials in) some thoughts about music, ethics, literature, theology/metaphysics, and maybe even politics. I plan to also add some short book reviews. So more to follow soon!---Tom


KB said...

Thanks for posting again! =]I will have to read some of the books you mentioned.
I'm puzzled by the same questions @ times!
This reminded me of something I watched on Through the Wormhole on NatGeo, the topic was "is there really evil?" There was a study being conducted by a lawyer who devised an experimental mock trial expressly to observe the panel of jurors deliberating two separate individuals for the same crime. The difference being one person accidentally hit and killed a person driving home one evening while drunk, and the other individual (same accidental killing) was not drunk. What he found was that the drunkard was delivered a stiffer punishment every time. The question being, why? The intention for both individuals was this,- to get to their destination. There was never the intent to kill or maim an individual. However social stigma and pretense assigns evil intent and 'blame' to the individual that was drunk and meets out a stiffer punishment for the same crime the same intent and invents "evil" where there is none. Carelessness perhaps, recklessness yes, but evil and mal-intent? No.

paul gary said...

Just got through reading your most recent blogs...very interesting. You mention that a new born has traits and inclinations that are morally neutral, why would these characteristics have to be morally neutral? Perhaps within esach of us is a soul or spirit that is part of who we are and this part instinctively knows what is morally good or bad without external input. Not the good or bad that society determines but rather a foundational knowledge that does not change with the ebb and flow of societal whims, Somsething akin to the migratory instinct in hundreds of animals. A thing that is not taught and learned but rather embedded in our being. This is were Free Will comes into play. While our nature and nurture absolutely affect who we are, they do not determine who we are or what we chose to do. Our ability to juggle and mix our nature and nurture with our foundational knowledge and then make a choice is what I believe constitutes Free Will. Our choices may not always be good ones but they are our choices.

Derminism, Indeterminism, Compatibilism, Incompatibilism...The myrid of isms, the hundreds of years great intellects have analyzed, disected, therorized and discussed these ideas and even current Quantum Mechanics that at least cloud some of the idea of determinism would in themselves seem to, if not suggest, at least hint at the reality of a Free Will.

Tom said...

OK, good point----it is plausible that there is some innate moral sense present from birth. Thanks for the good comment.
It does not seem to me though that even if there is, how that would solve the puzzle of free will. The problem would remain, what would determine whether a person would do good instead of bad. It still seems to hinge on the developed character, or the inherited genes, of the person.
Let me also add, I don't think moral choices are at all the only choices we humans make, and that bear on the free will issue...indeed, probably a minority of the choices we face every minute of the day involve morality. We stew over, and eventually decide whether to take the job with "Heap o Biscuits" instead of the more lucrative but more dangerous one at "Skyscraper Riveters", more often than we wrestle with "whether we should rob the Bank or not".
The reason I focused that last blog on moral issues was because it was wondering how we can justify punishing criminals if what they did was determined by factors they had no apparent control over.
Quantum mechanics does not, as far as I can tell, offer a solution to the free will problem, although it does seem to allow an escape from us all being deterministic, mechanical systems. It is the seemingly exhaustive, all-encompassing dictates of “Nature and Nurture”, aka “genes and environment”, that pose what is to me the more difficult problem for free will.
Now, I hope I have made it clear in all of my numerous posts on free will, that I do believe we have it….it is just very hard to see how we do, and what exactly we mean when we say we all have it.

ChasP said...

Interesting thoughts here. Just for the heck of it I will air speculation of a possibility for your entertainment.

First and the hardest part, just assume a "devine" creator that in time "decided" to create this fine tuned universe. Maybe, just maybe, the plan included:
1. The mechanism for evolution of matter and life.
2. The universe was to have: very vast amounts of time, space, mass/energy and size (large & small) These result in the great variety that we know of.
3. Management: Evolution to the present "grew" guides (angels, guardian angels, spirit guides) - these set in the spirit or non-material world as we know it. Afterlife paradigms have much to relate about such a possible dimension or dimensions. Does dark matter contain these spiritual dimensions/realities?? Ie, when our prayers are answered or an unbelievable coincidence happens to save one's life, etc. is it the guardian angel that has arranged this. (I've experienced such on several occasions)

That's it.... Place, evolution and management. Of course, how did the creator come to be is the unknowable, but we must start somewhere..... simply because we exist.